29th December 2017 to 1st January 2018 - Gairloch Sands SYHA, Gairloch (New Year)
Gairloch hostel is beautifully situated for a New Year meet. About half those attending had been in and around the area from a few days before taking advantage of an extended Christmas break and with the snow down to sea level driving there was a little treacherous for those of us arriving from the North. The sight of the broken down gritter lorry just before Poolewe explained the icy crawl. Kenny and Alison, however, managed the most eventful afternoon after arriving earlier than expected and deciding to head up the coast towards Melvaig to bag a nearby Marilyn. Their car took an unexpected turn at an icy corner resulting in ice axe action but just not quite of the expected usage for the afternoon as they attempted to extract themselves with the help of the nearby lighthouse owner.
All had arrived (except of course Clare A) by around 8 and festivities started early with celebrations that evening for Fiona C’s birthday. Balloons, cake and EMC singing at its tuneful best (?!) made for a good start to the trip.
Saturday started beautifully bright but with deep unconsolidated snow and the forecast due to rapidly change most people opted for a relatively low level day – Marilyn’s and Grahams being the main hills of choice. Alan, Anne, Alison, Kenny, Fiona M, Fiona & Mike all headed for Meall an Doirein while Emma, Nigel, Fiona C & Gillian stayed closer to the hostel and went up An Cuaidh managing to avoid the icy corner that had put an end to Kenny and Alison’s plans the previous day. Chris and David went for slightly higher with both separately opting for nearby Graham, Beinn a'Mhuinidh. With much wading required the later of the two found a trail helpfully broken. Claire and Neil had the most ambitious day and went up Fionn Bheinn, although apparently the getting down was harder than the up. They slid/waded/battled their way to the hillbilly cafe for much deserved tea and cakes. Myself and Clare A managed to leave the hostel just as the first parties were returning and headed up the coast to the lighthouse on the Melvaig peninsula. Having missed the best of the day we enjoyed a drizzly outward trip turning to more torrential downpour on the way back – still made for some atmospheric views across the coast!
The evening was round one of the communal meal and by the time I got back preparations were in full swing. The club excelled itself again with a fantastic 3 course extravaganza which at the end of the evening was quite clearly going to manage to extend to Hogmanay and beyond.
On Sunday a few club members decided to see the year out on a high (or low) depending on viewpoint with some extremely ambitious Hogmanay plans. Alison, Neil, Fiona and Mike all headed to Beinn Eighe. Alison and Neil leaving practically before it got dark the previous night for a grade VI on Beinn Eighe. Fiona and Mike, slightly more sociably (but only just) to tackle a couple of the Beinn Eighe’s tops via the Black Carls. Clare A was also away before dawn for an ambitious plan to tackle Beinn Liath Mhor and Sgorr Ruadh.
The rest of the club opted for slightly more modest days in light of the ‘interesting’ conditions. Chris headed up the Graham An Ruadh-Mheallan, enjoying about 5 minutes of sunlight as he left the car followed by general ‘pish’. A mass EMC assault on Beinn a Chochuill by Claire H, Alan and Anne, Fiona M, Fiona C, Emma and David reported wet snow, rain on way back and to quote “Meh with not even the weird little nobbles on the summit visible through general driesh”. Kenny and Nigel went for some snowy lump or other nearby.
With some fairly challenging days on even the lowest hills, drinks were already flowing and dinner commencing as reports of the straggling parties started coming in. Clare A abandoned munro number 2 after a heroic battle up Beinn Liath Mhor. She arrived back with reports of meeting a slightly ‘odd’ stranger at some point on the hill along with photos of herself modelling a sparkly dress carried up for a New Years Eve photo at the summit in white out conditions. Would be interesting to hear said strangers report of the encounter!
Alison and Neil eventually appeared from the aptly named fight or flight with Alison officially tendering her resignation from winter climbing! Some food and drink later both looked revived and with all accounted for Hogmanay festivities commenced. Entries into the EMC caption competition were officially revealed with a recovering Alison (originally a reluctant entrant who once started seemed to find creative genius) crowned the overall winner. Alan’s presidential quiz followed and created cheerful debate around everything from tram stops to his musical tastes :-). We saw in the New Year with mulled wine and Kenny’s fireworks display competing with some of the best around Gairloch as the skies cleared revealing an absolutely beautiful view of the mountain backdrop.
New Year’s day was the last day on the meet for some but over half the club opted to take advantage of the hostel offer of an extra night. There was no shortfall of enthusiasm. Fionn Bheinn was the munro of choice for most with the only exceptions Claire and Neil, who did a running circuit from Poolewe followed by another cafe visit, Chris who headed for his third Graham of the meet, Meall a'Chaorainn and Alison and Fiona M who went for a Marilyn – no idea of the name (think Marilyn’s should be the new Grahams and remain unnamed in meet reports). Top marks for the day have to go to Clare A though who found the nearest looney dook at Melvaig and went for her New Years Day dip. She earned the rightful admiration of all the locals for being the only one mad enough to be entering the water without a wetsuit. Cold must have gone a little to the head as our resident biologist mistook Chewbacca taking a dip nearby for a seal!
I have only heard hazy reports of the evening but I gather remaining whisky was consumed in large quantities! Good start to 2018!