February 15-17 2008

We were overdue some good weather in Scotland and were fortunately treated to a long weekend of fine conditions. Unfortunately there was not a great deal of snow left but at least what did remain was where we needed it to be – in the gullies and was nice and firm.

Charles, Nigel, Gordon and Margaret got early starts from York and managed to fit a walk in on the drive up. Gordon and Margaret climbed Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn) whilst Nigel and Charles did the Loch Lomond version managing to lose each other on the summit in the mist.

Friday was sounding the best day – so most of us headed for Ben Lui via Central Gully. Rob, Alan, Simon C and Carmen were the advance party, followed by Simon and Debra. We (the earlier lot) managed to be the first on the route – just after we set off there were several other groups about.

From the top of Ben Lui we got fantastic clear panoramic views with a cloud inversion starting to develop. Obviously not content with the one summit, we went on to do Beinn a’ Chleibh, Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhchraig, whereas Simon F and Debra settled with the first two. Alan got a bit more than he bargained for – as he only thought we were just doing Ben Lui (should know us better than that!) and probably wouldn’t have worn his new boots. Unlike me – who thought it would probably be the only crampon day – and so wore a completely new pair of B3 boots – ouch!! We made it back to the car in perfect time – having just about made it through the forest before the light faded.

Meanwhile Nigel and Charles had gone up Sgiath Chuil, Meall Glas and Beinn nan Imirean, and Gordon and Margaret had climbed the other Ben Vorlich (Loch Lomond).

Will, Martin and Peri joined us at the hut on Friday evening. Will having read the climbing guide was keen with a plan to do a 3 star route on Stob Ghabhar. After much deliberation we decided to join him the next day.

Saturday. The walk in was very enlightening seeing the size of the Clashgour hut – the May trip should be very interesting! Every man and his dog seemed to be going to Stob Ghabhar, but fortunately most were sticking to the paths. We soon found ourselves at the foot of the Upper Couloir – unfortunately behind 2 other parties, neither of which was moving quickly (or, indeed, at all). After getting rather cold and bored Simon opted for soloing through and ended up throwing down a rope to rescue the leader of the 2nd pair. It must have been about the longest ever wait for the shortest ice pitch ~10 m of thin ice – but the line of the approach route (Lower Couloir) and snow conditions had been excellent. The descent down the (fortunately old) avalanche-debris-filled gully provided more interest and lots of photo opportunities.

Meanwhile Alan joined Gordon and Margaret on an ascent of Ben Chonzie. "G and M took it steady whilst I raced ahead like a snail. Easy walking along a land rover track almost to the top. Some snow patches on the north side of the hill with Arctic hares and Ptarmigan. Fantastic blue sky and no wind." Alan

Nigel went up Ben Lui and and Charles did more Corbett bagging since he has done all the Crianlarich Munros.

Peri was out Munro bagging and receiving winter training courtesy of Rob and Martin and appears to have enjoyed the ice-axe training. "Set off up Meall Glas on a long slog with excellent views of the hill with blue skies. Stopped and practiced snow skills in some good snow, much to Peri's delight as she christened her new kit, and allowing Simon F and Debra to catch up and accompany us to the summit. All trogged along in great weather to the secondary top, before leaving S+D on the summit, and following Martin, in true LAMM fashion, down a very steep grassy slope and up a huge steep slog to the ridge. We were greeted with proper Scottish weather on the summit and stayed but 10 seconds, although the descent took a few goes to avoid the cliff. A quick retreat to the car and back in the daylight for copious tea before the marathon carrot session." Rob

On Sunday morning Nigel had had enough after 3 hill days and opted to head back to York with Charles first thing. Alan also made an early retreat.

Will having missed out on the earlier Ben Lui trip took himself on a very quick walk complete with (intentional!) bum slide descent of Central Gully. "On Sunday I decided to head for Central Gully on Ben Lui in my continuing quest to find winter in a rather summery looking Southern Highlands. Everyone else had either already been up it or fancied something a bit gentler for the last day, so I headed off solo. After a very slow start involving lost socks, having to buy a map and not being entirely sure where the best place to start the walk was, I finally left the car at ten past ten. Fearful of my ability to remain awake on the drive home, I'd decided to absolutely leg it for the whole walk with the intention of being back at the car by 3 (and hopefully in York by 8, just in time for tea!). The track to the foot of Ben Lui gives excellent views of the mountain, but unfortunately also provides a constant reminder of how far you have to go. It makes you extremely jealous of the people who whizz by on mountain bikes. I mixed walking fast with jogging and made good time getting to the start of the climb. For the whole walk in, the summit was in cloud and it looked like staying that way. I could see into the corrie though and the snow looked good and started reasonably low down. The snow on the lower slopes of Central Gully was a bit soft, but it seemed like it would be perfect for glissading on the way down. As the gully narrowed, the snow became firmer until it was perfect neve. Since I was wearing bendy walking boots, I was glad of the frozen bucket steps to the top. The summit was rimed up and cold, windy and viewless. So after a bit of chocolate I turned round and went back down the gully. It turns out descending bucket steps is harder than going up as they're not really visible from above! So the first 50 or so metres were a little bit hairy on very hard snow. Once the snow started to soften at about 1000m, I found a rock to perch on and took off my crampons. This felt a tad dodgy at first as I had visions of slipping off and sliding out of control. In fact, the snow was absolutely perfect for bum sliding and I got down to about 650m in under thirty seconds. I did wish I was wearing waterproofs though as I had a somewhat soggy bum on the walk out! With time ticking on, I burned it back down the approach track scaring walkers by running up behind them. Arriving back at the car I looked at my watch, it was 2 minutes to 3. How's that for timing!" Will

Meanwhile, Rob, Simon and Carmen headed for Beinn Heasgarnich having done its neighbour on the LAMM last year. We managed to link lots of snow patches together to keep crampons on for most of the day. Again there were good views and plenty of sunshine. Martin and Peri were heading to do a couple of Ben Lawers munros. "Afraid I can’t remember the names of what we went up on Sunday as it's hard to remember what you cannot pronounce and I don't have a guidebook (yet). One of them might have been Beinn Ghlas, but I wouldn't swear to it. But anyway, we went up a couple of Munros near Ben Lawers at a cracking pace, enjoyed lots of snow and dramatic scenery, ate our butties watching a herd of deer in the distance and were down at the car again by 1.30!" Peri

All in all another successful trip to this hut – hopefully they will have eradicated the mice before our next visit – and there is apparently talk of their building an extension.

"The hut is a warm dry shelter for ice (think this should be mice - ed) which we are allowed to share as long as we feed them biscuits (or my Tunnocks - ed) overnight. The hut could be a great one as it's warm and comfy but needs some attention to the bogs (gents only) or some clothes pegs for guests' noses" Rob