March (50-68)

Creag Leacach, Glas Maol, Cairn of Claise, Carn an Tuirc, Tom Buidhe, Tolmount, Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, Carn a’ Choire Bhoideach, Cac Carn Beag (Lochnagar) (58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, & 68) – 30 March 2013

Alarm: 0510OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Car Temp Reading: -12.5

Time Spent Scraping Ice from the INSIDE of the car: 17 minutes

Andy’s Best Idea of the Challenge: Filling a flask with boiling water the night before the morning after

Stats of the Day: 11 Munros; 40 km; 1600m ascent; 13 hours

Glenshee valley start

Glenshee valley start

Andy, Jamie, Gaynor and Joe - Go Team!

Andy, Jamie, Gaynor and Joe – Go Team!

We were a bit later getting started than planned following the struggle to move from the snugginess of the sleeping bags in the car, followed by the unanticipated time spent clearing the windows so Andy could drive. Joe was joining us for the day and must still owe favours after Gaynor helped us set up the car shuttle at 0615 outside Braemar when she could still have been in her bed, before driving us all the way to Glenshee for our 0715 start. It was still about -11 degrees, but at least that was good motivation to get ourselves going (if for no other reason than we needed to let Gaynor get back into the heated car before she froze!).

The forecast proved remarkably accurate and we had a sunny, windless day with unprecedented visibility. Jamie was chuffed because not only did it mean we could move much more quickly by being able to see, but she got to sport her new purple Oakleys ALL day!

The first ascent got our blood pumping and we were joined by a few snow hare who watched on from afar.

Joe's initial skin up first summit

Joe’s initial skin up first summit

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter our initial ascent of Creag Leacach, the time between each of the subsequent Munros was about an hour – largely depending on how much trouble Andy or Jamie had with their skin glue at any given time. Apparently it doesn’t love below-freezing temperatures and we had the skin glue out a few times to keep us moving forward rather than sliding backwards!

Joe gave a miss to Carn an Tuirc to bathe in the sun – a remarkable opportunity in the Scottish mountains in winter (or, let’s be honest, anytime of year!) and Carn an t-Sagairt Mor to take advantage of the photo opportunities by taking his time a wee bit more to Carn a’ Choire Bhoideach. The day had included a bit more thirsty work than expected so we had all run out of water, though Jamie was enjoying snow popsicles along the way. Rest assured, though, Jamie definitely didn’t run out of snacks!

The best alpine descents of the day were from Tom Buidhe, with some great opportunity to make freshies on quality, consistent powder; and Lochnager, which helped us swiftly cover a few kilometres just as it was getting dark. Stunning evening to be out in the hills!

Jamie really struggled with the last hour on the flattish track leading back to the car. We had 6 kilometres on the forest track during which time Jamie thought she was skiing but actually she was secretly having her toes smashed with a sledge hammer. At least that’s how it felt! Andy and Joe tried to make her feel better by pointing out that the state of the track – filled with crusted-over boot holes – was much easier for them on long skis than for her on baby skis, but they were probably just trying to be nice. Luckily we made it back to the car and to Ballater with just enough time for Joe to convince the restaurant owner to stay open for us to have well-deserved pizzas! That was only after we proved how anal we could be to de-ice and dry our skis, seeing as we were technically putting them into our bedroom for the night!

For those who might be attempting this route in future, it might be helpful to know that Nordic gear would have been absolutely fine, if not preferred – depends if you’d be happy missing out the few swishable descents for the sake of being much more efficient and comfortable on the many flatter sections.

Today felt like quite an amazing achievement . . . a full day out needing sunglasses ski touring in Scotland! Oh, and we summited our highest number of Munros in a day thus far in the challenge! Woop! Decided we/Jamie’s toes needed a day off so we treated ourselves to the next day off, sleeping in our car-house into the next afternoon, before having a much-needed planning meeting to work out future route options.

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Beinn Bhreac & Beinn a’ Chaorainn (Glen Derry) (56 & 57) – 29 March 2013

After spending the night in the car park at the Linn of Dee, which is where we were starting our day, we still managed to be the last people to leave the car park for the day! One of these days we’re going to prove that we can wake up and get going efficiently!

Andy had the foresight for us to access today’s ski tour in trainers, since it was a long track followed by a low level trail before the skis were needed. Jamie demonstrated her prowess at making even the lightest of backpacks look wonky, and didn’t miss an opportunity to show that carrying her boots atop her skis while hiking in was far more entertaining than squishing them into said backpack.

The sun was shining as we crossed the plateau to the first summit, soaking in the panoramic views of the Cairngorms, including many of the peaks that we tackled on skis earlier in the year. It’s helpful to put things into perspective in real life to see how some of these 282 mountains fit together . . . if only we could join them all together in one fell swoop!

Linn of Dee walk in

Linn of Dee walk in

Comfy shoes off; Ski boots on!

Comfy shoes off; Ski boots on!

Making Tracks

Making Tracks

Summit of

Summit of Beinn Bhreac

The descent from the first summit was a short ski, but a good one.

Then it was back to retracing some of our steps across the plateau, with Jamie thinking again that her cross country kit would have been useful to take some time off of today!

By the time we reached the second summit the cloud had descended to prove the point that Andy was right to save our massive ski tour of the weekend for the following day.

Summit of

Summit of Beinn a’ Chaorainn (Glen Derry)

The descent was unremarkable, except for the difficulty Jamie faced in for the last two hours of attempting to ski/walk through terrain that was too inconsistent for her to make up her mind! Was made up for her when a snow-covered patch of heather captured her ski tip and wouldn’t let go until she was on her bum! We managed to get back to the car in time for Andy to have a pub meal out with Joe and Gaynor in Braemar while Jamie got her weekly fix of supernoodles while organising for tomorrow’s big day out. Night spent in the car in the Braemar public car park, disappointed to discover that the toilets are locked much earlier than our toilet needs ceased!

Andy arrives back at the car after another successful day out

Andy arrives back at the car after another successful day out

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Creise & Meall a’ Bhuiridh (54 & 55) – 23 March 2013

Whoa, windy!! We parked at the Glen Coe ski centre, which was closed due to high winds, and made our way following burns and taking care to avoid the crags on the ascent. The last kilometre was marked by some of the strongest gusts of wind Jamie has experienced, which were especially hard to deal with when they’d come out of nowhere. Just when you thought you could walk without fear of being blown over it would sense your vulnerability and make a valiant effort at whipping you off your feet. There were a few screams (just from Jamie, honest!) and then some crawling, but all made it safe and sound to the summit – with the exception of Darren’s map and case, which was torn to shreds as the wind said to the map, “I’ll be having that,” and it was never seen again!

Summit of Creise

Summit of Creise

Spot the climber! Descending between summits

Spot the climbers! Descending between summits in zero vis

Visibility was zilch, which made it all the more impressive that Andy found a descent route between the two peaks that led us safely between steep, impossible-to-climb crags. Darren and Jamie waited at the top as Andy took tentative downclimbing steps, treading carefully to suss out whether he was stepping onto ground or thin air! We were told to follow him when he raised his pole from the bottom, which was a super plan if only we could see! Eventually we saw the “go” sign and made our way down. The cloud cleared momentarily; just enough time for us to look back and realise that Andy had found a descent route that appeared to be the only 15 metre width in a kilometre of crags that we could possibly have descended safely. Good Effort, Mr T!

We anticipated that getting to Meall a’ Bhuiridh would be straightforward as we approached it given that there’s a massive radio mast near its summit, but with visibility no better than before we didn’t actually spot the mast until we had practically walked right into it.

Summit of

Summit of Meall a’ Bhuiridh

We were able to descend from there with a lot of time spent on the ski slopes, minimising avalanche risk as we knew they’d seen some snow cat action recently. The empty swinging lifts didn’t provide the most scenic images for finishing our day, but the fact that the café was still open despite the fact that the lifts never did was welcoming! Especially when Jamie discovered the beauty of a hot pint of spiced apple cider . . . the challenge is now to finish more of them in exactly the same fashion! Dinner at the Clachaig and on the road for home.

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Sgurr Dhearg & Sgorr Dhonuill (Beinn a’ Bheithir) (52 & 53) – 17 March 2013

Carrie joined us today, providing fun company as always and today apparently taking a leaf out of Chuck’s book because she was cutting steps and blazing a trail like never before! The forecast was for low cloud but also low wind so we had high hopes that we would string together a few “Cameron days” into one, hoping that we could do these two followed by the Aonach Eagach ridge.

These two turned out to be a much nicer ridge than described in the route descriptions we’d read, with the feeling of a proper winter alpine route. Carrie’s trailblazing mission came to an entertaining end when she arrived at a section of the ridge where she couldn’t tell which steps would be onto solid ground and which would punch through the snow into the abyss, so she thoughtfully let Andy go first!

The descent from Sgorr Dhonuill had us staggered due to avalanche risk but visibility was good so it was nice to be able to watch each other enjoy the hillside for a change! There was a bit of crashing about through the trees to get back to the wide track which led us easily to the car. It was agreed that we had had a lovely day out without any complications and perhaps, it was acceptable just to leave it at that without pushing our luck by venturing onto a narrow ridge to inevitably end in darkness. So, instead of adding two more Munros onto the day, we enjoyed the Clachaig instead! We’ll try to remember the yummy meal and being there the first time Carrie finally crossed the threshold into this fine establishment when we are struggling with our Munro numbers later in the year!

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Ben Wyvis – 10/03/13 (51)

(6 hours) We woke up in the car after a lengthy sleep in a wonderful car park near Garve with flush toilets and clean sinks. After some double choco mochas and multiple bowls of Frosties we parked in the Ben Wyvis car park at 11:30, with many other cars already there with the same idea.

Andy approaching the foot of the mountain, while we can still see it!

Andy approaching the foot of the mountain, while we can still see it!

An easy-to-follow path led us to about 700m but from there it was crampons on for a high wind icy battle across some more ascent and then 2+km of plateau. Andy’s white-out navigation skills again supreme, while Jamie’s biggest achievement was getting her fleece gaiter to freeze to her face. Particularly glamourous when you figure that the “frozation” was mostly snot and breath. Charming!

The summit of Ben Wyvis

The summit of Ben Wyvis

The descent was tricky in parts as Andy chose a route to minimise avalanche risk. Once we were below about 600m we had a lovely walk along a stream in a winter wonderland. It continued to snow but was very bright.

The Ben Wyvis area winter wonderland

The Ben Wyvis area winter wonderland

Only one car remained in the car park on our return and we’re fairly confident that we were two of a select few to have reached the summit today!

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Fionn Bheinn – 09/03/13 (50)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASurprisingly good visibility

(3 hours) We drove the 4+ hours on Saturday morning after Andy had had a rough day at work on Friday that meant he couldn’t face driving up the night before. We arrived to the car park in Achnasheen (thank goodness for the public toilets, says Andy!), then sat there for about 20 minutes while the car shook in the wind. What are we doing? Is this crazy? Well, we’ve just been in the car for nearly 5 hours so we may as well start and stretch our legs before bailing . . . and away we went. Turned out to be a relatively nice day with good visibility and our easiest walk yet. A light dusting of snow kept the otherwise boggy terrain nicely frozen and covered, without the depth to make walking a challenge. Upon finishing we questioned whether or not we could even count it as a day out – no white outs; no gales; no desperately difficult punching through snow? It was straightforward, but you bet your bum we’re counting it!

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