Thursday, 19 February 2009

East Face Aonach Dubh

With continuing mild conditions in the glen, we decided to say 'sod it' to the prospect of winter climbing, and packed our rock shoes instead of crampons today. A visit to the East Face of Aonach Dubh demonstrated that most of the main crags are still streaming with meltwater, except the faces that are exposed to the sun and wind, which were comparatively dry.

We began the scramble towards the start of Quiver Rib, a classic Diff rock climb. With water running over the holds and puddles everywhere, I found the scrambling approach along exposed ledges rather unnerving. This stems from a fear of wet rock in big boots, hard-earned by a serious fall while soloing a few years ago; it's a phobia I have yet to get over. I will happily solo far more exposed and difficult winter routes in crampons, but wet rock does not make me happy!

The climb itself was damp at the start, where meltwater was streaming from the adjacent climb, but the upper section was sound and more or less dry. The climbing was very steep for a Diff but also very easy, with enormous holds and an obvious line. The upper pitch was magnificently exposed and in a great situation. We climbed the two pitches in about twenty minutes all in all. Mike only placed one piece of gear, which fell out and hit me on the head before I even started climbing!

In terms of winter conditions, there is a surprising amount of snow left in Coire nan Lochan. Most of the major gully lines are still complete, although obviously Twising and SC have no ice in them. Buttresses are black and probably very wet. The snow patches at our maximum level near the summit of Aonach Dubh were saturated slush, leading me to suspect that the easy gullies are probably still in bad nick, as the promised cold front has not yet arrived (or is significantly weaker than was forecasted).

The snow remaining in Coire nan Lochan is not going to vanish in a hurry, so when things finally turn cold again good conditions should return reasonably quickly. Unfortunately the forecast is for more mild weather into next week!

For pictures from today, including reference shots into Coire nan Lochan and Coire nam Beithach, click below.

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