After a cold night and frosty morning, David and I walked up to climb Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. We went through a temperature inversion above the CIC Hut but there was no layer of cloud, just warmer air where we geared up. The East Gully of Douglas Gap had dry rock but a dribble ice down the back which was a bit awkward at the start. The dry rock carried on up the first section of the ridge and we thought we were in for an easy ascent. We were wrong.
A little snow on the rocks turned into a little snow and some icy rime at the foot of the Little Tower. We were grateful to put on the crampons and climb the rest of the route with them on. There is not enough snow for them to bite into but the rocks are too icy for rubber soles.
There is snow in Tower Gully and ice in Gardyloo Gully. There's also a bit of ice on Smith's Route but it's a bit awkward to get to! By the time we got to The Great Tower the temperature had gone up and the cloud was just touching the summit. A bit of light drizzle did not help the grip on the icy rime. We made the summit in good time but the ridge is in pretty tricky condition right now.
Tomorrow and Friday will be a bit warmer but not super warm. At the weekend and next week we will go back to a more common weather pattern with snow on the summits and thaw freeze cycles. Hopefully snow will start to build up on the mountains. The ground is cold and ice forms very quickly when it is cold so we are ready for the snow cover to arrive. If we get the very cold arctic conditions that some long range forecasts suggest it will be very good later in January and in February. Fingers crossed.
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.