Tower Ridge: Solo in Winter

My partner for the last couple of days had to head South. I had an extra day to play with and with recent good conditions was keen to climb another route. Tower Ridge seemed the obvious choice. It would be big day out without the technical difficulty requiring a rope. I took my harness and a cordelette in order to back rope myself across Tower gap if needed. I had no car so the walk-in commenced from Fort William town centre.

Ben Nevis early morning
Lots of fresh snow had fallen in the night but with negligible wind there was little slab to be concerned about. I climbed Douglas Gap West Gully to avoid the crowds and shorten the route to Douglas Gap. I waited for a team to climb the mixed step before it was my turn. The climbing proved to be the technical crux of the route with some delicate mixed moves before neve presented. I took my time with the sequence of moves as spectators in the gap looked on.

Beneath Tower Gully West
The terrain eased in difficulty considerably above the step and assumed an Alpine feel. I was able to cover ground easily and enjoy the situation. The summits were shrouded in a freezing fog but to my left I could see climbers on the opening pitches of Sickle, Point Five Gully, and Observatory Buttress.

Looking down on a climber a short distance above Douglas Gap
View from Tower Ridge to climbers on Sickle, Point Five Gully, and Observatory Buttress
The Little Tower required my full attention. With fresh snow covering the easy angled mixed terrain conditions were from perfect to be soling. I scratched around for the hooks, sometimes pulling on objects unknown. After two pitch of this I was at the Eastern Traverse beneath the Great Tower.

The snow was packed down hard along the traverse forming a path. I stabbed my axes into the adjacent wall to secure myself as i went. Some steeper climbing over a bulge then led me to the top of the Great Tower.

White-out on the Eastern Traverse
I paused at Tower Gap for a short while whilst a climber beneath me led the final pitch of Glover's Chimney. Given Tower Gap's reputation for causing climbers problems I back-roped myself off the tat on the near side. Any accident here would be fatal after all. After some composure I took a long step directly across the gap and planted my axes into the neve at full reach on the far side. Then delicately pulled myself across and pulled my cordelette through the tat. Having passed a number of teams on route I was first across the gap for the gap. I watched a climber behind me step down into the gap and then flank the far side on the left. This looked easier but less exciting to than bridging the gap directly.

At Tower Gap
Easy snow slopes led to the top of the Ridge. It was 1pm. I had climbed the route at a casual pace in under 3 hours from Douglas Gap with little queuing necessary. It seemed the perfect way for me to climb the route. With no car I descended the goat track and walked back to Fort William.


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