Glen Cannich, Strathfarrar and Ben Wyvis, 3 January 2021

We held our first meet of the New Year on Sunday, 3 January. It was also our last for a wee while at least, as the latest Coronavirus lockdown prevents us having club meets for now. We had planned to have groups on the North Mullardoch Munros from the Mullardoch dam and also heading up Sgorr na Diollaid from west of Loch Carrie, approaching it over some intervening tops. A drive up Glen Cannich on the Saturday found an unpleasantly icy road after Muchrachd. So some quick reconsideration on Saturday evening saw a party head up Sgorr na Diollaid – panorama above – by the usual route from Muchrachd; another party made a circuit of Beinn a’ Bhàthaich Ard at the mouth of Strathfarrar; and the final party went up Ben Wyvis as originally planned.

Joanna, Irene and Catherine descending from Sgorr na Diollaid

Sgorr na Diollaid
The narrow, twisty road up Glen Cannich was icy, giving some early trepidation on a very cold morning. Members Catherine, Irene and Dan met with potential members Ross and Joanna at Muchrachd before starting on the steep initial ascent of Sgorr na Diollaid. The boggy ground was happily frozen but the snow unfortunately was not, with some deep pockets over the undulating slopes exasperating trail breaker Dan.

Joanna and Catherine descending from Sgorr na Doillaid summit watched by Ross

 The initial promise of enjoying the advertised great viewpoint faded into the heavy snow clouds. The strange yellow light breaking through whilst meandering through the snow covered rocky outcrops gave the walk an other-worldly atmosphere disconnected from the current Earth-based pandemic. There was brief jubilation on reaching what was thought to be the summit with no visible upward slope anywhere nearby. However a brief glimpse of something monstrous in the clouds above (and a check of the GPS) revealed more work to be done. The small scramble over icy rock to the top made the group feel like true mountaineers. The repeated falls onto bottoms on descending felt less grand.

Beinn a’ Bhàthaich Ard
Those not keen to drive up Glen Cannich gathered at the Strathfarrar gate car park for a circuit of Beinn a’ Bhàthaich Ard.  Arthur, Anne (welcome back), Brian, John, Paul L. and Paul S. walked up the glen road as far as the power station beyond Culligran, and then took the Hydro track up beside the Neaty Burn. Then the fun began with Brian breaking trail through soft snow with deep pockets to the summit.  We didn’t linger long, descending to seek some shelter from the wind at the bealach leading to Sgùrr a Phollain.  As Dan commented about Sgorr na Doillaid, the mist gave some strange light effects.

Brian, Paul L., Paul S. and Anne on Beinn a’ Bhàthaich Ard. Spot the Abominable Snowman; he’s second in the party.

 The falling in holes competition was keenly contested on the descent with John being the winner of the “falling in a deep hole and getting your snowshoe stuck” section. But the undoubted overall winner was Paul S. for his effort of falling full length into a ditch while laughing at John’s fall.  The uneven ground and soft snow lying on top of vegetation made the use of snow shoes (by John and Arthur) a qualified success at best.  Nevertheless it was altogether a very good day in excellent company despite initially unpromising weather conditions.

Ben Wyvis
We met at the Garbat parking place just in time; a lot of people had the idea of first-footing Wyvis! Including a lot of folk that were not used to winter conditions, and certainly not equipped for a 1000 metre mountain in full winter conditions. As usual, conditions were fine until past the traditional lunch stop at the big boulder; by the time we got up to the first top, An Cabar, we were exposed to the strong north-easterly, which had unfortunately not blown the snow off the plateau.

The descent from An Cabar – many folk had trodden the virgin snow by this time!

Hard going in the deep snow for half a mile caused us to pause at an intermediate cairn and reconsider; we decided to turn back rather than embarking on the 1.5 mile round trip to the main summit, taking a party of three lost souls with us. We suggested to a few other parties that it might be better to turn back; as we were in full winter gear including snow goggles and crampons, and they were not, they took the hint. The IMC team was Andreas, Michael, Richard, Robin, Ewen and Mairi; a special welcome to her, as she decided to join the club despite our temporary inability to organise any more meets! We’ll just need to sit tight and wait for the good times to roll again.

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