Stunning looking day and we walked in chatting to friends before pausing at the CIC to decide what to do. With big crowds going around the corner into Observatory Gully we decided to head into the Ciste and since neither of us had done Italian RH we though we'd warm up on that on the way to higher climbs. There was plenty of spindrift coming down The Chute and a fair few waves in the area of Italian but after a bite to eat things seemed to have eased off. There was plenty of fresh snow on the apron but no propagation anywhere until the very top of the slope as we cut a belay ledge. We planned to climb the steep pitch of Italian RH and abseil back down again avoiding the basin above. Tom led off, placed a couple of screws and then with a rumble the lights went out. The easier ground way above had released a large amount of snow. As I closed my eyes and hunkered down I heard a muffled 'Oh F@*K' from above and saw the ropes spiralling down slackly- Tom was off.
He'd felt the weight building on him for a second or two and realising he'd been about to be swept off he turned and jumped for it… about 20-25m with his top screw holding him.
'I'm ok, i'm ok… my ankle's broken.'
Thanks to Rob and Bob who were abseiling down Italian nearby at the time and who kept Tom company as I lowered him 120m down the apron and chopped a ledge for him. Cheers to Lochaber MRT for co-ordinating Rescue 137 for Tom's prompt uplift and thanks to the RAF of course. Thanks also to Iain who I hadn't seen in years who came soloing past randomly and helped carry all the gear down after they were gone.
Tom may have the dubious honour of being the last casualty winched off the Ben by 137. I hope so.
Post mortem: were there any signs to be read? There was wind, fresh snow on the move and we were on a lee slope. There was no propagation in the snow on the apron except in the very soft slab in the last metre to the belay and we weren't planning to be on the snow slopes higher up. The spindrift was at the level where we were laughing about what it was going to be like to climb through it and the slough that came down was a couple of orders of magnitude larger than anything else we'd seen that day and of course after that we didn't see anything else moving at all. Anything to learn? Always and it all goes in the experience banks. Thanks again to those who helped out today and get well soon Tom.
Snow on the move??
All going well and then...
Getting ready to lower, belay jacket on, painkillers munched
120m down, leg broken in 3 spots and you''re smiling???
Winchie at work, double strop going on
Get well soon mate