Monday, May 12, 2014

Wot! No skis?

The Onich meet the weekend before last saw Ann & John trying to get our heads into gear for the summer. We decided on the traverse of Buachaille Etive Mor via the pleasant scramble of Curved Ridge.
Being the English Holiday Weekend and a good forecast we were up early to beat the crowds and were on the hill before 8. After the short walk-in past Lagangarbh and a lot of dredging the memory banks we duly arrived at the base of the route just in time for the cloud sheet to break up and the promised sun to come out. Having not done any real scrambling since An Teallach last May we took it very slowly until we got tuned into being on rock again. The first section was as I remembered, not very hard but no place for a slip. Enjoying the views of the Rannoch Wall (and wondering how I ever climbed on it) we made good progress to the upper section, which has some more technical moves but feels quite safe. 
Starting out...

Looking up to the Rannoch Wall

Route soon over we traversed around onto Crowberry Ridge and did the top section of that to finish on the Tower. A short easy scramble then got us to the main summit well before 11, so it was still almost deserted. 
Descending Crowberry Tower
Now the legwork began for the traverse of the three tops (I don’t hold with all this “revising” business). As always this was very pleasant, although looking towards Bidean we couldn’t help the nagging doubt that we had maybe quit the skis a week too soon. A few standing glissades on the way down had to do, complete with some largely unsuccessful but very amusing attempts at jump turns.
Time for walkies...

The southern two Tops, and Bidean back right looking temptingly snowy

A quick yomp down the Lairig Gartain got us back to the car nice and early, which allowed plenty of time for a celebratory stop at the Clachaig on the way back to the hut to catch up with the rest of the meet.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Out on a High

The cracking Easter Weekend gave John & Ann their final and greatest ski day of the season. Feeling a bit tired after the greater traverse of the Grey Corries the day before, we dug into the wallet for lift passes at Nevis Range. Gearing up we met ex-AMC members Dave and Catherine, who were enjoying kiddie freedom thanks to the grandparents. 
Bit of early morning piste action with Dave and Catherine
We had a few runs on piste with them just to get everything loosened up but it had been a chilly night and it was all a bit too icy. That made us set off earlier than planned for the trip over to Aonach Beag while the snow softened. Almost complete cover soon got us to the summit, and from there we headed east to have a look at Summit Gully. Never having skied into that corrie before, and never having used the new guidebook, we were a bit unsure of how the grades would look in reality.
East Face of Aonach Mor
View across to Ben Nevis
Looking down Summit Gully

Initially we had thought this might be a bit too hard, but looking down it in perfect snow conditions we decided to go for it. As it is east facing the sun had been on it for a few hours, leaving it soft with just a bit of crunchy left in it. The run fully lived up to its 3* rating and gave us our first real taste of steep Scottish off-piste.
Fantastic situation to ski in

Summit Gully goes down right from above Ann's head

As the angle eased we cut out right and did an excitingly icy traverse over to Stob an Cul Choire to get another run in. After a warm and sunny first lunch on the summit we tackled The Far Side. Nothing like as steep as the previous run, but very pleasant open skiing and we made it almost down to the Braveheart Chair. Despite it supposedly being closed it was working and really quiet, so we had a good few runs, again on fantastic snow, before traversing back round to the main ski area. This had softened nicely and it looked like everyone else had got bored as we virtually had it to ourselves. A full run from the summit to the bottom of the goose finished off one of our best ski days and seasons ever.
Proof that the Braveheart Chair does run