The ice on the North Face of Aonach Beag is really good right now. The last time I climbed here was about twenty years ago so it was way past time to go back. Having heard that Royal Pardon was really good John and I decided to head that way and give it a go. A couple of other teams had the same idea so it was a sociable day there. Stand and Deliver was climbed and it looks steep and good but not super fat. King's Ransom was also climbed I thin which looks like really good fun. But the main feature of the cliff is Royal Pardon, the narrow smear of ice that runs up the highest section of the crag and was on the cover of the previous SMC Ben Nevis guidebook.
Last time I climbed it I remember being nervous and holding on far too tightly to my ice axes. I got very tired very quickly and only just managed to climb the main pitch. This time I did much better and I had a lot of fun climbing it. The main pitch is sustained steep with a vertical section of a couple of metres but there are rests available and the ice is great for taking ice screws. With light weight 60m ropes it is pretty easy to link the second and third pitches to get to a nice place to belay and avoid the poor peg belay. Above there is a section of snow and a brilliant finishing pitch up more amazing ice.
This has to be one of Lochaber's best ice climbs. It is sustained, steep and in a wonderful setting. It was a wonderful way to finish an amazing few days of climbing with John - Dalmation Couloir, Orion Direct, Raven's Gully and Royal Pardon is a nice collection of climbs!
Over on Aonach Mor Blair and Sally were looking after our Avalanche Awareness Workshop, teaching core skills to avoid triggering or being caught by an avalanche. Despite the hard and very stable snow there are some layers to find underneath and there is plenty of learning from walking around observing the way the snow is transported by the wind and how to spot this. We also had a Winter Walking Skills workshop yesterday with another one tomorrow, then a walk up Ben Nevis on Sunday.
Over on Ben Nevis Caspar and Lee climbed Ledge Route on brilliant snow and a good trail in the sunshine. It looks like we will get a lot more sunshine and very cold weather for the next week. With easterly winds the west is best. In fact, the west is best anyway!
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.