Mar Lodge bunkhouse, 8-9 February 2019

The Gairnshiel Bridge was closed for repair so our journeys from Inverness to Mar Lodge were extended somewhat, either to the north by Strathdon or to the south via Kirkmichael. The consensus was that the detour to the north was faster.

The storm force winds forecast for Saturday (>80mph) scattered us to the four points of the compass with most people sticking to lower hills, seeking shelter in glens or travelling further east to try to escape the blast.  One group, however, did attempt Culardoch, only to be thwarted by the wind about 50 metres from the trig point. To add to the indignity, the rest of us refused to acknowledge this as a proper ascent. 

Other parties found themselves on various Marilyns and other bumps – Creag Ghuibhhais, the Coyles of Muick, Meall Alvie, Bennachie, Tap o’ Noth and Meall an t-Slugain.  The last being incidental to an enjoyable day seeking out the Slugain Howff and exploring the fairy glen.

The wind brought a rise in temperature which did not seem to augur well for the next day. But as the evening wore on the wind abated and the temperature dropped. Next day the snow pack was topped by a fairly good crust and the paths sported runnels of ice.  Parties set off for Culardoch (again), Carn na Drochaide, Creag Bhalg, Conachcraig and Lochnagar, the majority of folk heading for the last two.  Two parties went on to spend a super winter day on Lochnagar – below – only returning to the Loch Muick car park well after dark. One enthusiastic ticker of lists – who shall remain nameless – reported his Sunday tally as “a hump, two Corbett tops and a second round Munro”. 

Yet again, Mar Lodge bunkhouse provided comfortable and relaxed accommodation for a great weekend. Participants: Steve, Dan, Ewen, John, Douglas, Michael, Richard, Catherine, Shona, Jim, Robin, Ellie, Arthur, Peter and Sharan (potential member).

Fuar Tholl, 3 February 2019

Ominous was the weather on the Achnashellach road, and we passed three snowploughs; lots of loose snow on the hill too. There were mutterings in the car-park as sleet mixed with rain, and the surrounding hills were invisible. Despite that, we all marched onward through the gloom, heading up Coire Earba. If we could at least make the confluence of the paths above the waterfall, then perhaps we could swing north-east and meet up with Toni, who was doing a low-level walk towards the Tea-House Bothy.

As it was the weather Gods smiled. A little. This set everyone up for aiming higher towards Loch Coire Lair; and the snow on the trail just got deeper. Thankfully in the IMC’s arsenal was Young Arthur, our own personal snowplough! After a weary and late lunch stop – above – we spotted a traverse in under Creag Mainnrichean; three of the party – and two dogs – elected to turn back at that stage.

The remaining brave souls were able to top out quite high on the main ridge, as per the GPS screenshot above, with only 50 metres to go. At this point the weather Gods did a mini storm dance. The top was do-able, but the risk in descending would have been high; finding the descent gully access point (wee cornices) and then finding the return via the trail in, would have been a complete nightmare if the wee storm had persisted and covered the tracks.

The Gods smiled again though, once sufficient height had been lost. It was a very taxing day but there was a wonderful feeling of accomplishment; 50 metres short of the summit was a good result in very difficult conditions, and turning back before the windslab got the better of us was definitely the right decision.