30th December 2016 to 2nd January 2017 - Saddle Mountain Hostel, Invergarry (New Year)
The best-attended New Year meet for a while, and also our second in a row at Saddle Mountain Hostel in Invergarry the NYM 2016-17 ended up being a good-weather sandwich with horrendous rain and wind either side of what turned out to be a pleasant wintry New Year’s day.
Many members had done things on the way to the hostel so the new drying room was put to good use from the off. Mike, Fiona and Ewan had been climbing in Fort William; Fiona C and Margaret ruminated local clan genealogy at the Torr na Caraidh graveyard and gave a herd of highland cows a bit of unexpected exercise. Kat and Chris had been staying up at one of the Mellons in the NW of Scotland; Claire and Alan had been running in the Pentlands (where it was actually dry!) and Nigel had quietly consumed his 800th Marilyn.
The 31st was somehow even wetter but almost everyone left the hostel for a few hours. Fiona and Margaret walked along the east side of Loch Lundie then dropped down to Loch Oich; Aga and James circumnavigated a lochan; Ewan, Mike and Fiona R did a loch walk ascending a so-called track which turned into a boggy horror show and returned for early drinks and crisps at the Invergarry Hotel.
There was a staggered stagger around Loch Oich by the lycra-clad masses: Sara - accompanied by Pete on his bike – left first in an anti-clockwise direction. Antti next in the opposite direction; Claire and Katrina in similar fashion later still. This meant that everyone saw at least one other person on their run: the friendliest type of running when everyone goes at different speeds and has different tolerances to horizontal rain. Most of the others went on a Marilyn bagging excursion to Meall an Tarsaid and had to drive through a flooded road on the way back.
That evening Alison introduced the hands quiz, with teams having to identify the owners of each appendage from yellowing photos taken a year ago. Who knew that Alan R actually buffs his nails?? I also introduced a selection of quizzes donated by my mum (and the Yorkshire branch of the WI) which shut everyone up for a few hours, and was received with mixed enthusiasm.
There followed a genial evening with everyone mucking in with the communal meals, starting with mulled wine courtesy of Kat and Chris. Three courses and several veggie and non-veggie options later and folk were slow on the uptake of the cheeseboard until a few hours, several games of a Munro top trumps, chess and, courtesy of an ipad and wifi, the darts world championships, had gone by. True to form some people were in bed before the bells but most managed to stay awake until 12.10 after the answers to the quiz.
The weather and the views were fantastic on New Year’s day: Claire and Fiona M went up Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach at Loch Quoich and had only a little buffeting on the ridge. We skidded around a bit on the boggy descent and saw hundreds of red deer.
Aga and James went up Ben Tee from the hostel and had a great day. Antti joined Margaret, Cathy, Fiona C and Gillian on Carn a Ghluasaid on the north side of Loch Cluanie.
Chris spent a solo day in the hills, climbing Stob a’ Ghrianain (a Graham) in Glen Loy. He enjoyed particularly good views to the west.
Sara, Pete and new member Alison C (the other one) had to go back down the road but fitted in a Corbett in Glen Loy en route in the sunshine.
Most of the others went off in small groups to climb the Loch Lochy Munros Sron a’Choire Gaibh and/or Meall na Teanga. It was universally agreed that it was a bit blowy but there were no complaints. Nigel continued his conquest of the Marilyns; Alan H went to work at the fire station in Fort William and reappeared in time for tea.
There was a tense moment during mealtime co-ordination when I thought we might not have enough food but I needn’t have worried, Cathy’s chicken casserole being a particular highlight; Chris accidentally consumed a bowl of lemon juice along with his soup, and Nigel’s ubiquitous puddings filled in gaps and ensured that there would be another dignified pause before the cheeseboard could come out. The drinks cabinet included various infusions of vodka, some port and only a little whisky. The darts semi-finals emptied the dining room and some took to postural exercises in the hall and Twister.
Most people went back down the road on 2nd. Chris climbed Meall a' Phubuill (Corbett), Meall Onfhaidh (Graham) and Aodann Chleireig (Graham) from Loch Eil; Fiona M, Kenny and Alison did Carn Dearg Munro top on Ben Nevis and weren’t a bit tempted to go up onto the Ben summit in the murk.
Alan and I ran from Glen Nevis over to Kinlochleven via the Munro Mullach nan Coirean. I fell on my arse at least once and did a painful stumble onto my thigh on the way down but dragged myself down with the promise of soup and cake at the Ice Factor with Anne and Antti, and a boiling hot shower. Emma and Fiona C struggled up boggy then icy Stob Coire Sgriodain and Emma went on to tick off Chno Dearg and got views on neither.
Katrina, Mike and Fiona R defied the rain drumming on the windscreen and climbed Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach in what was a cold and windy day.
A small group stayed over at Raeburns Hut that night.
I think I will give myself a year off in 2017-18 but thanks as always to Anne R for her guidance on cullinary matters! Thanks too to everyone at the club for your companionship in 2016. It was a sad end to the year and Martin has been sorely missed at recent meets and at those to come. But there were so many highlights too and I look forward to more mountain days and bunkhouse nights with the club in 2017.