Archive for the ‘glencoe’ Tag

Boys (and Girls) Weekend – Downhill at Glencoe   4 comments

Late February/Early March brings with it our now traditional get together of a group of friends from the past 30 years. Before we all gather on the Friday night, me and a select group always head up a day early to make a day of things and providing there is some snow this normally involves a day’s skiing at Glencoe Ski “resort”

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

The past few years haven’t been terribly successful. We’ve had not enough snow, too much snow, white-out conditions and broken lifts. This year however, all the lifts were running, the snow was good (you could actually ski all the way back to the car park, rare at Glencoe) and the weather whilst not exactly glorious was not too bad.

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

Any day skiing in Scotland when you’re not in a white-out is considered a good day!

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

We even had some fleeting glimpses of sunshine, although there were some pretty nasty squalls of snow to make us feel more at home

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

So a few photos and video of a fun day out.

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

I’ve managed, through the marvels of SD card readers and cloud storage been able to grab a few photos from GM from this day and others in the weekend so you get the unusual privilege of seeing me in the shots. I’m the short one in the green jacket if you’re interested 🙂

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

Back to our fine hosts at Suie Lodge (via a cheeky beer at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel) to meet the gang. The weekend was off to a grand start

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Annual March Gathering of the Clans   25 comments

It was that time of year for ageing ex-students from the 80’s to heed the call of the wild and head to the Southern Highlands. It’s been a tradition for nearly 10 years to get together in early March and the weekend seems to go from strength to strength.

 

This year TBF joined the gang and the both of us collected GM to head up on the Thursday to make a longer weekend of it. Our home of the past few years, The Suie Lodge Hotel, welcomed us late and looked after us with their usual relaxed hospitality.

Like the previous couple of years we went skiing for a day at Glencoe Ski Area. Last couple of years there has barely been enough snow. This year there was loads of snow, tonnes of the stuff, meters deep. In fact too much. The tops lifts weren’t running as they were completely buried.

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

Still, the skiing was ok and we had some glimpses of blue sky but all in all it was pretty wild, windy and cold and by 3pm we’d had enough for one day. TBH said she “quite” enjoyed it. Scottish skiing is something of an acquired taste 🙂

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

Me a GM did a little impromptu off piste touring to bag a small bump near the piste and escape the crowds.

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

The runs were not open all the way down to the bottom but they were the best of the day. While everyone else downloaded on the chairlift. We had an empty run with some nice views as we emerged from the cloud. A 10 minute walk through the bog at the bottom was a price worth paying

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

We headed back (via a beer at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel to celebrate) to meet with everyone else for beers, food stories and catching up

The following day (according to MWIS anyway) promised to be a cracker. I have never seen a mountain forecast in Scotland with the phrase “severe risk of sunburn”. I think you can guess the punchline……

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

Despite the promise of some blue sky as we left the car for a ski-touring day, it rarely appeared again

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

We were hoping for a grand tour across the Ben Lawers range and had left a car at the far end. Once out of the nature reserve and onto the snow the conditions were great and we made swift progress up to Beinn Ghlas.

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

By the time we reached the summit the only severe risk was frostbite. Complete whiteout, high winds and spindrift. The ridge looked nasty and corniced. Spotting a cornice at walking pace is hard enough, spotting one at skiing pace was deemed far too risky so we cut our losses and went for a descent down Core Odhar. It proved to be a fine and long descent, my only regret not being close enough to GM to see him hit a wall of snow at full pace. Some people have no sense of theatre. We toyed with the idea of another ascent but the weather was pretty miserable so we headed back to the hotel. We ventured out for a stroll along the disused railway lines behind the hotel at the end of the day. GM recovered his sense of theatre by grabbing an electric fence and getting a nasty shock, much to my amusement (that’s what friends are for I believe)

Another evening swapping jokes and stories and catching up with old friends some of whom I only see on this weekend

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

For our final day we headed south to tackle Ben Venue. I’d never walked much in the Trossachs and I was looking forward to the walk as Ben Venue has often caught my eye.

Ben Venue

7.6 Miles

The weather forecast wasn’t great but the sun was out when we parked up and the views along Loch Achray were grand.

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

It’s quite a long walk winding along by the Achray Water and through the desolate forest – desolate now its being cleared

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

At least you get to see the views now

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

These two remaining bare trunks caught my eye – looked like the place had been hit by a nuclear blast. Lets hope it recovers its former glory in years to come

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

Where the made path ran out and turned into the usual sloppy mess that passes for a path in the Southern Highlands we decided to head straight for the summit. As we climbed the snow both on the ground and in the air grew thicker and we were in full blizzard on the summit

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

Time for  brief summit photo and then off back down. The walk along the rocky ridge was interesting and I’m sure its a fine high level traverse in clear conditions but it was pretty grim this day.

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

The bad weather promised had really set in. As we descended, the snow in the air turned to heavy rain and the snow on the ground turned to wet slush and then sloppy bog. It turned into a bit of route march back down the way we’d come up and it was absolutely tipping it down by the time we reached the cars. Goodbyes were brief in the rain, everyone wet and tired and ready to start the long drive home. Another weekend over, another one to confine to the memory banks, another one to remind you do it all again next year

Easter in Ardgour Part 3 – Sgurr a’ Chaorainn & Beinn na h-Uamha   16 comments

Another very cold night but in the morning the skies were more hazy, a thin veneer of cirrus cloud giving the day a less bold and bright feel. It was almost disappointing after the glory of the previous day but we had to tell ourselves that by Scottish standards it was still a cracker. It was dry and the tops were clear and the sun was still out. Time for another day on these fine and rocky mountains

Glen Scaddle

Breakfast

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Gleann Mhic Phail, Sgurr a Chaorainn & Beinn na h-Uamha

After another fine fry-up it was time for the off. Our route for today were the twin summits of Sgurr a’ Chaorainn and Beinn na-h-Uamha, the latter the high point, just, and the Corbett that GM was after.

Beinn na h-Uamha

7.1 Miles, 2,850 feet of ascent

The start was a long trudge up the valley of Gleann Mhic Phail. There was a pretty good stalkers path and we made good time to the first of the rocky gorges that characterise the glen and where the path abruptly stops.

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Gleann Mhic Phail

Another short spell of foot repair and we decided that the left bank was a better option, crossing while we could and avoiding the spots higher up where the slopes directly above the gorge became steep

Gleann Mhic Phail

GM in Gleann Mhic Phail

Gleann Mhic Phail

Ice

Gleann Mhic Phail

Gleann Mhic Phail

It was tough going with peat hags and small side streams to traverse and everything watery (which as we know is everything in the highlands) frozen solid. As the heather changed to grass the going became easier and we traversed upwards to try and reach the west ridge of Sgurr a’ Chaorainn.

Beinn Resipol

Beinn Resipol

We stopped partway up for lunch figuring it would be windy on the ridge. It was a cold rocky spot so I pulled out my trusty sit mat, or I would have done if I hadn’t left it on a rock where we’d sat by the gorge earlier. Being a middle aged forgetful (and clumsy) git can be a real pain sometimes. We pressed on up the steep slopes to the ridge, picking out the scrambling sections at will.

Sgurr a Chaorainn

Rock Athlete

When we hit the ridge we were in the lee of the summit and it was calm. We were surprised to be already at the snowline and very close to the summit so another stop was in order. I checked my messages and received one from James saying he’d found an awesome high level camp site and wouldn’t be joining us in the evening as planned. Having seen his photos it was a good call as he had a tremendous spot. Kind of thing I should be doing really, a bit more than this slack-packing I seem to drift into.

Sgurr a Chaorainn

Sgurr a Chaorainn

The snow slopes were still hard packed and made for more great winter snow walking to the easy summit. As with the day before most was easy angled with no difficulties but it was great just seeking out the little climbs and interesting micro-situations

Sgurr a Chaorainn

Snow Fun

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Glencoe

Glencoe from Sgurr a Chaorainn

Sgurr a Chaorainn

Steep Snow

The views from the top were again sensational. We didn’t linger as were back in the cold wind and we’d already had our stops for lunch. The route onwards was down easy snow slopes and interesting rocky outcrops.

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

GM Descending, Sgurr a Chaorainn

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Beinn na h-Uamha from Sgurr a Chaorainn

There were even some moderately steep slopes to attempt some ice braking practice!

Sgurr a Chaorainn

Ice Axe Practice 1

The route to Beinn na h-Uamha was over a mix of steep little rocky outcrops and snow slopes. There was no need for crampons but I stuck them on and sought out what steep slopes I could – great fun and pretty much kept on snow all the way to the summit. Cresting the final rise it was a surprise to find a distinctive little summit outcrop.

Beinn na h-Uamha

GM on Beinn na h-Uamha summit

More spectacular views were in order on this marvellous peak. As per the previous couple of days and despite the quality of the mountains and cracking weather we hadn’t seen a soul.

Ben Nevis, Mamores, Beinn na h-Uamha

Ben Nevis & Mamores from Beinn na h-Uamha

Beinn na h-Uamha

The final slopes

On the way down I had some more (impromptu) ice axe practice 🙂

Beinn na h-Uamha

Ice Axe Practice 2

The snow slopes on Sgurr Dhomhnuill really caught the eye with their distinctive pattern

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

X Marks the Spot

Beinn na h-Uamha

Thirsty Work

As we headed down the northern cliffs of the mountain came into view. They are hidden from Glen Scaddle and were surprisingly rocky and holding plenty of snow. There were lots of intriguing ascent lines up the snow-filled gullies. Another day

Beinn na h-Uamha

North Cliffs of Beinn na h-Uamha

GM left me to my own pace again to sprint down and get my post walk brew ready

Glen Scaddle

Hopalong…

With the thin cloud still in place we were treated to some cracking light shows from the sun, playing light onto the mountains, river and the tent

Glen Scaddle

Evening Sun

Glen Scaddle

Glow on the Tent

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha and Gleann Mhic Phail

As befits two grown men who should know better we messed about chucking stones about and taking childish pictures before a hearty chilli for tea (extra bag of chilli needed next time)

Glen Scaddle

Childs Play

Glen Scaddle

Attention Seekiung

Post-chilli the light was just spectacular as the temperature started to plummet again.

Glen Scaddle

Evening Glow

Time for the real business of the evening. Plenty of dead wood about so we managed to get a decent fire going. Primarily this was to burn the rubbish down to a more manageable size and weight to carry out but such was the fuel supply we got a decent blaze going for a couple of hours

Glen Scaddle

Playing with Fire

Glen Scaddle

Elemental

Sitting around on the banks of the river with a brew watching the setting sun play with the surroundings and tending to the fire was perfection

Glen Scaddle

Fading Light

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha and Gleann Mhic Phail

What is it with blokes and fire? Must be some kind of elemental hunter/gatherer/provider thing. Whatever it is, all my mates love messing with fires and out here it gives a real sense of the wilderness. Everything was tinder dry so we were cautious, using the bare stone and gravel of the river bed as a base and putting out the embers with water before we retired. With a proper wood fire we completely incinerated the rubbish, absolutely nothing left but ash which we buried

Glen Scaddle

It’s a bloke thing….

Glen Scaddle

…and just to prove it!

Like the previous couple of nights as darkness fell the frost started to form on the tents and we were forced into tent and bag. The pink sky bid us goodnight as we turned in

Glen Scaddle

Pink Sky

Another stupendous day on these magnificent mountains.

Easter in Ardgour Part 2 – Carn na Nathrach & Sgurr Dhomhnuill   17 comments

We were awake at 7am, a gentle dusting of frost tinkling down from the frozen inner to accompany our initial stirrings. It was perishingly cold but it looked like it might be quite nice outside. I poked my head out to scene of unmatched glory.

Glen Scaddle, Stob Mhic Bheathain

Early morning splendour

I was up and about in minutes, keen to get outside to savour the scene. You just can’t waste a morning like this indoors (or in-nylon). GM was slightly less enthusiastic as it was well below freezing in the tent but he was soon out in the sunshine. I spent a happy 10 minutes just shaking my head in wonder and snapping heaps of photos. The snow-capped mountains under the blue sky looked magnificent

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Beinn na h-Uamha

Sgurr Dhomhnuill & Beinn na h-Uamha

Glen Scaddle, Meall Dearg Choire nan Muc

Sunlight over Glen Scaddle

The frozen streams were starting to crack in the bright sunlight

Glen Scaddle, Gleann an Lochain Duibh

Frozen river Gleann an Lochain Duibh,

I’m not taken to musicals or singing as anyone who has had the misfortune to catch me attempting it when under the influence of alcohol but “Oh what a beautiful morning” came very close to a rendition. Fortunately for GM my need to eat and warm up with a cuppa took preference and the morning was complete with a freshly made bacon butty (made easier with the purchase of a non stick frying pan for my Trangia)

Glen Scaddle, Stob Mhic Bheathain

Breakfast time

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Beinn na h-Uamha

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill and Beinn na h-Uamha

Find me a better place to enjoy a fried breakfast and a brew – just magnificent

Glen Scaddle

A tent of two halves

We were underway just after 8am which is a pretty miraculous achievement for us. Faffing about is now the norm as we all enter middle age so an hour to get up have breakfast and get ready for a walk is pretty impressive. Our route for today was a grand circuit of Gleann na Cloiche Sgoilte, taking in the Corbetts of Sgurr Dhomhnuill and Carn na Nathrac (or Carn Anthrax to give it’s new name!)

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

7.2 miles, 4,450 feet of ascent

Now the sun was up it was relatively warm in the sunshine and pretty much perfect walking conditions. It looked a relatively short walk up to the first summit but once we left the path the going was rough over heather, tussocks and frozen bog with some short steep slopes that made for slow tiring progress. The views however were still sensational.

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Carn na Nathrach

Under way for a big day

Carn na Nathrach

Taking it all in

I wasn’t long before the previous day’s exertions took effect and my feet were in trouble again. As we hit the ridge proper I pulled over to take off my boots for some more running repairs to my feet. Pain was tempered by the amazing views and the birds eye view down the length of Glen Scaddle was particularly fine as was the massed ranks of the western highlands spread before us

Glen Scaddle

Across Glen Scaddle to the Southern Highlands

Ben Nevis, Mamores

Ben Nevis & The Mamores

Progress along the short cropped grass on the ridge was much easier and drew us quickly to the snowline. The snow was firm but the angle was easy so need for any steel-work

Carn na Nathrach

GM on Carn na Nathrach

Ardgour

GM with northern Ardgour behind

Walking along a the crest of a ridge on firm snow under a blue sky is about as good as it gets. Here, in the midst of the wild and rocky mountains of Ardgour it was near perfection.

Carn na Nathrach

GM approaching the summit of Carn na Nathrach

Carn na Nathrach

GM takes a breather

Whilst not exactly narrow, the swoops and curves of the ridge, accentuated by the snow were wonderful. There were enough little short steep sections to keep things interesting and it was almost a disappointment to reach the summit

Carn na Nathrach

Carn na Nathrach summit ridge

Carn na Nathrach

Snow work

The views from the summit were superb and we sat for a late second breakfast on the summit at around 11ish. Some light cloud had drifted in through the morning but it just added to the splendour. All around the peaks were almost too numerous to identify. Our next target, Sgurr Dhomhnuill was dominant in the foreground as were the hills towards Glenfinnan. Gulvain also caught the eye with it’s shapely curves as did Beinn Resipol in the west with the Rum and Skye Cuillin and Ben More on Mull also visible. It’s hard to tear your self away but the fresh breeze and another Corbett had us on our way

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Sgurr Dhomhnuill & Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Ben Nevis, Mamores, Carn na Nathrach

View east from Carn na Nathrach

As we headed east, we were given our first reminder that this was still winter and conditions were still not to be trifled with. There was a short steep pitch off the summit down to the easier grassy slopes, steep enough to warrant facing inwards to kick steps and whip the ice axe out for security (one heavy item needed, one pair to go). The surprising little difficulty added some excitement to what was already turning into a classic Scottish winter day

Carn na Nathrach

Descending the short steep pitch on Carn na Nathrach

The ridge west was as good as the route up and we were both enjoying the easy high level stroll across the snow

Carn na Nathrach

Looking back to the summit of Carn na Nathrach

Beinn Resipol

Looking west over Beinn Resipol

That joy was soon cut short as we now had a 350m, very steep and grassy descent down to the col. In my youth is used to run down slopes like this. 30 years on my dodgy knees have put a stop to such nonsense and I’m forced into a slow steady pace supported by walking poles. Our route of ascent, the rocky ridge of Sron Doire Nan Cabair, was looking pretty steep and intimidating but was clearly foreshortened. Having to drop down to 350m before re-ascending up to nearly 900m was not my idea of fun but the thought of gaining the summit by a wild, remote and rocky ridge that probably sees very few ascents was ample compensation

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Our ascent route to Sgurr Dhomhnuill the ridge of Sron Doire Nan Cabair

We took lunch in the col to build our spirits for the next climb (and yet more blister repairs for me). It was a wild place full of outsize erratic glacial boulders with deer trotting through at intervals, watching us with careful eyes

Gleann na Cloiche Sgiolte

The head of Gleann na Cloiche Sgiolte

The ridge was superb. The bottom section was slabs of clean dry rock that were just the right angle to walk up.

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Ascending the slabs on Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Perfect rock

As we ascended the ridge became steeper twisting and turning through small rocky outcrops that gave some interesting scrambling and still more sensational views, the view down the broad and perfect U-shape of Glen Scaddle was especially fine.

Glen Scaddle

Glen Scaddle

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

GM poses for effect

About two-thirds of the way up there was a short 5m wall that presented a slightly more tricky challenge. GM picked his way up carefully, I followed and then promptly lost my footing and fell off. Only a couple of feet but I did fall onto a snow slope and slide a few extra feet into the bargain. GM looked a little concerned but it was just a little lost pride and a wet ar5e for me. Memories of Rum from a few Easter’s back!

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Scrambling the mid section

From there we were up to the snow line and the situations, seeking out the patches of snow and turning the rocky sections, were sublime and the summit of the subsidiary peak was in sight. The sun lighting the snow clad northern corrie was majestic. We’d carried the bloody things for miles so we thought it was time to don the crampons, especially if we came to any awkward sections

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Up to the snow line

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Winter conditions

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Perfect snow

We walked off the ridge to try and find a snow slope to the summit. This was the highlight of the whole weekend. A broad couloir with perfect crisp snow just the right angle for an easy yet exhilerating climb. The blue sky above turned that deep colour that you only see on crisp clear winter day. It was sensational and we lingered over its delights, taking pictures of each other in various poses

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Awesome snow slope

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Moment of the trip

It was almost alpine in character and the pity was it was over all too soon. For 10 minutes we were both lost in that wonder that comes from winter mountaineering in sunshine. Those 10 minutes will live in my memory for a very long time indeed

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Alpine

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

This is what it’s all about

We emerged onto the nameless top grinning insanely at the magnificent ascent. Stick that ridge in the Lake District or Snowdonia and it would be a classic. Here in remote Ardgour we had the whole thing to ourselves in perfect conditions. Lucky? To paraphrase Gary Player, the more often I go out into the mountains the luckier I get

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Ben Nevis, Mamores

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Ben Nevis and the Mamores

Up at over 800m the snow cover was more continuous and was pretty much all snow to the base of the final climb to Sgurr Dhomhnuill. It looked pretty steep from below looking all its 888m in height. We’d been following a set of footprints (the only sign of life we saw all day and in fact all weekend).

Rois Bheinn, Rum

Rois Beinn with Rum behind

I decided to follow them up to the top but they seemed to seek out a mix of very steep ice and very deep mush. It was pretty tough going and in one or two places relatively serious, enough to make me glad I brought the crampons and axe

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

Steep final climb to Sgurr Dhomhnuill

We were now over 4000 feet of ascent for the day and I was starting to feel it. I made a pretty good hash of the climb with some poor route finding decisions.

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

Steep snow work on Sgurr Dhomhnuill

My frustration at not finding the same nirvana I’d found 30 minutes earlier and my tiredness made me a little grouchy for a few minutes. Once over the worst and arriving of the summit that soon dispelled and after a couple of minutes gazing at the views I was at one with the mountains again

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

GM on Sgurr Dhomhnuill summit with NW Highlands behind

Glen Scaddle, Lochaber

Glen Scaddle and the Lochaber Mountains

As expected of the highest mountain of the trip the views were fabulous. We sat for a snack and whole load more photos (we took hundreds between us that day). I remembered that I’d made a vague plan to possibly meet with James Boulter from Backpackingbongos so I checked my phone. He’d sent me a text saying he was in the next valley/hills to the north, that he was having a superb time (of course) and that he hoped to see me the next evening. I replied with our own happy thoughts and that we’d meet up tomorrow

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Glencoe

Zoom shot from Sgurr Dhomhnuill to Glencoe

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Garbh Bheinn

Garbh Bheinn from Sgurr Dhomhnuill,

Alas we’d reached that point where you need to head down. The snow from the summit led us easily down and some of the little micro-views across shadowed snow slopes were again just inspiring. I was pretty shattered but with the snow on the upper slopes and the easy angled grass slopes lower down the first part of the descent was a pleasure

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

Homeward bound

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

Reflections on Snow

I settled into my steady plod and GM settled into a much faster plod interspersed with waiting for me. I told him I was happy enough to saunter down on my own and that he should race on down and have a brew ready for me when I got back which to his credit he did. By the time I got back the skies were clearing again and we settled down for another glorious, sunny but cold evening in our private Scottish glen, nourished by the finest backpacking meal that a hiker could wish for, anchovy carbonara 🙂

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Beinn na h-Uamha and Gleann Mhic Phail

Glen Scaddle

Suburbs of our wild camp site

Apologies for a very photo-dominated post but such a day demands reminders of each and every classic moment. I was hard pressed to edit out all the photos so I’ve been indulgent in creating a 9 minute slideshow. I enjoyed every minute of putting it together and every 20 times I’ve watched it through since. What a day!

Suie Lodge Weekend March 2011 (aka The Uncle Fester Memorial Weekend)   4 comments

For the past few years our tribe of ex- Manchester University students (plus honoured guests) have been heading up to Scotland for a winter weekend getaway from the pressures – sorry – pleasures of family life. This is the sixth year we’ve done it and previously we’ve stayed in a cheap but not very cheerful hotel near Crianlarich. This year we decided to splash out and try a new hotel and we weren’t disappointed.

Friday 4th March – Glencoe Skiing

We normally gather on the Friday night but this year GM, MM and me took an extra day off and despite there being very little snow (again!) we headed off to try and find some skiing in Glencoe. After the usual hearty and unhealthy fry up in Callendar we arrived at the ski area where it didn’t look promising but the lifts were running and despite the top lifts being out of order we thought we’d give it a go

GM and MM wading through the snow in the car park

Once above 6oo metres at the mid station it was clear there was enough snow for some fun so after a couple of brief runs low down we put the skins on and headed up to the top of Meall A’Bhuridh in overcast but bright and dry conditions. It’s munro number 209 for me and despite GMs protestations that using the ski lift to get half way doesn’t count I’m claiming it – especially as we skinned up it twice this day.

MM and GM enjoying lunch on the summit

Skinning up for the second time

After lunch on the top we did try and get further into the Blackmount but there simply wasn’t enough snow. We satisfied our cravings with some descents back down to the main ski area down Etive Glades. Whilst the snow was a bit heavy it was continuous and, best of all, deserted. and the 400m descent was great. After another couple of runs in the lower area (steep and interestingly patchy at the bottom) we returned to the summit again. The skies began to clear and after some glimpses through the thinning veil of clouds it cleared completely treating us to some spectacular views down over Rannoch Moor and across to Glencoe. We descended Flypaper which is pretty steep and would be fantastic in better conditions especially with the views. Once at the bottom we found we could ski back to the top of the chairlift via the line of the drag lift which provided a really pleasant finish to the days skiing with the ever clearing sky and expansive views

Rannoch Moor

MM with Flypaper to the left

We’d been playing with my Headcam during the day and the collected footage is below. Still need some practice getting the angles right but it is a fantastic way to relive the days fun.

Despite the patchy snow it was a really superb day and well worth the effort to get out. The brew in the cafe with the view across to Buchaille Etive Mor was well earned

A well earned brew

Buchaille Etive Mor

We drove back across to our weekend hotel under a cloudless sky with awesome views of the Blackmount, Ben Dorain and Ben More. We arrived at at the Suie Lodge Hotel to a warm welcome ready for a few beers and a hearty meal to await the arrival of the rest of the posse. By 11pm the numbers were complete minus, alas, UF who had been struck down by nasty case of “feeling a bit glandy”. After we’d recovered from the shock, wiped away the tears and raised a glass to our missing comrade, we proceeded to take the p**s out of him for the rest of the weekend. UF – we salute you!!

Saturday 5th March

After the usual haggling between the 11 of us about where to go – we split into two groups, 4 heading off towards Ben Lawers while the rest of us sought a route befitting our level of fitness i.e. not very far. Independently ED and me came up with a route to traverse Stuchd An Lochain by leaving a car on one side at Pubil in Glen Lyon and then driving round to the dam at Loch an Diamh. We could then start at 400 metres and walk over to the car.

It’s an eventful drive to Pubil as the “road” from Glen Lyon is ever so slightly potholed but enjoyable nontheless unless you happen to be in the back of my car when I’m driving. Strangely no-one fancied that option. Glen Lyon is a wild spot and not somewhere I’ve been before and my eyes were drawn to the north facing corries on Meall Ghaordie – one for next year.

Glen Lyon

It was pretty damp and dismal when we set off but these weekends are great for catching up with the boys. We only meet up a few times a year so it’s a great chance to catch up and tell a bunch of old stories – a bit sad but they still make us laugh and that’s the main thing.

The dam at Loch an Diamh

A quality baggers path led us easily up to the summit ridge for a lengthy lunch and more stories and chat.

Lunch on the summit

The ridge is broad and easy angled, giving just the right terrain for walking and talking, and as we progressed the cloud thinned in places giving some views north and south into the impressive corries particularly down to Lochan nan Cat. Despite the encouraging signs we never saw the sun that kept promising to show up.

EWO and GM enjoying what passed for sunshine

GM and Lochan nan Cat

Having bagged the summit (munro 210 for me) we felt our appetite unsatisfied and the now named Eternal Weather Optimist (EWO) convinced us that his personal patch of blue sky that forever sits above his head (the deluded fool) would show itself to all of us if we climbed up the Corbett next door. He always says this and always (and I mean ALWAYS) climbs an extra hill at the end of the day so no real surprise at his suggestion. This time however he was nearly right. When we arrived at the summit of Sron a Choire Chnapanich the sky started to clear, there was blue sky above, the sun came out (kind of) and we were treated to some misty views back down to Loch an Diamh. Sadly it never really cleared but in Scotland you take what you can get and we savoured the views, just long enough to get cold and decide that it wasn’t going to clear fully.

"It's blueing up laaads"

Loch an Diamh

Time to head back down to Pubil over the boggy ground that can only be Scotland, play at taxis and back to Suie Lodge for more beer, food and stories – and yes, some of the same ones from earlier in the day!

Sunday 6th March

After saying goodbye to our excellent hosts at Suie Lodge, this morning’s “where shall we go” argument was between Ben Venue and Beinn Chabair.

Suie Lodge Hotel

There was heated debate, factions, claims, counter claims, negotiations, arbitrations before we all gave up and fell in behind the Hard Man (HM) who seemed to have a real urge for Ben Chabair so we met up again in Inverarnan by Loch Lomond.

ED had already set off when we arrived and it took us a good 45 minutes of serious effort (for me anyway) to reel him in. He’s suffered a bit with his health and fitness over the last few years so it’s great to see him really able to enjoy long days in the hills again.

An excellent path got us easily past the really steep lower slopes to emerge on the wild and VERY boggy moorland where the path  promptly vanished. It’s a long trek up towards Ben Chabair and the heathery/boggy terrain was becoming a little tiresome but once we hit the wild corrie holding Lochan Beinn Chabair the ground improved and we could see our route above.

Lochan Beinn Chabair, summit looming behind

The weather was pretty dreary and grey but it would be a fabulous place when clear with the complex crags and knolls of the west ridge of Beinn Chabair looming high above. As we climbed higher everything became coated in ice and frost but unlike the day before there was no sign of the cloud clearing. We ascended the south ridge and all reached the summit (munro 211 for me) for the obligatory team photo. ED compares us to the Bash Street Kids in his blog. All I can say is we’re an excellent testimonial for Care in the Community.

Combined Years 350+, combined mental age 100 (mostly Old Father Sheffield)

The route down twists and turns through the aforementioned west ridge knolls. On a better day it would be interesting to take this ridge all the way down and explore the many crags and hollows. On a dreary Sunday with legs wilting after a couple of decent days and long drive home we simply retraced our steps back to the end of Lochan Beinn Chabair and back down to the cars.

As always my flickr photos are here or you can take a look at the slideshow below that I’ve posted on YouTube

The “Jolly Boys Outing” over for another year – roll on 2012!

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