Sep 13 2009

Tower Ridge

Category: Mountaineeringash @ 11:19 pm

2698A most excellent weekend playing on the longest climb in the UK.  Tower Ridge is a chuffin’ big line of rock on Ben Nevis.  Cleaving its way through the middle of the many corries on the Northern face of the mountain, it’s a classic for many reasons.  One being the amount of people that get benighted on it in winter.  I can understand why.

After work on Friday I hammered it up to Scotland, trying to catch Caroline up as she was heading for the NE (I was going NW).  Kept getting close but then had to stop for LPG.  Damn these small tanks.  Denied of a meetup & scran down, I met the Willmott at the Red Squirrel site in Glencoe.  We both managed to independantly freak out the Polish lass on the gate, then dealt with tent and stomped to the Clachaig for a couple of pints.  Had a good shufty at the route, and talked plans.  Quite a bit that I had read on the web said expect 6 hours on the route.  This in mind, plus the 2 ish hours walk in, and then getting off the tallest mountain in the UK, we (well, I) decided to have an early start.  Didn’t entirely fall on deaf ears, but El wasn’t enamoured with the idea.

Off went the alarm at 6 am.  By 7:10 we were in the car park north of Fort Bill, kitted up and wondering what the hell we were doing.  By 9 we were at the CIC hut, generally being blown away by the views and sussing out the route.  By 10 we’d got to the bottom of the climb, had kitted up and were about to start up the Douglas Boulder – the ‘true’ line of the ridge.  By 10:30 we decided that we’d started up the wrong bit, but had found some pegs and tat so decided that was close enough.  By 11 we’d made it to the third pitch, and I was having issues getting up a nasty wet, slimy, minging chimney that was trying to throw me off, on crap gear. 

By 12 I’d tried that 3 times, tried traversing round it, swore a lot (this is a Diff I hasten to add, and I’m leading 5a HVS happily at the moment), then we’d done 2 60m abseils to get off the route, run round the bottom of the Boulder and back up the other side, and by 12:30 we were at the notch between the Boulder and the Ridge itself.

There then followed an excellent afternoon of scrambly rock.  Mostly grade 2/3 scrambling with the odd climbing move, we moved together on all of it (Alpine Style Mountaineering), spotting each other on the down climbs.  Stunning views, amazing weather, we grinned all the way through!  By about 14:45 we’d topped out, doing what was supposedly a 6 hour route in 2 and a half hours.  After a trip to the top (200 people in a compressed space being larey after 8 hours in solitude on the hill almost broke me), we met a couple of guys who climbed past us when we lowered off – they’d taken 3 hours to do the Douglas Boulder itself then the same as us to get to the top.  Felt a bit deflated, but was happy that I’d a) done the main ridge and b) was still alive – that was good for me!

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Stomped down with the massed through the Zig Zags (past many day trippers, lots of ‘teams’ on an event, and most notably 4 elderly nuns near the top), then kicked off at the pond and headed back to the car.  Had a few topups on sugar on the way down (this was a pretty big day & the effect of no brew in the morning and no substantial food the previous night was kicking in).  Down to the car for 5, then straight to Macca’s to get a coffee .  Hassled a few Scoutlets from Elgin who were celebrating their Chief Scouts Gold trip and were about to get invested on the Ben tomorrow (eating lunch in Macca’s in full uniform at 14 – excellent).  Back to site, scrape, pub, food, beer, more beer, music, beer, whiskey (18yr Buhnahavn – not cheap but very nice), stagger, sleep.

Hangover from hell followed.  The dehydration from the day, plus general goosedness, plus beer factor, hurt.  Slow start led to gradual movements, and by 10:30 we’d bought ‘profen and were on the lucosade diet.  Headed back via Rannoch Moor and butties at Tyndrum. An excellent weekend.

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