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
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
Thick rime on the top half of the route
The narrow crest
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.