Yo-Yo – North Face of Aonach Dubh

Friday of the Jubilee Weekend dawned bright and blue, and it was shaping up to be another cracking day as I left Craigallan for an 8am rendezvous with Jim at the Glencoe Three Sisters parking.

I paused briefly on the 15mins drive to take a couple of shots of the North Face of Aonach Dubh…

… with the foreboding black slit of Ossian’s Cave clearly visible on its upper reaches and the wall taken by Yo-Yo clearly visible to its right. Any sun that might have glanced upon the rock had long since departed, and I was fervently hoping it might have made a token effort to dry overnight rain.

At the car park the view of the sunny East Face almost prompted a change of objective (Freakout is in Extreme Rock and also on my wish / hit / tick-list) but we were signed-up for a Hard Rock mission and started the plod up to Yo-Yo.

The approach is largely of the “follow your nose” variety, as you angle up towards the obvious ramp beneath the crags.

The approach has a bit of a nasty reputation, and there are a couple of wet, mossy gullies to cross (I’d recommend spiky fell shoes rather than dot-rubber approach shoes!)

… but we got there in reasonable order and in the 1:15hrs guidebook time.

It’s a big, complex face, and we had a couple of false starts identifying “The Great Corner of the Cliff” and we managed to make a couple of possibilities fit the “… Corner with an undercut flake” description.

To avoid you having the same bother, here’s what to look for:

According to the SMC description: “The first pitch contains some superbly delicate and technical moves, but is a bit scary and slow to dry; the black streaks show up the line well.” Jim had clearly read the description and pulled a blinder (… or so he thought…) by volunteering me for the first pitch. The initial pull onto the” slab” is certainly a stiff one (maybe worth 5c?), but there’s good gear and the holds above are big enough and flat enough to make the wetness tolerable. After the first 6m, as the book promises, things relent and it’s “S#its and Giggles” for the rest of the 40m pitch. Here’s Jim approaching the first stance.

We’d dressed for a N Face (double belay jackets) but hadn’t factored in the biting wind – we were both absolutely frozen.

The second pitch sounded benign, and Jim led off – glad to get some circulation going – until he arrived in the overhanging offwidth corner to find it oozing slime. He wasn’t impressed, but soldiered on nonetheless. The sandbag bites back!

The third pitch also had a fair bit of sogginess, but was a pleasant oasis in comparison, and we were soon topping out on the “Pleasant Terrace”

A word of warning – There’s a 35m rap point mentioned in various sources; this is at the FAR RIGHT HAND END of the terrace, from a cluster of wires (in reasonable nick at the time of writing). Before you get there you might stumble across an earlier rap point from a slung block. This appears to be 60m and trying it with 50s might be problematic!!!

Summary: Fully deserving of its 4* Hard Rock status – it’s a classic! E1 is fair but no giveaway, and based on a sample size of one visit it’s climbable after a dry day or two after a week of rain (though perhaps more enjoyable in a drought). Get on it!

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