Yesterday I was thinking that the ice on Aonach Beag North Face must be good right now. I mentioned to Tommy about a route called Royal Pardon there and how the cover picture of the older SMC Ben Nevis guidebook was taken on this route. Then I saw a picture on the SAIS Blog clearly showing the ice was fat. So, Tommy and I had our objective for the day.
It's a nice approach. Step into the gondola at Nevis Range and ride it up to 650m. Walk downhill to the chairlift, put some more clothes on and glide up to 870m above sea level. Then walk gently up hill, over the summit of Aonach Mor and down to the Mor/Beag col. Gear up, leave a rucksack and descend nice steep snow slopes with no cornice to the start of the climb. If it is misty you might need to use a compass - I have turned 180 degrees up there without realising it!
The climb is fat with solid ice. In fact, the whole face is dripping with icicles and smears of ice everywhere. I think there is some new route potential for the very strong. The line of icicles in the right of the picture above looks like a fine objective for someone far stronger than me! Royal Pardon is steep enough! There is a section of about 8 axe placements where you are very much on your arms followed by a groove that takes away a little of the steepness by allowing some bridging. It's a 55m pitch to a rock belay but you could split it and belay on ice if you want. A bit of snow and a fourth pitch of lovely ice gets you to the top, a gentle stroll back over to the ski area and a nice coffee and cake.
Another attraction is that we had the whole crag to ourselves!
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.