Some days the rock feels grippy, the holds feel bigger than normal and your feet stick to everything. Yesterday, I had a day like this at Ardverikie with Billy. We climbed Ardverikie Wall first, because you have to. It's Scotland's best Hard Severe rock climb, every one of its six pitches being a winner on stunning rock. On the walk down you pass Kubla Khan, so we climbed that as well, another excellent Hard Severe climb that is just about as good as Ardverikie Wall.
Since it was only 2pm, after lunch we went for another climb, one that I have seen many times abseiling off Kubla Khan. It is called The Rubaiyat, a thin slab next to a big overlap graded E1 5b. Everything felt good so we went back up to try this route. The first pitch is a bit lichenous and mossy, but the main pitch up the slab is lovely. There is one thin bit and some long runouts, but there are long runouts on the first two climbs we did as well. and the rock was very grippy, so it all went well.
Billy first came up to climb Tower Ridge in winter a couple of years ago. As it worked out, we had just had a massive fall of snow and more was building up during the day. We decided to give Tower Ridge a go anyway and it turned out to be one of the hardest days I have spent on Ben Nevis! You can read about our Trench Warfare here.
Today, since it was raining, we decided to climb Tower Ridge again in summer conditions (without any snow at least) to be able to compare the two. Of course it was a lot easier and most of it was unrecognisable, but certain key sections really stood out.
In summer, the Eastern Traverse is a nice, wide, easy ledge that you can stroll around. In winter, it is a steeply banked line of snow traversing above a massive drop that feels particularly insecure. Walking across to Tower Gap is a breeze when you can see the flat solid rock under your feet. In winter, with snow up to your thighs in a razor sharp crest, not knowing what you are standing on, it feels quite different. And Tower Gap is a simple step down, step across and back up the other side in summer. In winter, with all the holds covered in snow, and still covered in ice when you have cleared away all the snow, it is a different climb altogether.
So it was really nice to be able to climb Tower Ridge smoothly and swiftly today, despite the slippery, wet conditions. We came back down Ledge Route and we could see across Coire na Ciste to Tower Ridge; the weather was not as bad as it might have been today. We managed to climb between the worst of the rain and low cloud.
Next week we have lower temperatures forecast and the first sign of a little snowfall on the summit of Ben Nevis. This is good news since there is a lot of cooling down to do after a long hot summer, the ground is very warm and it will take several months to get cold enough to freeze properly.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.