Saturday, 31 March 2012

Dry as a bone on Aonach Dubh's West face (posted by James)

The West face of Aonach Dubh, and another dry day in Glencoe

Today was our 9th consecutive day of dry weather and high pressure in Glencoe. It seems almost too good to be true. With warm temperatures and dry rock for days, today my chance to go and see to some unfinished business up on the West face of Aonach Dubh in Glencoe.

The West face has featured a fair amount in this blog over the last 4 years. I suppose it's only natural….it is the view from my bedroom window, the towering cliffs that are so imposing and seen so well from Clachaig.

The Amphitheatre (in shadow in centre), and F Buttress upper tier.

It's somewhere that first my brother Alex and more recently myself have repeatedly visited to explore, as until the last few years there were a surprising number of unclimbed routes on the West face.

The approach up lower B Buttress is the key to gaining the Upper Rake, the ledge that splits the face and allows access to the climbs on the rhyolite crags above. It's a very steep approach but I did it quicker than I've ever done it before, pleased with the fitness that I've gained over the last couple of months.

The Upper Rake takes you through tremendous surroundings. The Amphitheatre behind E Buttress is a stupendous place…a huge hidden arena flanked by sheer and echoey walls. And the drop from the top of E Buttress is truly terrifying, quite the biggest vertical drop in Glencoe,

The "Great Cave" in the Amphitheatre

Usually the descent down into the amphitheatre is on wet loose slopes that are fairly murderous. But it was amazingly dry today, a confidence-inspiring thing for a climber.

Old snow on Bidean nam Bian

When I got to F Buttress upper tier I dithered a bit about what to do. Although I was temped to repeat the superb "Shrike Ridge" (first climbed by my brother in 2009), I wanted to do something new so I climbed Archie's Ridge (Moderate) to its left instead. In today's dry conditions it was a pleasant route and the downclimb off the exposed pinnacle at the top wasn't too difficult.

Looking down on the pinnacle on Archie's Ridge

After Archie's Ridge I headed to the Pinnacle on the South West face of Stob Coire nan Lochan. So far nearly all the routes on this pinnacle are unrecorded and likely unclimbed, so after climbing "East Wall Route" (Difficult*) I set about the task of finding a route up the unclimbed West Wall.

East Wall Route (Difficult*) climbs up to the obvious corner at the top.

The best looking line up the wall is too hard for me to solo. But I found a good-looking route to its left that I thought I could do. But it was steep and I couldn't justify soloing it without some kind of safety margin - so I set up an anchor and abseil rope at the top in case I needed to retreat.

After a short step you are immediately at the crux of the route, a vertical crack that I found pretty awkward. I climbed it by a mixture of a lay-back and foot-jam, and it felt distinctly committing without being belayed. After this a ledge and then a vertical wall which I climbed on beautiful clean rock and good holds.

The crux was V.Diff, but as the route isn't very long I've given it a Difficult grade overall and called it "West Wall Route".

"West Wall Route" (Difficult) - first ascent James Roddie 31/03/12

I'm pretty pleased…I've been after this route for a while and it didn't disappoint. And there is something unique about the buzz you get from climbing an unrecorded route with no knowledge of difficulties. A great end to a very good month for me.


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