During the last week of October Me, Inna and Olga had a week’s budget trip in the Scottish mountains. We arrived in Avimore on a bright Monday afternoon and although there had been a fair amount of snow the week before it was now melting fast. I delayed the next days venture into the Cairngorms by 24hrs as Tuesdays forecast was awful, as it turned out it was not as bad as was forecasted and we could have gone after all. Instead we set off from the ski centre car park for a bothy in the Lairig Ghru on a grey, wet and windy Wednesday morning. After passing through the Chalamain gap we got word that the bothy in our original plan was not in a habitable state so I decided to go for our alternate plan and continue to the Corrour bothy below Devils point. After having been battered by the wind and rain on the walk in it was good to get under cover and cook a dinner in relative comfort, after chatting with another two of the bothy’s residents in the evening we bedded down for the night. Our sleep was disturbed some what when we found the bothy had more residents than we realised, no sooner had the lights gone out and a family of mice made it their business to get into everything we owned and make as much noise as possible, the other two lad’s decision to sleep outside in their tents now seemed not so daft after all.
Thursday was at least dry, although rather cloudy and windy. Inna and I decided to explore the west ridges of the Lairig Ghru and try reach the tops of Cairn Toul and Angel’s Peak which had been in our original plan for that day. After an hour we were in cloud for the remainder of the day with visibility around 100m, with few breaks in the cloud it wasn’t much of a view when we reached our goal, but it proved very useful for navigation practice. 6,1/2hrs later we were back in the bothy and ready for supper, with our damp gear hanging up to get some air we sat down to some hot curry beef and pasta. Later just after sunset we were joined by Bill and Liam for the night who thankfully diverted the attention of the evenings mice.
On the Friday we rose from our sleeping bags before dawn, we hoped to return to our cars via the summit of Ben Macdui. however in the full light of day a look at the clouds racing bye showed it would be far too dangerous to attempt any of the higher summits or ridges today. Again we I decided on our alternate plan and retrace our route from Tuesday back up the Lairig Ghru. The morning started well enough with an early start no rain and sheltered in the valley from the gale force winds. As we came to the North end of the Lairig Ghru the wind at lower level increased dramatically, the 2km stretch from the Lairig Ghru to the Chalamain gap proved to be rather dangerous with movement at one point only possible in the gaps between gusts. After we negotiated the Chalamain gap we tried to follow the path along the final ridge toward the bridge that crossed the burn. This became increasingly difficult in the gale force winds. Retreating down from the ridge and a river crossing proved the safer option even if it meant wet feet. An hour later and it all ended safely with a hot coco and a whiskey in the ski centre café. Later examination of the Cairngorm weather station showed winds gusting at 179km/hr over the tops, a few lessons hopefully learnt that day.
Saturday was taken up with a leisurely drive to Fort William along the shores of loch Ness. After the photo ops and a look around the Loch Ness gift shops we arrived at the Nevis Inn bunk house late afternoon. A fruitless drive around fort William looking for WIFI hot spots found us catching the weather forecast at Ellis Bingham’s.
Sunday again saw us up before daylight for an early start on the Ben, after some initial confusion over the correct time due to the winter clock change we left the bunkhouse at 7:45, or was it 8;45? The forecast for once was correct and after a grey start the low cloud thinned to give occasional burst of sunshine on the lower slopes.
Trudging up the tourist path in nil wind proved to be hot work and we were soon down to our base layers. We left the tourist path at Loch Meall an t-Suidhe and followed a track around the north face to the CIC hut. With nobody at home were had a quick snack on the steps of the hut and took some photo’s of the north face covered in the cloud.
We picked a route out on the map that would have us climb up onto the CMD Arête on the west side of Coire Leis. Although from the small tarn in the base of the coire the climb looked steep, once you were actually climbing it proved to be an easy scramble and we were soon on the Arête 45mins ahead of schedule. It’s a nice easy walk along the arête and after photos of the valleys on both sides we soon reached the snow line and the abseil post which mark the end of the arête. From here to the top was harder going, with a snow covered bolder field slowing us down we finally arrived at the summit of Ben Nevis a little behind schedule? Never the less we were happy and spent the next 30mins taking photos and finishing most of our snacks.
With toes getting a little cold we descended via the tourist path and were below the snow line by 15:30. On our way down we were still meeting several couples on the way up and only half way. After mentioning our concerns and lending one couple our spare torch, we were back in the bunk house as the sun was setting. In total 8 1/2hrs of enjoyment on a route I’ve been wanting to do for some time. The next morning our over night fears for the couple we had lent the torch to were allayed when the grateful young man returned the torch to us in person. The £2.99 from the petrol station had proved its worth after been used for over 3hrs by the couple that night, lets hope they were not put off by their experience and will have a go when the days get lighter. To anybody who reads this, if your out in the hills or mountains, please take a torch, or better still get me or a person with experience in the mountains to accompany you.