Scottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UKScottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UK
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Climbing the cornice.
Climber's Col Map Photos
Although there are more sought-after ridges in Glencoe and the Mamores, and rightly so, the back corries of Aonoch Mor provide some of the most reliable winter conditions on the west coast. This little ridge can provide a good winter outing even when the aforementioned mountains are bare.
Area: Central Highlands, just north of Fort William
Grade: Ungraded (hard)   what does that mean?  Mainly straightforward but there is a cornice to overcome.
Total Distance: 7.5 km
Total Ascent: 450 m
Time: 4 hours
Maps:
  • Ordnance Survey Landranger 1:50,000 Sheet 41
  • Ordnance Survey Explorer 392 1:25,000
  • Harvey Ben Nevis Map 1:25,000
  • Avalanche hazard: Serious avalanches have occurred on the approach slopes despite the seemingly benign nature of the terrain. The ridge itself is safe apart from the cornice. In avalanche-prone conditions, it is safer to ascend the Nid ridge, sticking close to the rock where possible.
    Avalanche Forecast area: Lochaber.   more
    Gear: Take a 50-metre rope and some slings in case you need to belay below the cornice. Wear a helmet on the approach as there are often training parties on the slopes above, practicing belays etc.
    Tips: In winter there is a walker/climber's gondola at 8:00 am, whereas the main service commences at 9:30 am. The last gondola down is usually around 4 pm but check opening/closing times with the resort to ensure normal operation. Currently, the gondola costs £8.50 for walkers/climbers. www.nevisrange.co.uk. Bear in mind you are entering a ski area and the approach is actually a patrolled run.
    Alternatives: Easy gully is a large grade I gully further round on the east face of Aonach Mor. It is often used in descent for access to the climbing areas.
    Other routes in the area: There are many good winter climbs on the east face of Aonach Mor. Refer to the SMC or Cicerone guidebooks for route descriptions.
    Start 

    Park at the Nevis Range Ski Resort. This is located on the A82, about 7 km north of Fort William, and the turn-off is clearly sign-posted.

    Buy a walker/climber's ticket which enables you to take the gondola to the top station at 650 m on Aonach Mor.

    Grid Reference NN171773.

    Approach 

    When you alight from the gondola, follow ski fences ESE towards the foot of the Nid ridge. Traverse below the foot of the Nid ridge and keep going until you reach the Braveheart chairlift. The route follows the ridge just beyond.

    Climbers Col 

    The best place to gain the crest is probably 2 pylons down from the top of the lift. Climb the steep slopes to the crest, which is pleasantly narrow in places, without being too vertiginous. High up on the ridge, there is a slight flattening. This is the Climber's Col and is used for access to the main climbing area.

    This route continues up to join the main Nid ridge but the way is often blocked by a large cornice. At least you get a good opportunity to stop and assess it! It can either be climbed direct or bypassed by traversing right to gain the Nid ridge further along.

    Aonach Mor (1221m) 

    Follow the Nid ridge left (S), watching out for crags on your left (E), until you reach the hut at the top of 'Summit run'.

    Escape Route!
    You can descend via Summit run but stay off the pistes. From the bottom of Summit run, descend into the Snow goose area and back to the gondola top station.

    To continue to the summit of Aonach Mor, continue in a generally southerly direction, taking care not to walk onto a cornice. In poor visibility, very precise navigation is required.

    Descent 

    From the summit cairn, reverse your tracks to the top of the ridge above the Climber's col. Continue to descend the Nid ridge which is easily followed until its end, where the ground is steeper and you need to pick your way around rock outcrops.

    Return 

    Follow the fence back to the gondola top station.

    © ScottishWinterRoutes.com 2007