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Aonach Mór - East Face

Date: 18th March 2007
Submitted by: Columba McLaughlin
Aonach Mór - Sunday 18th March 2007

The climbing party decided to go to the East face of Aonach Mór to climb the Twins and anything else that was in good climbing conditions. The avalanche report from the night before was giving Grade 2 on all Easterly faces. Nonetheless, we would go for a looksee. When we arrived at the Gondolas there was high wind and the Gondolas were off. So it was decided to hike up the hill. Not to be recommended to any one. While Alan led the charge with PJ, Keith, Peter, George, and Sandra in tow, Marty and I took up the rear and used a Poly Poly approach. By the time we got to the Snowgoose Restaurant I was knackered out. The bog had almost killed me. Also, the lead group were almost in a state of hypothermia.

Nonetheless, after a quick bite and a cup of soup, it was off on a long traverse along the east face and then diagonally upwards. This I found gruelling. The unfrozen turf covered with sometimes deep powder snow did little to spur me on. However, the rest seemed to be taking it in their stride. With Alan’s patience and Marty’s encouragement I made it to the bottom of frozen rocks. This was more like it. We made an upward diagonal traverse, which was still way below the climbs, and at times it was a great icy scramble. I was really enjoying it as the hands were out, the ice axe was being used and there was excellent néve to crunch into with the crampons. This was much better than plodding upwards through soft bog and loose snow. Unfortunately, it was not to last.

At about the level of climbs on the East face, we came across the predicted snow powder. This was very loose and knee deep in places. Also, it was at a high angle. The group decided not to prolong the traverse, as the face had now become avalanche prone. We struck upwards on good Nevé (Phil Magill eat your heart out) onto the summit ridge and decided to achieve the modest summit cairn of Aonach Mór. Visibility was poor but with good navigation from Sandra, Keith and anybody else who stuck their heads in, we found the cairn. On the way down, two of our members decided to test their ice-axe self-arrest techniques and everyone learned a valuable lesson from them. The next time I go to climb on Aonach Mór, I will only do so if the Gondolas are operational. I have no intention of ever lumbering up such a plod ever again in the future. Nonetheless, a good day overall.

Slán agus beannacht,

Columba McLaughlin

Photo of Route