Good visibility. Blowing about 50mph throughout the day. Snow, rain, sleet, hail, locusts, frogs, etc.
5-word Weather: Holy cow, it’s nearly May!!
(11 hours) After a night spent hearing rain and wind lashing against the car it’s beginning to seem more and more that Moira’s suggestion that we’re going to do “Every Munro in Snow” won’t be far off the mark, much to our dismay! We set up the car shuttle with Carrie and Chuck’s help, parking at what happened to be the mid-camp for the Highlander Mountain Marathon the night before (we had warning of this so had decided not to spend the night there ourselves, seeing as a ceilidh was also scheduled).
Despite an 0610 alarm we didn’t actually get walking until 0825, but at least by that point the rain had eased off slightly. The first approach mile was bog city, made no less slippery by the torrential pouring from the night before.
Then the wind picked up and we were facing yet another day of full-on winter conditions, though visibility was still generally quite good (assuming you could look up without feeling that your eyes were being stabbed by sideways stinging rain!).
About ¾ up the first summit Andy was officially miserable and wanted to call it quits, unable to comprehend the voluntary continuation of a possibly-12-hour day in the conditions we were facing. Luckily we were close enough to the first summit that we motivated to reach it, where the protection of a large stone cairn provided welcomed relief from the wind for a self-pity party and snack break. The distance between the first and second summits was marginal (only a few kilometres), so Andy agreed to make it there before re-evaluating again. A few update texts to Carrie to let her know that she didn’t have to arrange to collect us just yet and away we went, back into the wind.
By the time we got to the second summit the wind had died down enough to brighten our spirits and motivate us to carry on, if for no other reason than Andy was keen to not have to return to this area for the challenge this year.
We felt fortunate to have recently discovered Steven Fallon’s website, which kindly reassured us that between the second and third summits we could safely follow the disused fence posts without fear of them leading us astray – all too often we have been tempted to follow posts like these, especially in poor visibility, but know all too well that we’ll end up lost and confused when they lead us to places we don’t want to be! Following the fence posts meant that we could revert to a heads-down, brains-off mentality to shelter from the wind within our hoods.
We passed by the cairn of a has-been Munro (demoted off the list) and got to the summit of our 3rd of the day, taking precarious steps to shelter behind the cairn from the wind without punching through a cornice. We topped ourselves up with sandwiches and chocolate just before hearing from Carrie that the headwind was too much for Chuck to bear so they wouldn’t be meeting us for the finish as planned. As disappointing as it was to not have them with us, it was good motivation to head to the fourth, seeing as our car was at the bottom and bailing from the route now would be more hassle than it was worth!
Onwards through the snow the wind died, then picked up, then died, then smacked us in the face, repeat. About halfway to Gael Charn Jamie felt something smack her in the back, only to turn around to discover Chuck about a foot behind her . . . he claims he’d been shouting for ages to get our attention – disconcerting to know that someone could be that close to us without our realising it since the sound of the wind overpowered all else. He eventually chose the snowball throw approach! Apparently these two speed demons had decided that they weren’t that far behind us after all, so had pressed on despite the wind to find us (mostly so Carrie could add two more ticks to her Munro list, let’s be honest!). It was great to have their company through the snowy peat bogs, and even more great to have their company when we struggled to find the summit cairn – which was the size of a house – in the whiteout that greeted us.
We were also pleased that they got benefit of the early-morning car shuttle, even if our slower pace did mean that they ended up racing for last orders at dinner in hill clothes. Luckily we’ve established that we’ve all become speedy clothes-changing ninjas so the restaurant loos to them were like a phone booth to Clark Kent and all was well! Unfortunately while they were enjoying a lovely meal we went on a futile search for Andy’s missing ski goggles, but eventually made it home around 0030 for a quick car unpack, showers, and bed for work in the morning – sunburned from Saturday; wind-burned from Sunday; but pleased that we managed the nine as planned for the weekend despite the horrific conditions.