Friday, 30 November 2012

A beautiful morning for climbing in Glencoe

 Troglodyte (III), Aonach Dubh Upper Tier. Snowed-up rock and frozen turf.

In my thoughts this evening is the subject of blogs, winter climbing ethics and the effect of the internet on the whole Scottish winter scene.

On at the moment is a discussion about "winter ascents" of routes not in satisfactory winter condition. It has certainly highlighted the risks of blogging about your climbing, as you are in the public line-of-fire of online doubters ready to decide whether or not your route is in condition.

But I've found that winter conditions can surprise you quite regularly, and just because routes aren't "in nick" at a certain altitude in a certain corrie, it doesn't always mean that's the case everywhere at the same time. In the end as climbers you have to make your own judgement based on what you find on the day…sometimes it will cause doubt from other climbers, but if you know yourself that your route was in condition, do the doubters really matter?

 Alpenglow on the Aonach Eagach this morning.

I found well frozen turf at 800m on Aonach Dubh today, well enough frozen for me to happily justify soloing an un-recorded route. Apart from the ethics…it's in my own best interests to climb only when things are frozen. I'm soloing. Un-frozen turf makes things much harder. It's a no-brainer.

During some nosing around on Aonach Dubh in the summer I noticed a hidden away groove line with two steep corners and only a relatively small amount of turf. So today I decided to go and have a look, knowing that the hard frosts of the last few days had possibly frozen up exposed turf at this altitude.

The walk-in through Coire nam Beith this morning was truly stunning, with the dawn lighting catching the Aonach Eagach for a back-drop. It was one of those mornings when just being up there was a great privilege, and I wouldn't have been bothered if I'd not climbed and just had a day up in the snow instead.

 A stunning clear morning before the rain started early afternoon.

But when I got to the base of the un-recorded route I had in mind, I did some poking around and found the turf on the ledges to be well frozen. Under the areas of thicker snow most of it remains soft, but on the small ledges and grooves of this route it was frozen well enough for me to justify soloing grade III ground. To clarify...there were adjacent grooves and small gullies with thicker snow-cover and un-frozen turf underneath at this altitude. I climbed the route that i did specifically because the thinner, more exposed turf was frozen.

I had an awkward corner to start, then a small ramp up right to the crux corner. This caused me some thought for a little while, as there were no footholds within reach to allow me to start up the corner. Two good axe placements in bomber turf on a ledge above were my saviour and a hefty pull-up on both arms got me high enough to find holds for my crampons.

Then easier ground above and a steep snow slope to follow. It's a short route but I enjoyed it and had some moves which I wouldn't have wanted to be soloing if they were even slightly harder. I set up my camera underneath the route as I was going to be descending past the base of the route, so above is a still from a video which I took for future reference.
It's quite near my new route "The Hermit's Hole" from earlier in the month, so I've decided "Troglodyte" (III) is a suitable name.


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