Classic Scottish winter climbing – Glovers Chimney Ben Nevis photo Mark Hartree
First ascent winter 1935 by G.C McPhee and party.
My first introduction to this classic route was on my first ascent of Tower Ridge in the early 70’s with my old mate Tom MAcDonald. We were in a storm and had a group of 10 other climbers following us. It was pitch dark as I descended into the famous Tower Gap a climber arrived from Glovers chimney. I was amazed where he had come from the chimney looked evil in the wind, dark and spindrift it looked bonkers to me a young climber. I moved off leaving him to belay in the Gap I may have stood on his head he was not happy but was a grumpy man . Yet that quick introduction to Glovers chimney was from then one of my favourite climbs. When you read of the first ascent when the top chimney was climbed in the dark and the middle of the route had been descended already in 1907 by an SMC party. It’s classic reading of these hard climbers.
In these days it was simple ice axes and crampons. The initial icefall then the steep snow leads to the crux. How I loved that chimney I must have climbed it about 10 times. As the gear improved my climbing never did though it became easier to protect. Yet I often did this climb with the easier Gardh Gully a grade 2/3 climb. Yet in the photo below a bit harder as things change every winter.
We would often finish up Glovers Chimney and I would meet many other in the gap. Some were pretty grumpy and told you to wait but I always pushed on glasses akimbo I must have looked rather strange. I seemed to meet many plonkers here maybe it’s a Tower Gap thing?
When I went to Canada ice climbing in 1984? one of the first routes I did when I got back was Glovers Chimney. It was great to get away from the steep ice and into the crux chimney I felt safe in there to me that’s Scottish winter climbing a great mixture. Add in Tower Gap and the top of Tower Ridge it’s a wonderful day and what a finish. Nowadays it’s an easy climb for most but the memories and seeing folks faces or your climbing companion arrive in Tower Gap takes you back to my first impressions of such a grand climb.
Getting a helicopter lift of Tower Ridge is also a memory I will never forget but that was another tale.