Bothy and Ben weekend, 10/11 March 2017

The forecast for the weekend was particularly grim with a promise of rain and sleet fired by 40mph winds on Saturday and a big warm fog on Sunday. So when lugging my skis across the snow-free head of Loch Glascarnoch I was surprised there were three others following, namely Sheena, Susan and David. Although we had all initially signed up to the two-day circuit of Loch Mullardoch, such was the forecast we needed an alternative. Something equally big and epic but not foolhardy. Overnighting in a bothy with a traverse of Beinn Dearg I thought would fit and bill.

One vehicle was left at the craft centre carpark near Loch Broom for our return, then we drove the to Loch Glascarnoch to start. If anyone was a little sleepy after an early start, plunging our bare feet in the icy waters of Abhainn a’ Gharbhirain woke us up. On the far side we could begin skinning, heading due north into the impressive amphitheatre bordered by Cona Mheall and Am Faochagach. For a steady five kilometres we moved into its quiet depths, the slope steepening above Loch na Still and forcing us on a series of switchbacks. Small avalanches had left trails of debris and I looked above at big overhanging cornices. All morning the clouds had thickened and reaching the bealach we were greeted by a whiteout and our world changed. The half-kilometre length of Loch Prille had vanished beneath a huge snowdrift. I’d been here a good many times in winter but had never seen this quantity of snow, even in 2010. We could just make out the bowl of the loch and this guided us to the watershed at nearly 600 metres, snow now hurrying in from the east, straight into our faces. Here we peeled off skins and at first skated on a slight decline over a featureless waste until the contours bunched and we ran freely, carving great turns on our descent to Gleann Beag. David shouted that he could see the bothy, a tiny building alone in the frozen emptiness. Skiing right to the door was a dream fulfilled. A fine refuge from the rain, though three months of winter now seeped from the thick stone walls and I for one began to shiver. We dug a hole a metre deep to reach the river, boiled water for brews all round, and discussed the merits of braving the wetness to search for firewood. No one was especially keen. Someone mentioned the highly flammable resin found in ancient bogwood and someone else that she’d carted in a load of kindling. So with empty sacs and fantasies of a roaring fire we skied a kilometre up the glen, crossed the frozen burn and fell upon the old roots like a last act of plunder. ‘Go for the driest pieces’, I said, and received looks as filthy as our rucksacs were becoming, now all stuffed with peat-smeared roots. David overloaded his, fell over backwards and couldn’t get up, others with unbalanced loads seemed to be practising a new form of locomotion. Back at the bothy and armed with a pickaxe and pruning saw I sorted the sodden mandibles into three piles – wet, very wet, and aquatic. Nobody believed any of this would burn. It did. We built an edifice of sizzling logs and the flames leapt, we humbled at the miracle and sat around it steaming and revelled in the warmth of ancient suns. Our talk roved widely from a general thumbs-down for freeze-dried to the merits of beaver reintroduction – mostly thumbs up -  to whether mindfulness trumps other distractions such as, well, bird-watching, all helped along by Susan’s homebrew gin and David’s Dalwhinnie.

David claimed he slept a like a log, the rest of us thanks to the wind and unforgiving floorboards slept a little less soundly. After a little initial weariness we mixed muesli with burn water, downed two or three brews, and set off. A mild morning with thick cloud. Careful navigation in a windless fog got us to Cnap Coire Loch Tuath at 884 metres. Here a gauzy sun and faint shadows began to show and climbing towards Ceann Garbh we emerged into a bright brilliant world, an unbroken sky and white peaks in all directions, especially the prospect of Beinn Dearg, only the line of its famous dyke visible through the snowcover. In the glens a dense blanket of cloud lingered. We skied the south slope of Ceann Garbh, our speed carrying us across the small plateau and we gathered here to begin the 300 metre ascent of Beinn Dearg. Too steep for skins we stowed away our planks and climbed up, the snow so hard in places I wielded my axe for stepcutting.

At the summit we could see from Ben Wyvis to the Fannichs to Suilven and beyond. As the cloud base appeared to be rising we didn’t linger, skiing the southwest shoulder in perfect spring snow. At the 850m we became engulfed again in mist and it was back to tricky compass work with Sheena and David as navigators and Susan as foil. We negotiated the steep and loaded west flank, stopping for a snack at the head of Allt Mhucarnaich, then for the last time we skinned up to the col just east of Beinn Enaiglair and simply pointed our skis downwards and took off. A kilometre and a half of typical Scottish backcountry, tracing burn lines, edging small defiles, fighting the soft surface with frantic pole plants, snowpatch hopping to about 400m where the snow finished, a lot higher than on the east side. I was a little concerned the final descent might require a huge fight through a dense conifer plantation but in fact a path materialised close to the forestry edge then a broad and mossy way switchbacking to the main road and all touched down some eight hours after leaving the bothy. To bury the memory of freeze-dried and answer the usual carbohydrate cravings the weekend was rounded off with a visit to the Beauly chippy. A fish supper never tasted better.

Ballinloan Lodge was the meeting point for the Glen Lyon ski weekend, a first for us all. 6 intrepid tourers (3 Hinds and 3 Stags) met on Friday night to be welcomed by John’s steaming curry dish, savoured by all, as it was flavoursome and avoided cooking. The Lodge was luxurious and spacious as it had a bed capacity for 8.

Over ‘dinner’, we all chipped in with options, desires, ambitions and considered historical and prevailing weather and snow conditions. Plan A was to aim for The Carn Mairg Group working East to West. After group discussion and agreement in situ, Plan B involved walking to approx. 650m where we then skinned alongside Inverar Burn, veering Easterly to the coll between the rocky prominence of An Sgorr, and Meall Garbh summit. As rumblings of the Beast from the East became evident, heads down we dropped over onto the North face, regrouped and relished the snow laden slopes. After delightful skiing on firm, compact and hard snow in the direction of Glen Sassum, we skinned up before repeating the experience in the sheltered bowl.  Surface snow was softening nicely as the sun beamed its rays over the white blanket as we steadily re-ascended. An experienced mountaineer within the group, opted for a more leisurely day and soaked up the rays, before soloing it back to the car. 

Despite strong gusts of wind, the weather was considerably better than forecast. After the delight of not encountering boilerplate conditions; collectively we decided to call it a day… that was until a sun-baked south facing slope beckoned and 5 of us donned skins. The skiing element was a softened spring snow descent of around 300m over 1.20km before walking the track along and down through the tree felled area to the car park. The most dramatic snow topped views were Southerly, across the Lawers hills and West. To the North, Loch Rannoch stretched out between forest and hills.


Saturday evening nosh was another surprise and courtesy of Susan. Moroccan delights abounded, and discussion flowed into the living room where were greeted by a well stoked fire. The bonhomie continued as we considered our options for day 2. What was evident from this small group was a willingness to ski as one. As it happened, we were all reasonably well matched in fitness and ski ability levels in Glen Lyon. The consideration for others, perhaps made easier by good conditions and a mere group of six.

Over the weekend, the high road through to Loch Tay was impassable, so the suggestion to drive to NN 513464 (OS51) at Loch an Daimh and head North was agreed after the pop of corks, a rush of bubbles and a stretch by the fire.

We were spoilt for stag spotting in the Glen, but the Stag in Corrour ruled the day! A number of male club members herded there (hence reduced numbers on this trip), to celebrate Duncan Brown‘s Stag Party for his forthcoming wedding to Club member, Lizzie Aitken.

On Sunday, weather conditions were brighter than forecast and afforded spectacular views of bright blue sky, snowy mountains and the icy brilliance as the sun shone on Daimh’s water. It was a good choice, as the higher topped hills were mostly cloud covered and stronger winds were apparent.  Firm footing on frozen bog made the walking element of a ski weekend bearable, followed by zig zag skinning practise into Coire nam Measach and a lunch stop. We skied ‘n’ skinned a south east line in the Coire of Meall Buidhe on hard packed snow, in similar conditions to Saturday. After taking an SSE line from Meall a Phuill we were able to snow, and momentarily, heather ski, pretty much down to the cars.

It was a weekend of conviviality, experience sharing, debate even, learning, skinning and skiing. The old guard and the new, with reminisces and contrasts; all in all, just what a good Club thrives on.

After all, we were like the cats who’d had the cream.   

By Sonya Anderson

The Cairngorms had been battered all week but the Beast from the East finally ran out of puff in time for our gathering in Glen Feshie. Milling about the small carpark were sixteen skiers, one of whom was only in attendence because he’d been stranded in the Highlands due to a snowbound Bristol. We were able to ski straight from the cars, a vanguard leading a brightly coloured tail that extended back some hundred metres through the woods. All reasembled at the second burn crossing. Assessments were made of the conditions and a decision on which slope to aim for. The Beast may have passed but it had left a residue of cold, overcast and windy conditions, not a day for the high tops.


We struck an ascending line towards Coire Gorm a’ Chrom-alltain and stopped to refuel in the partial shelter of the burn, some of the party here putting their shovels to good use in a creating a shelterwall. From here we ascended in worsening conditions to around 850 metres. A whiteout threatened and after a short council we decided to proceed no further. Sixteen skiers then turned and headed for home. I’d skied this slope a fortnight ago in fantastic powder conditions but thawing and freezing since then and the activities of the Beast had left pockets of windblown and scoured areas, though still great cover.


Whizzing past our lunch spot the party split, most going headlong for the burn with its drops and narrows while a few chose a long lazy traverse back the first burn. A few of us reapplied our skins and headed into Coire na Cloichre which was fully loaded, but with impeccable timing the cloud dropped and I for one had that nauseous feeling of skiing simply by feel, snow and air merging. Overall a decent ski in mixed conditions, well worth the effort. A small crowd reconvened at an Aviemore café whose speciality was coffee, cake and huge hottubs, the latter alas only for viewing.  By Mike Cawthorne. 


As is usual for the Loch Ossian Hostel weekend the forecast was grim, promising rain, sleet and high winds. Despite that twelve members, having travelled by road and rail, north and south, were found huddled in Loch Ossian’s cosy common room on the Friday night, already nursing glasses that were at least half full.

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Jan and Monika’s wonderful Polish dish of bigos accompanied by various Vin de Pays and a few Tennents fuelled the residents and our lively and varied talk was punctuated by reverential readings of Donald’s well-thumbed copy of The Backpackers Handbook, by the legendary Derek Booth. The party dispersed around 2am. Outside wind rapped the window panes and rain dripped from the gutters.

A wet morning and an enjoyable drawn-out breakfast gave much time for map-gazing and a decision was made to tackle Beinn na Lap which rises in a long sweep just north of the hostel. Close to midday the rain finally eased and all suitably wrapped and muffled ventured out to beat a path towards the snowline, skis like antennas and pummelled by the wind. At a snow-filled burn we applied skins then a steady ascent in the strengthening wind. Visibility was superb with grand views of a snowy Leum Uilleim and the sun-speckled expanse of Rannoch Moor.

The long ridge leading to the summit proved to be very exposed and everyone gathered to discuss the next move. All seemed happy to push on, and maybe ski the more sheltered, though steep, east side. Coming in from the west the wind went up a notch until I for one was being shunted upslope. I led the way towards the summit cairn, now less than a hundred metres away. The wind was so strong now it was impossible to stand. Susan was close behind and we both sank to the ground for safely.We removed our skis and forced our way back, mostly by shuffling, until we saw the others and gestured with ski sticks, the message passed through the group to all gather at a place of marginally better shelter.

From here we skied to a level place a little below the crest, gathered again, then tackled the great snowfields on the southeast aspects, the wooded lochside below and fine snow-filled prospects of Ben Alder and Aonach Beag to the east. It is fair to say everyone was a little shaken by the severity of the conditions about the summit and in hindsight we should have perhaps turned back sooner. All though acted with resolve and awareness, and with our considerable combined experience we got safely off the crest.

Below the general snowcover we ski-hopped from patch to patch and had a late lunch at the edge of a larch wood. The wind seemed to reach its full fury walking along the track and it bullied us back to the hostel in twos and threes, and there we shed our wet gear and drunk tea and mulled over the day’s events, all wiser, all with a tale to tell. Jan and Monika produced a delicious meal and a desert to replace lost sugars. The promised Loch Ossian battering had been duly served. With more of the same forecast for Sunday some opted for the late evening train and home to bed by midnight.

Words: Mike Cawthorne

Pictures: David Jones and Monika Pietsch

Some eighteen members were milling about at Chisholm’s Bridge on a grey Sunday morning rubbing their eyes, quite unable to believe the blanket of snow. For once we could avoid the slog up the track and skin from our vehicles. The ease of access certainly impressed the new members.

For some three kilometres we went like a crocodile’s tail past the picture-postcard pinewood and into the broader reaches of Gleann nam Fiadh, and then up and to the west of Allt a’ Choire Odhar, a great snow-holding burn. A disparity of fitness manifested itself on the skin up, one member talking casually of cycling 250km every week, another recovering from a wine-soaked evening, and so two distinct groups began to materialise.

The wind rose and it started to snow from the southwest. The leading group disappeared into the mist, and by all accounts they had a great ski and board, though in challenging and, by now, white-out conditions. The smaller group of Jan, Monika, Sonya, Howard, and myself reached about 900 metres and turned for home. Goggled against the driving snow and skiing blind, we nonetheless encountered some fantastic snow conditions.

Jan and Monika went down in graceful curves whilst one of our party on telemarks regularly catapulted himself into drifts. Loose bindings were suspected. Duly tightened he put in some stylist turns that almost caused an outbreak of tele-envy among the alpinistas. Almost. The final three kilometres pole-planting schuss to the cars will be long remembered.

By Mike Cawthorne. 

Last year on Ben Wyvis was snowless, as was the year before. Would it be third time lucky?

Eighteen members from as far afield as Forfar gathered in anticipation at the carpark on a frosty morning. Among the throng and seasoned stalwarts were plenty of bright new faces and we set off with skis lashed to our sacs up the ice-covered trail through the conifers, pausing for counsel where a turn in the path presented a choice of options.

A small bold group led by Jan headed up the west ridge of An Cabar in search of steep slopes while the main party applied skins and forged up the glen that swung north and ascended Coire na Feithe Riabhaich. Having struggled on baseless snow the cover improved as we skinned into the corrie. There were pockets of sustrugi and crust, all earmarked to be avoided on the descent. The sun accompanied us the entire way to the ridge but, as so often happens, disappeared as we gathered for lunch.

Though at least we weren’t getting the promised white-out. Over sandwiches and flasks we mulled over the merits of skiing Wyvis’s west facing flank, Monika being the chief advocate, and she and a couple of trusting recruits disappeared over the crest. A lone skier on the ridge, perhaps seeing this happy crowd, joined us in our ritual peeling-off of skins, then a slight nudge forward, a pole plant, and one by one we plunged into the corrie, for some their first backcountry slide of the season. Enthusiasm largely trumped technique when negotiating the sustrugi and crust and pockets of powder but an exciting and challenging descent for that. Even the baseless heather skiing was a joy, sort of.

Somehow all three groups coalesced into the original throng, each having a tale of fantastic skiing. Jan’s group had practised slideslipping and jump turns on Wyvis’s east face, Monika’s small following had enjoyed floating on a cushion of powder, so they said. Everyone accounted for and shod in soft trainers again we went jauntily back to the cars. Wyvis had delivered.

By Mike Cawthorne.

Ten of us met at the Corie Cas bar at 9:00. Skitouring experience varied across the group, from quite new to the sport to experienced skitourers, who just wanted to spend a day out in a good company. Before we kicked off, we covered some theoretical aspects of skitouring and discussed essentials that every skitourer should have in their rucksack. It was a good opportunity to get caffeine boost, so much needed given that most of us had to leave their house before the sun was up. The weather was reasonably good at the start but soon clouds came low, and all slopes over 1000 m were buried in fog.

Snow cover looking from the car park was thin and patchy. We could hardly see any larger patches, and when we did they were separated by big boulder fields. The plan was to attack Coire an t-Sneachda or just play in Lurcher’s gully. None looked good but we decided to look for a play in the latter. Suprisingly, we managed to start skinning almost straight from a car park. We had to cross a few burns, which was fun (see picture), and navigate between boulder fields which was fun too.

We found our playground on the easterly slopes of the hill dropping to Lurcher’s gully. We did a few laps, and practised zig zags, kick turns, various techniques of taking skins off (see picture) and skiing in wet and heavy snow, and occasionally heather. The level of difficulty was raised by Paul’s dog Brèagha who was trying to bite our skins and (ski) tails off. Coming back was surprisingly easy and we did really well on skis all the way down to the car park, and believe me or not, without hitting any rocks.

We all agreed that it was a great day, because we spent more time skiing than walking (we have hardly walked at all), we could see where we were skiing (some were complaining that contrast was not great), it was not freezing cold, bitterly windy or raining (like it usually does), and we enjoyed our company what was the only thing which has not surprised me today.

By Jan Sznajd

The team: Rachel, Lyndsey, Alice, Cerys, Dan, Bass, Paul, Paul’s dog, Derek, Graham and Jan

Special thanks to Graham for help with teaching and guiding, and to Derek for pictures

A superb week’s guided backcountry ski touring was held in March 2017 in the Tatra Mountains of Poland, thanks to Jan Sznajd’s excellent organisation and inside knowledge.  This was truly a trip like no other; with a few trip member’s commenting that it was possibly the ‘’best week they’d ever had’’

A group of seven IBSC members met at Jan’s house in Zakopane south of Krakow in the Tatra mountains of southern Poland on the Slovakia border on a cold Saturday evening in March, having flown via various carriers from the UK to Krakow’ some members taking budget (or not as the case may be) Ryan Air and Easy Jet, and some taking KLM via Amsterdam.  The next day Jan, Gordon, Xavier, David, Duncan and Lizzie set off into the hills under the care of Alek; a very experienced local Polish guide and friend of Jan, who knew the Tatras like no one else.

After a couple of hours sleep, the group set off early on the first morning to the local Chocholowska valley.  We were picked up by a military vehicle and, hidden like refugees in the back undercover with all our gear, transported 8km to a hut at 1148m which was just at the snow level given the time of year. 


After a quick delicious breakfast consisting of mostly Polish sausages with excellent coffee, our first ski trip was to Rakon at 1879m.   Our plan was to climb to Wolowiec at 2064m, but due to bad weather we decided to head down early and were rewarded with most excellent powder skiing. Dinner in the evening consisted of rather traditional Polish mountain hut food: ‘’Bigos’’ (cabbage stew), ‘’Zurek’’ (fermented rye flour soup), ‘’flaczki’’ (tripe) and ‘’pierogi’’ (dumplings), which when washed down with several beers was rather splendid.


After a sound sleep in our quiet hut, our second day skiing was spent in thick fog and mist, but nevertheless some fresh snow as well.   This initially consisted of a steep ascent to Trzydniowianski Wierch at 1758m.  Some of the group enjoyed a short powder ski between trees, before heading to Konczysty Wierch at 2002m.  There was fog aplenty, although some seriously enjoyable runs were had in true powder especially the lower parts.  Another filling Polish meal and second night at the hut were enjoyed by all, and Jan made us all feel very welcome to his country.  

They say third time lucky, and our patience was rewarded on the third day with wall to wall sunshine, blue skies, light winds and great snow skiing all together.  This was a long whole day trip to Lopata at 1958m, with terrific ascents and descents, stunning scenery over all the high Tatra mountains of Slovakia and Poland, and plenty of Vitamin D with it feeling positively warm out the wind climbing.  Absolutely brilliant; no other words to really describe how good this was.

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Our fourth day together consisted of an early morning transfer from our first hut to the region of the High Tatra mountains.  We ascended to a col at Zawrat at 2159m climbing a steep gully with use of boot and ski crampons, as well as ice axes and a good sense of humour.   We descended in fog and crusty snow conditions, and hardly managed to find our next hut in the Five Lakes Valley at 1671m.  Without our local Polish guide Alek, who would often be heard to say ‘’Lizzie, come’’ ‘’Gordon, here!’’, we would have been seriously disorientated.  His expertise and local knowledge were second to none and we were given more personal attention than we’d have found elsewhere.


Our fifth day skiing was another day of excellent visibility but very strong winds.  we did two ascents and descents, the last one being Nizni Kostur at 2055m. The ascents were steep and rocky initially, but then rewarded with a beautiful descent into a corrie by the frozen lakeside, where lunch consisted of more Polish sausage and local bread.  A second night and final evening in our second hut was enjoyed by all with plenty of fine beer, wine and polish vodka to top off a most excellent day on the hill.



Our sixth and final ski day was spent climbing Szpiglasowa col at 2110m, consisting of a tricky descent initially, then playing around in the corrie and local gullies which was great fun.  By late afternoon we descended down to Morskie Oko hut for a hot drink.  Our ultimate transfer out of this valley back to civilisation was by traditional horse and cart, which took us to our more modern taxi back to Zakopane.  We enjoyed the remainder of our final evening all together in a Polish sauna complex consisting of several saunas and ice baths with much entertainment and bonding in between.  A truly sumptuous dinner was had by all in a local famous trout restaurant, before returning back to Krakow in a modern taxi and all staying at Jan’s parent’s house where we were made to feel truly welcome.

Our final day in Poland consisted of Krakow sightseeing to varying degrees whilst exploring craft beers and fine dining, before some of us left for the airport to make our way back via various means to northern Scotland.  This hereby ended an absolutely spectacular trip to the Tatra mountains in Poland, professionally organised all voluntarily by Jan Sznajd, who deserves huge thanks for putting so much of his free time and effort into organising such a great trip that ran faultlessly throughout and gave a few privileged members of IBSC a ‘’trip of a lifetime’’ that they would never forget.  One thing’s for sure: as well as fabulous powder skiing and great views, this area of Poland offers skiing and lodging at excellent value with superb local food, drink and amenities.  We will all never forget eating Polish sausage under the stars, group bonding in a sauna complex, and being guided across knife edge ridges in thick mist with near vertical drops.  I, for one, am truly grateful to Jan for the most unforgettable week skiing with such a great group, and one of the best week’s holidays I have ever had.

Written by Duncan Brown, October 2017

With special thanks to Jan Sznaijd

Images thanks to Jan, Alek and Duncan.

By Nicky Jackson (pictures by Hamish Frost). We set off in calm weather up to the CIC Hut. A heavy camera bag and a mountain of gear made for slow going and we arrived in darkness to the hut. Snow conditions this year have been poor, but we were optimistic after hearing from climbers that the gulleys still had snow and there had been fresh snowfall during the week.

We were really thrilled to have photographer, Ben Read ( and journalist Simon Akam (, with us to record our weekend. An article is set to be published later this year in Outside Magazine.


On Day 1 we skied from the top of No 4 Gulley. We all dropped from the headwall. Icey scrapes echoed down the gulley, but part way down the slope softened up and made for a great run. We then went on a mission up No 3, with narrow, concave slopes forming a dicey entry. A few keen beans/mountain goats went for another run part way up No 2.

In the evening we all shared a meal in the hut. A Dictaphone was taken out and we were interviewed by Simon Akam, our Journalist for the weekend.

Day 2, we hiked round to Observatory gulley. We took our axes and crampons out before it got steep and icey. Lots of photos were taken of us in action by Ben Read, both candid and posed for. Some went most of the way up Observatory gulley and we all skied right to the end of the snow line, with Finbar winning on the longest run down to the rocks.

Although the snow line was further back from the years before and the cornices less pronounced, it was still incredible to ski at the end of April on the Ben with such an awesome group of people.

NB. Graham the Mountain Goat lost at Gin Rummie and has agreed to swim in the Lochern next year, or Finbar will ski across it if his Dad decides it is not a day for ice swimming.

A weird end of season feel has 

By Rhona Steel.

IBSC in Spiterstulen, Jotunheimen                                          Norway March 2017

Disclaimer: the views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the NSAA, International branch.

Lørdag: is                             Saturday: ice

A week of westerlies has scoured the slope we ascend. Afternoon heat and sunset freezes have formed blisters of ice, which lurk beneath fine layers of powder. Ski edges barely scar it as we traverse. Concerns are unvoiced till one exits,saved by a ski pole arrest. Up over a col, we arrive at a corrie of perfect white. Glittertind beckons through the cloud, but not for this our first day.  We rename the peaks by shape, struggle with Norwegian pronunciation.  

The snow on this plateau is hard, soft, icy, but as we return through the col, the afternoon heat has softened the snow and we weave through the rocks, our laughter echoing across the valley. The hill catches another, who lands on ice, cartwheels over rocks, but bounces back. We empty our flasks, unwinding in the late afternoon sunshine.

Søndag: breen                    Sunday: glaciers

Svellnosbrean and Tverrabrean

Morning sun and startling blue skies as we file up the valley; long stick shadow puppets beat time at our feet. Orographic cloud, I'm told, tops the hills.  We’re rewarded with a skyline of creeping glacier, blue seracs grinding memories in the inevitable cycle of life.

A slope of untouched powder, we carve it up and onto the next glacier.  The wind picks up and we dig in for another lunch, sandwiches getting ever taller than the day before.  Wind and flat light stop play.

Smørbrød                             Sandwiches

Bread with ham, salami, beef, gherkins, boiled eggs, beetroot, olives, coleslaw, prawns, pickled chillis, pickled herring, pickled herring with tomatoes, pate, soft cheese, blue cheese, hard cheese, cheese with caraway, cheese with holes, brown cheese, cheese you would not want to meet in the dark, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, seeds, biscuits, dried fruit, oranges.Vel bekomme!

Mandag: trær                       Monday: trees

Weather forecast reads ‘frisk bris, -4’.  We take shelter in tree skiing, weaving through the trees, rocks and burns, following Roy and Howard’s unlikely tracks.  Is Howard really tall enough to straddle that sapling?

A natural stop at a fire pit for outdoor ed, we languish in the suntrap, while others explore, down towards the ravine. We skin back, but Sandy waxes lyrically up through the rocks.

We discuss plans for the week and another hut visit, but the weather is against us if we want to try for Galdhøpiggen.

Tirsdag: Sætre                    Tuesday: shieling

The current occupants’ ancestors moved down the track from Gamelsaetre to  Spiterstulen in 1750, birch snow poles mark the way.  We are drawn up the valley on blue wax, troll-like cairns whisper of bigger and better views. Hares’ tracks are everywhere, but they remain undetectable in this magical monochrome.  20km of stride and glide: some of us are feeling it.

Skål!                                       Cheers! (from old Norse for quaich)

Oodles of bottles of duty free wine and cans from a snatched foray in the supermarket: there are murmurings that they might not get finished in time and the boys set about making a name for themselves...

Onsdag: Minigolfing         Wednesday: skin up choice slopes, stuff skins up your jacket, carve it up

Wind again keeps us from the higher ground, so we go for a wander and a carve.  Sandy digs a snow pit revealing the weak layers we'd been warned of.  Roy’s gone for a quiet wander and we rejoin him at the mouth of a hanging valley, he stands arms raised, it’s all his. Turning for the evening, settling into an impossibly long telemark turn on powder, I praise and give thanks to the master of telemark instruction - you may know him as Sandy.

Torsdag: brehest                           Thursday: nunatak

(literal translation: glacier horse, so said mountain guide Niall)

‘Frisk!’ says a fellow guest and shrugs. These Norwegians are tough, tend towards understatement.  It’s blowing a hoolie again and it is bitter.  We divide into two groups: one heads towards the nunatak glacier and we head up Galdhøppigen.  The wind is forecast to drop.

We zigzag up with kick turns and shuffles, scarring ice blisters. Roy offers to lead and skins straight up: his toes reach his knees. We cut across.  Up past the tree line, where a reindeer breathed its last; up through cloud, mist and spindrift. Three ptarmigan flee as we look for shelter for the first sandwich stop, boiled eggs frozen around the yolk.  Onwards up to a bowl where the snowdevils dance, viewed by banks of mist.  Impossibly perfect mini landscapes forming and reforming at our feet.

John speeds up, drawn by the views over the glacier and hilltops that are all ours. Man, it’s ‘frisk’. Go to the summit and descend in the dark, or enjoy the descent, which we suspect may still be icy?  Common sense wins and the top’s for another day.

Spindrift has started making sastrugi, but when we go over the brow it's all powder. John flies past, rictus grin, teeth sparkling in the sunshine, snow fanning off his tails.   Andy’s -15 wax kicked in and he headed for steep bits to scrape it off; now he's twirling telemarks below in the distance. A rock reaches up through the snow and nips at Roy’s ski. He sits in the waist deep powder, a dark glacier horse surveying his domain. We get carried away, but Andy’s waypoint leads us back from the gully.   

Down through the trees, a few more nose dives and back in time for tea.


Fredag: hytte           Friday: Hut

The spindrift is deep and driving. Roy and Howard are addicted and set off. The rest of us drift.

Lørdag: vind og vann                   Saturday: wind and water

It's the first time we've seen beads of water on the tips of our skis.  As we turn up to Tverrabrean, the wind hits us and soon the visibility is low, the snow busy sculpting in every crevice.  Waiting to regroup, it's immediately freezing.   A snow layer shifts under our feet with a thud. Those with beards head up onto the glacier.  For us smoother chins, turning downwind transports us into another world of lazy turns and wanderings.  We finish the tour ‘minigolfing’ to the sound of avalanche as an unseasonal thaw sets in.

Tusen takk to all at Spiterstulen for their hospitality and craic and to Sven who drove us the 18km of iced-over single track to the main road. Mostly, thanks to my fellow IBSC companions for their planning and great company.

"Basecamp Sneachda" didn't go ahead due to lack of snow so we instead took an chance to go to the Grey Corries and ski some of the snow there. Personally I didn't expect such a  beasting so I was delighted to find myself sweating my way up a steep slope with no snow in sight!

We had driven to the furthest point you can get to without smashing gates down and sauntered up through the trees to the point we could break onto the hill proper. This is where the beasting started as there is no easy way to avoid major exertion when carrying skis and boots. The boots really add to the load. 

Once we actually reached the snow, which was at about 750 metres, we donned skis and headed up the north slope of Stob Coire Gaibhre. The sharp rocks were in evidence and ready to rip any skins to shreds that came into contact. 

 Stob Coire Claurigh has some excellent ski corries but they require an earlier start that we had planned so will have to wait for another day. The dog did explore to the east and reported excellent snow conditions. 

Most of the party had summit fever and wanted to get to the top of the Munro even if it meant leaving skis slightly lower down. The views were excellent as they have been most of the season due to the stable weather. Tìr nam Beann indeed. 

We got about 300 metres of descent which you might laugh at but in this truly poor season, is not to be missed. It's about being out on the hill though isn't it?

By Mike Cawthorne. Imagine going to a place where you can’t check snow conditions prior to leaving, no webcams, no SAIS report, no Facebook postings. Has anyone even heard of Coire Leachavie?

Strawberry cottage in the wilds of Glen Affric is a new venue for IBSC and it was apparent that none of the twelve members gathered had ever skied the surrounding hills, the likes of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, Mam Sodhail, Càrn Eighe, Mullach Fraoch-choire, A’ Chralaig, names that resonate with all who love the Northwest Highlands.

On Saturday morning and beneath the promised blue skies, five of the party who were without skis trundled off to climb Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan and tackle its stunning ridge. The remainder, six skiers and a split boarder, headed east on the path above Loch Affric and swung north into Coire Leachavie.

The toiling began, the juices flowed. And then evaporated. After five kilometres and five hundred metres of ascent the happy gaggle of skiers that had left the cottage were strung out like a ragged peloton and as one by one we reached the snow all seemed to fall upon it and kiss it like a long lost friend, albeit a friend with a crusty face.

But it was snow and newly buoyed we skinned the upper corrie and burst onto the ridge. The views were simply jaw-dropping, hills in a great orbit from Torridon to Ben Nevis and beyond. There was time to climb to Mam Sodhail and after more wordless gawping at the scenery we deskinned and went sailing down the south ridge on spring snow, over the lip into shade to tackle the ski-gobbling crust, each in his or her own style, fast or pedestrian, in smooth pleasing arcs or staccato fashion that left a trail of craters. Either way the fun was over all too soon. No snow ribbons burnside to chase in the afternoon sun, just an abrupt vanishing. The story of the winter.

The hill-walking party enjoyed similar vistas, theirs with a more western flavour. Heady with the alcohol of sun and views, Duncan and Lizzie remained on the high crests and we began to wonder about them until their arrival matched the serving of dinner, a hearty Rogan Josh courtesy of Jan and Monika. All a little weary and faces red from sun we toasted the day and spoke of the high corries seen, their lines and headwalls and of future winters that would blanket them. 

In the morning some drifted homewards along the track while two parties made for the great northeast shoulder of Mullach Fraoch-choire. Of yesterday’s tourers only Jan bothered to carry skis. Lugging skis all day for the promise of few minutes downhill was not just a Scottish thing it seems.

A long steady ascent and so warm and windless some of us had to detour to find water and two in the other party climbed the ridge shirtless and lay in a great drift of snow. We watched as Duncan, Lizzie and Xavier attempted the final snowy crest to the summit but they turned around. Too steep and the drops too huge. From our vantage we could survey the pinnacled crest to A’ Chralaig and high corries and possible lines, a backcountry arena of the future.

From a distance we spied Jan drop into gully. It narrowed and for a few seconds he was gone, lost among bands of dark rock, and guessing where he would appear a tiny figure emerged swerving the many obstacles and crossing the lower corrie, stitching like a master weaver the last strands of snow. He climbed back to our stance to enjoy one last slide and his tracks drew a double line under a fine weekend. But I think we would all barter a little of the sun for a little more snow. 

By Duncan Brown

There may have been poor snow cover, and there may have been gale force winds & lashing rain all of Friday night, but a sturdy group of 7 IBSC members met on a dark stormy Friday night in a forestry commission carpark by Achnashellach for an adventure.  We were to meet the legend known as Eric; who took us in his 4x4 8km up an offroad track to the impressive remote Glenuig lodge up Gleann Fhiodhaig, with James following closely behind in his vehicle.

It was here that Eric promptly opened up Glenuig lodge for us & started the fire, briefly explaining in part how the hydroelectricity & gas worked, and where the generator was, before disappearing into the night, promising he’d help if we call him.  Under an hour later, the power went out and the slogan ‘’Call Eric’’ became the motto for the weekend along with much banter and horror stories. This didn’t deter us for all enjoyed James’ superb Bolognese dinner. We all enjoyed a night sleep listening to the wind howling outside with gas heaters & candlelight making for a romantic Friday evening.  Eric did however return Saturday bright and early at 0930, with a cheery grin on his face amid talk of a cleaning lady and Lanzarote.

The powder may have melted with just a few snow patches higher up, but Saturday made for a bright & breezy hill walk altogether bagging a Munro; we ascended Sron na Frianach to summit Sgurr a' Chaorachainn, then along ridge to Bidean an Eoin Deirg. 

Group then split, with James, Lizzie, Duncan & David descending a grade 1 scramble on NE ridge down to Drochaid Mhuilich, and the others descending as per outward ascent.  We enjoyed some panoramic views with strong gusts on ridge & much windchill but very little daylight hours’ precipitation.

After Duncan & Lizzie reclimbed the valley to locate a missing camera, a fine evening was had with copious amounts of splendid wining & dining.  The evening started with fine champagne courtesy of James, with everyone enjoying steak pie & blueberry cake desert which Lizzie had prepared.  More beer, wine, whiskey & rum, along with irish coffee was enjoyed relaxing by the fire in a splendid lounge, where one could have been 100 years ago with nothing unchanged. 

Sunday morning started with a cooked breakfast, then the group split.  Lizzie & Duncan enjoyed a fell run down Pollan Buidhe then up the southern slope of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean (915m) to enjoy a ridge run encompassing Moruisg (928m) the Munro of the day, before descending sharply back to Glenuig.  A little brightness was witnessed with cloud base at 900-1000m, before closing in rapidly after 1400hrs.  Nevertheless, the Torridon and Glen Carron Munros were briefly witnessed. 

Jan & Monika enjoyed a walk up from Glenuig on old stalkers’ path to Coire a’ Chlaiginn, whilst David walked out back to Achnashellach, making for an earlier return.  Jamie had left Saturday evening to return for a commitment.

The weekend would not be complete without an open water ‘loch bag’ so without a loch nearby, the nearest plunge pool had to do; Monika, Duncan & Lizzie enjoyed a ‘fresh’ dip in the pool followed by warm bath and James’ lasagne which tasted even better as a result.

Sunday 1500hrs & the heavens opened to cold lashing rain with strong winds again; it was time to head out with all piled into James’ 4x4 for a bumpy ride out.  We didn’t end up needing to ‘Call Eric’ but would have been stranded even we’d tried with no phone signal up the entire glen & miles from any civilisation.  The group farewells were said, and Lizzie & Duncan met Eric’s wife, still in her dressing gown at 1700hrs, to hand the keys back. 

There may have been no fresh powder this year, but a superb weekend was had staying in a stunning location with a great group of new friends all enjoying every moment of solitude, isolation, nature & reflection on how lucky we were to have been there.  Above all, this wouldn’t have been possible without a legend named ‘Eric’.