Posted by Max Hunter on 02nd February, 2015
Don’t forget to get the Knowledge
Most of these photos are from Matt – thank you.
Matt and Lena were free for a day of fun, so the 3 of us went out to do a route. We all wanted to do the Curtain on Ben Nevis – but we clearly started a little late! In the car park, my rucksac failed, which led to a failure of my sense of humour – half an hour later, after an improvised fix, we set off. When we got to the CIC, we stood looking at the queues! There was a team on the Curtain and about 7 people waiting. A similar story on the Waterfall gully. There was a team doing very well on the Shield, and a team on Hadrians. We looked at each other, and realised that plans A, B, etc were gone unless we fancied waiting 2 hours. So we made a quick decision to do Tower Ridge. Both Matt and Lena knew the ridge very well from summer conditions, but had yet to do the winter climb. So late in the morning, the decision was made – and we knew we were on a for a late finish!
I wanted to go up the East gully to do the Douglas chimney, but one look at the wade in front on the gully sent us to the left, to do 2-3 pitches of II+III to get to the ridge proper. The iniital ridge was a snowy crest. This normally takes you to the walk traversing right around the buttress, but it looked awful, with soft powder – so I headed up to belay at the base of the wee ice pitch. We had plenty of screws because we had a rack to climb the Curtain. We even lent some screws to Matt’s friends (from OB) who were hot on our heels.
The climbing was always good, with great tool placements, but gear was always hard to find on the steeper pitches – a lot of rime clearing was needed. Eventually we got to the Eastern Traverse to see no path, and plenty of snow. I didn’t find any pegs, but I did get just about enough nuts, to make us secure. Last on the rope, Lena had to do a down climb of about 3 metres, half way along the traverse.
I took a while clearing on the E Traverse and the final pitch up the Tower – Matt’s friends caught up and had time for some faffing (eating) of their own.
Finally the route was done and 3 happy friends walked off the hill in twilight – down to a Fort William take away shop for a fish supper (or kebab?!). Thank you Matt and Lena for a terrific (and slightly longer than expected – we expected to do 3 pitches on the Curtain!) day.