Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A mid-summer dawn solo on the East face of Aonach Dubh (posted by James)

A mid-summer dawn in Coire nan Lochan

I absolutely love days like today - when you don't plan anything, you start to go with the flow, a plan then starts to emerge but then you end up doing something totally unexpected and have an amazing day.

Last night we all had our summer solstice bonfire down by the river - a day early but we had a dry night for once and the opportunity was too good to miss. I didn't really have any plans for after the bonfire, and I was just enjoying relaxing with my friends watching the sky.

But at about 2am when it was noticeably starting to get light again, the temptation of a dry and fairly clear sky was too much to resist considering how infrequently it seems to happen during this summer....

So I set off towards Ben Nevis with the intention of climbing Tower Ridge. It's about that time of the year again when I start wanting to get on the big Nevis ridges again. But as I got to Fort William it started to gently rain, so I decided to leave it until another day and head back to Glencoe to get some sleep.

Looking across the East face of Aonach Dubh and "The Bow' to the Aonach Eagach

But when I got back to the Glen, the sky was clear. So I decided to take a chance and go and "take a look" at the East face of Aonach Dubh to see how dry it was looking. Things were looking good, so I quickly decided to try and tick off one of my goals for the summer - an onsight solo of "Quiver Rib".

Quiver Rib**** Diff

The East face with the approach traverse in blue and Quiver Rib in red.

It ended up being a good decision. Quiver Rib is considered the steepest Difficult-graded climb in Scotland, and I can see why. It takes an intimidating and improbable looking line straight up the East face to the right of "The Bow", the obvious black curving cleft in the middle-left of the face.

Stunning exposure on Quiver Rib

It is continuously very steep with gaping exposure, on perfect rock and in a stunning location. The steepness increases the higher you go, and on the crux you are on ground steeper than any other climb I've done at the same grade.

Steep moves below the crux

I was elated when I topped out. To have climbed one of Glencoe's very finest routes solo for the first time left a very satisfying feeling. And just to top it off, I was treated to five minutes of the most amazing lighting on the descent - a golden glow that transformed Coire nan Lochan in seconds.

The reward on the way down.

Two hours after I got back down, it started raining. It is still pattering on the window as I write this, but to me it doesn't matter. The day had well and truly delivered before I'd even had breakfast. Good day.


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