Saturday, 13 February 2010

An educational day on the Aonach Mor

Isi and I had originally planned to climb Tower Ridge yesterday, but with cloudy weather, too much beer the night before and Isi already tired from several days of climbing and walking, once again the Tower Ridge plan was put back (this process has been going on for about four years now!) Instead, we decided to go to Aonach Mor.

Aonach Mor has a reputation as being an 'easy' winter climbing area thanks to the telepherique and pisted tracks leading up to the crags. However, the slog up the hill is a proper grind and by the time we got to the top of Easy Gully (in a whiteout) it felt like almost as much effort as the walk up to Coire nan Lochan!

We abseiled into Easy Gully over the cornice (overhanging but not massively large) then descended the gully to the traverse slopes across to the other climbs.

The snow on the traverse appeared to be perfectly good, but I became increasingly unnerved the further I went across the traverse. My 'avalanche sense' was tingling despite no evidence there was anything amiss. With pounding heart, I stopped and dug an avalanche test pit.

Over a foot depth of windslab sheered very easily and cleanly. I dug several more pits on different aspects and the results were conclusive: the avalanche risk was extremely high!

We ran away as fast as we could, back up Easy Gully where the snow is decent. At the top I made a buried axe belay and secured Isi over the cornice, which I followed in ungainly fashion!

This was my third visit to Aonach Mor, and the third time I have failed to climb anything of substance due to conditions. I am not impressed by the hill at all and doubt I will return a fourth time.

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