Sunday, 9 August 2009

"Buzzard Ridge", 60m Difficult, Aonach Dubh West Face

Another short day before a five o'clock start at work, and on an August weekend no less: it would have been all too easy to stay in bed and recover from the extreme Friday and Saturday night shifts, but I was determined to get on the hill and made the effort to get up early.

Once again I found myself plodding up the pathless steep grass of B Buttress Lower Tier on the West Face of Aonach Dubh. My mission was to further explore the expanse of rock on the Upper Tier immediately north of the Amphitheatre. With no routes recorded, but much obvious rock at an easy angle, it is an obvious target for exploration.

The ascent of B Buttress is by now very familiar, and passed without incident, save a trivial variation on the Middle Tier at Difficult standard (immediately right of the normal scrambling way up). Upon reaching the Rake, I traversed the ledge southwards and soon reached my destination.

This region of the face is complex and confusing when near at hand, despite my familiarity with it, and even now I am not entirely sure of the location of the Amphitheatre's North Ridge. I attempted a steep and serious buttress I believed to be the North Ridge, but could find no way up at anything less than Very Difficult standard, and eventually gave up (the North Ridge is supposed to be no more than Moderate). This leads me to suspect that the North Ridge is hidden somewhere further right.

I then explored the steep ridge immediately left of the Amphitheatre Escape Route (which I climbed the other week). The direct start proved to be too wet and difficult to climb alone, so I ascended easier rocks to the right of a shallow scoop, crossed the scoop, then re-joined the ridge. As I stepped onto the ridge, a buzzard swooped overhead from its nest amongst the rocks, providing the name for the route.

The climb is steep and sustained. An initial awkward mantleshelf move gives access to a complex of vertical steps and ledges, most of which have to be mantled in a similar fashion. The exposure mounts as the route becomes even steeper, and the crux move requires astute route-finding to discover the most feasible way up: a series of steep moves onto smears, followed by a strenuous pull up around a protruding nose.

After climbing the face, I ran down the Coire nan Lochan path and was back several hours before my shift began. The last three jaunts on the face have all lasted exactly five hours; I think I've got that mountain sussed!

(Unfortunately I have no photos from today, as James had the camera.)


  1. Still it sounds great. Words can still tell a tale without a photo. How is the book coming on? since we are talking words.

  2. Unfortunately Martin the book is on hiatus, as I am finding it impossible to work on it regularly! I hope to kick-start it again during my spell of holiday in November, however.