I'm thinking of doing Tower Ridge in Winter this season (assuming it's in condition) and wondered roughly how long, in time, it takes to walk to the start of the route? I'd say I'm reasonably fit.
Also how long roughly, average time to do the route with a competent leader who knows his/her way around i .e. what's average 'Guide time'?
> It's always in 'condition'. How long depends on what condition.
> 3 hours to the Gap from the Golf Course with some of the usual pissing about by the CIC I reckon.
3 hours from the golf course to tower gap?? You must be a lot quicker than me!
If you're parking at the NFa e car park I'd say 2 hours from car to setting off kitted up from the CIC. Depends which way you are getting on to the ridge and very dependent on other teams ahead of you and conditions. I've previously done it pretty quickly but other times in more than double the time!
Maybe we were just being stupid but we didn't find it immediately obvious how to get to the start of it, if not going over Douglas. I think we wasted a bit of faff-time going too high up the initial gully, then back down by the ridge, before we found the gap behind the DB.
It's quite a long slog and can be pretty sweaty going through the woods to begin with. I'd really recommend walking in in a different baselayer and getting fully changed at the CIC.
Cheers Paul, I like the idea of doing the route but I'm a huge whinger when it comes to huge walk-ins.
Is it worth the effort?
I've done some routes on the Ben in Winter and sadly most of my lasting memories are walking/trudging through knee high snow getting to the start of the routes.
Oh definitely worth it, it's a proper mountain day. I've not done many Scottish Winter things where you're fully committed to 900 odd meters of climbing. None of the climbing is particularly memorable but the position is outstanding and it feels like a big day when you hit an empty summit plateaux as the sun's setting.
Forget the slog up, it's the slog down you need to worry about! After the half-way lochan it was nothing but misery (though it was a lean year, it might be better with more snow....or more dangerous, or both, I'm not sure).
You're not alone, we also missed East Gulley approach initially by going too far up past it, so wasted quite a bit of time finding the start.
Worth noting that you could easily double the approach (and the climbing) time if there's lots of deep unconsolidated snow.
No, just total punters and thought it would be more obvious than it was. That, and you get into a bit of a rhythm when trudging and its not always easy to stop, get the guidebook out and think about stuff.
> Oh definitely worth it, it's a proper mountain day. I've not done many Scottish Winter things where you're fully committed to 900 odd meters of climbing. None of the climbing is particularly memorable
Tower Gap not memorable!?
When I did it last when I was reasonably fit, we set off at 6 and got to the top at 1ish with enough time to nip round to do Green Gully. We were back at the car at 6.30. Was a pretty big day, we had good conditions and easy navigation because of clear weather. Both routes we came back down No4 to reach the CIC. The decent to the lochain to the west is flipping harrowing. It goes on for ever.
In reply to
> Also how long roughly, average time to do the route with a competent leader who knows his/her way around i .e. what's average 'Guide time'?
The one thing you can't factor in is the queues waiting at the Eastern Traverse. I have encountered 20+ waiting before now. We just turned back rather than wait goddammit how many hours for slow moving teams ahead!
If you are thinking of doing it mid season on a weekend (particularly on a Saturday), during school half term, or an Easter / Spring bank holiday then add a couple of hours.
I mean, I remember it as a short, back-roped down-climb, but I'd hardly say it was a 4-star, classic climbing experience. Was more fun swimming through the hole under the big block a couple of pitches before. I remember it as much as trying to retrieve someones belay plate just below tower gap.
> The decent to the lochain to the west is flipping harrowing. It goes on for ever.
Get it right though, and you can basically bum slide from the top of Castle Ridge to Halfway Lochan!
When we did Tower Ridge we were young and fit and did it in good late season conditions. we roped up for 15 metre Chimney or whatever its called - out the DG Gap, then soloed to the Eastern Traverse. Rope on for that, on to Great Tower and across the gap. Soloed on to the top. I think we were on the ridge for less than 3 hours. Lunch at the summit, down the CMD Arete for the afternoon, followed by a glorious bumslide down from CMD to the hut. Splendid!
2-2.5 hrs to the base of the Eastern gully of the Douglas Boulder from the North Face car park (6km and about 800m of up). Its pretty easy to miss the start of the "gully" in the dark or the ming.
"Guide time" for the route would sit around 3 - 3.5 hr mark though the guidebook says 6-10 if I remember rightly (for good reason - my first experience of Tower Ridge at 19 was a 16hr car to car experience). Its hard to compare the average time someone guiding to a "competent leader who knows his/her way around" as a guide will have their strategy and route finding dialed and know where to bypass other parties if need be. As others have said this time will increase greatly if theres anyone having a muddle at the Eastern Traverse or Tower Gap.
Its worth noting that you dont have to go up the Eastern Gully and into the Douglas gap. If you carry on slightly higher up Observatory gully you can cut up and right (theres a wee ledge system) to the ridge right after the top of the Douglas Gap. You can also climb straight up in many places to bypass the D gap. This can allow you to be more efficient on the start of the route as most will pitch out of the Douglas gap so either allows you not to have to change up your system/ tactics early on or to overtake other teams.
I had a similar experience to you, albeit when I was younger, fitter and bolder. We drove up in the morning, left the car at about 11, soleoed everything apart from eastern traverse and tower gap (getting lost ong the way as we didn't read the guidebook as a few others have posted about above) and back to the car in under 5 hours. We didn't see anyone else due to the late start and had a fantastic time. I can imagine taking around three times as long though if I did it now with my wife with roping the whole thing and getting stuck in ques.
If we are dossing in the NF carpark we recon on being at the CIC hut 2hrs after the alarm goes off, but we have got the 'getting going' bit off to a fine art. The start gully is 15minues ish from there.
In terms of the route - conditions / experience / daylight / other parties all influence this. Maybe do Castle Ridge first if not sure?
If you don't mind getting up early you can be first on it easily enough, which I would recommend - we climbed Hadrian's Wall on 2.4.22 (a bluebird Saturday with excellent ice conditions - so popular) this year and with a 4.00am alarm call were first on the mountain by quite some margin.
Yeah basically the same experience here. Tagged the summit and a bum slide down no. 4 gully for the win. One of the best of many cracking winter outings on the Ben, harder stuff done since but that sticks out eternally as the right route at the right time with the right level of experience.
Obviously doing it with a guide is total bullshit.
Tortoise or Hare? I new a South African who frequently walked into to the CIC in about an hour in trainers, a legendry Greek party attempted the ridge with camps eventually being led off by the Lochaber mountain rescue somewhere around the gap after a number of days!
One of my all time favorites from digging through powder to a pleasant romp on squeeky neve it has always delivered, one to be savored, such a great way to summit the ben.
This Winter Conditions page gives a summary of what is being climbed at the moment, what is 'in' nick and what the prospects are...