Wednesday, 11 February 2009
The Aonach Eagach
Accompanied by Jack and Tall Alex, today I did the Aonach Eagach. Words fail me to describe how perfect the day was. Low winds, bright sun, clear air and crisp snow--it's every mountaineers dream and I'm very thankful now that I waited until conditions were right before doing the ridge in winter conditions.
We made excellent time along the ridge (a little over seven hours from the car park to the pub), and only got the rope out for one of the trickier pinnacles. It was a good solo with a single mountaineering axe although there were two or three awkward descents, mostly with loose snow over slabby rock.
Now to discuss conditions. When we started just after 8am, most of the snow on the approach to Am Bodach was pretty hard, although there were the drifts of powder and little patches of windslab that I had expected in places. The ridge was nicely rimed here and there and the turf was well-frozen. Enough consolidated snow to qualify as 'good conditions', and in places the ridge was banked out to a fine snow arete, complete with cornice. Generally there was quite a lot of loose snow on the ridge although it almost always had solid, well-packed stuff underneath.
As the day wore on, the hot sun started to thaw the southern side of the ridge, soon stripping the ice from the rocks and softening the snow. The northern side, which was in the shade, remained more or less unchanged. As we descended to the col between Sgorr nam Fiannaidh and the Pap we encountered very deep soft snow and windslab, with very little consolidated stuff; even as high as 800m it was starting to slowly thaw in the sun.
No danger of all the snow vanishing, for the time being at least, and all this freeze-thaw can only be a good thing.
Click below for the photo album. I hope you enjoy the pictures ... it was certainly one of the best mountain days I've had for quite a while.