Monday, 16 February 2015

Curing that Itch...

Craig & Mark have eyed Left Twin on Aonach Mor for more years than they might wish; it always seemed the classic III ice route on the crag to us...within reason anyway.  The time never seemed right, with queues or crappy conditions but this weekend, with two routes in mind, one was going to be Left Twin.

Up on the third bin up and first to the top ski hut in increasing wind, poor visibility but what looked like good conditions.  A long dry settled period had scoured the hill and faces and removed any excess snow.

Snow bollard into Easy Gully
Dropping quickly into Easy Gully, traversing along the bottom of the cliffs showed some ace conditions and many pure ice routes on show.  We picked out the obvious line of Left Twin and set off after Craig pleaded with Mark for the first pitch - genuinely not realising it as the only real pitch of the route :)

Craig on second pitch of Left Twin

Mark coming over the steep pitch onto easier ground
The climbing was on first placement ice with fat ice taking screws very nicely when needed.  It felt well steeper and sustained than a grade III, and we both felt it merited a grade harder, though pretty much a long single pitch as compared to multi-pitch.   Once over the lip, it was easy ground to the easy exit through the cornice and a belay off the wooden stakes.   A quick sort of the ropes, a bite of lunch and we were off again seeking more action.

Collection the rope after an abseil into Easy Gully

Looking for White Snake

We had the guide book out and went looking for White Shark - a good looking IV 4 ice route on Central Buttress.  After some head scratching, we followed a lovely ice line up steep ground, following a rope well ahead of us.

Mark on P1 of White Shark - just disappearing onto uber steep ground
Mark was moving onto the steepest ground when a rope landed on his head!  A few moments later, the pair ahead were bailing off the route onto Mark, who thankfully found a peg and fat ice for a screw.  Once clear, Mark headed off on very steep ice to the triple peg belay; on reflection, we think the pitch might best be finished following the steep corner over the lip rather than leave the next with an awkward down climb traverse onto the face. Either way, a great lead by Mark!

We both agreed the pitch was easily worthy of grade V and wondered if we were on the wrong route. We checked the book again and although some things matched, the peg belay got no mention and the route description was fairly short and vague - though the topo looked ok.

Mark abing off the route
Common sense being the better part of valour, we decided to ab off (not really knowing what was ahead) and a slick set up saw us off the route and walking into Easy Gully in quick time.  We collected our bags at beneath the ski hut and, after losing a yellow waterproof bag to the increasing wind (if found please return to owner :) ) walked off for the bin down.  Much to our disappointment and my knee's displeasure, the bins were off due to 94mph gusts and we had a long, slow descent to the carpark...grrrrrr!

All in, a great day on super ice.  Pity about the bins and the wind but it helped create the conditions we enjoyed.  And the knee is still holding out, despite the walk out!  Oh, and it transpires we were on White Shark...not a IV 4 on the day, that's for sure!   Worthy of a return though, as we did all the hard work, with easier ground above.

Very cold but happy chappies :)

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