21st to 23rd March 2014 - Mar Lodge, Braemar
It was the first day of Spring but as the day drew to a close snow began to steadily fall on the steep climb to the Cairnwell Pass. The highest road in Scotland. Ian had driven across earlier just us the snow was starting but it was the back of eight before the Edinburgh vanguard rounded the corner at the Devil’s Elbow and The Whacky Races began. First to falter were Alan and Anne, their momentum lost when they had to pull round a stationary car, the owner fitting snow chains to the wheels. As they floundered in the snow Alan H cruised by in his 4-wheel drive. Just behind I was revelling in the traction of my winter tyres and pulled out to pass the stragglers. Some unkind words may have been uttered in my direction from the occupants of a VW Passat. The EMCs very own Penelope Pitstop almost made it to the top with her two passengers but in the end Kate needed her snow socks to reach the pass. Further down the road Alison and Kenny were getting nowhere fast and after the local polis told them all to go home, they retreated to the Spittal of Glenshee for the night along with Perry. Alan was not for giving up though and with Anne at the wheel and some determined pushing they got to the top. A sterling effort.
After the rigours of the drive it was lovely to arrive at Mar Lodge and find the place warm and cosy. We had no mobile phone reception at the lodge and weren’t really sure when the others might turn up. Maybe they’d gone back home? We finished off the day by celebrating Fiona’s birthday with an excellent cake provided by Alan and Anne, doing our very best to embarrass Fiona with our singing!
The forecast for Saturday was reasonable (apart from the ubiquitous winter winds) and with freezing levels down to about 600 metres, Fiona and I decided to make our annual pilgrimage to Lochnagar for some winter climbing. Words alone can never describe the joy of the long approach to Lochnagar: the interminable track, the deep snow and heather to the bealach, the descent through the boulder field and the final snow slopes to the first-aid box. But conditions looked promising and we had the whole corrie to ourselves! We soon found out why when we discovered that nothing was frozen. We tried 3 climbs before finally giving in and soloing up Black Spout. The icicles only stopped dripping above 1000 metres.
Perry had arrived from Glen Shee early enough on Saturday morning to join Alison F, Kate, Ian, Allan S and Alan H on a circuit of Carn Bhac from Inverey, finishing down the track in Glen Ey. Alan and Anne climbed Carn an-t-Sagairt Mor from Auchallater Farm while Kenny and Alison met up with Cathy for an ascent of Morrone. All reported good days on the hill. Back at the lodge there was plenty of room to spread out and with a massive kitchen and a great drying room, this is certainly a fine place to stay. There seemed no better way to celebrate than with another birthday cake for Fiona, this one courtesy of Alison and Kenny.
Most people headed for Glen Clunie on Sunday morning, with a large group climbing Creag nan Gabhar from Auchallater Farm. Further up the glen, Alan, Anne, Kenny and Alison enjoyed a good winter day on Carn an Tuirc and Carn of Claise. They reported nice crampon conditions and some full on spindrift/vortex wind moments!