Saturday, 27 August 2011

Rained off the West face of Aonach Dubh (posted by James)

The weather closing in on the West face.

I had plans to spy out an area on the upper tier of F Buttress on the W face of Aonach Dubh this morning, but as is sometimes the case, the weather intervened.

We'd had about 48 hours of generally dry weather in Glencoe, so I thought it worth my while going and having a look at the West face. It's odd, but quite suddenly I've reverted to climbing mode after an extremely prolific summer of hillwalking. Maybe I've done enough of that for now and I'm needing the more intense experience of climbing….after all, you can have too much of a good thing.

The standard approach I use for the upper tier of the W face is to go up the lower tier of B Buttress, traverse right under the Pinnacle Face into the narrow buttress to the left of No.3 Gully and then climb up to the Upper Rake.

The Upper Rake is a fairly straightforward traverse in dry conditions until you reach the Amphitheatre of No.4 Gully, and here you make a hair-raising descent down the back of E Buttress in order to reach the level terrain of the Rake again. But in wet weather the loose and seldom trodden terrain would be extremely unpleasant.

A moody Stob Coire nan Lochan

So I found myself nearly at the Middle Ledge on the approach up B Buttress, when a god-almighty squall hit me. All of a sudden, without much warning, and with brutal effects. The steep terraces of the West face were transformed within minutes from being merely unpleasant to being down-right nasty. And from this point upwards, descending is a more serious proposition than topping out, so I decided to continue upwards towards the narrow ridge leading upwards from No.3 Gully.

This isn't a difficult climb by any standards, but in the conditions it was becoming more and more unpleasant by the minute, and finding safe or stable footholds was becoming challenging.

So I climbed quickly out of the top of No.3 Gully and then traversed the huge bowl at the top of No. 2 Gully and found a loose and grim escape chimney up to the left of No.2 Gully Buttress.

Hopefully the promised short period of high pressure next week will improve things and I'll get another chance to get out in the dry.


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