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The most famous ice climb in Scotland, and possibly in the world, is reliable, popular and brilliant. It’s one of the most sought-after Scottish winter climbs and frequently attracts international climbers to Ben Nevis, with Point Five as their sole objective.


Interest in the route began in the 1930s but it wasn't ascended until 1959, eventually succumbing to a five-day siege comprising 29 hours of climbing time. Modern tools and techniques have hugely reduced this although its reputation as a Grade V test-piece is undiminished. 


Jöttnar's Mike Pescod lives in Fort William and is an IFMGA mountain guide. Here he gives a local's insight into this iconic route.


Ben Nevis, Scotland

Location


V,5 ****

Grade


> 2-6 Hours

Time

Point Five is a big steep funnel. It catches a lot of snow and channels all the dribbles of water that run down it during thaw periods. This freeze-thaw cycle helps build ice quickly at the start of winter, but the gully itself acts as the most perfect spindrift producer at the most awkward of moments.


Any of the three hard pitches at the start can form the crux. Before it’s fully banked out, the bulge at the top of the first pitch will have to be taken direct, giving a good few moves of vertical ice. The Chimney Pitch is always more technical, requiring bridging, balancing and pulling over the steep bulges that form. The Rogue Pitch can then be a simple bridging exercise up a nice corner, or it can feel very steep, tenuous and bold. The only way to find out what it’s like is to give it a go!


Click play below to see some classic Point Five spindrift, as experienced by two visiting French climbers.

Video
Video

After these three pitches the angle relents to give three or four pitches of grade II or III climbing to the top. Leaving the climb until March can reduce the chance of poor ice and spindrift. When well formed, banked out and when the weather is settled, Point Five Gully is the ultimate classic climb.


Point Five can become impossible due to the spindrift. Roughly eighty metres of snow and ice along the summit cornice line funnel down into the metre-wide chimney below. A thin dribble of icy dust sliding down over the exit slopes is magnified into a mini-avalanche of biting shards, big enough to engulf and swallow grown men. On one particular day with the spindrift cascading down, I shut my eyes and started up the chimney. Every now and then I was able to open my eyes to see where I was. Most ice axe placements were made by feel. I couldn’t see them under the spindrift even when I did open my eyes. Thankfully the snow did not build up on my arms as it sometimes does: the chimney is too steep for that. But it’s a nerve-racking experience, just waiting for the next wave of snow to hit.


But whether fighting through spindrift or climbing immaculate ice on a bluebird day, Point Five is guaranteed to give an incredible day out.

POINT FIVE GULLY GALLERY

Images - ©Mike Pescod

Specialist equipment


NOV - APRIL

Season


8

Pitches


325 m

Route Length

ESSENTIAL GEAR for POINT FIVE GULLY

Jöttnar is proud to be the clothing supplier to Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team. Based in Fort William and covering the mountainous region of Lochaber, which includes Ben Nevis and Glencoe, they are the UK’s busiest and most called-upon MRT.


Read more about Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team here

Video ©Tomroccom via Youtube (Tomroccom).

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