Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Deep snow on Tower Ridge

Climbing on Tower Ridge below Little Tower.

Not liking the Met Office forecast of blizzards and gale force winds we opted to believe the MWIS version and headed off to the Ben with our sites set on the classic Tower Ridge (IV 3) which we hoped had been blown clean. Snow had fallen overnight down to 200m but the forecasted strong winds had failed to materialise and there was a pretty uniform coverage of new powder snow with a few patches of very soft windslab. We made good time up to the base of the route and soloed the easy gully to the Douglas Gap. However the exit chimney was almost banked out with soft unconsolidated snow requiring a lot of clearing. This theme continued with deep powder snow covering everything making very slow going. We eventually called a halt just below the Little Tower with a couple of hours of daylight left before making a very ordered retreat down our line of ascent. The day was finished with a quick stomp from the CIC hut to the lower car park in under an hour as I think the guys wanted their dinner!

The Ben was fairly quiet with one team making slow progress on Minus 2 Gully and a couple of folk swimming up Observatory & Tower Gullies. Despite the snowfall there was very little evidence of avalanche activity to be seen. However the forecasted increase in the north westerly wind is going to move a lot of snow around forming plenty of windslab in the coming days. Today I was working for Adventure Peaks.

Observatory Gully with a couple of climbers swimming up towards Gardyloo.

Just below Little Tower with NE Buttress in the background

Our highpoint on the ridge.

Abseiling down the ice variant just above Douglas Chimney

Abseiling into the gloom of the Douglas Gap