Becky Crosby, Steve Fletcher, Nigel Harris, Kirsty Higgs, Ian Hyland, Emma Key, Jeremy Kneller, Dave Stevenson, Laura Millard, Dee Navin, Nick Owens, Christine Pennack, Robert Townsend, Dave Woodhouse
It’s not often that too much snow is the problem. Fortunately, John Cuthbertson, owner of the Snowgoose Mountain Centre, our accommodation for the week just outside Fort William, was an experienced instructor and mountain rescue team member who could offer lots of friendly advice. He suggested Stob Ban, on the southern side of Glen Nevis for our first walk on Sunday.
We set off in two groups and as we emerged from the forest on the northern slopes of Mullach nan Coirean it felt for all the world as if we would soon be turning back. The cloud was low and the visibility quite poor at times. With the snowline at about 300m we would be walking in the snow for most of the day. Beyond our first Munro the cloud began to lift revealing some spectacular winter scenery with cornices perhaps 20 feet wide in places. From the summit of Stob Ban, a short down-climb lead to our descent. Diamond Dave, having chosen not to use crampons, lost his footing and did a bit of self-arrest preventing a long slide down to the West Highland Way! The path below Sgurr a Mhaim took us back to the cars. A couple of days later there was a large avalanche on the ascent to the Devil’s Ridge.
On Tuesday, five of us set off to do Buachaille Etive Beag, another Munro on the southern side of Glencoe. Again, after an un-promising start the weather cleared to reveal a stunning winter landscape. Together with Jeremy and Laura, we enjoyed a lunch gazing at the snowy mountains and blues skies. Rather than re-trace our steps we descended the southern ridge of Stob Dubh to the Glen Etive road from where we were given a lift back to the car by Nick and Becky.
Each winter there is a series of winter skills lectures at the Clachaig Inn. After a meal and a few beers we attended a talk on avalanche awareness given by a member of the local mountain rescue team before heading back to Fort William.
Wednesday had been billed as the best day of the week so we headed for the Nevis Range ski slopes. While Nigel, Nick and Steve skied, Ian, Dee and Kirsty had a walk up the mountain to enjoy the wintry views of Ben Nevis whose summit remained in the cloud all week. Dave Woodhouse meanwhile had spent the night in his camper van and made an impressive solo ascent of Dorsal Arete in Stob Coire nan Lochan having climbed Ledge Route on Ben Nevis in similar style the day before. Dave Stevenson and Jeremy spent their day on a lower level walk in Glen Nevis.
With the best weather days behind us, people made the most of the wet end to the week. Emma did some running, Christine some geo-caching and Jeremy took the train to Mallaig and enjoyed a very wet walk along the shores of Loch Morar. Conditions had ruled out some of our ambitions for the week, but flexibility is the name of the game in Scotland in February.