On Thursday February 17, Nick Bullock, Andy Turner and Bruce Poll visited Ben Nevis and added a challenging new route to the East Flank of Tower Ridge. The Pretender (VII,9) lies on the buttress to the right of The Great Chimney and is 55m-long. The first pitch climbs the lower buttress via steep ice steps, leading to a large shelf below a very steep wall. The wall is split by a wide chimney-crack low down, somewhat reminiscent to Darth Vader, and goes into a very steep wide crack with a thin overhanging recess running right into an overhanging finish.
“The main pitch is approximately 25 metres long and very sustained with loads of tech 7, 8, and a few moves of 9,” Nick told me. “Knee bar rests, head jams and shoulder jams are advisable, and available for the weak (me), or not needed for the strong (Andy). The main pitch is very well protected by a good rack of cams up to Number 4 and a good selection of wires. Unfortunately an axe ripped on the final moves (the crux) and I fell off. On the second attempt after I regained the rock from below the fall and topped out.”
Given recent comments on short technical rotes and grading, Nick thought carefully about the appropriate grade for The Pretender. “It took a while for me to settle with VII,9 as the climb is very short, very safe, and easy to approach, and easy to get off. No commitment required, just arms and go juice and the ability to hold on!”