Are you Harry Styles mate?

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There are many places in the British Isles that Stefan gets mistaken for Harry Styles. And Fort William is one of them.

Joined by Bill Spittal and driven by Harry Fisher, we pulled into the North Face Car park at around 1am. Some would argue that this is not the most ideal time to start the steep 2 hour ascent to base camp – but wired on redbull we loaded up and slogged up the Ben, finally zipping into sleeping bags well after 3am.

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Stefan psyched to begin the steep and heavily loaded slog to basecamp (With creepy face)

Immediately followed by 2 days of dangerously high winds, rain and spin-drift that makes your face bleed. Welcome to Scotland. We gambled on the weather settling later in the week, and passed the bad days in Mr Fishers palace of a tent listening to 90’s gangster rap and cooking weird meals.

This paid off, and we were greeted with 3 days of absolutely stonking weather, clear skies and sunshine with good freezing temps overnight. Not the sort of thing you’d expect in the Highlands!

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Racks and layers hung up to dry at River Camp
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killing time in Mr fishers tent during the inevitable bad weather
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Blissful sunshine in Scotland – standard

Stefan: Day one of actual climbing and Harry and I went up Ledge Route, a Grade II classic, super good fun and a good way to get Harry confident using all this sharp kit he’d bought. Visibility was pretty poor but the route is easy to follow and we topped out in under two hours getting back to camp for early afternoon. 

Two hours later Bill and Cherry turned up, Cherry with a substantial puncture wound to his left calf after falling in avalanche debris and tearing through two pairs of trousers and allot of flesh with some front points, painstakingly sharpened the night before. 

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Harry’s introduction to winter climbing on the Ben – Ledge Route

Day two of actual climbing. This was the day. A large low pressure front finally ushered in settled sunny and surprisingly warm weather, with crystal clear visibility.

A 4.30am start got us on Tower Ridge for just after 7. The snow was solid, making it easy to move fast, I led every pitch with Harry putting in a stonking effort for this being his second winter route. The proximity to a pair of ‘friends’ meant that when I got agonising hot aches, I was treated to a torrent of abuse coupled with some colourful suggestions for cures.   

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Cherry and Bill following one of the initial ridges on Tower Ridge
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Despite the sunshine, keeping warm at belays was still important
Stefan in green – Cherry pretending to be a ninja so you cant see him.
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Stefan coming out of the short mixed pitch in the Douglas Gap
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Stefan and Harry high up on quality ice pitches below the Eastern Traverse

Just before the Eastern Traverse we had an unexpected treat in the form of two ice pitches. What had been snow the year before was now thick, beautiful ice. A joy to swing into and although unprotected, the angle was enough to make it fun but sporting.

By the time we reached the Eastern Traverse, the sun had begun to soften the snow making the last pitch before Tower Gap like climbing Mr Whippy, with lots of ice falling from the Great Tower.  

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Cherry nearing the summit – Photo: Kwok Cheung (A man we pulled out of Glovers Chimney and escorted to the summit in exchange for pictures)
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Stefan and Harry topping out
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Content and scarcely able to believe our luck.

Topping out we waited for Cherry to gallantly rescue Kwok Cheung from Glovers Chimney.

Quality Day.   

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Lads on tour – Photo: Kwok Cheung
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Bill testing axe belays – pretty much the only option when the snowpack is this deep!
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Cherry dreaming about sunny sport climbing
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A rare opportunity to dry out socks and boots

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Well worth the uncomfortable nights in damp tents and the crampon hole in my left calf for some of the finest days on the Ben that I’ll probably ever experience.

Another video bonus: Stefans hot Aches
https://vimeo.com/89230821

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