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A big route. The closest thing to an alpine North face you're going to find in the British Isles, with all the excitement and challenges. It weighs in at 420m of climbing (8 pitches), and deposits you abruptly on the summit plateau of the Ben, within a few hundred feet of the trig point. Orion Direct has quite a formidable reputation, as ice cover is rarely fat, and the belays leave much to be desired.
Despite the name, the route winds an intricate way up the Orion face, linking subtle features that are hard to spot from the ground. Once on the route, the description begins to make sense and the climbing just flows. A quality route.
P1 Start to the left of Zero gully, up an groove to belay on a ledge with a fixed piton (often soloed)
P2 An icy chimney continues from the left end of the ledge for a full 60m.
P3 Traverse up and right onto the bottom left edge of the snowfield. A 60m rope will get you most of the way up the snowfield, to a poor belay (there were two icicles to sling when I did it)
P4 Continue right and up, through some steep ice to belay on a substantial rock spike just before the crucial traverse pitch.
P5 "The second slab rib": a rising traverse on thin ice/mixed ground is the crux of the route. Protection is sparse and the climbing is thought-provoking though never desperate. At the end of the traverse continue up leftwards-slanting grooves until a satisfactory spot to belay.
P6 Follow the gully for another pitch, to the bottom of the upper snowfield (poor to non-existent belay)
P7 Pass to the right of some icy slabs, then back left to another leftwards-slanting chimney system. Continue up as far as possible to a decent belay.
P8 Romp up easy neve as the chimney opens out into a broad gully and finally the summit plateau.
The starting groove is to the left of Zero gully, between the North East buttress and Observatory Ridge. The ledge at the top of pitch 1 is clearly visible on the approach.
6 screws should be enough, though you'll probably not find placements for many of these in lean conditions. Nuts can be used at a few of the belays.
BETA PHOTO: A busy day on the Orion face.
Photo by Alastair B...
|By Nick Russell|
From: Bristol, UK
Mar 4, 2013
Scottish winter grade V,5. The day I did it, it was pretty stepped out in parts, and there was plenty of ice. Felt more like IV,4.