Tower Ridge Winter Ascent - A Thrilling Adventure on Ben Nevis

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Conquering Challenges with Grit and Resourcefulness

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At Summits, we take immense pleasure in helping customers conquer routes they might find challenging alone. Recently, a group of keen hillwalkers approached us, seeking guidance on ascending Tower Ridge, a famous route on the North Face of the Ben.

Tower Ridge, a careful scramble in summer, demands advanced mountaineering skills during winter. However, we were determined to make the ascent before winter arrived. October's cold and wet weather delayed our plans, but we patiently waited for a suitable weather window.

Six of us, accompanied by a few mates and customers from the shop, set out on a cold but dry day. The cloud ceiling just above the Douglas Boulder indicated promising conditions. Excitement filled the air as we headed up East gully towards the ridge's start.

Everything went smoothly until we reached the Little Tower, the beginning of the real scrambling. The thickening mist turned our surroundings into a winter wonderland, and the temperature plummeted dramatically. We faced a tough decision - carry on and possibly encounter an epic challenge or descend, which might take longer than continuing.

Encouraged by the proximity to the Great Tower and with Tower Gap ahead, we decided to proceed. But as darkness set in, we found ourselves winter mountaineering without axes, crampons, or winter boots - a challenging situation indeed.

With head-torches illuminating our path and calm weather, we traversed the Eastern Traverse, exiting the chimney just below the Great Tower. However, the ice-covered rocks made things serious, and we had to carefully organize and ensure everyone's safety.

The last obstacle, the famous Tower Gap, awaited us. We used all available runners to secure everyone's safety. Bob bravely took on the Gap but faced challenges climbing out due to icy conditions.

As murmurs of mountain rescue circulated (no mobile phones in those days), inspiration struck. I recalled reading about Bill Murray, a legendary mountaineer, who climbed out of a similar gap using his socks for traction. Encouraging Bob to try the same, he made it out successfully.

To our relief, we found an old rusty peg that was crucial for our safe traverse of the Gap. After some skillful maneuvering, Bob reached it, and cheers erupted among the team, highlighting the significance of this discovery.

With immense relief, we crossed the Gap without winter gear, relying on teamwork and resourcefulness. Once everyone made it across, we marveled at how effective socks were on the icy rocks - a nod to Bill Murray's ingenuity.

Gratitude goes out to Bob Carson and Bill Lawson, my unflappable climbing mates, who proved invaluable during this extraordinary adventure. We reached the summit around 1:30 am and descended to Fort William by 4 am.

As we returned, concerned loved ones had reported us missing. While we reassured them, I couldn't help but appreciate the importance of proper preparation and safety in such pursuits.

Back at the shop, I couldn't wait to share our experience. Inspired by this unforgettable journey, customers eagerly equipped themselves with axes, crampons, and winter boots for their own thrilling expeditions.

With determination, camaraderie, and respect for the mountains, Tower Ridge showcased the resilience of the human spirit when faced with nature's challenges. Are you ready for your own thrilling adventure? Gear up and embrace the wilderness - Tower Ridge awaits your conquest!

For more information on Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis, check out the detailed post on Walk Highlands - https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=75321

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