Good neve into Observatory Gully
For the final day of SKKs Everest Expedition Prep course we upped the stakes and headed back up onto the Ben aiming for a very snowy Tower Ridge IV 3. It had been climbed at the weekend but in the event there was very little evidence of their passing and there was plenty of post holing and digging to be carried out. Yesterdays thaw and a freeze overnight had produced good neve up observatory gully until we tried to climb up onto the ridge. This is where the swimming started with plenty of unconsolidated snow and a few exciting cornices. Where the snow lay over bulges and rocks there was good neve and thick rime but for the most part feet and axes were pulling straight through. Protection was very hard to come by and you'll need to be competent at waist belays, buried axes and stomper belays to get up the ridge in these conditions.
Despite all this the route was in a very easy state to climb with several of the tricky rock steps fully banked out. The Eastern Traverse was exciting but gave good foot placements with the thick cloud hiding the void below. The climb onto Great Tower was the crux today with the usual difficulties at Tower Gap reduced to one hard pull on the axes. We made good time topping out in 5 hours into a full whiteout. We descended on a compass bearing via Red Burn and were back at the lower carpark in a round trip of 10 hours.
Swimming across the Eastern Traverse