|Many hillwalkers will look back on this Saturday as one of the worst forecasts they had ever witnessed. Particularly those hillwalkers who had intended to join us for our last Munro, which was scheduled about two months ago! Throughout the week the forecast went from bad to worse, ultimately reporting that wind in the western mountains would increase to 80 mph over the course of the morning, with gusts of 110mph expected! Not exactly the balmy day out we had been hoping for to celebrate the end of our Epic achievement with our nearest and dearest. By Friday evening our house had transformed into a mini-meteorology centre, with anyone with half a wifi-signal attempting to predict the exact minute the winds would be at their worst so that we could plan accordingly. There was brief mention of starting at midnight on Friday to be up and down before we’d slept for the night, but given that we had already changed the start time multiple times based on the weather we decided to stick with the most-recent plan of a 6 a.m. start from the Rowardennan car park. This gave us a half-decent chance of success, with the hopes that we would be up and down before the worst of the wind really kicked in. Everyone had been warned that there was a good chance we would be forced to back off depending on conditions, but we were going to give it a bash.
And so it was, a 4:15 a.m. alarm and a meet up in the car park at 0545. A dozen of our friends were in remarkably good spirits given that most of us hadn’t slept for more than a few hours. Amazing where a bit of adrenaline and some trepidation will get you! Alys and both Toms had come up from England; Ian had driven down from Nairn on Friday after work; and Jenny had provided the pleasant shock of the decade by surprising Jamie and arriving from Washington, D.C. to be a part of the big event. The rest of the crew, including Matt, Nicola, Julie, Bosco, Stewart, Danny & Megan, headed off with us as planned at 06:00 on the dot. The time seemed to pass quickly in the dark with lots of chatting and the flicker of head torches guiding us. It was eerily calm when we started at the car, and even calmer as we made our way up the obvious path and through the woods. The wind picked up as we were on the final approach ridge, but even this was only between 20-30 mph (it’s all relative now!). Given what we were expecting this seemed mild in comparison. We had a pre-summit pow-wow before the final push, anticipating that the summit ridge would be painful; there was a mini-warning shared ‘round that Andy and Jamie may do a quick blast to the trig point to finish off the year even if others wanted to wait a wee bit lower down.
As it turned out, though, the summit was just about the calmest spot to be found all day! We’d left the celebratory bubbly and hors d’oeuvres at home, assuming as we’d set out that there was a slim to no chance we’d be spending any more than a millisecond on a summit with Force 11 winds! Lucky for us, we have wonderful friends and from a few backpacks (thanks Julie & Bosco, Stewart and Danny!) emerged a few bottles and a flask . . . and they even carried back down the empties! We spent about 15 minutes on the top, just enough time for some individual and group pics, swigs all around, and the addition of layers for those not quite used to winter mountain conditions in Scotland. That was it . . . we had done it!!
We zipped down the first few hundred metres of descent to get out of the worst of the wind and away from the frozen terrain, but from there we daresay folks were even enjoying themselves. Views emerged over Loch Lomond and we picked out the islands we’ve kayaked to in the past and would do again, especially now the Munro Challenge is complete!
We took our time with our friends, soaking in the views and the last of the descents of the year. Within a few minutes of the car park it started to absolutely pour and the winds had clearly picked up . . . seems it was worth the stupid o’clock start to know that we had made it up and down safely, with the entire group of 14 successfully summiting AND returning to cars without anyone being blown over! Woop Woop! Kudos, also, to Ian for making this his 141st Munro in 18 months – well on his way toward Munro compleation in a relatively sensible way, though still pretty bonkers!
The year was capped with an amazing breakfast in Milngavie at Bullands Café (“amazing,” as defined in the dictionary, being any meal that includes whipped cream as a central ingredient) and one heck of a party later on. Thanks to our incredible friends for their love and support throughout 2013! The car shuttles; the tasty treats; the company; the laughs; the motivation . . . Thank you!
What a year . . . What. A. Year.