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Ice climbing and landscape photography on Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor

Fresh back from the photography trip to the Lake District, I turned everything around and headed up to the Scottish Highlands. The Arctic blast had created some fabulous conditions for ice climbing and many of the routes, especially on Ben Nevis, were fat with ice.

After an early start, I met with friends Mark and Rob in Penrith, then we made the long drive north. We reached the Glencoe ski area about 2pm, and feeling rather lazy, I lent my skis and boots to Mark (the ski hire had run out of skis). Whilst you may think this was very generous, you haven't seen the state of my skis.....

 

The following day, we made a dawn start from the North Face car park to approach Ben Nevis...

dawn approach to Ben Nevis 624 web

 

 Heading for a route called Nordwand, the ice streak on the extreme right hand side...

dawn approach to Ben Nevis 629 web

 

Mark on the first pitch of Nordwand (next two photos)...

Nordwand 644 web

 

Nordwand 647 web

 

Nordwand.... grade IV, 4.... a great route, full of atmosphere, and we had this part of the mountain all to ourselves. We finished the route in thick mist, but here is the sunset looking down Loch Linnhe from Onich a couple of evenings previously...

 

Loch Linnhe 606 607 web

 

We also climbed and photographed on Aonach Mor, just to the North of Ben Nevis ~ here is another friend Duncan descending Easy Gully in order to access the base of the crag in Coire an Lochain...

Descending Easy Gully Aonach Mor 688 web

 

The base of the crag and the start of the routes on Aonach Mor ~ Rob and Mark approaching Morwind...

at the base of the routes Aonach Mor 764 web

 

Rob and Mark on Left Twin, Aonach Mor

Left Twin Aonach Mor 767 web

 

One of the major concerns whilst climbing at Aonach Mor is the size and state of the cornices ~ Aonach Mor is a huge mountain, the summit is at 1221 meters, and huge cornices can form on the Eastern aspect and hang over the routes. Sometimes the hardest part of a route is climbing bottomless and very steep snow to reach the cornice, then digging a tunnel through the cornice. Sometimes this is impossible, and one has to avoid these particular routes....

Cornices Aonach Mor 716 web

 

Rob at the summit, belaying Mark up the last pitch of Morwind

belaying after climbing Morwind Aonach Mor 699 web

 

Blue skies, monster cornices, and beyond... a sea of clouds... does climbing in the Scottish Highlands get any better than this? Probably my favourite image of the whole trip...

summit cornices Aonach Mor 762 web

 

Ben Nevis, photographed from Aonach Mor, rising above a sea of clouds....

Ben Nevis 753 754 web 1200px

 

Aonach Mor cloudscape....

cloudscape from Aonach Mor 749 web

 

We had a change of scene one day, and made a rapid ascent of the classic Crowberry Gully on Buachaille Etive Mor which rises above the Rannoch Moor at the entrance to Glencoe.... here is a Brocken Spectre we managed to photograph from the summit...

Brocken Spectre Buachaille Etive Mor 724 web