"We don't do it because it is easy", a phrase I have used quite a lot, certainly applied today. On Tower Ridge you don't want too much wind, especially at the narrow bit leading to Tower Gap. So on a day with a potential wind speed forecast at 60mph, and with drizzle falling onto the rocks and freezing into verglas and a thick icy crust on the soft snow, Tower Ridge was not easy today, but it ticked all the boxes and gave Ryan and me a great experience.
Ryan is very fit indeed and has been climbing and walking in Scotland and in The Pyrenees for many years. This was his first day of winter climbing in Scotland despite spending plenty of time in Fort William his whole life. He was up for a challenge and to do a climb on the North Face, so Tower Ridge was a great option.
The forecast wind speed was a worry though, and we were very aware that we might need to escape from the Eastern Traverse to Tower Gully. As it worked out, the wind was strong on the lower sections of the ridge, but at The Great Tower and crossing Tower Gap it was perfectly fine. What made it really tricky was the rime that was catching all the drizzle and turning into a plating of ice over all the rocks.
Climbing down into Tower Gap is normally reasonably straightforward. Climb down a V shape groove on the Tower Gully side for 1.5m and step left towards the gap. There are holds in cracks in the rock but when they are covered in thick ice they are not usable. Stepping down into Tower Gap was a really tricky move and the climb out was covered in thick rime which, thankfully, was easy enough to clear away.
After Tower Gap there is a short section of ridge that is much easier than it looks and the wind on the summit was not too bad at all. A south easterly wind seems to be stronger on the downslopes of our mountains, so it was just as windy back at the top car park as it was on the summit. These are the detailed gems of knowledge that we have built up over 21 years of guiding on Ben Nevis and countless climbs of Tower Ridge in all sorts of conditions. Today was one of the tougher climbs and all the better for it! It ticked all the right boxes for Ryan and for me.
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.