I had a few comments on yesterdays blog about the building and the removal of the abseil posts on Ben Nevis that used to assist onto the descent into Coire Lies. The famous Doctor Duff who was to lead the Lochaber Team had highlighted this area in previous SMC Journals after past accidents before the 5 Navy climbers fell over the cliffs. John Hinde who helped build the post with some of the top climbers helping is told by his daughter fionawild on May 7, 2014 https://diariesofjohnhinde.wordpress.com/about/
I have also used the great articles from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland website on the removal of the posts.
June 2012 – Ben Nevis Abseil Posts Removed
The eight abseil posts leading down from the Carn Mor Dearg arête into Coire Leis on the north side of Ben Nevis have been removed. The majority of the poles had fallen into disrepair and were unsafe to use. The highest abseil post provided a useful navigation aid and is to be replaced by a two metre high cairn that will be constructed in the same style as the other navigation cairns which currently exist across the summit plateau. This cairn will mark the top of the obvious descent line into Coire Leis in poor visibility. The cairn will be constructed by the landowners – The John Muir Trust. The cairn is in place from the end of July 2012 and will be located at Grid Reference NN 17078 71000
The marker ‘flag’ and pole at the top of No. 4 Gully (a popular grade 1 descent route in winter) has been removed and is also going to be replaced with a two metre high navigation cairn. This work is also expected to be completed by the end of July
- Number 4 Gully Marker
The marker ‘flag’ and pole at the top of No 4 Gully (a popular grade 1 descent route in winter) is also going to be replaced with a two meter high navigation cairn. This work is also expected to be completed by the end of July 2012.
The day was organised and coordinated by Heather Morning at The Mountaineering Council of Scotland and for any more details contact Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07788 861 431 or 01479 861 241.
We did our bit
4 members of Kinloss MRT (Stuart, Brian, Sam and Badger) and Scottish MR Project Manager joined the team to remove the posts. Very appropriate to have the Kinloss boys along as the team installed
the posts back in 1966 following a spate of incidents in Coire Leis. An appropriate course of action when we remember that back then crampons were not widely available, making the descent all the more challenging and at the time Coire Leis represented a very remote area for rescue.
The aluminum abseil post sign, along with the letters ‘KMRT’ set into the concrete of the top cairn, have gone back to Kinloss MRT base for prosperity.
Shaun Roberts, Project ManagerAbseil Posts, Ben Nevis (Jun & Jul 1964)
John died suddenly at home in Findochty on June 28, 2002, aged 74. He had just spent a week walking in the Cairngorms. He had been based at Muir cottage in Braemar, a favourite haunt of latter years, in the company of good friends. He had had a great time, loving every new experience with his usual exuberant enthusiasm. His diary record extends to the day before his death. It does not, however, cover his last hill. On his last day, on his way home, he climbed Bennachie with a friend.
From the days of childhood exploration from his home in Staveley, to the day of his death, John’s life was dominated by his love of the hills and the great outdoors. Born on December 21, 1927, he kept a detailed record of his adventures dating from his 14th birthday. His logbooks provide a fascinating account of a life rich with the joy he found in the hills and the interest he took in his companions. He started exploring the hills of Derbyshire at the age of 11, at the beginning of the war, inspired not by friends or family like many of us, but by Frank Smythe’s “The Spirit of the Hills”. He did not know any climbers and to the best of his knowledge there was none in the town.
ABSEIL POSTS, Coire Leis
Sun 21 June 64
Liaison with Leuchars helicopter and Hamish MacInnes and some of his Glencoe rescue team. Lochaber and TA also helped. We had some people staying in the CIC Hut who went early on to the Carn Mor Dearg arete and radioed weather conditions for the helicopter. In all we flew three loads of cement, sand, water and the aluminium alloy abseil posts to within 500 vertical feet of the arete, on south side, and eight members of the team including me. The weather was good and we spent the rest of the afternoon sweating as we carried most of the loads up to a cache on the arete. The 8 men were flown up in two flights independently of the loads.
Descent by SSE Ridge of Ben Nevis to col of Meall Cumhann and then to the car park. We have arranged with Hamish to get the posts fixed on Sun 5 July.
Sun 5 July 64
Clear calm weather in hot sunshine on the Carn Mor Dearg arete of Ben Nevis. 15 of the team with Hamish MacInnes and Dave Crabbe of Dundee. We completed the carrying of all the materials for the abseil posts which we almost finished on 21 June. There were only six drums of water left to carry up from 3,100 ft. We mixed cement and sited all seven posts and completed the job by cementing them in place, firmly we hope. They may last for years but we shall have to check during the winter to make sure they still protrude far enough from the snowslopes. It should be quite easy to extend them. We went up and down from the Glen Nevis car park by the waterfalls of the Allt Coire Eoghainn.
John wrote the following anecdote twenty years later:
Horseplay was almost inevitable, the weather being so good and no one in a hurry. The mortar was mixed on the arete and shovelled into five gallon open drums. It is a costly commodity, in terms of effort, high on a mountain. Three carriers had volunteered, and for once I was doing my share, and lined up with the other two wearing my manpackframe. The filled drums were lifted, then strapped on to the frames, to be carried down to the cairns.
It had to happen. A joker quietly slipped rocks into my drum while we were chatting away. The stones sank, and the level rose till the mortar was lapping over the rim on to my sweater. Laughter gave the game away, but I was helpless, not daring to tilt. With some idea of retaliation, to get a rock myself, I did a quick knee-bend but overbalanced too far forwards. Not only my clothing was covered in mortar but also my neck, head and hair, and there was no water to spare for washing it off. We all collapsed helpless.
I am sure it was the consequent dearth of binding for finishing off the cairns that caused a couple of the lower ones to deteriorate within less than ten years.
Note from Fiona:
Wednesday 27 March 2013
We went up the Ben today, a circuit of Coire Eoghainn, via the new Coire Leis cairn and the summit shelter for coffee. The new cairn was completed by the John Muir Trust in October 2012. It replaces the old marker showing the position of the “abseil posts”. These were erected in 1964 to aid descent into Coire Leis from the ridge above. Fewer people had crampons then, so posts might have saved step-cutting by tired climbers descending past the CIC hut. The posts and the old marker have been removed now.