Two ice lines, Liquidation (VI,6) at left and Frozen Assets (VII,7), on the Aonach Eagach ridge of Glen Coe, Scotland. Dave MacLeod climbed both late last week, likely their first ascents. [Photo] Dave MacLeod collection
Thanks to an especially cold winter season, Scotland’s northern peaks and crags have been covered with ice, putting many Highland ice lines in near-perfect condition. Last week, Dave MacLeod took advantage of the conditions to establish what he believes are two new single-pitch routes on the Aonach Eagach ridge of Glen Coe: Liquidation (VI,6) on January 8 and Frozen Assets (VII,7) on January 9.
The Aonach Eagach ridge of Glen Coe is host to some of the most enjoyable mountaineering and climbing on the Scottish mainland. There are over a dozen established routes, including a long east-to-west traverse, making the area a popular destination for both local climbers and visitors from across the UK.
Particularly cold weather of late produced unusually fantastic ice, MacLeod said. “We don’t often get ice routes of this kind in Scotland–stalactites forming on the lower slopes of the mountains. But our weather has been unusually alpine over the last month with very cold temperatures and lots of amazing pieces of ice everywhere.”
Liquidation follows an icefall that formed right of the slit on the Aonach Eagach side of Glen Coe. MacLeod led the line, and partner Donald King followed. Though the pair began with a morning chill of -13 degrees C, sunny conditions compelled them to finish the pitch quickly before the warmth caused “fangs to drop from the sky above us,” MacLeod said.
MacLeod returned to Glen Coe the next day to climb a steep and thin series of ice daggers he had spotted right of Liquidation. With Sam Wood belaying, he led up “scarily detached icicles.” Again, clear skies made the climb more delicate and the gear trickier, forcing MacLeod to depend on several rock placements. He added that it was a distinct possibility that large pieces of ice might come off completely, with him in tow.
Despite the objective dangers, the excellent conditions and sunny skies have brought an enthusiastic MacLeod back to the ridge for more ice climbing. “It almost felt like cheating last week with so much blue sky and nice weather around,” he said. “It’s not normal for here! Scottish winter climbing is generally all about battling with horrible weather and snow obscuring all the rock and placements on the hard routes.”
MacLeod leads Liquidation (VI,6). [Photo] Donald King