Thursday, April 11, 2013

Easter In Kintail

With admirable economy of expression, they call it “The Wee Bunkhouse”. Oddly sited in the car park of the Kintail Lodge Hotel, it’s about the size of a domestic garage, and probably once was one. However it was enough for 6 of us, while the rest of the LMC meet lounged in the sumptuous extravagance of the Trekkers’ Lodge.

Although the West Highlands had escaped the huge snowdrifts of the Peak and Lakes, it was still very much winter – frozen ground to sea level; the tops very white; and ice visible in the gullies above the road.  John & I stopped off in Glencoe on the way, for a quick snowy walk to find the “secret” ice crag of Eilde Canyon (successfully), which put us in a winter mood.

First target: The Saddle via the Forcan Ridge. Dave C, Cath, Dave B and I set off on Friday morning in bright but bracingly cold sunshine. The snow line was just below the start of the ridge, and it looked enticingly Alpine under blue skies. The ridge gives a good wintery scramble, in parts exposed but nowhere too technical.  It took longer than expected, but presented some stunning views along the way.

The summit gave us some good views, especially over to Skye, where the white tops of the Cuillin stood out in the sun. Ladhar Bheinn looked especially fine to the south too. We descended easy snow slopes to the bealach between The Saddle and Sgurrna Sgine, where we met a man who kept falling down holes.

It seemed a long slog up to Sgurr na Sgine, but probably wasn’t, we were just getting weary.  We found a couple of ptarmigan on the way, which brightened up the slog. More fine views rewarded us at the summit. Then came a short ridge walk, and steep fast descent to the road.

Back in our Wee Abode, Dave & Wayne had been scouting out winter crags, and found a couple of promising venues. Stuart arrived later, having had a good climb on The Ben with John on the way up.

Saturday morning was very cold and sunny, as Dave C and I got up early to do the Five Sisters (oo-er).  Due to a foolish navigation error (we were distracted by talking about folk who make foolish navigation errors), we gained the ridge just after the first summit. After a brief discussion, we doubled back to bag it anyway, just in case it was one of the Five (it wasn’t.) Then we had another fine, cold ridge walk, on mostly good frozen snow and with blue skies all round.  Most impressive were the dramatic views down the crags to the north. Where was everyone else though? We met only two people on the whole walk.

Dave and Wayne found a very wintery corrie on the South Glen Shiel Ridge, and had a great day climbing ice there, despite Wayne picking up a mysterious finger injury. Stuart took his bike over towards Applecross, to cycle the Bealach na Ba, one of the finest road routes in Britain.

The stunning weather continued on Sunday, as Dave C, Stuart, Cath and I set off for the South Glen Shiel Ridge. This meant a long walk in from the Cluanie Inn, but we made the first summit in good time & then had a superb winter ridge to negotiate. Tons of snow on top, and in the northern corries, where Dave and Wayne were having fun on good ice far below. Once again, bright sunshine & blue skies predominated.  The views all around were outstanding, and the snowy terrain always interesting. We even had to traverse the back of a huge cornice – another very Alpine feel to the day. We made our way over 4 Munros before heading back down to the second car, and a celebratory coffee at the Cluanie Inn.

Monday morning meant a long drive back for most of the others, but I was still on holiday and had been looking longingly across to the Cuillin for 3 days. And with a stable forecast for the rest of the week, there was only one direction I was going to go…

No comments: