The planned Lakes meet had to be called off due to Foot & Mouth, so we decided to go to Scotland instead, where most of the Highlands are now accessible again. Despite the promising weather forecast, interest in the trip was surprisingly low.
The weather on Saturday was expected to be cloudy and wet, but the day dawned fine, so Carmen and I set off to do the Ring of Steall, 4 Munros and 3 Tops in the Mamores range. The start of the walk was exciting enough as we crossed the (in)famous wire bridge across the river to the Steall Hut. As we ascended to the first summit the clouds began to close in, but the threatened rain never arrived and the clouds soon lifted. The rest of the round was fairly straightforward, though with some tricky descents on steep thawing snow. We decided against returned over the wire bridge, and so waded through the river instead!
Dave & Debbie had intended doing 2 more of the Mamores, but despite having phoned ahead to check that dogs were allowed on the hills, were met with 'no dogs' signs, and discovered that the whole area was barred to dogs. They ended up going for a short walk along the Caledonian Canal, though found that dogs were allowed in Glencoe.
Sunday was very warm and sunny, so Carmen and I decided on Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis. We started up the 'tourist track', and were rather out of place with our heavy sacks and ice axes, surrounded by people in shorts, T-shirts, and trainers, with a small water bottle in one hand and no rucksacks! We soon reached peace and quiet though as we left the main path a struck off towards the long slog up Carn Mor Dearg. This was made tolerable though by the views across the valley to the stupendous cliffs of Ben Nevis, still in full winter conditions and with several parties visible on the main ridges and even in the gullies (despite the soft snow and recent avalanche debris).
The Carn Mor Dearg arête was still covered in snow, and was quiet nerve racking in places, as the snow was quite soft and unstable, with evidence of recent avalanches on both sides. After this trauma, the final pull up to the summit of the Ben came as a relief, and we were soon on the summit, which by this time (late afternoon) was very quiet. As we descended, we past a couple of lads on the way up, wearing vests!
Dave and Debbie had headed south to Glencoe where they went up Bidean nam Bian. The weather was similarly perfect, and the snow similarly awful, with axes being needed for peace of kind on one section. The next day, they returned to Glencoe for an ascent of Buachille Etive Mor. Carmen and I went for a quieter and less strenuous day, climbing at Polldubh in Glen Nevis (Spike Wall 55m VDiff ** and The Gutter 65m Diff***).
As Dave put it, the best weather he'd had in Scotland for several years, the whole weekend could hardly have been bettered. Let's hope we get the same for the Arran trip at the end of the month!