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Tower Ridge

Tower Ridge


Postby gman » Sat Sep 02, 2017 9:37 am

Munros included on this walk: Ben Nevis

Date walked: 01/09/2017

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 18 km

Ascent: 1662m

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tower ridge route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



Decided to have a go at this after seeing Damon Ritchie's TR video on YouTube, it's also in Dan Bailey's Mountain Ridges book and his description is an article on UKC so lots of route info available online (there was rockfall in Tower Gap a couple of years ago and some pics show a wide ledge to step down onto but this has now gone).

Douglas Boulder from just after the CIC, I'm taking East Gully on the left to bypass the boulder. I was here last Sat but bailed out halfway up East Gully as it was too wet/slimy. It's also easy to miss the gully as it's rockier on the left side, route starts up a greasy corner.
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Branch off here for East Gully, top of D Boulder just visible.
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Then steep scree leads to the gully, which is wet & loose in places and there had been recent rockfall - I had a helmet on just in case.
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Met a couple last Sat who were taking a groove onto the ridge further up than the gully, apparently it's easier but would miss out the tricky chimney out of Douglas Gap. There are sections of North Buttress harder than this chimney and it's sometimes described as the crux of the route, was a bit damp but it's very juggy and all the holds are there.
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Descent of Douglas Boulder to the gap looks difficult.
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Well, that was easy and I'm on Tower Ridge! Next it's a scrambly section leading up to the Little Tower, variations possible and the one I took actually felt like the hardest thing on the ridge.
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Approaching the Little Tower.
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Nice scrambling on the tower.
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Had a look at the Ledge Route bypass path which avoids the slab at the bottom.
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Slabs & crampon scratches on the way up the tower.
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Next, there's a 'long flattish section' leading to the Great Tower which would be bypassed by the eastern traverse. Apparently a long flattish section is fairly short because I soon saw this hard looking lump ahead, so I thought this might in fact be the Little Tower? Fortunately it wasn't and I didn't have to climb it. There aren't many walking breaks on the ridge, and I noticed I was getting exhausted with all the steep scrambling so I decided to take more rest stops to conserve energy (and composure).
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Scramble to the steep headwall then the eastern traverse bypass path on the left.
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Path leads to a crossroads: cave on the right leads to the Great Tower. The wall on the right was dripping water but the left wall has all the holds and was dry.
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Or it's possible to continue the traverse path and escape off the ridge. This would miss out the Great Tower and Tower Gap.
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Top of the cave looking back down:
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Scramble up to the Great Tower, a series of ledges with some steep moves.
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Then the ridge narrows leading to...TOWER GAP!
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I'd seen pics & videos of the gap and it looked like a steep, awkward descent to a block with huge exposure on all sides. I knew the moves by heart but could still feel the tension building as I got closer. A guide on North Buttress last month told me to loop 3m of rope around the boulder as an additional handhold so I brought some accessory cord for this - bit of a faff though and I didn't need it. you can see where the foothold on the left is from above as it projects out a bit, left foot on this and handholds on the ledge above it...look over shoulder to check right foot is heading to the block...transfer weight to right foot & get both feet on the block...hug the boulder above to regain balance...job done! Er, half done - very exposed step to the other side then ascend the block on good holds.
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Close up:
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Not hard if you've done the homework but the difficulty is keeping calm with the exposure. You can also hear voices on the tourist path from here as it's close to the summit which is a bit surreal.

Final steep wall
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Avoided by a ledge to the right
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And Tower Ridge is done, wee cairn at the top then tourist path to the summit.
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Cleared at the top so got a pic of the ridge.
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Tower Gap
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Descended Ledge Route
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Met a climber belaying above the slab, said it was pretty dodgy so I took the bypass path to CIC hut instead.
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Dodgy slab:
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TR is graded Diff as a climb which I've never done before so I was a bit worried about it, it's not really much harder technically than a Grade 3 scramble but it's a very long route with a lot of exposure. I've done a little bouldering so I looked at it as a series of very easy boulder problems (which I can solo no problem) rather than a Difficult Climb. Best scramble I've done on the mainland.
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Re: Tower Ridge

Postby dav2930 » Sat Sep 02, 2017 8:52 pm

Fantastic effort - a serious undertaking as a solo, well done gman :clap: :clap:

Great report and photos too, shows the route really well, very useful for TR aspirants. It's a route I've had on my to-do list for years but it always seems to be raining on the Ben!
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Re: Tower Ridge

Postby gman » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:44 am

Cheers, there haven't been too many dry spells on the Ben recently. The video was a big help, I basically stuck to this route. Got a comment on Fbook about a climber taking a bypass path at the Little Tower and having to be rescued.

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Re: Tower Ridge

Postby PeteR » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:09 am

Looks absolutely superb :clap: I say this in the knowledge I have no intention of ever attempting anything like this myself :lol:
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Re: Tower Ridge

Postby gaffr » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:43 am

Tower Ridge should be on all scramblers outings....there are some very pleasant wee pitches further out left after the first fairly level section. On it you get a good feel of what the mountain is and where all the other features fit into place. Always a pleasure to reach the summit area by this ridge. Combining it with the Ledge going down gives a good day out. I have found that Tower ridge is fine as a descent route after climbs done elsewhere on the mountain....I think that it was first done by the early pioneers as a 'first ascent' in descent. :) So what the old boys could do in hobnailed boots....easier in vibrams. :)
Also very good training to descend the easier routes as preparation when in other areas, if that is where you want to tread, when a walk off is not available.
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Re: Tower Ridge

Postby gman » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:27 pm

PeteR wrote:Looks absolutely superb :clap: I say this in the knowledge I have no intention of ever attempting anything like this myself :lol:


I remember saying something similar!

gaffr wrote:Also very good training to descend the easier routes as preparation when in other areas, if that is where you want to tread, when a walk off is not available.


Think the gap might be easier in descent? Plenty of good holds on the route which was reassuring in case a retreat was needed.
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Re: Tower Ridge

Postby Coop » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:32 pm

Can't see for the life of me why you've called it " dodgy slab" :shock:

Wow.

Fantastic; well in :clap:
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Re: Tower Ridge

Postby Mal Grey » Sun Sep 03, 2017 10:15 pm

Excellent reportage. Very clear and you almost make me want to revisit my climbing and scrambling days and give it a go...
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Re: Tower Ridge

Postby onsen » Mon Sep 04, 2017 4:18 am

Heart's beating faster, adrenaline's rising...& that's just from looking at your pics
via my tablets screen, I'm sure it's much more impressive in person.
Well done. :mrgreen:
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Re: Tower Ridge

Postby LeithySuburbs » Mon Sep 04, 2017 10:27 am

Very informative, thanks. One of the few "classic" scrambles I have left to do on the mainland and this report will be filed for reference when the opportunity arises :) .
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Re: Tower Ridge

Postby gman » Mon Sep 04, 2017 1:46 pm

LeithySuburbs wrote:One of the few "classic" scrambles I have left to do on the mainland


You won't be disappointed, I'm keeping an eye on the weather for a return.
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Re: Tower Ridge

Postby past my sell by date » Mon Jul 30, 2018 6:16 pm

[quote="gaffr"] Tower ridge is fine as a descent route after climbs done elsewhere on the mountain....I think that it was first done by the early pioneers as a 'first ascent' in descent. :)

Yes it was descended by the Hopkinsons family - 4 of whom later tragically fell to their death on the Petit Dent de Vesuvi :(
Nice pics. I did it in "spring" conditions. The Eastern traverse was clear of snow but the "hole" wasn't and there was a very short Ice pitch at the top. Bold route to solo - exposure at Tower gap is considerable. Well done
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