The day after Christmas, when I was still feeling too fat to walk up and down stairs, I set off for Scotland with Steve Woollard, having taken up his offer of an introduction to winter mountaineering.
I'd joined the SDMC looking to work my way from climbing into mountaineering, so this seemed a good place to start.
We arrived in Scotland to tales of woe about the weather (high winds and no ice) so got up on Friday to go and hike up some Munros (3000ft summits). On the first day we met up with Ian and Joe and marched up Beinn Dubchraig, followed by Ben Oss, which gave me a good chance to discover how important it is to 'start cold' with your layers. There was a fair amount of snow on the tops but no crampons required.
The next day's plans were shot down by horrendous weather forecasts, high winds and sleet, so we consulted the SDMC guidelines and went to a cafe. In our defence the cafe was at the Ice Factor climbing wall, so we had a chance to do a bit of climbing between coffees, and meet up with Emma and some 2 Degrees members who had done the same.
Sunday's weather looked slightly better but still mild so we met Ian for a couple more Munros. These were Beinn a'Chreachain and Beinn Achaladair and took in a nice ridge walk which taught me all about sideways hail and the intricacies of walking in a hurricane. However the views were great when the cloud cleared and the descent involved a beautiful thin snow ridge which made it all worthwhile. After a bit of a slog along a railway track to get back to the car we were more than ready for our pub meal that evening.
The next day the weather had returned to awful but Steve and I drove up Glen Nevis to have a go at walking up Stob Ban anyway. It was going well until we left the tree-line and were getting blown over before we'd even got onto the ridge. After a brief discussion it was agreed that this wasn't fun and we fled to climb another day.
Monday was our last day so returned to Stob Ban with our secret weapon (Emma) and headed up the North Ridge. This turned out to be a great scramble with a hint of ice to make us think, and pretty good weather all the way up. Once we got near the summit there was even sunshine (I'm not lying, see photo)! We couldn't have asked for a better day considering the dire forecasts.
All in all a good trip, despite the best efforts of the weather gods. Thanks to all involved, and if you're thinking of getting into winter mountaineering, make sure you take the chance to jump on one of these next time someone offers.
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