Monthly Archives: January 2013

Bynack More – 21/01/13 (16)

Winter. Gale force. White out to valley. Snow fall.

5-word Weather: Today was a bit windy!

Check out this link to see how our furry friends in the mountains cope with days like today:  http://saisncairngorms.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/blizzards-condition.html

Walking in from Glenmore Lodge

Walking in from Glenmore Lodge

It was suggested to us that this was a “hangover hill;” an easy access munro for those suffering after a big night out in Aviemore. Ha! With a forecast of 55mph winds with 70mph gusts Jamie looked drunk while walking as her poles and legs got swept away from her and would consider this far from an easy day! At least we’d had a hearty breakfast at Glenmore Lodge (and were grateful for the discovery of the late-arrival discount). Reports from the SAIS about today note that winds were actually gusting up to 113 mph! The weather station atop nearby Cairngorm summit reported maximum sustained wind speed of 80.47mph. No wonder this felt so much like hard work! They’re max recorded gust 95.38mph, which was still plenty for us to cope with!

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Andy emerging from the windless shelter of the igloo

Andy emerging from the windless shelter of the igloo

Thanks to the igloo architect! Nice place for a snack attack!

Thanks to the igloo architect! Nice place for a snack attack!

We were still at quite a low level when the ski goggles were necessary, only to freeze over after a few hours. We briefly took shelter against a boulder for a quick comfort and chocolate break before continuing our painful effort into a relentless headwind. With only Kahtoolas to keep us in good contact with the ice we were relieved to hit the summit cairn and descend, mostly to finally have the wind at our backs rather than smacking us in the face and whipping Jamie off her feet!

Summit of Bynack More

Jamie going incognito on the
Summit of Bynack More

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Categories: January (1-16) | Leave a comment

Sgor Gaoith – 20/01/13 (15)

Winter. Snow cover wind scoured, icy in places. White out 1000mtrs.

If skis could talk, ours are still cursing our names for this one! As luck would have it, Andy had been chatting with the couple who offered me a lift (the same people who quickly realised I’m an idiot who didn’t realise I was nearly standing in front of my own car at the point I got into theirs) the night before. Andy had talked them out of ski touring our previous day’s route, knowing how little snow there was and in conversation they had mentioned their tentative plan to abandon Drumochter and go to Glen Feshie instead. Hoping that my headtorch may have jumped ship in their van in my embarrassing launch to save face, we drove to Feshiebridge in the morning. In slightly stalker fashion we found their van in a small forestry car park and I proceeded to write and stash multiple notes to them in search of my torch.

Seeing as we had made the effort to drive down to the start of this particular route we decided to go for it. It started out pleasantly enough, with a snow-covered path leading up to the bowl. From then on, the phrase, “is this ever going to be fun?” came up multiple times today as we skied through heather; over rocks; and over unfrozen streams. Then there were the fun times of carrying our skis in hand; ditching them at the summit for fear of being blown over the edge in them; then descending what could be quite a nice ski run if only it hadn’t been zero vis. Jamie sure loves dry heaving!

Capturing "Fun"

Capturing “Fun”

Getting back to the car was such a good feeling, especially since the campervan couple found Jamie’s headtorch. That was pretty much the only good thing to come out of today, as far as Jamie is concerned!

Atop

Atop Sgor Gaoith

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Geal Charn [Drumochter Pass], A’ Mharconaich, Beinn Udlamain, Sgairneach Mhor – 19/01/13 (11,12,13 &14)

Winter. Snow cover wind scoured, icy in places. White out 600mtrs. Very windy. Final summit in darkness

Drumochter West. Skis in the car . . . stayed in the car. Any notions of ski touring this quad were put to rest when we saw the patchwork of heather across the hillsides. We initially regretted our decision to walk, as we punched through the snow up to our knees repeatedly. All was redeemed when we approached the rocky summits, though – there’s no way we would have been able to continue on skis so turns out we made the right choice, after all!. No points for that, though, we still had zero visibility on the summits! The plateau tops of these peaks makes finding the true top rather difficult, especially with visibility so poor. We spread out on a few occasions – close enough to see each other but far enough that we stood a chance of finding a cairn – walking parallel until one of us spotted something that looked like it had some potential of being a summit marker! We took multiple photos of us with various cairns to ensure we didn’t have to retrace our steps later in the year!

This was superb example of diagnoses we pinched from the Scottish Hills Forum:

Munrosis Paranoia Particularus: Not a separate condition as such but a set of symptoms which may become acute towards the end of a Munrosis cycle, or after a long day of mountaineering in Drumochter with zero vis! Sufferers can be identified wandering to every cairn on a flat summit or revisiting hills already done “just to be sure”.  Jamie, on the other hand, was soon more inclined to be inflicted by Munrosis Drumochterus: The complete opposite of Munrosis Paranoia Particularus and named after the first reported incidence during the Munro in a Year Challenge. The sufferer has been studying lists too intensely leading to an adverse affect on the eyesight so that they become incapable of seeing a difference in height between cairns if they are any more than 2 feet apart.  Sufferers will still maintain that they are able to discern summits in white-outs with the phrase “That’ll do”.

The final summit was a test of Andy’s winter nav skills, as he followed a bearing from about 3km in a white out at night. If I didn’t know he’s not magic I would think he’s magic! We literally bumped into the final trig point as Andy dropped to his knees, relieved and reassured that even when it feels like we’re walking around in circles, sticking to a bearing really does pay dividends! Our descent would have been slightly speedier with skis, though we couldn’t have let it all out given that poor visibility reigned supreme and going over an edge would have been all too easy.

Summit of

Summit of Geal Charn

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Summit of a’ Mharconaich

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Writing out the number on Hard earned Summit of Sgairneach Mhor

Once back on relatively solid ground the landrover track back to the main road seemed endless, though we got there eventually. Jamie stuck on a pair of running shoes to jog back to the car (a few km down the road). Just as I got to the car I was offered a lift (an embarrassing moment when I got in the van in a layby, we drove about 3 metres, and I realised we were in the layby with our car! Oops!).
Dinner and night in the Glenmore Youth Hostel, with free (out of date, but who cares?!) M&Ms at reception
Could have been a lovely night’s sleep but Jamie realised around 11:30, in getting ready for the next day, that her precious purple headtorch was missing. Fearing that it had dropped in the layby it was a 45-minute drive there and back again, only to confirm it was nowhere to be found. Sad day losing something purple!

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Beinn Ime – 16/01/13 (10)

Winter. Dark. Good snow cover. White out 600mtrs.

Our first (of 16) mid-week, post-work attempt. We’ve worked out that there are 16 peaks within a 90-minute drive of our flat that can reasonably be summited after work. There was a lot more snow on the ground than either of us expected, which slowed us considerably and had Jamie wishing she had brought her snow shoes. Jamie went into robot-mode and accidentally walked off the bearing in true wind-up toy fashion (i.e., wind me up, point me in a direction uphill, and hope I can maintain a straight line without getting distracted!). The summit was sans-trig point, which had us wandering around a relatively small space in the dark reassuring ourselves we were in the right place (turns out the trig point had been sold off since our map was printed so it no longer existed – highlighting that amongst everything else we’re busy doing we should try to look at recent photos online of the summits so we know what we’re looking for when we think we’re there!). It was a very cold night so not the best for uncertainty!

Summit cairn sans trig point - but this is definitely it!

Summit cairn sans trig point – but this is definitely it!


There had been brief talk of doing two summits tonight but Andy was lacking energy and the snow was slowing us down and we figured that a Munro at night in the middle of January was probably hardcore enough for one day!

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Stob a’ Choire Odhair & Stob Ghabhar – 13/01/13 (8&9)

Winter. Snow cover, icy in places. White out 400mtrs. Windy.

We woke to a lot of fresh snow on the ground, which wasn’t the best sight based on the original plan we had for today – Plan A was to do 5 more peaks in Glen Etive, but after sitting in the car at the start for about 10 minutes debating our plan it was clear that we would be in for a potentially unsuccessful epic so we abandoned Plan A and came up with a Plan B (which highlighted the importance of ensuring that more maps are with us at all times so we aren’t making decisions based strictly on lack of mappage).

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We head through Bridge of Orchy and parked in the Victoria Bridge car park at Inverornan before heading out along a Landrover track. There were deer everywhere, including crossing the stream right in front of us and covering the hills, making our Munro mission seem laughable as they traversed and climbed with ease and speed and we fought the snow and zigzagged our way up the first ridge.

In “typical” fashion we were in a cloud at the tops so no views to be had, though we had a good descent once we were out of the haze, continuing to be graced by hundreds of deer. Dropping down to the stream before we hit the track again was lovely, though Jamie struggled to stay upright, slipping a few times down snow-covered muck (she’s still hoping it was mud and not accumulated piles of deer poo!).

Admiring impressive wind-blown ice feature on old fence post

Admiring impressive wind-blown ice feature on old fence post

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Summit of Stob Ghabhar

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Summit of Stob a ‘Choire Odhair

 

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Bidean nam Bian, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, Stob Dubh (Buachaille Etive Beag), Stob Coire Raineach (Buachaille Etive Beag) – 12/01/13 (4,5,6&7)

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Summit of Bidean nam Bian

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWinter. Snow cover, icy in places. White out 800mtrs

Today was the start of combining “Cameron days” to give us a fighting chance of success. From the car park is a well-worn trail that was easy to follow, and we got a bit of a motivation boost by easily catching up to another party of climbers who had set out ahead of us (then we attempted to leave them in our dust so we could have a comfort break amongst the boulders without disrupting their peaceful morning! We should know by now that Mr India is yum but not recommended before a big day out in the hills!).

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Summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach

It was crampons and axes at the ready for descending Stob Coire Sgreamhach but generally the first two summits were uneventful. Nearing the valley to start Stob Dubh we both stared in awe at the steepness of the climb and opted initially to descend quite far down into the valley to get a gentle ridge ascent.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course, once we got closer we realised that the crazily steep scree slope we saw from afar was actually entirely do-able, so we did it. Just goes to show what a change in perspective can offer.



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Summit of Stob Dubh



We summited Stob Coire Raineach just as it started to get dark and luckily Andy could demonstrate his mad navigating skills because Jamie was completely disoriented (no change there!). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
No joy hitchhiking back to the car so Andy sped down the road on his bike, which we had locked up at the finish before we started our day, and swiftly came to collect me.
Well-deserved dinner in the Clachaig and a discounted room to ourselves at the Glen Coe SYHA was the perfect end to the day!

Putting things into perspective further, today’s initial summit was the site of a tragic avalanche only a week later, adding further reminder about the need to take care in the Scottish hills, using all of the knowledge, experience and forecast information available to us.

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Summit of Stob Coire Raineach

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Meall Buidhe [Knoydart] & Luinne Bheinn – 05/01/13 (2&3)

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Descent from Luinne Bheinn

Luinne Bheinn Summit

Meall Buidhe Summit

Mild, misty. Very few patches snow. Wet ground.

We reversed the route description suggested by Cameron McNeish in order to get the potentially tricky countour traverse of the hill done in good visibility. It proved to be a very good idea, given that by the last hour of our hike out it was absolutely pouring (because heaven forbid we finish a day dry!); walking out in the rain was much easier on a track rather than attempting to slide our way around a grassy slope. We had fantastic views at the start of the day down to Inverie and a lovely ridge walk between the two peaks that included loads of red deer.

The rainy walk out back to the car in Kinlochhourn

The rainy walk out back to the car in Kinlochhourn

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Ladhar Bheinn – 04/01/13 (1)

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Walking in to Barrisdale Bothy from Kinlochhourn

Mild, lashing down. High winds. Few patches wet snow.

We left the dry comfort of the bothy not long after the two 20 year-old lads who nearly gassed us out of the bothy the night before (due to a malfunctioning MSR fuel canister). After a straightforward slog up a bracken-filled hillside from the bothy we found ourselves in a cloud for the majority of the day. The wind was relentless and we were soaked to the bone, without feeling like it ever properly rained. Given that this was the first one, it was impossible to avoid thinking, “ What the heck have we decided to do?!”

Drizzly walk up to Summit 1 of 282!

Drizzly walk up to Summit 1 of 282!

Ridge to Ladhar Bheinn

Ridge to Ladhar Bheinn

It was helpful to return to the shelter of the bothy, fairly confident that we’d have it to ourselves so spread our wet gear everywhere – only to realise that it would never dry because it was so cold in the bothy, but at least we weren’t still wearing it!

The summit

The summit

The farmer from the estate paid us a visit in the evening to turn the water on for us (so at least we could stop venturing out to the stream in the rain. He told us that he hadn’t seen any other visitors in many weeks and stated, in an accent most of my family would be unlikely to understand: “You know it’s winter out there, right?” Our freezing clothes on the washing line were proof enough of our answer

 

Enjoying the bothy with some fancy wine

Enjoying the bothy with some fancy wine

Categories: January (1-16) | 3 Comments

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