Thursday, 29 November 2012

Western Rib, Aonach Mor West face

A beautiful day to solo Western Rib (III***)

Tuesday night's hard frost and clear skies were a sight for sore eyes, sparking hope that I'd find better conditions for winter climbing if I looked in the right place.

Heading up as high as possible seemed the sensible option, and though there have been a lot of higher-grade mixed climbs being done recently up high on the Ben, I needed to find somewhere with routes suitable for me to solo.

 On the West face of Aonach Mor the summit-rib routes start at 900m above sea level, and it's somewhere I'd never climbed before so I was keen to give it a punt. I'd headed up there twice before and not climbed anything…the first time I was new to winter climbing and too un-fit to wade through 18 inches of fresh powder on the approach, and the second time I just wasn't on form and backed out of trying a route.

 Western Rib is the route to the right of the leftwards slanting central gully

Frozen ground in the Nevis Range car-park was a good sign and the cloud looked to be clearing the summits, so I decided it was certainly worth a look.

Presuming that conditions wouldn't be ideal I had my eyes set on the classic but easy-graded Golden Oldie (II***), a route often climbed as a good option in poor conditions.

But on reaching the base of the summit ribs I was pleased to see a nice coating of rime ice covering the top half of the routes, and it felt much colder than the day before. So I decided to forget Golden Oldie and have a go at a harder route, Western Rib (III***) which I've wanted to solo for a while.

 Looking down the West face

Some hard work was required to reach the base of the route through the soft snow, and once there I set off up the easier start on the left - conditions didn't look to be great until half way up the route so I didn't want to make it harder for myself than necessary.

Thick rime on the top half of the route
At 500m long this is a really enjoyable route. Open to lots of variation with harder and easier options all over the place on the lower part of the route. I climbed a few sections which felt a bit spicy to be soloing in the conditions, but on the top half of the route I found frozen turf a plenty and thick rime ice everywhere.

 The narrow crest

The top half of the route is a slender rib of granite blocks and slabs, needing some delicacy under the soft snow as here there is far less turf for tool placements. It was pretty narrow in places and the route kept me engaged for its whole 500m.

Walking conditions were quite easy on the snow on the plateau and I romped down the ski runs down to the car-park, catching a great sunset and a layer of mist forming over Loch Linnhe.


1 comment:

  1. Looks like a fun day out. Not a climber myself, but enjoy reading about it and seeing the scenery from a different perspective.