Wednesday, 12 December 2012

How to go ice climbing without really planning to- long day on Aonach Beag

Mike called me about going ice climbing today last night but I was already committed to going out with Jamie B who has his mixed head on. Jamie knows I've wanted to climb on the west face of Aonach Beag so we had a dawn start from the Steall car park.
The walk in was fine initially and after a couple of hours the crag seemed very close. But the last bit was an hour and a half of crusty snow hell!
We could see that the rock of the crag was stripped of rime except the very top so our mixed options were not available. There was a LOT of ice about though so we dropped into Eggsclamation a Grade II in very icey condition which was made more interesting by our mixed crampons and tools and complete lack of ice gear. After I'd led a pitch Jamie ducked the steeper icey continuation in favour of a pitch up a good mixed chimney ay about IV. This put him under the headwall of the buttress and I took up the obvious challenge of a dark verglassed crack whose right wall was under a thick coating of the useless black ice. The hooks in the cracks were good but the feet on the right wall were useless and the best gear was a bulldog dropped in one of the hooks. This bit of V,6 left me perched on a ledge standing on 2 more bulldogs in some airy turf looking up at an unprotectable offwidth that will give me nightmares tonight. I wimped out with a tricky gearless and hands free foot traverse along a ledge back to the safety of the gully. 
We topped out at sunset with only 2 hours of crusty snow and dark icey paths to get back to the car.
Nothing like a bit of an adventure :-)
 Dawn walk in
 2 hours in
 3 hours in- Ben Nevis behind
 Eggsclamation
 Unintended ice climbing
 The Brenva Face
 Jamie's chimnney
 Where are we?
 The heart in mouth traverse
 The last bit
Sunset on the top

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