Friday, 8 February 2013

Cave Gully

Inside the cave in "Cave Gully" (II*), Aonach Mor.

I think that out of the four winter seasons I have spent living in Glencoe, this one is the windiest. It seems to have been there since mid-January now, really ferocious at times and the cause of complex conditions in the snow-pack.

Most of the routes that I'm eager to climb this winter are East or North-East facing, but the avalanche risk has been fairly consistently quite high on these slopes for the last 4 weeks now. I realise more and more that you have to just take things as they come in Scottish winter climbing, and being flexible around conditions is one of the most important factors in having a successful season.

Large icefalls on the West face of Aonach Beag
So it was all about West facing slopes this morning for me. When I'd soloed "Western Rib" on Aonach Mor a couple of months back I'd noticed a large cave in a gully to the left of my route. It looked pretty cool and I'm a sucker for caves, and after finding out that it was bang in the middle of a 400m long grade II gully called "Cave Gully" I fairly quickly decided to go and have a look at it.
 Approaching the cave.

Sinking ice axe picks and crampon points into hard nevé is such a satisfying feeling after almost 3 months of climbing buttress routes. My inkling that the wind would have mainly scoured the gully down to the old snow-ice was correct, and despite some (mainly avoidable) areas of fresh snow deposits the gully was in enjoyable condition.

Some great snow-ice on the route.
Approaching the cave was atmospheric, and it was an unusual and memorable feature of the route that gives it a nice bit of character. I stopped for a while inside the cave, a great place for a rest, and then made my way out of the cave via a fat pitch of blue ice that gave access to the gully above.

It's all looking pretty good at the moment. The icefalls on the West face of Aonach Beag are looking big and the North face of Ben Nevis was looking positively immense. Lots to climb!



  1. Love routes like that. Do you think it would ever be skiable?

  2. Looks good James! I think this will be going on my to do list!