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?