February (17-49)

The Devils Point (Bod an Deamhain), Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Braeriach – 26/02/13 (46,47,48 & 49)

Andy demonstrated impressive motivation this morning, getting the stove on and porridge started while Jamie stayed burrowed into her sleeping bag until the noisy grouse and smell of hot chocolate eventually got her bum moving! We were reassured that we had made the right decision by sleeping outside when the bothy emptied out and a few people mentioned that it had been noisy and smelly! We had experienced some noisy wind and the sound of the birds in the morning, but we’re hardly complaining; and at least the only stinkiness we had to deal with was our own!

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Jamie sans-skis to hike up to The Devil’s Point

Ascent to Bod an Deamhain was unexpectedly steep and icy for the first motions of the day, prompting us to put on our harscheisen (ski crampons) while still in close sight of the bothy. This was after about a 25 metre section of Jamie worrying she had managed to get herself into a situation that she

Harscheisen doing the business!

Harscheisen doing the business!

couldn’t get out of without a long and potentially dangerous slide back to the bothy – luckily some short-step shuffling with skins got her to a tiny patch of exposed heather that provided enough traction for the crampon fitting! We were entertained by some courting grouse, with the male so typically determined and focused he didn’t seem to mind or notice our presence. The female did her best at playing hard to get!

From the valley floor the terrain became even steeper so Jamie swapped skis for walking with crampons and even that pushed the limits of her ability (we were WAY passed “comfort zone” at that point!). This was definitely the steepest ascent of the day, which was reassuring news to Jamie who was beginning to fear that she was to spend the next ten hours panic stricken.

Heading up to Cairn Toul - with shadows!

Heading up to Cairn Toul – with shadows!

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Andy enjoying the Scottish sunshine

Cairngorm Views

Cairngorm Views


The day was generally favourable weather, providing yet another Cairngorms ski tour with decent visibility. This is one area where being able to see is a distinct advantage, with massive spans of plateau that make summits difficult to find at the best of times, let alone when you can’t see 5 feet in front of you! We linked these four mountains together, noting again that this wouldn’t be a bad place to bring cross country gear for future days out.

The descent line chosen from Braeriach was to maximise time on skis and we covered a few kilometres in no time at all.

That was then followed by some slower-going heather bashing before making our way on foot through the Chalamain Gap. There was debris clearly evident from the tragic avalanche in the same place only ten days earlier, a reminder of the need to bring constant respect, knowledge, and experience into this wilderness environment, and to be willing and able to amend plans when conditions demand. We were fortunate this weekend that all forecasts and plans fell into place and we had a fantastic and safe weekend in the mountains.

Chalamain Gap

Chalamain Gap

From the Gap onwards we were on foot, including what felt like an endless slog through open moorland. Funny how all walking seems difficult when you’re doing it in ski boots that have been on for ten hours! A massive curry out with Lucy in Aviemore was a great end to a great weekend, though driving conditions on the way home left a bit to be desired!

Jamie atop Braeriach

Jamie atop Braeriach

With our descent route in the background

With our descent route in the background

Andy heading toward the Gap just as it started to snow
Andy heading toward the Gap just as it started to snow

 

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Cairn Gorm, Beinn Mheadhoin, Derry Cairngorm, Ben MacDui, Carn a’ Mhaim – 23/02/13 (41,42,43,44 & 45)

We had a later start to this Cairngorm ski tour than planned; a risk we knew we were taking when the wine and chat started flowing when we stayed at mate Lucy’s in Aviemore the previous night! The ski centre was bustling and Jamie was jealous of those getting a tow up the initial ascent while we slogged, but quite satisfactory to reach the top completely under our own steam. Conditions weren’t quite as great as we had hoped, with quite a lot of crust to get through. We were touring on our short skis, which aren’t quite as forgiving in icy conditions, but definitely make it easier to heather-bash (which proved worthwhile later in the weekend!). The descent from Ben MacDui was awesome and was the point at which we confirmed that ski touring this weekend rather than walking was the best idea. A narrow’ish ridge to Carn a’ Mhaim brought us to our last summit of the day, with another fabulous descent to follow.

Andy selected a route that maximised the time we could take advantage of our skis; an impressive feat considering it was dark by the time we started our way down to the Corrour Bothy. Halfway down from the summit lights could be seen from the bothy and they certainly appeared to be an overwhelmingly long way away! We stayed on skis as long as possible until it officially became ridiculous as we scratched them over rocks and got our front tips stuck into heather!

Upon arrival to the bothy we were shocked by how many people were already smooshed inside – there were 12 people inside when we got there, which meant an immediate about-turn to the fresh air for us (the bothy is made to sleep 4 in an alcove, with space for another 4 on the floor)! Luckily, a kind group of young lads who were playing cards inside made space for us so that we could at least cook our dinner indoors. Supernoodles and hot drinks flowing, we warmed up as much as possible before Andy made a snow-free bed for us on a patch of heather outside the bothy. Hopefully that’s the most action our avalanche shovels will see this year! Donning all of our clothes and getting into our emergency foil bags we both slept fairly well despite the lack of tent, though awoke to down sleeping bags that could nearly be wrung out from all the condensation that had accumulated on us overnight! Unfortunately we forgot to take photos of the night we slept sans-tent outside in the Scottish winter, but we lived to tell the tale!

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Carn Aosda, The Cairnwell, Carn a’ Gheoidh – 18/02/13 (38,39 & 40)

Andy was keen for a day off; Jamie was keen to tick a few more off the list for fear that this challenge may prove impossible if we let ourselves get lazy or don’t take advantage of good forecasts! So, as in any good relationship, the girl got her way! Just kidding (kind of!); a compromise was struck and we set out for the Glenshee ski resort for a day of pisted skiing with some skinning up and Munro-ticking in the Cairnwells along the way.

Summit of

Summit of Carn Aosda

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Summit of

Summit of The Cairnwell (trying to focus on the stunning view rather than the unsightly tower)

We had a lovely day in the sunshine, and even Jamie had to admit that it was nice to have lunch indoors for a change. We made it to the summit of Carn a’ Gheoidh at sunset, with just enough time to appreciate the splendour around us while simultaneously feeling a bit daunted by the challenge we’ve set for ourselves, as the visibility provided us an opportunity to see dozens of other Munros that lie in our future. Jamie was keen to get on her way because the ascent had been a bit icy and she wasn’t keen to retrace her steps in the dark. Turned out the descent was much easier, and a lot more fun, than expected; it was useful to have had the larger part of the day practicing on pisted slopes that were also quite crusty to get our ski legs ready! As we approached the ski centre again the snow cats were out prepping for the next day and we had a fabulous descent on pisted slopes back to the car. There was a sense of excitement at being the only people left skiing the groomed runs, headtorches on, enjoying a beautiful cold night in the Cairngorms.

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A’ Bhuidheanach Beag, Carn na Caim, Meall Chuaich – 17/02/13 (35,36 &37)

We were joined by Joe today, who was keen as ever to join in a ski tour outing. After yesterday in Glen Lyon Jamie was less confident that there was enough snow to make it worth the skins-on/skins-off faff throughout the day so she opted to go by foot while the boys skied. We set up a car shuttle, leaving Joe’s car at the finish point near Cuaich and starting near Balsporran Cottages.

Andy with his essentials

Andy with his essentials

Today was marked by the many snow hare along the way. They were everywhere on the initial ascent to A’ Bhuidheanach Beag. Luckily it had been really cold overnight so Jamie managed to hike to the first summit without constantly punching through the snow – turns out there was a lot more snow in East Drumochter than was remaining in Glen Lyon!

Summit of

Summit of A’ Bhuidheanach

Joe making tracks

Joe making tracks

Summit of

Summit of Carn na Caim

The trek between the first and second peaks seemed endless, but certainly more so for the walker than the skiers! Great ski descent from Carn na Caim, taking us down to below 500m before tackling a direct ascent of Meall Chuaich.

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Number 37 . . .Done AND enjoyed!

The boys picked out a burn that still had enough snow to skin up, while Jamie hightailed it directly to the summit over ground intermittently charred to promote feeding ground for the many grouse we saw along the way. We managed to get to the summit for sunset, which made for some great pictures with Joe and his skis in the background.

Summit of just after sunset

Summit of Meall Chuaich just after sunset

Andy and Joe skied down in a similar way to their ascent, maximising snow coverage, while Jamie cut off the corner to head more directly to Loch Chuaich, surprising hare and grouse who were popping up unexpectedly all over the place for the half hour jog down the hill. 

Munro Summit - wouldn't have come this far if it wasn't for the Challenge. Thank you, Challenge!

Munro Summit – wouldn’t have come this far if it wasn’t for the Challenge. Thank you, Challenge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were quite a few other people out today to appreciate the Scottish sunshine; likely that we weren’t the only ones to summit each of our three peaks, but unlikely that many others did

Breathtaking

Breathtaking

all three of them in one go (though Joe did give a lift to a gentleman who said he had done a similar route to ours on a solo day out from Edinburgh). Joe headed home while Jamie and Andy treated themselves to a night off the supernoodles with a meal at the Glen Hotel and Pub in Newtonmore, with welcoming pints and friendly staff who didn’t complain despite the fact that our books and maps for planning were constantly in their way.

A drive from Newtonmore to Spittal of Glenshee found us in yet another layby for spending the night, though at least this time the wall of snow built up from road clearances gave us a bit of space from the cars arriving to the ski centre in the morning.

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Carn Gorm, Meall Garbh [Glen Lyon], Carn Mairg, Meall nan Aighean, Schiehallion – 16/02/13 (30,31,32,33&34)

A day out in Glen Lyon. We started about a half hour behind another group of hillwalkers who blazed a bit of a trail in the snow, until we caught up with them and they were more than happy to let us cut steps from then on to the summit of Carn Gorm.

Summit of

Summit of Carn Gorm

Visibility became increasingly poor to this first summit, but it was nice to have a few folks behind us to finally get a photo that wasn’t a self-portrait! Throughout the day it was mostly bright, but a flat light that still made it difficult to tell the difference between the snowy ground and the sky. After leaving the other group of walkers earlier in the morning we didn’t see anyone else until the summit of Meall nan Aighean, where we finally caught up with the gentleman whose snowshoe prints we’d been happening upon throughout the day. He wasn’t one for chatting and took off from the summit while we finally enjoyed some views across the valley as we descended. Luckily Jamie was full of her best ptarmigan impressions throughout the day so Andy was in good company!

Summit of

Summit of Meall Garbh

Cairn Sculpture that is Meall Garbh

Cairn Sculpture that is Meall Garbh

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Giving some love to Carn Mairg

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Summit of Carn Mairg

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Summit of Meall nan Aighean

With motivation we weren’t sure we would have at the end of a 4-Munro loop we got in the car and drove round to Shiehallion. Starting around 17:00, just before it was dark, we set off from the car park, secure in the knowledge that even in the dark this popular hill was likely to have a well-trodden path to guide us. We passed two walkers as they neared the car park who were giddy to have their dinners, while we were just getting started! While there were quite a few options of boot prints to follow, we figured that all roads led to the summit so we plodded on in the darkness, confirmed we were actually on the summit with some wandering around on the ridge, then descended as quickly as possible through the snowy heather to get back to the car around 20:00. We used the quiet Shiehallion car park to make hot drinks and yummy supernoodles, before heading to the A9 to sleep in one of the least desirable sleeping spots – a layby on the main road. For better or worse we were both so exhausted it hardly mattered!

Schiehallion at Twilight

Schiehallion by Twilight

Summit of Schiehallion

Summit of Schiehallion

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Meall na Teanga & Sron a’ Choire Ghairbh – 10/02/13 (28&29)

Winter. Gusting 40/50mph. Good visibility.

Walking up the track

Walking up the track

Onwards from the saddle

Onwards from the saddle

 

 

With only one day of Munro’ing available to us this weekend we chose a pair that would be nearly impossible to string together with any others in future. After a good night’s sleep at the Spean Bridge Hotel we had Frosties in bed and set off for the Loch Lochy pair. By recent standards today was almost too easy! Even 40 mph gusts are seeming relatively gentle! We started out along a well-trodden path to the saddle between the two peaks. Along the way we passed a multi-generational family, with a boy of about 9-years old along with them. He shared with delight his tale of bum-sliding down their first summit of the day and it was a good reminder of how much the Scottish mountains have to offer.

 

Summit of

Summit of Meall na Teanga

Summit of

Summit of Sron a’ Choire Ghairbh

To reduce the chance of today being so easy that we couldn’t count it we decided to descend the ridge from Sron a’ Choire Ghairbh to make the journey a loop rather than an out & back. And boy, were we rewarded! Only a few minutes along the ridge and we were audience to two golden eagles rekindling their pair bond romance with dramatic, acrobatic flight above our heads. We watched their display for as long as they’d allow, before they must have caught on to our voyeurism and disappeared in the blink of an eye. From there we had some obligatory bush bashing to confirm that we’d earned our summits, but again rewarded by the big waterfall before a bit more bushwhacking to lead us back to the farm and car.

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Beinn Sgulaird, Beinn Fhionnlaidh [Glen Etive], Sgor na h-Ulaidh – 03/02/13 (25,26&27)

Winter. Good snow cover. Wet and Windy. Final summit in darkness.

Carrie on her way to the top of

Carrie on her way to the top of Beinn Sgulaird

The day's posse

The day’s posse

Summit of

Summit of Beinn Sgulaird

Today was a prime example of fickle Scottish weather! After yesterday’s glorious sunshine we faced a forecast today of low cloud cover, considerable avalanche risk on north and west slopes, snow, and wind. In addition to Carrie and Chuck, Joe also joined us for today’s Glen Coe experience. We set up another car shuttle, this time leaving Joe’s car near Signal Rock on the A82, then drove ‘round to the start for an ascent from sea level. Beinn Sgulaird is apparently known to the local shepherds as “the bastard,” but that nomination should have been reserved for the final summit of the day . . . if only we had known what we were getting ourselves into!

Chuck set a pace that was a combination of motivating and terrifying, but he’s so good at cutting steps we’ll not hold it against him! Beinn Sgulaird was straightforward, though a bit worrying that we were already feeling slightly knackered from the previous days of climbing and the steady ascent from the car, even though we’d had the obligatory pre-hike chocolate biscuit to get us started!

The long moorland crossing

The long moorland crossing

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Connecting Beinn Sgulaird to Beinn Fhionnlaidh was a very long moorland crossing, preceded by some carefully planned descending to minimise exposure to avalanche-prone terrain. Luckily the visibility at this stage was pretty good so we were able to spread out as a group, chatting and choosing preferred spots to hop over streams and patches of bog as we came to them. We saw quite a few deer below the snow line, then powered our way up to Beinn Fhionnlaidh as conditions deteriorated right before our very eyes, which were becoming increasingly unable to see through the sideways sleet! Goggles on at the summit, around 4:30, and a decision made by the others that their day had been long enough already so they were going to head back to the cars at the “start.”

Summit of

Summit of Beinn Fhionnlaidh

Quick motivational speech between us and Andy and Jamie decided that we could press on to the third planned summit, especially as Joe was willing to drive our car around to where we would be finishing.

We set off quickly, feeling quite optimistic about our prospects to get back to the car in good time. There was even mention of dinner at the Clachaig. I cautioned against setting our hopes too high, which turned out to be extraordinarily prescient thinking. The good start came to a hasty end when we reached a series of snowy crags that were virtually impossible to descend . . . this would explain the difficulty we had in finding a winter route description to string these Munros together! Crampons on, axes out . . . we descended about 20 metres multiple times, each time finding ourselves on ledges that we couldn’t descend further so re-ascended to get ourselves back to stable ground. Eventually, after ascending and descending on repeat numerous times and debating the possibility of missing out the third summit and making our way back to the starting point where the others had gone (knowing that Joe would likely already have moved our car but figuring we could hitch a lift if needed) Andy found a descent option that he offered with reservations. It meant using two axes each, which Andy placed for Jamie and then gave explicit instructions about foot placements to get us to safety. If either of us had slipped it could have had catastrophic results but crampons, axes and a bit of skill got us onto slopes that didn’t pose any difficulty. It got dark around that time so we were fortunate to have at least tackled the ice climb descent beforehand! Unfortunately it didn’t get easier from there. Zero visibility and considerable avalanche risk, which was not made easier to negotiate as Andy’s headtorch was weak, Jamie’s decided to start randomly turning on and off, and tensions were running fairly high.

Dark, sideways blinding sleet, avalanche risk = good times!

Dark, sideways blinding sleet, avalanche risk = good times?

We stayed focused, with Jamie constantly surveying the terrain with her torch to see if we could pick out any useful feature to aid with our ascent route selection, while trying to neither blind Andy or infuriate him by casting his own shadow in his line of sight. Complicated business!

We eventually reached the summit and wasted no time in taking our quick summit photo before getting on our way. The descent seemed never ending, which was a shame because we both felt like we were moving quickly despite the frequent nav checks since visibility did not improve! Getting below the snow level and eventually reaching the river and the rough trail beside it was a relief, though we still had a 4km walk out to the car. The second we had phone reception the text message beeps were coming thick and fast, with the rest of our day’s crew wondering why we hadn’t made contact yet. After a quick phone call to Carrie to let her know the cavalry could be stood down we made it to the car (thanks, Joe!) at 11:30 pm, soaked to the bone and already dreading an early alarm for work the next morning! We changed into dry clothes in the car with the heater on full blast. And, as predicted, the hoped-for dinner at the Clachaig was not to be; cookies and Babybel cheeses had to suffice! Once home we were so shattered we left everything in the car (so Jamie could be greeted by a most-pleasant smell the next morning), parked up, and crawled into bed (in the same clothes we’d driven home in).

Today will go down in our record as the Epic Hoolie Day!

Top of the Hoolie,

Top of the Hoolie,Sgor na h-Ulaidh for short!
Number hard to see? “That’ll do!”

 

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Ben Cruachan, Stob Diamh (Ben Cruachan), Beinn a’ Chochuill, Beinn Eunaich – 02/02/13 (21,22,23&24)

Winter. Beautiful, blue bird day. Good snow cover. Descent in darkness.

A fine experience of  “Munrosis claravistitis: a very rare form, in which a clear view is achieved from each summit. Unknown if this has ever occured.”

After 20 Munros so far this year in high winds with little to no visibility we felt we had genuinely earned today’s conditions! Glorious sunshine and with the company of Carrie and Chuck it was bound to be a great day! We set up a car shuttle, with our car at the finish, before driving to the Cruachan Dam for the start. This was definitely a route that would not have been possible had it not been for the tag team car effort!

Ben Cruachan in the distance, beginning the big ascent

Ben Cruachan in the distance, beginning the big ascent

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Views down to the valley. We love the sun!

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Chuck put us to shame from the word “go” by bagging a Corbett on the other side of the valley before meeting us at Cruachan, and that was after he’d gone back to the car to retrieve a forgotten piece of kit! Avalanche risk led Andy, Jamie and Carrie to choose an ascent to Ben Cruachan a bit different to what many others were doing ahead of us this morning. Better safe than sorry, even if it was a bit more of a calf workout up the steeper terrain for us! It was sunny and clear, and none of us were too concerned about any additional time this ascent route would take us.

Jamie and Carrie

Jamie and Carrie

Summit of Ben Cruachan

Summit of Ben Cruachan

Linking the first two munros of the day

Linking the first two munros of the day

Chuck atop

Chuck atop Stob Diamh

Summit of

Summit of Stob Diamh

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Graceful, Carrie!

Graceful, Carrie!

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The link between Beinn a’ Chochuill and Beiin Eunaich included a substantial descent back down to the valley floor, but knowing getting this fourth Munro of the day was worth the effort! Views from the summit were fine, though we didn’t stay long in an effort to have as much of the final descent done with natural light as possible. Head torches on to jog our way the long way down to the farm track to lead us to the car (jogging only to keep up with Chuck!), attempting to differentiate the mud from the cow pats along the way.

Summit of

Summit of Beinn a’ Chochuill

Snowy descent as the sun fades

Snowy descent as the sun fades

Last of the day - Summit of
Last of the day – Summit of Beinn Eunaich

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Beinn Dubhchraig, Ben Oss, Ben Lui, Beinn a’ Chleibh – 01/02/13 (17,18,19&20)

Winter. Windy. Good snow cover. White out 900mtrs. Sunny spells.

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Andy pointing back to Loch Awe

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Low clouds behind, but good vis so far, and downright warm!

 

Crossing a nicely worn bridge

Crossing a nicely worn bridge

We had decent weather to start – clear and relatively warm as we made our way through the boggy moorland of the initial ascent. The squelch in every step was made slightly easier to tolerate because the squelchy ground was at least preserving some lovely bogwood.

Summit of

Summit of Beinn Dubhchraig

Andy broke trail through the Caledonian pine forest (which Carrie and Chuck were able to later take advantage of – a demonstration of our appreciation for the lift they would give us later!) and we managed quite a straightforward first summit.

The weather became progressively worse and we lost our good visibility by the summit of Ben Lui,

with some mighty high winds gracing us with their presence instead. The descent from Ben Lui was sketchy for Jamie, to say the least. Faced with

Summit of Ben Lui

Summit of Oss

an unexpected stretch of icy, steep terrain it was a slow-going 200 metres of down climbing facing into the slope, kicking toes into the side of the mountain as hard as toes could handle it. All with Andy watching on from the bottom waiting on what he thought was an inevitable slide. White-knuckled from the death grip on her axe and heart pumping with adrenaline Jamie made it down to the saddle and we ascended Beinn a’ Chleibh.

Summit of

Summit of Ben Lui

Winds were really roaring by the time we got to the top so we didn’t linger. Bit of a “moment” as Jamie attempted to put her crampons on to promote staying upright; apparently the top of a mountain while it’s blowing a hoolie is not the ideal place to attempt to fit new crampons with frozen fingers!


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Bit of a stagger through snow-covered heather and down to the river, which we followed to direct us to the trees we crashed and banged our way through to get back toward the road. We then had a calf-high river crossing and were grateful that Andy had the foresight to do this horseshoe route the way we did, so we didn’t have soaked boots right from the start. Instead, it was a 15 minute walk from the river crossing to the car park where Carrie and Chuck met us in their toasty car to drive us back to ours at Dalrigh.

A welcoming reception by Kirsty at By the Way Hostel in Tyndrum, with a lovely warm kitchen and comfy beds, was a great end to this day! It’s lucky we love supernoodles so much!

Summit of Beinn a’ Chleibh
Frozen pens and wet paper = numbers by hand!

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