Sunday, February 27, 2011

NW sunshine

Bad luck Anne and John, we (Ed & Scuz) could see your 'clag' from afar. We nipped across the 'Fair Hill' of the far NW on Friday. With stunning views and a full cover of snow making it easier and far quicker underfoot than in summer.

Saturday afternoon turned fine, allowing a raid on Cul Mor.

Ben More Assynt and Conival were shy most of Sunday hiding in a white-out, but walking down with views like this we didn't want to go home.

Three days in the Far NW not another sole on the hill, nor a footprint in the snow. As for accommodation, nowt wrong with the back of the car lad...


Monday, February 21, 2011

Long Weekend Up North

Last weekend saw a big group of us head off for a long weekend to celebrate Big Mikey's Big Birthday. The venue was a grand highland house in the wilds north of Ben Wyvis.

Spurred on by the forecast for Friday being by far the best, there was a flurry of activity with a large group tackling the local corbett of Carn Chuinneag, while John & Ann headed off north to Ben Klibreck. Initially it looked a good call with the weather brighter and less wind but there seemed less snow so the skis got left in the car.
Starting out up Ben Klibreck. Winter, what winter?
The initial flouter across the semi-frozen bog wasn't too bad and the ascent was going well until the first top was passed. After that the biting SE wind really kicked in, we reached the snow line and soon after that we were into the cloud.
Fine panorama north to Ben Hope and Ben Loyal....
And that was the end of the easy day out. Conditions rapidly deteriorated and much of the rest of the day was spent on fine navigation in near or total whiteout. This was pretty scary to start with as we hadn't done it since last winter, but quite soon we got our winter heads back on and relaxed a bit. Eventually we got to the summit and found the trig point encased in a spectacular amount of rime ice.
There's a trig point in there somewhere

Then it was back to base for a fine feed, and the double-edged sword of discovering that the storm forecast all week to hit on Sat had disappeared. Undeterred, we persisted with the long lie-in and had a fine day loafing around the house and grounds, and preparing for the night's festivities.
The house
Toffing it up
Sunday dawned fine and bright (the weather, not our heads) so we set off to tackle Carn Chuinneag on ski. This was aided by having the run of the estate so we could drive up the track to the base of the hill and only a short stagger to the snowline.
Ascending Carn Chuinneag, Ben Wyvis in the background
The snow was pretty good with a few cm of fresh on a hard base. This made for a quick and easy ascent until the last 100m, when the wind and cloud kicked in again. We didn't quite manage to ski to the top of the cairn as we had done on a few hills before Christmas, but got fairly close.
On the top (almost)
We stopped on top for a late elevenses while we de-skinned, and discovered that Ann's ski was starting to fall apart. Nothing too fatal though, so on with the descent. Within a couple of minutes we were out of the cloud and got some cracking views across to the west coast, with Suilven being especially prominent. Then a very quick slide down the corrie and back to the car in what seemed like no time. Great end to a cracking weekend.
Descent run

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Club meet: The Cabin, Balgowan, 4-6 Feb 2011

Chris provides Adidas with the poster shot for their forthcoming mountaineering range
Last weekend a group of us headed up the road to a new venue for the AMC, the Edinburgh JMCS's Cabin in Balgowan. This recently re-fitted cottage provided a well-equipped and comfortable base for exploring the hills around Loch Laggan and beyond.

There would be a photo of the hut here had I remembered to take one.

Despite a distinctly awful-looking forecast issued earlier in the week, Saturday started out pretty settled and encouraged us to set off in two groups for long-ish walks. Donald, Richard, Derek and Graeme went south of the loch past Binnein Shuas for a breezy but fine day up the hills of Creag Pitridh and Geal Charn.

On the way up Carn Liath in the waning shower
Meanwhile, on the north side of Loch Laggan, Chris, Steve, Berta, Yvonne and myself headed towards the great bulk of Creag Meagaidh. After plodding up the flanks of Carn Liath in moderately grim rain/sleet/snow, this wet stuff soon diffused to provide fine views across the summits and into Coire Ardair.

And out comes the sun
Apart from the cold and gusty wind occasionally blasting us with spindrift, conditions were great and allowed us to complete a full loop over the other Munros of Stob Poite Coire Ardair and Creag Meagaidh in good time. Much bum-sliding helped reduce the descent time!

The food that night was up to the usual high standards, and followed up with a few drams around the fire with musical accompaniment from Yvonne on the ukulele.

"Can I have a bit of both please?"
On Sunday the cloud was much lower and the air milder. Derek picked-off the one he and the lads missed the day before, Beinn a' Chlachair, while the rest of us opted for a relatively short walk up nearby Geal Charn (different one to that of the Saturday). It was pretty clagged in higher up, but dry spare the last half hour and with many grouse and ptarmigan about to entertain.
Scarpa doing good business out of the AMC (Photo:Yvonne)
Ascending the slopes of Geal Charn (Photo:Yvonne)
Camera perched on a rock shot (Photo:Yvonne)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Marvellous Morar Marylin

On Saturday John and Ann had recovered enough from an appalling journey west on Thur evening to drag themselves up the tongue-twistingly monickered Sgurr Eireagoraidh. This fine 548 m Marylin is just east of Mallaig and on the southern edge of Loch Nevis, the southern boundary of Knoydart.

Sgurr Eireagoraidh from the approach path

The first km or so was on a surprisingly good path to a small picnic spot. After that normal service was resumed and it was a semi-trackless wander through the bog, despite a path being shown on the map. This followed the line of what looked like an old water pipeline that we guessed must have supplied Mallaig. As we got closer we abandoned the path-quest and went straight up the front of the hill to the summit. This was interesting with some nice bits of gully, some scrambling and two eagles keeping their eyes on us.

Looking west from the summit to Eigg

The view from the top was stunning in all directions, depsite the heavy squally showers all around. We were glad we had headed west rather than sticking it out around the Ben.

The view down into Inverie bay

From the top we headed north east, to the peak of Sgurr an Eilein Ghiubhais for the best views down Loch Nevis and of Inverie. Another fine vantage point and time to head back down through the bog. It almost made up for this being the first time for four years that I hadn't managed to ski on my birthday weekend. I was trying to enjoy the irony that of any year it could happen it was this one, given the performance before Christmas.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sunday walk: Cairn of Claise & Carn an Tuirc

Denis, Alessandro, Kim and I headed up Sron na Gaoithe in the snow and mist. By the time we'd reached the summit at 814 metres Denis was finding the lure of a cup of tea and a good book back in his campervan too strong.

The remaining three set off again and were soon experiencing views not unlike this:

Most of the walk turned into a navigation excercise, which fortunately we passed. Just as I was thinking it had been a waste of time taking a camera we came back below the clouds and saw a fascinating sight - sort of horizontal rainbows. Not sure what caused them, but I suspect something to do with ice crystals in the air.

Of course, there's the inevitable group photo, which I escaped through having the camera.

The the final sight of the day was a mountain hare that was a lot less camera shy than me.