Pre Christmas Escape meet, 17 Dec 2017

Sunday morning saw 8 club members (Robin, Arthur, Ewen, Michael, John, Lawrence, Shona and Nell) congregate in the teeming rain and ice rink that was the Achlean car park.  The day’s destination and route had yet to be finalised but an easy decision was made: we all piled back in the cars and headed for the Boathouse Restaurant at Loch Insh!  While we enjoyed coffee and convivial company, the weather got its act together and by 10am we were headed off along Glen Feshie in much more pleasant conditions.

Four stream crossings were safely navigated, although recent floods had rendered the approach to the Allt Garbhlach quite awkward.  By midday we had reached the bothy: we tried the door and found, not only a beautifully tricked out bothy, but a roaring fire and a pot of fresh coffee on offer!

Tempting though it was to stay in the bothy, we headed west, following convenient cat-tracks on the lower slopes of Druim nam Bo.  One of the party decided to turn back in order to appreciate properly the views and take photographs.  Our aim however, was Lochan nam Bo (770m) and we reached the north end of the loch by mid-afternoon.  We settled down for a coffee break and to admire the frozen loch and then headed west to Creag na Gaibhre, where we were exposed to the the full force of the biting west wind.  We glanced passed the cairn and hurried on, following the zig zag path down the hillside and back into the shelter of the Caledonian Pines.  From there we passed the bothy again (resisting the temptation to stop off for a while) and retraced our steps back along the glen.  It was fully dark by the time we got back to the cars and I don’t think I was the only one with soggy socks after wading through the streams again.

The day was finished off with a visit to the Old Bridge Inn at Aviemore.

Morvich Christmas Dinner, 8-9 December 2017

The venue for this year’s Christmas Dinner was the Morvich Outdoor Centre; room for 20, and we had 19!  An added attraction was Steve Bell’s last Graham, which was Biod an Fhithich beside The Saddle.  On Saturday the entire party – of 17 at that stage – trooped up the track from Glen Shiel, and enjoyed a well-earned dram to toast Steve’s achievement; he is pictured above in his moment of triumph.  The weather was mixed as you can see from the photos, and no-one went on down the ridge to Shiel Bridge, instead concentrating on preparing enough food for at least 28.  It was almost all consumed during a very convivial evening.

It froze down to -8C over Saturday night, and the winter morning ritual of scraping ice and frozen snow off car windscreens and thawing frozen locks was a bit of a novelty after our spell of mild winters.  The day was promising, low winter sun sparkled on fresh powder as we gingerly drove a couple of icy kilometres to the car park below Sgurr an Airgid.  Kevin, Shona, Kate, Michael and Arthur planned to go up Sgurr an Airgid.  Alan and Gina  followed the same route to the bealach and then went for Beinn Bhuide.

The day was as promised.  Low winter sun, little wind and lovely views.  The progress of both parties was hampered only by trail breaking in soft snow and unmissable photo opportunities.  Both parties met up at the bealach on the way down and descended with views of the sun setting sun behind Beinn Sgritheall and the hills astride Mam Ratagan.  Not a bad day.

Mar Lodge Bunkhouse, 24/25 November

There was a strong northerly wind driving snow and hail into our faces as we approached the summit of Sgur Mor.  Misted up glasses froze over as we stumbled over to the summit cairn, touched it with chilled fingers and fled into the lee of the hill.  One hundred metres lower down out of the wind and in sunshine we – Robin, Shona and Arthur – wondered if it was just that we were not yet used to winter conditions.  But John, Michael, Richard and Steve had exactly the same experience on Ben Breac, fighting the wind, touching the cairn and fleeing to shelter.

So, it was a windy Saturday for our first day on the weekend meet at Mar Lodge Bunkhouse.  Out of the wind it was a nice day: sunny with a covering of fresh snow on the hills.  Cerian reported similar conditions on Carn na Drochaide, north of Braemar; and Peter and Marion had a good day on Carn Mor.

The comfortable Mar Lodge Bunkhouse is in the old stable block of the Lodge.  The Lodge and estate are owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland, which has embarked upon an extensive programme of deer control and conservation projects.  This year, the 29,000 hectare estate was designated as a National Nature Reserve.

Sunday saw everyone opt for relatively short days.  The roads as well as the hills were in winter conditions and we all wanted to get underway in daylight.  Peter and Marion opted for Carn Oighreag, a great viewpoint for the Northern Cairngorms, overlooking the gloomy Corgarff Castle.  Steve headed south to Glenshee, climbing Glas Maol and Crag Leachach – a second Munros round seems to be underway!  Cerian mixed local walks with essential retail activity before meeting up with the rest of us in the Bothy cafe.

The rest of us, with Kate – who had joined the meet the previous evening – followed in Cerian’s footsteps of the previous day, climbing Carn na Drochaide from the Linn of Quoich in cold, windy, but clear conditions.  We found some shelter in a drifted snow bank, but did not linger long and quickly descended to the Punchbowl, where the footbridge remains the only crossing over Quoich Water.

Carn an Fhreiceadain, 12 November

We gathered at Kingussie twelve strong, with one canine.  The old faithfuls Ewen, Robin, Richard, Arthur and Wendell welcomed new members Nell and Kevin, and prospective new member Toni.  We were also pleased to be joined by three guests and of course Skye the Hungarian vizla who bounced youthfully, unlike the old faithfuls.
The aim of the day was the Corbett Carn an Fhreiceadain, lying approximately 7 kilometres to the north of Kingussie. We left a slightly icy and crisp golf club car park and followed the main track north branching off to the north east at Pitmain Lodge, with the intention of climbing the 878m hill in an anti-clockwise direction.
Inevitably it got colder as we ascended but we found shelter beside a very neat and modern shooting bothy for morning coffee.  On reaching Beinn Bhreac (843m) the wind picked up and the spindrift blew, making stopping unpleasant.  One of the party was feeling the cold and decided to return to Kingussie accompanied by the gallant Ewen.  Again, safety first.
The photos give a better idea of the conditions than my inadequate prose.  It was too cold to hang around at the Summit, so we descended to the Allt Mor to get out of the wind and have a bite to eat.  We then descended on the main track to the car park and retreated at mid afternoon to a coffee shop in Kingussie, where we met the other two. A good day out on a hill suitable to the windy and cold conditions.  Thanks to Ewen for his selection and organisation.

Loch Ossian, 27-28 October

Eleven club members made it to Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, despite some booking confusion and a train cancellation.  The last time I had been there – longer ago than I care to admit – the water supply was from a bucket tied to a rope and thrown into the loch.  The water supply still comes from the loch, but it is pumped and filtered … and there are hot showers and electricity from solar panels and hydro power.  The modern luxuries of the Youth Hostel were more than matched by the delightful Station House Restaurant.  That was the first port of call for most of the party once deposited by the train, although Mel and Michael enthusiastically strode off up Leum Uilliem  whilst the more slothful of us sampled the spicy Thai soup and home baking.  The late arrivals came on the London Sleeper which had been prevailed upon to stop at Tulloch because of the earlier train cancellation.

Saturday saw two parties tackling Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre.  Mel, Lisa and Michael set off early to try to beat a forecast of strong winds in the afternoon.  A tardier group of Cerian, Robin, John and Arthur followed later with Robin, John and Arthur being seduced by the cloud clearing to carry on to Meal Na Meoig.  The impecunious trio ran into the correctly forecast strong winds on the return.  Marion and Peter went to explore the ruins of Lubnaclach via Peter’s Rock, the plaque on which commemorates the life of Peter Trowell, a former assistant warden at the Youth Hostel who died after the ice on the loch gave way in March 1979.  Jim and Ewen walked up the loch to the new Corrour Lodge and then parted company to climb Beinn a Chumhainn and Meall Glas-uaine respectively.

Good hill days were had by all parties, but the highlight was our evening meal at the Station House Restaurant.  A good meal, nice ambience and a sufficiency of red wine rounded off the day well.  By good fortune we had turned up the day before the restaurant closed for the winter.

Sunday saw a party hurry up Leum Uilliem – above – to catch the wonderful panorama of the Central Highlands from its summit, before the afternoon train.  Another party likewise hurried up the uninspiring slopes of Beinn na Lap, before meeting up at the station.  Peter and Marion wisely had a more leisured day on Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre, before they and Michael spent another night at the hostel.

When can we go back again?

Lagangarbh Hut, Glencoe – 29/30 September

The forecast was for a wet weekend with low cloud.  Undeterred, a team of ten club members headed for the comfortable sanctuary of Lagangarbh Hut in Glencoe.  Saturday was forecast to be the better day of the weekend and we hurried off to various destinations trying to get the best of the weather.

John ascended Buachaille Etive Beag from Lairig Eilde, returning to the hut via Lairig Gartain.  Mel, Cerian and Michael went around to Invercharnan in Glen Etive and found a way up Sgor na h-Ulaidh (994m), returning a slightly different way to avoid some difficulties.  Gina and Andreas went up Beinn a’ Chrùlaiste starting at the west ridge and  descending at the east ridge towards the Kingshouse Hotel.

Robin and Arthur headed off to the foot of the glen to bag Meall Lighiche and Meall Mor – photo at the top of this article – a Corbett and a Graham which are often overlooked in favour of greater challenges in Glencoe.  The photo above shows Robin contemplating the Aonach Eagach.  Steve’s attempt on Stob Mhic Beathain in Cona Glen was thwarted by the high water in Cona River.  Undaunted, he set off for Glen Loy and had a dry and enjoyable day on Stob a Ghrianian.

The most productive weekend was had by Alan, who took advantage of the wonderful light created by this mixed weather to photograph a delightful gallery for his blog; https://obrienphotography.co.uk/a-weekend-at-lagangarbh/

Sunday was wet.  The only people who claimed to have done more than frequent the coffee shops of Ballachulish and Fort William were John and Robin, who had a wet walk from Upper Achintore to Cow Hill – all 271M of it – before also resorting to coffee and cake at Nevisport.

Day meet to Meall a’Bhuachaille, 15 October ’17

A strong team of 10 ventured down to Strathspey, ably organised by Steve Bell.  The remnants of a hurricane were forecast, and the plan was to ascend old favourite Meall a’Bhuachaille from Forest Lodge.

A sunny walk to Ryvoan bothy, pictured above, was followed by an increasingly breezy ascent of the hill track.  The forecast for winds of 45-60 mph was amply justified and no-one felt like doing the ridge walk along to Craiggowrie, all settling for the descent of the north ridge – below – and return through the Caledonian Pine woods to Forest Lodge.

The day was rounded off with a visit to the Bell holiday home for much-appreciated tea and cakes.  A good sociable day, and an interesting way down a well-known hill.

Arran meet, 9-11 September

No less than six members made it all the way to Arran for the meet at Lochranza.  Good weather on Saturday tempted Marion, Peter and Ewen up the Mullach Buidhe ridge, the Graham in the north west of the island; photo below.

Michael and Cerian enjoyed three straight days of glorious weather on the hills, and took full advantage of the journey to Arran with trips up Schiehallion and Ben an Lochain on the mainland.  On Arran they went up North Goatfell and along the ridge to Goatfell; a very nice circuit in good conditions.

On the Sunday the weather was not so good, and Michael had a solo, wet walk over to Laggan and along the coast via Ossian’s cave and the Cock of Arran.  He did better than the rest of the party; Cerian decided to head over to the mainland and suffered a much delayed and stormy crossing to Tarbet, as the weather wouldn’t allow the ferry to berth at Claonaig.  The others toured the coffee shops and pubs of the island, then went for a walk in the late afternoon when the weather improved.

All agreed that it was well worth the long journey to Arran; we’ll be back!

Loch Maree meet, 20 August 2017

The hillwalking contingent took advantage of the same fine weather as the climbers, and headed west to climb Meall a’Ghiuthais, just past Kinlochewe.

A team of six enjoyed a restorative coffee in the excellent filling station cafe while waiting for the good weather to come through.  A pleasant day up this rocky hill with good views over Loch Maree to Slioch – see below – and the Torridon Munros, was followed by a drink in the Kinlochewe hotel before heading home.

Real Rock Climbing Meet, 20 August 2017

The fourth of these sessions took place once again at Ardheslaig, but on this occasion we were more fortunate with the weather – not only did it not rain but we had some sunshine!

George, Callum and Andrew were joined by David Pearks.  As the normal grassy decent route  was deemed so unpleasantly wet and slippery, it was decided to set up an abseil rope for the day.  Then, having paired up, were all able to enjoy 3 good routes and 3 abseils – 100+ metres of climbing.  Whilst there was quite a bit damp rock at the start of the day, it did mostly dry up, so by the end, the quality of the superb gneiss friction could be savoured.

By mid afternoon, David’s family had arrived back to whisk him away but the other 3 of us were able to retire to the Tigh an Eilean for refreshment before heading home once more.