Kenny (who did Crest Route in Glencoe today) had reported it as quite good the other day and as the guys haven't done that much walking this year (its a bit lower down the mountain). We walked in spotting teams finding Fawlty Towers quite tough going and saw Max on the SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder. We headed up a long first pitch to the in situ anchor before taking the groove that leads right into the basin above Vanishing Gully (another long pitch, in situ anchor and some good thin climbing about III). Instead of taking this right it is easier to head straight up onto Tower Ridge but I fancied a bit more climbing. From the end of the groove the view across the easy basin beyond looked... interesting.... The usual exit looked very thin and uninviting. I ran out another long pitch to a belay at the base of a more promising looking groove. I got only 10 m up this when I hit an unhelpful hanging slab covered in powder. I made a sharp step left onto a pinnacle that formed my last runner and round the corner into the next gully to the left. Another couple of runners just where needed and a short steep wall was climbed by a good pull on frozen turf. The remainder of the 55m pitch had a couple of steps and continued to trend left onto Tower Ridge (at the very end of the long rightwards traverse after the arete above the chimney out of the Douglas Gap).... maybe III,4?
All 3 of the guys experienced pretty grim hot aches making the steep pull (a variety of colourful language but no vomiting). These took a few minutes to pass before we could descend the lower part of Tower Ridge and drop easily into Observatory Gully. Well done guys!
On the walk out we were passed by Tim and Keith of PYB who had climbed Cornucopia and spoke to another pair who reported good ice on Tower Scoop and a team on Smiths. We also saw a team around Slingsby's chimney and Hadrians Direct looked like it might be worth a look by the right team. There was a stream of people headed up to the CIC hut... looks like it will be busy on the Ben for a couple of days but not great weather on Wednesday.