Thursday, 4 March 2010

East Ridge, Carn Dearg Meadhonach

Although I'd been offered the chance to climb Steall Falls today with Isi, the forecast indicated a good chance for sunshine in the morning, so I decided to head off to do a ridge that has been on my wishlist for a long time now. The route in question was the East Ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach, a remote Grade II arete in the heart of the huge Allt Daim between Aonach Mor and the Carn Mor Dearg ridge.

I took the Nevis Range gondola to the top station. The usual descent into the Allt Daim was badly corniced, so I turned this slope on the right. The walk along the glen was variable: at times the well-bonded slab was dense enough to walk on, but at other times I sank through to my knees or waist. Exhausting work all-said breaking trail. I'm glad I had my poles with me for once.

Once on the ridge itself, conditions were good. Raised footprints indicated scouring, and snow alternated between firm neve and thin, insignificant windslab deposits. Once again it was a sunny, hot day, and I actually rolled my shirtsleeves up!

The ridge itself is fantastic, worth far more than the single star it gets in the guidebooks. From the first tower, an exposed, jagged crest surmounts two more towers before topping out at the summit of the peak. It's far better and more sustained than Sron na Lairig in Glencoe, with a more defined line and no route-finding issues. It's also an easy route for Grade II.

After savouring the Alpine ambiance of the ridge, I topped out to be blown away by the awe-inspiring view. Ben Nevis towered ahead, almost pure white against the blue sky. Carn Mor Dearg itself was a perfect pyramid, an archetypal mountain form. The West Face of Aonach Mor was vast and daunting. I was sorely tempted to continue over the Carn Mor Dearg Arete to Ben Nevis and then down to the pub in Glen Nevis, but a bank of cloud was rolling in from the NW and the forecast warned of snow showers.

Reluctantly, I left that high altar of mountaineering and descended. At first my descent was made along the excellent raised track down the North Ridge, but after a while I struck off right down the sheer face and once again enjoyed an exceptionally long and easy glissade, around 300 - 400m down powder-filled scoops and gullies at high speed!

Yet another unbelievably good day amongst the Scottish mountains. I could get used to these perfect Alpine days that seem to keep on coming--although sadly I know all too well that these conditions are the exception, not the norm.

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