Sunday, 28 February 2010

Gearr Aonach Zig Zags

As part of the weekend's mountaineering we are out again with Guide Brian Morrison to practise rope work in exposed terrain. Today's plan was supposed to be Ledge Route on the North Face of Ben Nevis, however with the current dangerous snow conditions the route was inaccessable so myself, Ian, Carl, and Brian headed to a low level winter climb. The Zig Zags on Gearr Aonach, the middle shoulder onto Stob Coire Nan Lochan, also known as the middle of the three sisters of Glencoe.

The middle sister looms up ahead. 2200ft of rock and no visible way up!

Everyone is geared up and ready to make our way up.

Glencoe is snowed right down to the ground.

The way up the rock face is ahead. Taking very careful steps up the path to the Lost Valley as the drop to the gorge below is very real and close when their is ice everywhere.

The route up follows a series of narrow ledges which zig zag (hence the name) up the rock face. They are pretty exposed. Make our way to the pitch and come across a slab of rock with a fine dusting of snow. My crampons would not get purchase anywhere. I manage to take my mitt off and get a good hand hold to get to the top. If you look at the top right that is the main Glencoe road down in the distance where we came from.

Ian sets up the anchor for the pitch so we can safely move up this section of rock and ice.

Carl leads the pitch up.

Ian belaying.

A few tricky moves to get up here trying to get a good purchase on the ice and ground with the axe.

Looking down into the Lost Valley after the pitch.

We then follow the ledges up and eventually come to the summit. The road snaking through Glencoe can be seen below.

The Aonach Eagach behind me.

Carl with Aonach Dubh behind him.

Over towards the Devil's Staircase.

Spot of tea my good sir?

Heading across the summit snow slopes towards Stob Coire Nan Lochan.

Aonach Eagach.

Moving to the bottom of Stob Coire Nan Lochan and Dorsal Arete which are plastered in snow. There are large amounts of avalanche debris sitting at the bottom of the main gully.

On locating a small snow field on the NW aspect, a small snow pit shows the clear surface hoar layer which is responsible for all the avalanches over the last week. The block broke away easily. This is very unstable snow.

Heading down Coire Nan Lochan back towards the car.

The Aonach Eagach is lighting up in sun now.

On heading back down the Coire we pass by small gullies which have had lots of avalanche debris funnelled through them recently. We cross these small patches quickly.

Stob Coire Nan Lochan up in the distance. Dorsal Arete in winter is on my "to do" list. Need to get back up here as soon as the snow stabilises some more.

Trudging through the snow back to the car.

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