There was no path, just a steep slope of grass and scree. Nearly 900m of height gain. We followed a vague gully most of the way, until the ground became rockier just before the top. Here we climbed a series of steeper slabs and ribs to avoid dangerous loose terrain. Darkness chased us all the way up. After a series of false summits we finally reached the crest of the ridge at 10pm, and immediately began hunting for a bivy spot. Dad found a small niche between two huge blocks, cramped and uncomfortable, but sheltered from the wind. We got into our sleeping bags and tried to sleep.
It started raining.We had no tent, no way of escaping the downpour. Fully committed to a bivy, we had no choice but to grit our teeth and suffer it out till dawn. The wind howled around the mountain. In minutes all our gear was soaked. Water found its way through my breathing hole and onto my face. Hours dragged by, unbearably slowly, each more miserable than the last.
Eventually it got light. We hoped for better weather but it was just the same, wet and cold, zero visibility. Not a chance of doing the traverse in these conditions. Our thoughts turned to escape. Neither of us wanted to go back the way we’d come, not with the grass slick with rain, so we decided to push on across the ridge and find another bail out point. It was freezing cold, we couldn’t see 50 feet ahead. The scrambling was never particularly hard, just unnerving over slippery rock. I knew from last year’s attempt there was a corrie on the western side of the ridge we could retreat down as long as we could find it. So we kept climbing. We traversed 3 more summits, navigating with map, compass and GPS. Eventually we reached a col I remembered from last time, and I knew the corrie was just there on the left. A short downclimb through a chimney was the only obstacle. Once in the corrie it was just a case of ignoring the pain and trudging down a streaming path off the mountain. We were down by midday.We wanted to hang around and try again after a day’s rest, but the updated weather forecast put an end to that. More rain, more cloud, more of the same shit we’d fought through to retreat. Defeated, we drove back south, and hiked up Ben Lomond in a brief window of clear skies as a consolation prize before the long journey home.