The view from Strawberry Cottage door - Alison W
7th to 9th April 2006 - Glen Affric
In theory, this was meant to be a spring meet, but as the snow bucketed down
enthusiastically on Friday night, topping up an already impressive white landscape
we soon realised that in fact it was full on winter conditions in Glen Affric.
We all met up in the Slaters Arms which had adjusted to the non smoking rules by
putting a tarpaulin outside the back for the shivering die hard smokers. The landlady
offered to let us sleep on her floor when she realised where we were going, but no, the
EMC was made of sterner stuff. We stuffed all our gear into Anne or Bill's car and
some lucky people (me included) got a lift rather than walking for 5 miles in the snow.
The early arrivals at the cottage had the fun of hauling the bags up the hill over a
slippery bridge and getting the kettles and fire going for the rest of the gang. I think
it was about 2 in the morning before we went to bed as the walkers all needed a hot and/or
stiff drink to recover from their experience and it would have been churlish of us not to
have joined in. After huddling in sleeping bags quite a few people got back up again to
put more clothes on, but nobody could beat Gillian who owned up to 3 layers top to bottom
including socks and ear muffs. Not surprisingly it took her quite a while to get out in
The group divided into two with some attempting Munros on the north side of the glen
and the rest preferring the Corbetts to the south owing to the not very friendly weather
forecast. I was in the Corbett team with Anne, Gillian and Fiona and as we set off up the
glen we spotted an eagle checking us out for potential breakfast material. It was a
beautiful morning and the views in all directions were stunning. Nonetheless the snow was
deep and it took an unexpectedly long time to reach our first summit, Carn a' Choire Ghairbh.
At one point we perfected the art of crawling through a cornice and trail breaking was hard
work for the designated snow ploughs (me and Anne). We were rewarded with more fabulous
views, except to the north where we rightly suspected the other group were in a white out.
We finally got as far as the bealach before Aonach Shasuinn at about 3 in the afternoon.
Three of us went on up the second Corbett, while Fiona, very sensibly decided the prospect
of a warm hut was calling her and headed off on the long walk back. However, once again we
got great views from the top and slithered back down the hill to a walk out involving falling
down holes, into streams and disappearing into snow drifts. The snow started falling again
and on getting to the track beside Loch Affric gave way to persistent rain. Oh joy.
Arriving back at the hut at 8pm, we were greeted by some very hungry people wondering
whether to start eating without us. The slog up Sgurr nan Ceathreambrain (a.k.a Chrysanthemum)
had been equally hard work and there was a complete white out on the ridge causing Alan and
Anne to turn back early when Anne started to feel seasick. Martin and Tim doggedly carried
on to An Socath in rather scary conditions. Eileen and Bill made it up to about 1000 metres
on Mam Sodhail and then turned back for the same reason. Luckily, everyone had worked up a
good appetite as we had huge amounts of soup, curry and cheese to work our way through before
we could go to bed.
The following day was equally epic. Alan romped up the side of Sgurr na Lapaich in the
sunshine to be greeted by another white out on the ridge where Tim and Martin following his
tracks met up with him in a blizzard. Meanwhile Fiona, Gillian, Anne and I had decided not
to play that game and went up the corrie path to Mam Sodhail. However the snowploughs ran
out of steam at about 700 metres and later we heard that there was absolutely no way we would
have made it out of the corrie without skis. On the way back down again, seduced by a sudden
change in the weather for the better, Gillian, Anne and I decided to try Sgurr na Lapaich
after all from higher up the path. This attempt also ended in failure after a tough slog up
a steep snow slope that proved impossible without 2 axes as we got closer to the ridge.
Suffice it to say that the resultant down-climb was a bit more exciting than we had planned.
Back in the valley we met Bill and Eileen who had strolled around the loch to check out
Affric Lodge and we all went back to the cottage to sit outside in the sun and drink huge
quantities of tea. The eagle re-appeared briefly. Anne and Alan had to walk out that day
and Tim and Martin returned reporting difficulties in finding the cairn on Mam Sodhail in
a white out (the cairn is about the size of a house) followed by a fantastic walk down in
the sunshine. The evening was spent stuffing ourselves again followed by a team game of
trivial pursuit which was fought tooth and nail. I'd like to say that the best team won but
as I was not on it I won't. I leave you to guess who was cheating!On Monday there was a mass
assault of 6 of us up the smallest Graham imaginable. The towering slopes of Beinn a
Mheadhoin (613m) provided a great viewpoint and good lunch spot before we all set off back