Friday, April 5, 2013

Aonach Dubh ice

Headed to the Coe with Andy, hoping to get on Raven's Gully. The S.Highlands were icy and neve'd from Ben Lomond onwards, so it was disappointing when we saw Raven's chockstones looking black from the road (along with much of the rest of the Buachaille). So, we aborted Plan A and drove onwards hoping to salvage something out of the day.

Stob Coire nan Looseblock was looking pretty grim too, so it was a real surprise to find the icefalls and gullies of Aonach Dubh complete just down the road (even Elliot's Downfall was touching down- just). Guidebook-less, we used our advanced numeracy skills and worked out where No.6 Gully (IV,4) was. We then raced a couple of English guys to the start, as a long Conga line of multi- nationals followed behind. No.6 was in very good nick and we romped it to the top, well before the Clachaig started serving beer. A great route, but what to do now?

Me leading the crux of No.6 Gully- (photo Andy Clark)

The party behind us had given a heads-up that Deep Cut Chimney was out of nick, so we binned that idea and headed back down and got on The Screen (IV,5). Naebody else was on it, it looked a bit harder but that was fine as it was Andy's lead.

Andy on the approach to The Screen
 Soon he established himself half way up the fan shaped icefall. I watched him inserting ice screws in clusters and then listened perplexed, as he bemoaned a lack of confidence in the ice and screws. The ice had been great on No.6...
'Come on Andy, get on with it, they're bomber- I've fallen onto a stubby before!', I thought. This was ridiculous!
Andy remained established and after a further period of establishment I felt the need to utilise my belay jaiket.
Eventually, movement did occur and Andy shouted 'Safe'.

Andy leading the crux of The Screen
I followed on, determined to cruise it on the blunt end. I've been to Rjukan a couple of times- so watch and learn Andy!
Belaying provides boundless opportunities for unfounded bravado and, sure enough, this was the case here. In contrast to the appearances from terra firma, the 'easy' bits were very steep. And the long steeper bits were basically full- on vertical. Add a horrible, detached, crusty hollow section around the half way mark to the mix and I could suddenly see exactly why he had remained 'established' as long as he did.

The fact he remained established at all was pretty remarkable.
It was bold and really quite hard. V,5 on the day, but nails and necky V,5 at that. A great lead and quite a humbling second for me!
Bidean and Stob Coire nam Beith
I did another easier pitch above and then we did a long rap off a tree, before de-camping to the Kingy for a quick pint. A great day out in fabulous Alpine conditions- yet again!

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