Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Golden Oldie - Aonach Mor (Mon 3 Mar)

Fresh overnight snow meant another mountaineering day, this time on the west face of Aonach Mor, thinking it would be free of the worst powder and having been done only 2 days previous there would be a trail. We were wrong on a both counts. Fortunately a team of 3 broke trail to just before Gendarme Ridge, leaving us only the last few hundred metres of hard work.
Aidan on the initial approach slopes
We soloed the initial buttress with a few moves that felt tenuous, as every axe and foot placement had to be tested for fear of axes pulling through 4inches of powder, or standing on rock slabs and sliding.
Aidan on a move that felt closer to 3
I ran out of bottle when the first narrow section coincided with a snow shower, cross winds and spindrift, so we got the rope out as I inched my way forward, ending up 'a cheval' not for the first time in the day.
Aidan approaching the first 'a cheval' section
I ran out a couple of rope lengths with a couple of blocks for gear, regained my composure and we took coils to speed things up again. We then encountered the sting in the tail - the final arete was a knifeedge of loose snow, with a vertical drop on the left and steep snow on the right, more akin to the Kuffner arete on Mont Maudit, not a grade II in Scotland! We move together across this cautiously, as there wasn't any gear without an awful lot of digging.
Aidan on final snow arete

Thankfully that was the end of the difficulties and we crawled up the final snow slopes. Despite being knackered, we found the motivation to make it from the summit to the Gondola in 50mins, making it with 20mins to spare. Complete soft snow cover all the way helped.
Matt and Aidan happy (thankful) on the summit
A hard day, but worthwhile and enjoyable, and definitely felt like an adventure. Well worth its 3 stars.

Another Classic - Liathach Traverse (Sat 1 Mar)

My best mate Aidan was up from Yorkshire for a long weekend, climbing conditions were poor, so we went for a(nother) classic mountaineering day out that neither Aidan nor Vic had done.
The initial step on to the arete

Aidan on the ridge

Aidan and Matt

The Pinnacles

Aidan and Matt on the ridge
Mixed weather, a good Scottish winter day. Soft snow on the southern approach slopes to the east end of the ridge, spindrift, low cloud. Firm neve on westerly aspects, a few inches of powder on east aspects, a good track to follow, good company. 8.5hrs road to road.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Classic Mountaineering - North West at its best (Sun 16 Feb)

The first decent forecast (i.e. low wind) on a weekend saw us desperate to escape the DIY. In need of some hill fitness, a mountaineering day was in order. We chose the A'Chioch traverse on Beinn Bhan. This is a good choice when there is lots of snow, especially when it has come from the south.  The roads were icy, so the drive from Cannich took just over two hours, but we left the road before 9, a good performance for us!

It was a popular choice, with several parties on the route, but it was very sociable and the belays are relatively spacious. The snow was mostly ok (reasonable neve, not powder), turf was firm, and a good track helps. However, there isn't much gear. This is especially true on the last crux pitch, although thankfully the placements are good. Personally I think there are moves of III (as per the Scotland Ridges guide) and with little pro on the crux I think it has serious fall potential, so I think it is closer to III than II. It certainly felt harder than Curved Ridge.

There is quite a bit of snow even on Beinn Bhan. Looking down March Hare looked loaded and the back wall of the coire with Silver Tear there wasn't much ice visible under the soft stuff. 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Birthday weekend

Great birthday weekend in the Cairngorms - skiing on Saturday, climbing today. We did a quick hit in to Sneachda to beat the approaching storm - back on the coire floor by noon. Red Gully can be III but was banked out so only II today. Approach slopes were quite soft and 'slabby' in places, but steeper ground generally gave good placements. Not much gear though. No photos of the route as we were hurrying and then the spindrift started! I should have taken one on the walk-in as it was beautiful, but all I've got is this one after the route, which shows how plastered the crag is.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Christmas cobwebs

Driving back north from Christmas in Surrey and Swansea, we took the opportunity of a decent forecast for Sunday to stop in Dumbarton and explore the Arrochar Alps. It was good to blow the cobwebs away and start working off some of the Christmas excesses! There was plenty of soft snow, and a rising freezing level, so we decided to give climbing a miss, and headed up Beinn Narnain from the main path to the Cobbler. The southern corrie was a bit of a slog breaking trail in snow up to knee deep, but the South East ridge past 'the Spearhead' was good fun. There appeared to be good ice on the rocks above 800m, but deep soft snow on NE and East aspects, just as predicted following SW airflows.

The Cobbler
Starting the SE Ridge of Beinn Narnain. The Cobbler in the background.
Skirting 'The Spearhead'. Soft snow on this NE aspect.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Successful return to Aonach Mor

Forecast was +2'c at 900m, so we had to go high. Just over 2 weeks after running away from avalanche slopes on Aonach Mor, we were back on the off chance that there was ice to climb. We were right! Visibility was poor, there was some definite dripping going on, but no wind. Surprisingly there wasn't many teams out.

It was a little soft at the bottom of the route, and foot placements never felt totally secure, but White Shark IV,5 *** gave a good climb. We felt rusty and weak, but just about managed to hold it together long enough to get up the crux steep section on the second pitch. There was soft snow on the upper slopes (a while since I've used a deadman in a belay on a route), and a tricky cornice which succumbed to swapping axes so that I could use Vic's better plunging HB Hurricane, and a traverse to the right.

We just made the gondala and relaxed in the new cafe. Very civilised.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

A day with my bruv

One of those rare things, a day with my brother, nige. Jules and he joined us in Aviemore for a very pleasant couple of evenings, and we got out on Friday. The forecast was for the weather to deteriorate so an early start and an an escapable route in Sneachda was the correct call. We started up Wavelength (III,4) for a couple of pitches, taking a slight detour up some steep ice as a wall/groove didn't have much build up. With time pressing on, we followed Spiral Gully (II) for a pitch, then did it's Direct Finish (III), which gave 2 further icey pitches. Conditions on the plateau weren't great, so we took a hard right and descended the Goat Track. Conditions in the corrie were far nicer, but we were soon chased out by the snow arriving. 1st photo is a ptarmigan that decided to watch from a nearby rib, 2nd is nige having just done a steep bit.