29th March to 1st April 2013 - Great Glen Hostel, Loch Lochy (Easter)
It was officially the coldest Easter since records began. Luckily our man in Geneva had changed his plans and decided not to come over and start a turbo thaw. For the EMC this was the Easter you wait a lifetime for. A bit like that New Year that everybody still goes on and on and on about. Yes the one I missed due to flu but I am not bitter. Anyway we had hard frosts at night, clear blue skies, sunshine, superb visibility, snow capped hills and ice everywhere. The only difficulty was maintaining enough energy over the 4 days and choosing what to do out of the myriad of equally attractive options. Even Ian was having difficulty in firming up his plans.
Kenny and I arrived early doing the classic cold climb, No 6 gully in Aonach Dubh on the way over. The walk in of around an hour was a particularly attractive feature of the climb.
On Friday most folk took advantage of the weather to do hills on the way up or spent time stopping for photographs. Ian did Y Gully on Cruach Ardrain. Mike and Fiona climbed the frozen waterall Eas Anie at Tyndrum. Kenny and I met Fiona M at Creag Meaghaidh and had a fantastic climb on another cold climbs classic – Smith’s gully. Incredible to think it was first climbed in 1959 by the great Jimmy Marshall and Graham Tiso using step cutting techniques. Martin had a long day in alpine like conditions on the Grey Corries and Cathy did a Corbett at the start of Loch Arkaig.
On Saturday, Fiona R, Mike, Fiona M, Kenny and I headed up to the Ben. It wasn’t too early a start as we hoped to take advantage of Fiona M’s second wave theory. The CIC hut felt like an Alpine hut in the sun and snow. It didn’t seem too busy. Perhaps they had all been scared away by Fiona R’s luminous yellow t-shirt. Fiona and Mike despatched Comb gully. Kenny, Fiona M and I went for Zero gully. This was excellent all the way although the noise of the helicopter hovering close by the minus gullys picking up gear from a rescue the day before was a bit of a distraction for Kenny on the second steep pitch. All the days were good but this was probably the best of the four with not a breath of wind. On the summit we wondered what somebody had done to deserve a tacky wooden plasticy memorial pole stuck in the snow with cardboard wrapped round in sellotape and the poignant message written in felt tip pen “He loved Ben Nevis”. Kenny vowed to come back as soon as possible and get rid of it.
Meanwhile the party of Ian, Martin, Claire, Clare and Katrina had equally stunning conditions on the Forcan ridge. Fiona C, Kate, Alison Fleming, Shona and Allan walked up the Corbetts Meall na-h Eilde and Geall Charn. The walk was excellent with a little useful step cutting practice by some on the harder bits. Cathy took advantage of the frozen ground in opting for the normally boggy Corbett of Beinn Loinne
On Sunday the five from the Corbetts went over Sgurr Mhaoraich with some nice fun on crampons. Alison F drove home in the evening. Kenny also opted for an ascent of this Munro. Known for its stunning views, this was a busy summit. Nigel completed his Corbetts a second time on Beinn Bhuidhe. This is a mountain with a complicated hokey cokey history in the Corbett books. First it was in, then it was out, then it was in as a unique twin summit, and last year it was officially confirmed as the only Corbett on the ridge with Sgurr a' bhac chaolais being relegated to nothingness. Either way it is a lovely summit with an enjoyable narrow ridge. Cathy and I went up Ben Tee at just the right speed to allow for non-stop talking all the way and had great fun on a double seater orange survival bag bum slide. In fact it was so good we did it again and it was so good a second time, Cathy went back for a third slide. Fiona M met Chris at Creag Meaghaidh. Unable to come up for the meet and reading our gloaty texts he was opting for a day trip to get a last winter route done. South Post Direct was the choice of route providing 4 very good grade IV ice pitches. Chris revelled in the freedom of leashless axes with a loan of my quarks – anybody see an end of season deal on the quarks let Chris know! Most of the Forcan Ridge party went to the Ring of Steall on Sunday apart from Claire A who had transport at either end for a traverse of the Aonachs from Glen Nevis. A fellow walker asked her if it was really necessary to take the things sticking out her ruck sack -ice axe and crampons. Mmmmmmmmm yes probably a good idea! Sara and Pete went up Garich – another notoriously boggy mountain transformed into solid frozen ground. Mike and Fiona were doing one of their mega special ridiculous long days – the corbetts Carn Mor and Bidein a Chabiar which some of us not quite so fit or crazy members have backpacked in separate trips. Nigel received a text at 4pm as confirmation that they were on their way to the second summit.
Sadly the meet had to come to an end at some point although there was no sign of the weather breaking.
On Monday Kate and Allan went up Ben Tee. They had a lovely time on the snow slopes with the new little spike things [= Kahtoolas micro spikes]. Fiona M was finally all climbed out with a sore foot from the long walk ins and three days of kicking hard ice. Kenny and I went to Glencoe for another cold climb – Crowberry Gully – a climb that it is difficult to get in good conditions. The day didn’t start too well when I realised that I had left all our flasks at the hostel. Then when gearing up I discovered I had brought my walking crampons by mistake. This was a definite FFS moment. Luckily the crampons fitted the boots as they need a screw driver to adjust. Kenny therefore didn’t get the opportunity of years of recriminations at missing out on this classic climb. The descent off the summit of the Buchaille only took an hour with snow right down to the end of the approach gully. It looked like somebody had bum slid the whole way but we weren’t that brave.
Sara and Ian did the traverse of the Aonachs. Martin and Claire H had a round of the Easains. Mike and Fiona did Stob Ghabar. Katrina and Clare A did some of the Grey Corries. Nigel went for an epic Graham trip to Slat Beinn from Loch Hourn. Looking at the map I am still trying to work out quite how he got there but it meant he was able to pick up the flasks on his return and get rehydrated on the way home.
Does winter get any better than this? Hopefully we can maybe now stop going on about that great New Year with all the ice climbing and non-stop sunshine………