Posts Tagged ‘haggis’

Snowless in Elphin

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

For the 2018/9 New Year meet we returned to the excellent little hut in Elphin, up in the far northwest of Scotland. One of these days we'll get there to coincide with some good winter's weather, but not this time, mild weather through December led to largely snow-free conditions.

Of course, that didn't stop us 9 of us making the long journey north, and it's a fantastic place to be in (almost) any conditions.

Ben Hope

We arrived on Boxing Day, and the following day the best conditions were due to be further east, so Carmen and I headed north and east for an ascent of Meall Horn, a Corbett near Arkle. An overcast day nevertheless stayed dry and the cloud mostly above the summits, with some great views to the sunny peaks around Ben Hope. Meanwhile, Annie and Peter diced with death on Cul Beag but lived to tell the tale.

Meall Doire Faid

The next day we headed south, again chasing the weather, and again got lucky with a sunny ascent of Beinn Enaiglair, another Corbett near Braemore Junction. A long approach spiralled round to the far side of the hill before climbing old stalkers' paths to the top, descending the other side and back up from the col to bag a Graham summit, Meall Doire Faid.

Annie and Peter set off to walk up Quinag, but after half an hour sat in the car park watching the rain, they settled for a walk to Eas a Chual Aluinn, the highest waterfall in the country.

On 29th the rest of the group arrived, so of course the weather took a turn for the worse.

Mike, Pete W and Rob repeated their now traditional late start on a long walk near shortest day with an ascent of the Assynt Munros, including some consternation about the descent from the ridge (minor epic narrowly averted) getting back just a tad after dark.

Carmen and I headed south again, to pick up an insignificant Munro Top near Meall nan Ceapraichean – the only Munro summit in the Beinn Dearg group that we didn't go up on the 2011 LAMM – we'd traversed 20m below the summit! Today we weren't so lucky with the weather, which stayed resolutely damp and dismal with low cloud, so having ticked the summit we headed back, detouring slightly to visit one of the impressive waterfalls in the glen (an advantage of the poor weather!).

Peri and Karl found the best weather on Ben More Coigach, a fine mountain overlooking the sea north of Ullapool.

Falls of Kirkaig

The next day was once again damp and windy, with cloud levels even lower, so we had a team walk to the Falls of Kirkaig, impressively full of water after all the rain.

New Year's Eve was a repeat, only windier, so various groups did various low level bimbles – some to the Clachtoll Broch, others to the crags at Reiff, others to the coast near Lochinver.

Then it was the traditional NYE haggis over-eating, over-drinking, and struggling to stay awake until midnight, followed the next day by fine weather, snow on the hills, and a long drive home.

Some more photos here

Aviemore meet

Monday, January 27th, 2014

With Christmas and New Year well and truly behind us, the psyche was good for some winter climbing and the meet fully booked for a long weekend in Scotland. Axes and crampons had been retrieved from storage and dusted off, and the winter guidebook thumbed through. We nervously watched the weather as the weekend drew closer, with flooding in other parts of the country, and a seemingly endless series of Atlantic storms blowing in, we weren’t sure what to expect.

Pete, Rob and Paul drove up on Thursday night hoping to squeeze in an extra day in the highlands, and made good time reaching our accommodation – Milehouse hut owned by the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club at Kincraig – very comfy and well equipped accommodation within the Cairngorms national park.

Friday morning was dry but windy, as we headed up the Cairngorm ski centre road, and the wind was buffeting the car as we pulled into the Coire na Ciste car park. Given the recent strong winds and current avalanche forecast, we’d decided to play safe and head over to explore ‘Creagan Coire Cha-no’, a small east facing crag that has only been recently developed, with a walk in of less than an hour and some short mainly mixed routes. We got sorted and headed out, strong winds made even walking down the boardwalk steps from the car difficult, but we decided to give it a go, figuring if we could make it to the crag, we would be sheltered from the westerlies whipping across the Cairngorms. We were leaning on our walking poles and battling with every step against the wind as we ascended the ridge, and after what seemed like an age but was probably only 45 minutes we’d covered less than a km, and the wind was increasing with altitude. Sitting down for a rest to avoid being blown over, we decided to retreat back to the car.

P1020528Still keen to not waste our day off, we walked through Glenmore forest past An Lochan Uaine (the green lake – reputedly coloured by local fairies washing their clothes) to Ryvoan bothy where we took shelter to eat lunch. While there we were joined by some volunteer bothy guardians from the MBA who regaled us with stories of what their friends and acquaintances get up to on bothy nights away – I don’t think I will ever take a quiet night in a bothy for granted again! After lunch, a short walk back to the car at Glenmore meant there was still time for a walk around the gear shops of Aviemore before heading back to the hut for dinner, and the arrival of the rest of the club members.

We all awoke on Saturday morning to the sound of wind and rain against the hut windows, so after a leisurely breakfast and much deliberation and planning, by mid morning the weather looked like it was improving a bit so we headed out. Ann, Donal and Peter headed to Rothiemurchus forest to hire mountain bikes, and embarked on a wet and windy ride around the forest trails. Charles headed to Meallach Mhor (769m) up Glen Tromie and added another Corbett tick to his list, while John and Chris headed towards Newtonmore and Carn Dearg (945m), the highest munro in the Monadhliath.

P1020530Liz and Dave, eager to find some snow headed up to the ‘Norries’ with full climbing gear to ‘have a look’ and see what the conditions were like. Those who were out in Coire an T-Sneachda were concentrated around the Mess of Pottage, and despite the conditions they managed an ascent of Jacob’s ladder (I), which included a fairly substantial cornice at the top. The rest of us (Pete, Rob, Paul, Jamie and Karl) headed down Glen Feshie to start a winter walk from the end of the road up to the munro of Sgor Gaoith (1118m). After a climb up the valley to warm up, we found ourselves in the cloud just before we reached the ridge, and full Scottish conditions of strong winds and total whiteout. The next 6 km was spent navigating by compass bearing and pacing, plus the feel of the terrain under our feet and gave some much needed winter navigation practice. We successfully made the summit, avoided the cliffs and dropped back to the Glen, aided by a couple of bum-slides down snow-slopes on route. Commenting on what a great day out it had been on the walk back along the road was perhaps a bit premature, as Karl tripped and ended up in a deep puddle 10m from the car!

P1020547Back at the hut it was Burns night, so once showered and warmed up, the coal stove was going a treat as we enjoyed Jamie’s soup, 6lb of haggis (with Neeps and Tatties of course) and Ann’s cake and custard, washed down with a wee dram and shared stories from the day and much banter. Without a Scotsman in the room to help out I decided that attempting the ‘Address to the Haggis’ would be more of an insult to Burns, so left that part of the proceedings out!

Sunday we were again woken by wind and rain beating against the windows, and it was clear that there was not much enthusiasm for another day of bad weather, with no-one up before 8.30. A call to the ski centre weatherline said the road was closed, with storm force winds on the top which didn’t bode well. One car headed straight back to York after breakfast, deciding to cut their losses and brave the winter conditions along the A9 instead.

P1020557John, Chris and Paul headed down Glen Feshie to explore Coire Garbhlach, and got lucky as the day brightened up and they were able to scramble up a ridgeline onto the top and get a good look, despite the winds remaining strong. The rest of us went for a walk from a very windy Loch an Eilean, (where the waves were so big you could probably have surfed on them) through the forest to the visitor centre at Inverdruie, where by the time we got there the sun was out and we had a cup of tea outside on the picnic tables – how things change! Walking back through the woods gave great views up to the snowy hills, although it was clearly still windy up there.

Back in the hut, after much deliberation and agonising over whether the forecast for tomorrow could be trusted, and what conditions would be like following 2 days of high winds and much wind blown snow, everyone decided to make the trip back to York that night, and save a day’s holiday for another time, so after giving the hut a good clean and tidy we headed back south to York. Despite the weather, we’d had a good weekend and everyone had at least managed to do something on the Saturday, but hopefully the next time we head north the weather will be kinder. For now, I’ll put the climbing axes back into the box and keep fingers crossed that this winter redeems itself later in the season.

Some photos from the weekend can be found here


New Year 2010

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

This year we stayed at Blackrock Cottage, Glencoe – a new hut for the club. A few people were put off by the lack of running water (apart from a stream behind the hut), but 7 hardy souls made the trip north – me, Carmen, Simon F, Debra, Peter, Ben, and Peri.

Unlike last year, when we had superb conditions throughout our trip, the 2010/11 meet began with a major thaw. We arrived on Monday 27th, and it rained for most of the night.

Not to be deterred, Carmen and I went searching for ice the next day, and surprised ourselves by finding some in the form of The Weep (II/III), over 1000 feet of ice on the flanks of Creise. Just when we thought it was all over, having climbed everything that can be seen from the bottom, we turned the corner and found that the ice continued. This provided us with another two long pitches making 8 in all, probably about 350m or more. Mostly easy, but with a couple of grade 3 pitches just above half height, it would make a good route for beginners as for most of the way it is easy to escape and many of the steeper sections can be avoided. We finished with an "interesting" descent as we slowly picked a way through steep crags in fast-disappearing light.

Meanwhile the others opted for an ascent of Beinn a' Chrulaiste, a Corbett above the King's House Hotel. Despite limited views they took in the lower summits of Meall Bhalach, and finished in the King's House with some well-deserved beer.

The next day being Peri's last chance for some climbing before heading back to feed her iguanadon, she, Ben, and Peter also took a look at The Weep. Continuing mild temperatures meant that it was getting wetter all the time, but even so it was still in good condition. Being a three they were a bit slower, but managed to finish the first half of the route before heading back. Simon, Debra, Carmen and I drove south to tick one of the duller Munros, Meall Ghaordie near Killin, being the closest that Carmen hadn't yet done. A bit of a slog in wet snow, but at least we managed a few long bumslides on the way back down.

Thursday's weather was more of the same, mild and cloudy with the permanent threat of rain. Simon. Debra, Peter and Ben headed for the Bridge of Orchy for some more Munro bagging, while Carmen and I decided to see if there was any climbable ice left on Aonach Dubh. There wasn't. So we went shopping for the New Year's Eve haggis instead, and took the opportunity for the first showers of the week courtesy of the Ice Factor.

On Friday you've guessed it, it rained. It looked vaguely like it might clear up, so I decided to walk up Bidean while the others went to the climbing wall. Having sat in the car park watching the rain for half an hour, I gave in and joined them at the wall. As is becoming traditional, nobody managed to stay up until midnight.

Saturday at last was colder (though not as cold as forecast) and clearer (though not the predicted blue sunny skies). Peter and Ben headed for the two Munros above Allachadair Farm, but had to turn back as Ben wasn't well. The rest of us were booked on an avalanche awareness course with the MCoS, so headed for Aonach Mo where we spent an excellent and very useful on the hill. I'd done a similar course almost 20 years ago, and many of the things I'd been taught then are now rejected as being a waste of time!

Conditions were fast improving again, just in time to go home, but we had one more day in which to get something done. Peter went back to Achalladair Farm and successfully bagged the two Munros in good weather, while Carmen and I returned to Aonach Mor, this time for some climbing. It's supposed to be easy to access, but I'm not sure where it gets this reputation as the approach consists of a gondola ride, followed by a 90 minute slog up hill through the ski slopes, and finally a downclimb of a grade I gully to reach the routes. It wouldn't take much longer to get to Ben Nevis!

Our first choice route, Left Twin, had a group of 3 just starting (typical, only half a dozen teams on the hill and one of them was on 'our' route), so instead we opted for Tunnel Vision (III *). This turned out to be an excellent choice, much better than it looked from below. I got the 55m middle pitch, up ice and steep neve with worryingly spaced protection (almost all the cracks in the rocks were choked with ice and unusable). We topped out at 2pm and briefly considered another route, but this would have meant missing the last gondola and hence a long walk out in the dark, so since the clouds were rolling in we headed back.

The next day it snowed at last, but we were all on our way home.

An excellent little hut with bags of character, and I'm sure we'll go back – though given the lack of facilities, maybe not for a whole week!

More photos here and Debra's here.