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.