The One Horned Pony!

Yesterday Mike Tweedley and I headed up to Stob Coire an Lochain to have a pop at the mega classic line “Unicorn”. We had talked about climbing this route together two years ago but had never actually got round to getting on it.

We arrived at the bottom of the route just as the sun was turning the Aonach Eagach Ridge a beautiful pinky/red colour in the light of dawn. After another technical game of rock, paper, scissors it was decided that I would lead the first pitch and that we would alternate leads after that.

Me starting up the awkward first pitch of Unicorn

I set off up the huge looking corner line hoping that there wasn’t going to be as much verglass in the cracks as there was on the Ben on Saturday. As I progressed up the pitch it was obvious that there was some verglass around, that made finding good protection more difficult than usual. Especially in the crux niche where the thin crack at the back had filled with rock hard ice which made it very strenuous to protect, as I had to clear the ice away before I could place any wires. So I opted for the bold option of placing one nut at the bottom of the niche and charging to the good hooks higher on the pitch. 
Me high up on the first pitch of Unicorn

That was a decision I soon came to regret, and as my left foot was standing on tiny rock crystals and my right foot was just jammed precariously in the V-niche, (which kept popping out and making me over grip my axes which sapped more of my energy), I prayed that my axe picks wouldn’t rip out of the very thin hooks I was yarding on. Always in the back of my mind was the fact that I was high above that one little nut in the icy crack (WHAT A STUPID DECISION!).

Thankfully they didn’t rip and after another 20 meters of climbing, I arrived at the first belay fairly unscaved, apart from being a little mentally drained from the crux section. I quickly set up a belay on the hanging stance and started to bring Mike up the pitch.

Once he was at the belay and we had sorted the gear, he set off up the steep second pitch and swiftly got into the motions of technical egyptians, big lock offs and raging calf bump/burn. This pitch was home to some amazing moves and very technical climbing. Not bad for Mikes second route of the season.

Mike starting up the second pitch of Unicorn
Mike nearing the top of the technical second pitch of Unicorn

After my next pitch which also had some hard moves at the top, Mike lead the last short section under the light of an almost full moon, and once at the top of the route the whole of Glen Coe was lit up in the clear nights sky. This was the icing on the cake for me, I could have sat up there on those snow covered rocks in the still nights air for hours. But we quickly sorted our kit and headed down the easy gully (glissading) back to our bags.

Unicorn was an awesome line and it was good to get it done with Mr Tweedley after having talked about doing it in the past. What an awesome day!

Tired but content at the top

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