Friday, 17 February 2012

Winter Holiday Part 4: Aonach Mor Learning Curve

Its the final installment of the trip and Wally and I were "starting" to feel more than a little tired.  I work in the hills, and am used to getting out there day after day but in winter the physical commitment required hits a whole new level and I'm filled with admiration for the MICs and Guides who keep at it in all sorts of weather and still enthuse and inspire their clients.
To keep it gentle on our tired legs we headed up to Aonach Mor via the Gondola on the 12th.  I've climbed a bit on the wild West Face of the hill, but I've never been all the way round to the East Face and looked at the climbs in Coire an Lochain. Of course, this year I'm laying off the climbing to concentrate on my winter walking, but the centre of the face is split by Easy Gully, a grade 1, and perfect ground for practicing emergency winter ML rope work in a realistic situation.

Traversing under the climbs in Coire an Lochain, Aonach Mor. 

Looking up Easy Gully. The cornice had a decent sized slot just to the left of the buttress.

 Looking down Easy Gully, a dense mist rolled around the coire all day and occasionally spilled on to the plateau. 

On the plateau in the mist.  We lingered for a while and looked at snow belays such as buried axes and stompers. 

 Unfortunately while were were on the plateau, we became aware of a drama unfolding in the coire below as a climber had fallen. A Sea King helicopter was in and out of the area several times, with some impressive flying in the swirling mist. The man was airlifted to hospital. I'm happy to say that although he was seriously injured, we've since learned from the UK Climbing Forums that he will be ok.

A magical brockenspectre forming on the mist.

The follwing day, with legs like lead, but knowing that we had not spent enough time looking at snow anchors we decided to head back to Aonach Mor.  Strong winds were forecast, so  we planned a quick foray in to the Nid area, and then a trip back down on the gondola in time for lunch.

Snow snow snow....

 Wedged in my bucket.

We managed a quite few pitches up the Nid before we got a bit fed up with the snow plodding, untied and walked back to the gondola station. It wasn't long before we'd talked ourselves in to heading home to Arran that afternoon.  All in all a worthwhile little trip. 

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