Wednesday, 14 October 2009
A bit of gorge scrambling
A warm front has brought calm, almost muggy weather to the glen, with dense cloud blanketing the hills almost down to the valley floor. Disinclined to venture out into the mist to slide about on wet rock, I decided today to instead embrace the wet conditions by exploring some of the ghylls on the West Face of Aonach Dubh.
At the bottom of the approach path up the face is a small steep wood of birch trees, bounded on both sides by beautiful waterfalls. I explored the left-hand one first.
The first little rock step was easy, but beyond that was an impossible cascade, so I walked around on the bank to the right and abseiled in from further up, leaving my rope in place so I could Prusik back out afterwards. At this section of the ravine it is more or less impossible to climb out at any point: the slope I abseiled down was several metres of almost vertical moss and mud!
A short easy section led to two difficult pitches. The first was a devious ramp of slimy rock, climbed using tiny holds and delicate balance to bypass the waterfall. I waded through a deep, crystal-clear pool to the foot of the next step, which was a steep move bridging up between either side of the narrow gorge.
Easy walking and rock-hopping now led to the gallery at the back of the ravine, the prize: a beautiful plunge-pool capped by a huge vertical waterfall, at least fifteen metres in height. I found many strange and wonderful plants (unharmed to the inaccessibility of the gorge), a sheep's skull, and a small but ancient cairn indicating someone else had made the ascent at some point in the past.
After exiting the first gorge, I found a way into the second--just an easy scramble up grass. Right next to the impressive waterfall, on the right side, was an ominous-looking cave. I waded out into the plunge pool and the water reached as high as my waist--freezing cold! Ultimately however I was unable to climb the slippery rocks into the cave, so I retreated.