corbetteering in the north west

Mon, Jan 14, 2008

I decided to hook up with my old club, the Orion Mountaineering Club and meet up with old friends for a weekend at the Raeburn hut near Dalwhinnie. The forecast was superb and there was tons of snow on the hills, with a huge dump on the Thursday night plastering the easterly mountains. The snow seemed to be on a diagonal line from the SW to the NE. The webcams were showing snow in Glencoe but none around Cluanie and as I drove from Skye to Inverness, the snow didn’t start until around Contin, which was unusual as you can normally guarantee snow at Achnasheen.

Much roisterous singing and imbibing was had into the early hours of Saturday morning, with the club president reportedly up until 4.30 am although I retired to the tent around 1:30. It was around -12C on Friday night. A beautiful starry night with no wind and very very cold indeed. By the morning the inside of the Akto resembled an ice cave, with the frozen condensation glittering in the light from the headtorch as I got up at 5:30am, not realising the mobile phone was still on summer time! Alex drove myself, Jools and Scott up to Strathconon and the telford church just past Strathmore and we plodded up the SE face of Creag Ruadh, climbing up to the west of the crags in very deep snow. It was soft and wet unconsolidated snow, becoming softer the higher we went in the full glare of the sun, burning from a blue sky. Scott trailbreaking until we picked footprints taking us to the 734m top.

Jules and Scott on Creag Ruadh

Superb ridge walk on firmer snow took us up to the summit of Meallan nan Uan and fantastic views of Torridon and the hills around Ullapool.

Torridon from Meallan nan Uan

The festive flab was affecting me though and I struggled through the snow down to the bealach and up the gentle slopes of Sgurr a’Mhuilinn, walking on beautifully sculpted and squeaking snow near the summit. The wind had picked up a bit and it was starting to get really cold as the sun began its westerly descent, becoming hazy behind a layer of altocumulus, with some herring bone cirrus coming in, harbingers of the approaching front and the bad weather that was forecast. But it was still superb weather and the mountains in all directions were plastered. The best snow cover I’ve seen in years.

Alec on Sgurr aMhuilinn with Meallan nan Uan behind

The descent of the SE ridge was interesting. Steep slopes and a very nice winding and narrow ridge with a couple of bum slides near the bottom. But then the hell began as we crossed over to the Allt an t-Strathain Mhoir, crossing the frozen moorland. It was the creme brulee mix this time. Great slabby plates of hard snow breaking unpredictably and making for very tiring walking. Sometimes you could walk for several metres on a hard surface, other times you’d break through every second step and with the iron hard crust hammering your shins. All good winter stuff!

Hard going below Sgurr aMhuilinn

We reached the car in the dark, walking under a slender crescent of moon as the evening temperature plummeted and the dark winter sky turned to a deep black. Fantastic. Back to a quieter evening in the hut and tales of the others from trailbreaking up Creag Meagaidh. A cracking weekend indeed.

Orion MC at the Raeburn hut

You can see all the pics here.