With an excellent forecast George and I planned to go to Ben Nevis with the aim of climbing Observatory Ridge. The walk in was beautiful with a clear sky, views of a snowy mountain and a beautiful view back down into the valley. Unfortunately due to the lack of winter so far this year, while Ben Nevis was covered in snow it was lacking in ice which is what lead us to attempting a ridge route.
Unfortunately while we were approaching observatory ridge it became clear that the snow was very unconsolidated with no base at all. I set off on the first pitch and quickly decided that we were going to have a long and unpleasant day if we continued, so made the unpleasant unprotected down climb back to the belay.
We then decided to head for plan B which was the classic south west ridge of the Douglas boulder. This provided three pitches of excellent mixed climbing, with good hooks, reasonable snow, excellent protection and enjoyable climbing. George led the first pitch which was the crux of the route with an enjoyable technical traverse, the second pitch was more straightforward after an initial section up to an exposed pinnacle. The last pitch was a long pitch up to the summit of the Douglas boulder with a powerful final move to gain the summit directly.
While we were climbing the route the guided party behind us suggested that we might want to climb the East Ridge after to make the most of the excellent day. This turned out to be an excellent suggestion as the second pitch was fantastic, with two short steep walls which looked steep and intimidating but had excellent gear and great hooks.
From the top of the Douglas boulder we had views of most of the north face of Ben Nevis, which was looking surprisingly bare due to the poor winter.
Despite not being able to achieve our main objective we had an excellent day out climbing, it was great to finally start the winter season after such a lean January and February. The walk out was beautiful with great views over sun kissed snowy mountains. On the drive back to our accommodation the sunset was amazing as it lit up the mountains in a beautiful red colour.