Winter in the mountains this year has been wildy unpredictable. I’ve been skiing at over 2000m in the Alps over rocks and bare patches of grass while my mate UF has just been suffering from no skiing due to too much snow just a month later. Ahead of our annual trip top the Southern Highlands the conditions changed from full winter, to no snow, back to loads of snow, followed by another thaw, all in a period of less than two weeks. I had no idea whether to pack skis, crampons, axes or shorts for this years trip!
Our home for the past few years has been the Suie Lodge Hotel. Sadly the wonderful owners who looked after us so well have sold up and the place was in transition to new owners so we needed a new home. This year we gave the Bridge of Orchy Hotel a go, more upmarket and pricey but after some negotiation by your truly we got a decent rate. It has a location to die for and the place is rather nice. The bar was out of action for a refurbishment but the rooms were great and the staff superb. Food was also top drawer so the place comes highly recommended
The weather forecast looked promising but drawing back the curtains on the Friday revealed a stunner. Cloudless blue sky and wisps of mist over the summits and valleys. One of the huge benefits of the hotel is the possibility of munros from the door so we chose a route over Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Achaladair leaving a car at the far end so we could make a circuit
It was a magnificent day, far better than the forecast had led us to believe.
As we ascended Coire an Dothaidh the views just got better and better
We hit the snowline at 700m and it the transformation was dramatic. From odd patches to complete deep cover in a mater of minutes. It was primarily deep unconsolidated snow on very wet ground so no need for metalwork and it was hard going. Luckily we had fit people in the party happy to break trail for me! 🙂
At the col we were in a winter wonderland. There was much exchange of smug grins and talk of people still at work
We pressed on towards the first summit of Beinn an Dothaidh. The snow was in places surprisingly extensive and deep considering there had been a major thaw less than a week ago
This range is one of the best in Scotland on a clear day. They stand proud above the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor giving a reals sense of air and space with a huge spread of mountains to the south and west
This is the next mountain on the route, Beinn Achaladair
We hit the edge somewhere between the the three tops and took a wander back to one of the lower tops on a whim, seeing as it was such a nice day.
It was an inspired idea. Not only were the views majestic but there was a perfect lunch spot tucked under the rocks, out of the wind and with the best of the views
Ben Cruachan looked particularly superb
Nothing better than a blue sky day, winter conditions and a chance to savour it with good friends of long standing
Onwards across the edge to the very shapely north top before plunging down to the col for another climb
The ridge to Beinn Achaladair is a long one, although not steep but you barely notice such things on a perfect day
Lochaber and its vast collection of summits was laid out in front of us
Even Ben Nevis was clear of cloud
As the day progressed it became a view of two halves. Supremely clear to the north and west but with cloud building from the south. The advance of bad weather that was forecast for the rest of the weekend. The cloud created some mesmeric lighting effects that my camera didn’t do justice to
The walk along the last part of of the summit ridge was a delight
It was one of those days that you just don’t want to end. Tired legs and fading light dictated otherwise
The party divided. Some chose the easy and longer option of a return to the col. The rest of us plunged down a quite outrageously steep grassy slope on a more direct route to the car.
The setting sun provided a fitting finale to a memorable day.
I thought we’d used up all our Scottish good weather luck last year but it was still holding