Route choice was absolutely crucial today, with an overnight thaw and rain upping the avalanche hazard to high on NW-SE aspects above 800m. So Lee and I were after the following: W/SW facing, ridge or buttress, turfy ledges, safe approach and descent and a route that would give good climbing, so Western Rib, on the West Face of Aonach Mor, ticked all those boxes nicely.
We were only one of two teams on the climber’s gondola at 8am, and we made our way, in quite reasonable conditions, round to the West Face of Aonach Mor. It was clear from early on, that the turf, particularly higher up, was still well frozen, which is where the requirement for turfy ledges came from.
The approach to Western Rib was safe and despite the thaw, the route was generally in very good condition, with frozen turf throughout, and plenty of useful snow on the ledges. The snow cover thinned a bit through the more technical sections, but overall it was in good nick. With the threat of stronger winds in the afternoon possibly affecting the gondola, we didn’t hang about, but were able to relax a bit upon seeing the tows still operating once we had reached the ski area.
With visibility being quite poor today, the Summit Ribs on the West Face of Aonach Mor can be a bit tricky to locate (they are much further along the Allt Daim than you may think), so here are some OS grid references for the popular ribs:
Golden Oldie: NN 18885 73018
Western Rib: NN 18947 72961
Daim Buttress: NN 18985 72916
On another, but related note, an interesting and promising article published on the Met Office blog is hinting that due to ‘sudden stratospheric warming’, winter conditions may well linger well into spring. http://blog.metoffice.gov.uk/2016/02/29/could-sudden-stratospheric-warming-bring-a-cold-start-to-spring/
It’s looking like a promising mid to late season of winter climbing!