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>With a small window of time in which to climb today, I teamed up with Scott and Dave, for a quick route on the east face of Aonach Mor. Conditions haven’t been great since the weekend, with quite a substantial thaw stripping a lot of the snow, and certainly reports from yesterday suggested that the mixed routes on Ben Nevis were quite black. The weather last night and this morning has solved that. With strong north-easterly winds bringing in moisture, the rime has been building up well on the buttresses, and it’s looking very wintery up on the east face at the moment. The cornices have firmed up, although they are still quite large, and the top of Easy Gully will warrant the use of a rope for access for the time being.
|Dave leading into the clouds|
‘White Shark IV,4’ is a route I had a go at a couple of years ago, but it was during quite mild temperatures, and the top ice pitch had become detached from the rock, so I escaped up an equally serious ‘Aquafresh IV,4’, to it’s left. This time however, things were a little different. The ice was in good shape, taking both ‘good’ ice screws and mostly first time axe placements. Dave led the first pitch, to just beneath the steep crux pitch, I then led on through, up the steep ice, to find a convenient tunnel through the cornice, therefore avoiding the need for any awkward top-outs. There were only two pitches, so unfortunately Scott wasn’t able to jump on the sharp end. Car to car, it took 4 1/2 hours, which made quite a pleasant change from ‘the norm’!
The weather for the next few days looks good, with light winds, lowish temperatures and little precipitation, the climbing conditions on Aonach Mor and Ben Nevis should be excellent!
|The looming cornice at the top|
|The convenient tunnel through the cornice|
|Scott tackling pitch 1 of The Groove Climb.|
If there was a freeze last night, it must have been very brief, as today the snow was quite soft and freezing levels had risen to around 1100m, and with an evident thaw in process, Scott and I decided to head up high again. The cloud base was at around 700m as we entered Coire Na Ciste (again), and visibility was down to about 100m. With far less climbers about, and with the cloud in, Ben Nevis took on a very different feel to yesterday.
We ended up retracing our footsteps from yesterday, to seek out a somewhat obsure, yet one starred climb called ‘The Groove Climb V,6’, which was only a few metres to the left of yesterday’s ‘Slab Climb’. The routes aren’t fantastically imaginatively named here! Despite it’s short 70m length, the route manages to squeeze in a number of obstacles, the first being loose, unconsolidated snow on the steep and sustained first pitch, which Scott led well, particularly as the gear wasn’t great, and then quite a strenuous, but safe, pull out of a very tight cave/belay up and over the capping chockstone, onto easier ground above, which I led. A long traverse leftwards brought us to a huge spike, from which we were able to abseil down (60m), and down climb back to the packs.
Guy and John were on ‘Slab Climb’ and then ‘Wendigo IV,4’, other teams on ‘Zero Gully V,4’, ‘Hadrian’s Wall Direct V,5’, ‘Number 2 Gully Buttress III’, ‘Green Gully IV,4’ and ‘Thompson’s Route IV,4’. The forecast is again for the freezing levels to be above the summit, but all the mentioned routes should be ok, however there will be an increased risk of avalanches with the increase in temperature and precipitation, so care is needed.
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