My Memories Are Everything® climbs are to raise awareness and
research money for Alzheimer's Disease. My mom, Ida, passed away
from Alzheimer's in 2009.
Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death
in the United States, with another person newly diagnosed every 69
seconds. It affects more than 5 million people in the United States
and over 25 million worldwide. The burden on families and family
caregivers are significant both personally as well as financially.
With our aging population, these issues are increasing dramatically.
Today, there is no reliable method of early detection and no cure.
And there is hope with research.
100% of your donations got to your selected non-profit and
none to Alan, his climbing expenses or supporters.
The Alzheimer's Immunotherapy Program of Janssen
Alzheimer Immunotherapy and Pfizer Inc. funded my climbs for
the 7 Summits campaign and will continue to fund some of my ongoing campaign
efforts. All money I raise from donations goes directly to the
organizations I have selected. Click here to
find official information about the campaign. As of November
9, 2010, content posted here is my own but subject to certain
limitations in conjunction with the support of the AIP.
Alzheimer's Fund is supported by private grants thus allowing
100% of your donations to go directly to Alzheimer's research.
The Alzheimer's Association is
the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s
care, support and research, and the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s
research. The Association’s vision is a world without Alzheimer’s®.
Visit the Alzheimer's Association to learn more.
Ben Nevis, while not all that high, is steeped in mountaineering history
and offers some of the best winter climbing in Europe. I had always
wanted to climb Ben but never thought I would have the opportunity
so when planning to speak at an Alzheimer's conference in London in
March 2012, I quickly seized the opportunity to add a short side trip
to Scotland to my schedule.
click any picture to enlarge
trip started by flying into Glasgow, renting a car and navigating the
winding and very narrow (did I mention they were narrow?) roads to
the small city of Fort William at the northeast edge of Scotland. Amazingly,
the day was mostly clear with only a few sprinkles along the way. I
somewhat easily found the Ben Nevis Inn; a stone barn converted into
a comfortable bunkhouse and used in the movie Braveheart. For $25 a
night, I got a bunk with covers and a great meal at their restaurant.
Being totally unfamiliar with the area and Ben, I had arranged a guide
using Abacus Mountaineering a month earlier. Mike Pescod was prompt
and informative in his email exchanges and set me up with another guide
Ken Applegate who also lived in Ft. William. I met up with Ken on Monday,
March 5 at the Inn.
We joined with Mike who was guiding two other clients on a different
route on Ben and used the secret key to get by a gate and thus access
to the most upper parking lot where we began the 1.5 hour hike to the
Charles Inglis Clark (CIC) Hut on the north side and at the base of
Ben. The weather was beyond perfect - no wind, temps near freezing
with an occasional costal cloud passing by. It was around 10:00 AM
when we reached the hut.
Suffering from a bit of jet lag I took my time getting to the hut
and from there followed Ken another few minutes to the start of the
route, on the Tower Ridge. A wind turbine near the hut was quiet, which
was a good signal it was going to be a good weather day for climbing
in Scotland … in the winter.
Ben Nevis offers over 200 routes to the summit in addition to the
easy walkup aptly named the Pony Track. Over 150,000 people a year
climb Ben with 99% of those on the Pony but today there were 50 or
more on the technical routes for the north and east faces, gullies and ridges
that offer the most interesting climbs. A new layer of snow, a few inches,
made things interesting.
The Tower Ridge is considered a classic in mountaineering circles.
It is an 1800' gain and only about half a mile long but offers a bit
of everything from rock scrambling to challenging vertical gains, albeit
short, to a crazy drop in to the Tower Gap. All in all a route worthy
of testing any set of skills.
The route starts with the option of climbing the Douglas Boulder or
simply going around. Given there was a large group ahead of us and
bottlenecks are common higher up on the route, we choose to take the
sidestep up Observatory Gulley, into the Eastern Gulley and finally
onto Douglas Gap and gained the ridge proper - and ahead of the masses.
The rock was solid but the footing very fragile with the fresh snow
on the smooth rocks and using crampons.
We were now roped up and making good time as we cleared the first
large bump in the ridge and after very sustained elevation gain, soon
came upon the Little Tower. However there was nothing little about
it. Ben is made up of rock that without snow would be a somewhat simple
high class 4 rock climb on most of the route. But with the snow, the
difficulty increased to the low Class 5 (YDS) level in my estimation.
There were multiple teams now on the route and Ken masterfully maneuvered
around them sometimes requiring an aggressive move or two. We were
now climbing in a strong and sustained manner and I became ever impressed
with the quality of this route.
We achieved the Little Tower and came upon a bit easier terrain until
we approached the imposing face of the Great Tower. This is a near
vertical face that thankfully we went around but it came at more exposure.
The so called Eastern Traverse is infamous for being about 1 foot wide
and a several hundred foot drop off. The ledge was snow covered without
not much of a boot track yet; it was a lesson in focus.
With the crowds on our heels, Ken next chose a direct line up the
east face of the Great Tower and we climbed overhanging boulders, what
I would easily put at 5.9, in winter conditions, section. With Ken
belaying me, I made it to the upper sections of the Great Tower only
to see the very narrow section of the Tower Gap down below.
We soon were sitting together on the rock ledge looking out and over
the Tower Gap. This is considered the crux of the Tower Ridge, but
I thought it was only another section at this point. However as Ken
simply said slide over, facing in and ease down until you feel you
feet hit the rock; the true mean of "crux" became clear.
After a few moments of inspection, I did as instructed while holding
on with a death grip to the sling that protected my life from a deadly
fall. In the end it was actually easier than I thought. I cleared the
gap and made my way across the very narrow and exposed rock ledge and
onto the final section of 30 degree snow slope to the to of the Tower
The true summit was a few minutes away around a large corniced opening.
At the true summit, marked with a rock pillar and a rescue hut perched
on rock footings, we celebrated our climb and took in the views. We
topped out around 2:30 making our climb on the ridge about 4 hours,
not bad for winter conditions.
We took the Pony Track partly down but cut across the bogs back to
the parking lot.
Ben Nevis was a tremendous amount of fun. I can easily see why the
locals are so proud. As Mike jokingly told me, my 7 Summits had prepared
me to climb the Tower Ridge - he was not far off.
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