Climbing Tower Ridge today had all the ingredients of the full Scottish winter experience and I loved every bit of it. John and I chose this most classic of classic climbs on a day with high avalanche hazard, plenty of uncertainty about the climbing conditions, strong winds, snow showers and poor visibility. On the way up my crampon broke just as we got to the crux pitch, still with Tower Gap to cross. On the summit we could see about 10m and all we could see was white; accurate navigation was essential. It's all of these things that make Scottish winter climb such a test, and so rewarding. We both know the climb pretty well, but it was still a fantastic day out.
The high avalanche forecast was mostly for the warm spell with heavy rain during the night. Remember, the forecast period is from 6pm on the day the forecast is put out until 6pm the day afterwards. By the time we got to the start of the climb, the temperature had dropped and the surface of the snow was just starting to freeze, showing us it had started to stabilise at that altitude. So the climb up East Gully of Douglas Gap was quite secure. The snow cover on the ridge is now very good. We made very good progress over the blocks on the ridge since they are well covered with firm enough snow. The down side to this is that protection is harder to find and finding the best route can be tricky.
Higher up, the snow was less affected by the thaw and was not quite so useful. The fallen block chimney is completely filled in and the step around the block is a bit tricky, as is the crux pitch up the Great Tower. Everything is very well rimed up there and there is some ice in the cracks.
On top it was very white as well. The trail is covered in snow of course and the cairns are covered in thick rime so it is very hard to see them until you are very close to them. We pced back from the top of the ridge to find the line of the cairns and then followed 282 on the compass down onto the zig zags of the trail. There is no sign of the trail until below corner 6 at 1100m and we walked down on snow all the way to the half way point at the Red Burn crossing.
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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.