31st December 2003 to 2nd January 2004 - Invergarry Lodge (New Year)
Why is it that almost without fail on Hogmanay the weather goes ballistic,
making travelling conditions really difficult for a large gang of people all
trying to get away for New Year and have a good time? This New Year was no
exception. The weather started to deteriorate badly around 1pm on the 31st
with gale force winds blowing any snow onto the roads. I think I was one of
the last cars through onto the A889 from Dalwhinnie, where conditions were
particularly foul. Albert and Judith weren't that far behind me but had to
turn round at Drumochter, drive all the way south to Perth, then go cross
country to Crianlarich and thereafter, follow a snow plough all the way
through Glencoe. Martin and Gillian arrived at the bunkhouse via Inverness
and Bill Brown drove up via Connell. An interesting variety of routes.
Miraculously, all 19 of us arrived in one piece and without incident.
2004 arrived quite quietly really. I think everyone was either too tired
or bunged up with the cold to create a street party environment. New Year's
Day dawned grey, gloomy and not very attractively. Enthusiasm levels were
a bit on the low side. However, slowly but surely bags were packed and folk
headed off. Some stayed low, doing forest walks, other went cycling which
turned out to be a bit dodgy as many of the lesser tracks were very icy,
Richard in true style went off in search of Grahams near Loch Arkaig and
one little band all trooped off up Ben Tee in the hope of some views.
This was the first time we'd stayed at Invergarry Lodge, a relatively new
bunkhouse, and it was definitely a good choice. Very comfortable, well
fitted out and in a great location for all sorts of mountain opportunities.
That night we had our communal meal, and once again all those who provided
the catering had done a fantastic job. From home-made soups to venison pie
or a goat's cheese and cranberry pastry plait, followed by all sorts of
home-made sweets, it was really excellent - one of the best ever. Judith
had decorated the tables with little candles, providing a lovely festive
atmosphere and the table groaned under the weight of some very drinkable
Friday was, thankfully, a much better day all round. Although much
colder, it was dry and bright with big patches of blue sky forming early on.
One or two went off and climbed the Corbett at Fort Augustus,
Carn a'Chuilinn; Richard (I'm a complete masochist) Hartland went back to
Loch Arkaig with Martin to do yet more Grahams; Anne and Christine almost
got benighted in a nearby forest and I climbed a lovely little Graham above
Drumnadrochit called Meal Fuar-Mhonaidh. On the way down this very strange
man leapt out from behind a rock, saying he was lost and could he follow me
down. Interesting, as this hill has a motorway of a path almost all the way
from the car park to the summit. Once I pointed out this out (it was
impossible to miss it, even with all the snow and ice about), my companion
seemed a lot happier!!
There was almost enough communal food for everyone to have a second meal
and Kenny provided an excellent quiz later on when the Scots narrowly
defeated the English in a nail-biting contest! I have to mention here
that although Fiona, through injury, was unable to do a lot out of doors,
she more than made up for it indoors, as the undisputed queen of the jigsaw
Saturday was ok but as we all found out later on, very windy indeed.
Quite a few went home but a hardy little gang stayed on for an extra night.
Alison, Kenny and Alison Wells went for Ciste Dhubh at Kintail; Tim and
Julie on their debut climb with the club went up Meal Fuar-Mhonaidh and I
climbed an extremely windy Biod an Fhithich where at the summit, it was
incredibly difficult to stand up straight - I didn't hang about. A good
decision really as the weather really closed in in the afternoon.
For a first-time stay at this bunkhouse, we were all very impressed with
it - in fact we were so impressed, we booked to go again next new year.