Strawberry Cottage meet, 13-14 April ’18

The omens for the Strawberry Cottage meet in Glen Affric were propitious; a good weather forecast, plenty of snow on the hill, and a lift up the track for all ten of us plus gear to a hundred metres from the hut.  The Slaters Arms in Cannich, our meeting point, provided an excellent bar meal too.

The reality did not disappoint; the weather was even better than expected, and everyone had a big day out on the Saturday.  Several groups went up Mam Sodhail (1181m), with Kirsty and Cerian heading out separately to Beinn Fhionnlaidh, but returning together.  Top-baggers Arthur, Steve and Nell visited An Tudair and Creag Coire nan Each on the way back to the hut, while Michael and Ewen made do with the latter.

Kevin and Dougie went for a long walk to Mullach na Dheiragain, returning via An Socach, with Dougie adding in Sgurr nan Ceathramhnain – just to stretch his legs a bit.

The weather on Sunday was good too, but no-one felt like another big day.  Arthur, Kirsty, Kevin, Cerian and Dougie walked out via the Corbetts to the south of Loch Affric, which turned out to be harder going than expected.  The rest of the team made their way out to the public car park at the east end of the loch; Steve and Ewen also visited Beinn a’ Mheadhoin – above the loch of the same name – which gave superb views back up Glen Affric.

The weekend was rounded off for most by a return visit to the Slaters Arms to agree what a good weekend it had been.

The Loch Lochy hills, 1 April 2018

April Fool’s Day saw five members – Nell, Kevin, Arthur, Douglas and Robin – one guest, Mihaela, and one canine – Skye the irrepressible Hungarian Vizla – head south down the Great Glen on what turned out to be the very opposite of a fool’s errand.  Conditions were well nigh as perfect as they can be in Scotland in spring, with saltire blue skies, sunshine, superb snow and soaring summits.  The day’s objectives, in deference to Kevin’s Munro bagging campaign, were 918m Meall na Teanga and neighbouring 937m Sron a’ Choire Ghairbh, overlooking the deep blue black waters of Loch Lochy.

It proved a long and perspiration inducing pull up to the 2000ft bealach between the two, from where the decision was taken to tackle Meall na Teanga first.  Once the shoulder of the subsidiary top of Meall Dubh was rounded, crampons were donned for a surprisingly steep traverse on excellent neve to ascend the equally steep summit ridge from the north, a more direct assault being ruled out thanks to the presence of a beautiful but fragile cornice.

Our reward for all this effort was a stupendous view of snowy peaks stretched out in all directions, with the Ben to the south lording it over all, and the long ridge of sharp summits that are the Grey Corries doing a credible impersonation of the Alps.  There followed an entertaining game of “Name That Hill” before we relinquished the summit cairn to a party from Aberdeen’s Grampian Club who had been following in our footsteps.

Back at the bealach, the zigzag stalking path up the opposite side helped make relatively short if tiring work of the 300M ascent up to the broad summit of Sron a’ Choire Gairbh for yet more inspiring panoramic views.  Kevin and Skye the Incredible Hillrunning Hound elected to descend via the way we had come; wisely so, given the latter’s predilection for admiring the view while perched on the edge of the cornice – some way to go with his winter skills yet.  The rest of the party tackled the pleasingly narrow ridge out to the minor summit of Sean Mheall (887m) before making a direct descent to Kilfinnan and the road to Fort Augustus, where a much anticipated rehydration stop was enjoyed by all; never has a pint of lager shandy tasted so good.

It was universally agreed that the real April Fools were those who hadn’t been out and up high in the hills on such a day.

Blackrock Cottage, Glencoe, 23-24 March 2018

Blackrock Cottage offers the unexpected novelty of a modern shower room in the coalshed.  I should mention that the coal is now stored elsewhere.  As well as this novelty, the cottage has an ambiance and sense of history which makes staying there a great pleasure.

We had a very enjoyable weekend meet to the Cottage in Glencoe with parties tackling Ben Starav, Meall a’ Bhuiridh, Beinn a’ Chrulaiste and further south, Beinn Udlaidh and Beinn Bhreac-Liath, all in their winter finery.

Kevin and Skye (aka the Hound) made an early start for Meall a’ Bhuiridh and Creise.  He set off so early that he was cramponing up as the ski centre workers were just arriving; poor visibility meant that day was cut short at the summit of Meall a’ Bhuiridh.  He had the benefit of missing on his ascent, the very large numbers of skiers who arrived later in the morning.  But on the descent, Skye found many new playmates with the hapless skiers and boarders he encountered.

Michael and Douglas followed in Kevin’s footsteps the next day, climbing Meall a’ Bhuiridh via its south east ridge.  On the Saturday they tackled Ben Starav in really blustery winter conditions with poor visibility, ascending the normal route via the north ridge and descending via the south ridge.  Icy conditions and poor visibility made for a pretty long day.

Meanwhile a larger group headed for the lesser ranges of Glen Orchy for a spot of Corbett bagging.  Arthur, Kirsty R, Richard, Steve, Nell, Shona and Robin climbed Beinn Udlaidh and Beinn Bhreac-Liath, missing most of the weather that the other two parties encountered.

On Sunday, Kirsty and Shona went off for some extremely serious navigation practice; one preparing for her ML assessment, the other aiming not to get misplaced on the Cape Wrath Trail.  The remainder of the Corbett bagging party, joined by Kevin, had a short but pleasant day on Beinn a’ Chrulaiste.  It was marred only by the views across to Buachaille Etive Mor being obscured by cloud as they reached the summit.