|Home sweet home|
|Stob Ban, my tracks from earlier in the day can be seen.|
|Into the Grey Corries ridge|
|A perfect morning|
|Alpenglow over the Nevis Range|
|Towards Rannoch from Binnean Beg|
|heavy snow but hard work|
The views around the bothy are great with the imposing Sgurr Innse just across the valley and Stob Ban and the Grey Corries looming just behind. At around 5pm it started to snow gently so I stayed inside for the rest of the evening. It was quite cold but thankfully I had purchased a good insulated jacket before I went and that combined with my down sleeping bag meant I stayed fine and warm. I made my evening meal at about 6pm and retired to bed with a book straight after. I had a very active mouse for company who busied himself looking for flapjack crumbs and anything else he could get to. There ensued a fitful night as I wasn't used to the discomfort of the sleeping mat but eventually I did fall asleep. I awoke at dawn the following morning to a cloudy, windless winter wonderland. nearly a foot of snow had fallen overnight. While pretty it promised tough underfoot conditions. I took my time over breakfast and eventually left the bothy at 08.20am and set off into the whiteness on another days adventure.
And so day two began with a plod through soft snow in a silent wonderland that was transformed from the previous day. All paths and tracks were now invisible. Leacach bothy is at 450mtrs and the first target of the day was Stob Ban at 977mtrs. From what I'd seen the previous evening this was a shapely mountain with a fairly steep descent to a bealach before a steady rise to Stob Choire Claurigh(1177mtrs) the highest point on the Grey Corries. With all the fresh snow I decided to assess what conditions were like at the top of Stob Ban before I would commit to the descent to the bealach. I was soon in the cloud and the ascent had to be accomplished by the use of compass and GPS. When you are alone it is vital that you are proficient at their use and success brings confidence and a sense of accomplishment. White out conditions are hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced them but at times it's almost like walking blind. You find yourself kicking the snow in front of you so you can see that there is no hole or fall there. Its slow going and a little scary but the map didn't show any crags and the ground was fairly safe. Eventually the top was reached and a quick assessment of the descent slope showed that it was good to go. A quick drop of 150mtrs and I was under the cloud. The day seemed to be improving and I was hopeful for the remainder of the day.
I emerged the following morning after a decent nights rest to a flawless winter landscape. As expected temperatures had plummeted in the night and I would estimate that it was around -15 at 7am. The nearby river had frozen and the snow surface had turned crystalline. I had originally intended to climb Aonach Beg and Mor and cross to Carn Mor Dearg and on to Ben Nevis. This would have been a huge day and with the underfoot conditions I decided to head instead to Binnean Beg and Binnean Mor and descend to Kinlochleven over Na Gruachaichean. Three munros with approximately 1200mtrs of climbing is not to be sniffed at so it seemed a reasonable alternative. It also had the advantage of shortening the distance I would have to walk across the bog considerably. As I was crossing the wettest bits I was sinking through the insulating snow into water. This froze almost immediately on the boot when it was lifted. Very soon I would have to hack at the boot with my axe to dislodge the ice. The going was therefore difficult and it took until I was at about 550mtrs on the slopes of Binnean Beg before the ground improved. I soon came to a nice snowslope of about 40degrees which was nice and firm and allowed rapid(ish) progress to the 943mtrs summit.
The views in all directions were stupendous. Alpine scenery to rival anywhere was mine to savour and this I did at leisure. Ever onwards and the 200mtr descent to the bealach meant that there was a full 400mtrs of climbing to the top of Binnean Mor(1130mtrs). A shapely mountain, the ascent was always interesting and the ever expanding vistas spurred one on. On reaching the summit I didn't dally as some cloud was coming in from the west and threatening to envelop me in mist again. I headed straight away for Na Gruagaichean(1056mtrs) along a narrow but not difficult ridge. The two kilometres soon passed and the cloud stayed at bay. After a short rest I made the long descent to sea level and civilization and arrived in Kinlochleven at 4.30pm. The first time I saw people since 8am Tuesday morning. At this stage I was very tired and I resolved to go to Fort William and stay a couple of nights in a b&b. So I thumbed to Ballachulish and caught a bus to town. I found a nice b&b in the west end and after a quick supper I was under the covers before 8pm.
|Towards Ben Nevis from Aonach Beag|
|Looking up at Tower Ridge|
|Ice climbers near the CIC hut|
|Down to the great tower|
|View down No3 gully|
|The CMD arret|
|Ben Nevis and the CMD arret|
The plan for Saturday Feb 20th was to climb Ben Nevis. I had decided to climb No3 gully and continue to Carn Mor Dearg via the CMD arrete. I emerged after breakfast to another stunning day. Off to the bus stop to get a bus to the Nevis distillery where the trail begins. There didn't seem to be a Saturday service so I set off to walk the 4K to the trailhead. I hadn't gone far when I was passed by the very bus I was looking for. So after a long walk I was eventually making progress on the track towards the CIC hut. The Ben was looking magnificent. The extensive cliffs covered in snow and fat ice falls everywhere in evidence. as was to be expected there were lots of parties about. Climbers could be seen on Tower Ridge and not far from the hut two magnificent icefalls were seeing some action. Suitably booted and suited I headed on up to Coire na Ciste. This amphitheatre offers stunning scenery in every direction. The variety of climbs that can be undertaken from here is bewildering. It's easy to see why climbers come from far and wide to scale this great mountain.
No 3 gully is a straight forward grade 1 snow climb. There was a lot of deep soft snow, but previous traffic made going fairly easy. when I reached the gully proper I found that I was the first to venture in since the snowfall so once again I had to break trail. I was a bit concerned about avalanche but the surface was just powder and hadn't formed a slab that might go in unison. The gradient is about 45 degrees until you reach the exit. This can vary considerably and this time the left exit was the easier but was still about 20mtrs of 60degree slope. This was unfortunately crusty with crud underneath and didn't inspire great confidence. I wouldn't have minded a my second axe and I was happy when I emerged onto the plateau. The top of Ben Nevis can be a savage place but today it was a benign paradise. The roof of Britain on this day offered uninterrupted views in all directions. The view down Tower Ridge was beautiful and I wished I had been on it. After a bite to eat at the summit(1334mtrs) I headed on down the slope to the CMD arret. In these conditions was a joy and was like an easy alpine route. Quite busy as you would expect but everyone was in a good mood on this glorious day. Carn Mor Dearg(1220mtrs) soon passed and the easy slopes made for a quick descent. This time I got the bus back to town at the end of another memorable day.
|Cliffs on Stob Ban the Mamores|
My final day on the mountains I had planned to do Sgurr a Mhaim and the Devils Ridge to Mullach nan Coirean in a neat horseshoe walk from the lower falls in Glen Nevis. However after a leisurely start when I was on the trail I discovered I had forgotten my crampons. This ruled out the Devils Ridge so I opted instead to go in the valley under Stob Ban(999mtrs) to a bealach and climb Stob Ban and then continue with the horseshoe from there. The going was easy and height was gradually gained. The route up Stob Ban was like the steps of a stairs and the loss of crampons was no disadvantage. Yet again the day was stunning. The gentle ridge to Mullach nan Coirean(939mtrs) soon passed. I enjoyed a leisurely lunch and reflected on what was a great week. The gentle ridge back to the glen was a joy and the trusty thumb worked again and I was back in town in good time. So ended a wonderful trip on the mountains. One final treat lay in store. The train journey the following morning to Glasgow was stupendous and must be described as one of the most beautiful in the world. Do it if you can.
Until the next time.