Volume 46 Number 2 Article 6
20-22 February 2009
I had signed up for a three day winter mountaineering skills course with Bryn Williams and was excited with the snowfall in early February. By the time I got to Fort William all the snow was gone. The focus of the course was on basic winter skills: ice axe arrests, snow shelters, snow anchors, glissading etc. What with the thaw, we had to traipse fairly high up to get snow to play in.
Day 1 involved a hike up to Buchaille Etive Beag where we did ice axe arrests, glissades and played with crampons. Visibility wasn’t great with low cloud cover but a good day out was had.
The next day we did Stob Corrie nan Lochane. This was going to be a summit day, with no specific skills being focused on. The slog up the hill to the corrie is a solid hike, but took about two hours. Here we stopped and the five of us got into a large bothy for our lunch. Suitably refreshed we were ready to tackle the north-east ridge.
The weather forecast was for gusting westerly winds, with speeds between 40 and 50 mph. As we climbed the ridge this wind was soon evident. Scrambling on a ridge in winds this strong was new to me and my initial thoughts were along the lines of “run away”. The thoughts of being the coward of the team kept my focused and before too long we were on the summit: my first Munro! Visibility was all of 20 or 30 m, so the summit was less atmospheric than some I had experienced. Coming off the summit we lost the shelter and the wind really got up, so begoggled we made our way down the west ridge. On the way down we applied our recently gained glissading skills to lose altitude fast and 3pm saw us back in the car park in time for a visit to the Clachaig Inn, just to round off the Scottish mountaineering experience.
This had been a big day, that felt at least as hard and much more “in your face” than any peaks I had done in the Alps.
The last day we were back doing skills, so took the gondola up Aonach Mor. Building an igloo and playing with snow bollards started us off and I had a play with a deadman anchor. Soon it was time for me to run away and drive to Glasgow for my flight home.
A great introduction to Scottish mountaineering. I came away feeling much more confident of my skills.