Looking down "Archie's Ridge", Grade III,4*
All of yesterday I'd been racking my brains about what I could climb this morning. Options are still pretty limited at the level at which I solo, as there is still a fair bit of un-frozen turf around under the snow.
So my thoughts turned to a snowed-up rock route instead. In February 2010 Bob Hamilton and Steve Kennedy did the first recorded winter ascent of "Archie's Ridge" on the West face of Aonach Dubh in Glencoe, a grade III,4* mixed route which I'd climbed before in summer conditions.
Archie's Ridge takes the left ridge of the three ridges just right of centre.
From my summer ascent I knew that it was indeed mainly on rock with only limited turf. Based on climbing "Troglodyte" on the West face two days ago at the same altitude, I knew that if the turf was fairly exposed it was likely to be frozen.
Another stunning morning in the glen.
The mad scenery of Number 4 Gully Amphitheatre
Standing underneath the route, I knew it was going to be a challenging solo, at the upper limit of what I'm willing to climb un-roped at the moment. But there was a clear and windless sky, the route looked in good condition and I'm feeling very fit at the moment - so I decided to climb it.
Sunshine on Aonach Mor in the distance
The snowed-up rock crest above was enjoyable climbing, leading to the crux of the route - a scary step around on the crest on a small foothold, then a wide step between two narrow pinnacles. This technical Grade 4 section is exposed and memorable climbing, but would be easy to fall off so I had no qualms about placing a sling around the first pinnacle and clipping myself in so that a fall would be less likely.
Looking down from above the crux