Wednesday 9 November 2016

Golden Time

At my son's primary school if the class are well behaved they get 'golden time'- some time to play and to do what they want to do. Today Dave and I took a little golden time round on the west face of Aonach Mor as we went a soloed a snowy Golden Oldy (II). A large part of the attraction was that the Nevis Range gondola is still running and after last night's snow falling on top of recently frozen ground we knew it work well. 10.15 at the top station and we began the windless approach dropping into the glen between Aonach Mor and the CMD Arete soon shedding jackets. It was a bit of a flounder across the many gullies that descend the west face but after 2 hours we were passing the usual first belay having had everything from zero visibility to bright sunshine above. We climbed a snowy ridge often getting views between layers of cloud and one glimpse of the summit of North East Buttress on Ben Nevis and frequent blue sky shafting down from above. The right hand (south facing) side of the ridge had lost its rime to the sun whereas the shady side was still thick with it but there were sheets of half inch thick ice on the approach under the soft powder. Golden Oldy is such a classic, the glen soon drops away beneath you and you see the Gendarme of the ridge to your left and the meeting point of the 2 starts to Western Ridge on your right. After an initial steep section the ridge gets easier and flattens out but higher again in narrows to a spectacular knife edge with one or two less than secure feeling moves before finally you are on the last pull to the plateau. Here at 1345 we were visiting the nearby summit cairn and lingered in vain for more views. We said hello to the only other mountain goer today who was on his return leg from Aonach Beag before we too headed down for tea and medals arriving back at the top station 4 and half hours after our start.

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