Intent today was to get out, get high, and enjoy a day of remarkable weather. I cheated this morning and used the Nevis Range gondola and chairlift to ascend the first 2000ft in 30 minutes. My legs thanked me.
I was the only person off the 8am climbers gondola that didn’t head over to the East face of Aonach Mor. I headed alone across the plateau to the summit. My intention for the day was to ry and descend to the bealach between Aonach Mor and Carn Mor Dearg, then traverse that arete to the summit of Ben Nevis.
Tottering around the cornices on the bottom South West corner of Aonach Mor i started to descend the edge to the bealach. The heavily snow laden West facing face i was on started making alarming noises. Woommff. Dinner plate chunks of windslab fell away down the slope. I moved left, the same happened. I moved right and the windslab fractured more and slid 400ft down the slope.
In places the snow had the consistency of sugar with a wafer biscuit (the windslab) on top of it. Crack through the top and all hell broke loose.
I tried for a few more minutes and then realised that idea was a non-starter. All around me, as far as the eye could see, the Highlands were painted white. On closer inspection the beauty had a dangerous side.
I changed plans and headed to the bealach to the South where Aonach Beag rears up. The snow and ice around here was both amazing and dangerous in parts. Ribbons of ice hung down the North face of Aonach Beag, cornices curved over the face like waves. I climbed up through the few buttresses and on across changing slow slopes to where the summit cairn should have been.
The sun came out, the brilliant views got better. I had spent about 3 hours on my own in a fantastic winter scape. Then came the skiiers, and the boarders, and the piste machines and all manner of things appeared as i retraced my steps back over Aonach Mor.
I spent a while watching the climbers on the East face, and then made my way down the West edge of the Nevis Range ski area. Hundred and hundreds of skiiers and boarders made the most of the weather. I descended to the gondola top station and caught the next lift down.
Changed plans, a couple of Munros, and a sun-burnt face too !!