Fionn Bheinn 24th January 2015

By Helen Rennie.  This was to be a ‘Member’s Choice’ trip, but nobody sent in any suggestions, so by Friday evening, with no news of a tour, our Facebook page had a few posts asking if a trip was going to take place. Fortunately, we have a very dedicated committee, and in just over an hour Donald had made the decision to head to Fionn Bheinn by Achnasheen with a very civilised departure time of 9.00am. 

By the back of 10.00 six of us were at Achnasheen station enjoying the luxury of a covered porch to assemble out kit in and clean heated toilets. Ok guys, might not matter much to you, but for us girls it does make life easier! 

We set off with even some blue sky showing!

After just over half an hour of walking we were able to take the skis off our backs…

…and John began his experiment to see if his old straight telemark skins would work on his new alpine touring skis.

Sadly the experiment didn’t last long and our group diminished to five with John returning to buy new skins!

The snow was soft and grippy and with Fiona leading the way were soon making progress and discovering that the forecast of strong winds increasing with height was extremely accurate!

 

The sun did break through at times though and we were able to get stunning views of Slioch.

As we gained height the grassy tussocks became less pronounced, and the snow more powdery although there were scoured icy areas.

We had originally thought of skiing down the east side and Donald and Fiona approached the summit round the corrie edge to have a look to see what the cover was like.

It was similar to what we had skinned up on and as it was becoming quite a struggle to stay upright in the gusts, we decided to just go back by the way Harry and Rose had approached. Getting the skins off and packed away was challenging to say the least and I don’t think I was the only one that was glad to get the skis back on and head away from the edge.

Just below the summit was grippy ice. 

Then we had the joys of beautiful powder.

Before we were engulfed in a near whiteout!

Lower down though the wind dropped, the visibility improved and Harry led us on a twisting course around the tussocks. Great fun!

More lines of snow kept appearing so downwards we continued. Eventually Rose, Fiona and Harry called it a day but Donald and I decided to get right to the gate, although by that time there had been no snow under our skis for quite some distance!

We were back at the cars in less than 5 hours and with all the tussock negotiation had enjoyed at least 5kms of downhill skiing which more than made up for the less than perfect weather and wet kit .

 

We decided a coffee and a snack would be welcome as we hadn’t really managed to eat much on the mountain, so headed to Ledgowan Lodge hotel - to be greeted by a sign ‘Closed till February’ ! Plan B was hatched - to head to the Garve hotel - only to be greeted with another ‘Closed ‘ sign! However Tarvie Services came to our rescue with great coffee, hot chocolate and chips with cheese, where we all agreed it had been a great day out.

Thanks Donald for making it happen, and hopefully you might have some suggestions for 22nd February 2015 - Club members choice.  

 

Creag Meagaidh 18th January 2015

By Kev Neal.  After one of the worst spells of Scottish weather (10 days I think) - affectionately called conditions forming weather , or weather you would not even go to the shop to pick up a news paper in!!!.  The club trip to cairngorm was changed. Bless the poor Gorms as they had pretty much no coverage for ski touring.

The everywhere else looked amazing, was simply a matter of deciding where to go. Teaming up with the other director of powder whores we decided that meaggy might well have some pretty good conditions.

Neither of us had skied there before so at least it would be fun for all.  Back in the 0’ies I climbed there quite a bitty so was confident it offered ski lines everywhere !

The club assembled at the car park,  12 of us headed up through the trees in deep pow. Not always choosing the best line for skinning as it was hard not to get excited at the prospect of all the snow we could see pretty much everywhere.

With such a large group of varying skills we decided to keep it short and head up on to Sròn a' Ghoire. The shoulder was loaded with loads of fresh and would make a great ski down into the trees and moraine field below.

Alas despite it being perfect on the way in, once we started the skin up Sròn a' Ghoire the wind blew hard for a couple of hours from the south east and ripped all the nice snow away… Never mind it did make the accent real fun on neve.

The ski down was still fun-ish - a mix of wind pack, neve, pow pockets and small areas of rabbit killing slab.  Skiing all the way back to the car is always fun in Scotland as its not every week we get the privilege.

The next day was a different story !

see the blog for a few pics from miles away:- http://meagaidhblog.sais.gov.uk/2015/01/great-general-cover/

Càrn Liath 19th January 2015

A group headed out from the Aberarder car park near Creag Meagaidh and went up Càrn Liath.  This is what happened:

Also at http://vimeo.com/117604436

Ben Wyvis - 4th January 2015

By Simon Jacyna. For the first trip of the new year, 15 or so members, many new to the club, assembled in the dark at the Tesco car-park. Introductions were made but these all had to be repeated a couple of hours later when we finally got some daylight. A short drive up to the car-park and we were on the path not long after eight.

On the western side there was a worrying absence of snow and spirits sunk a little as we continued to climb An Cabar into the wind, cloud and drizzle with only a little slushy snow underfoot.

However, we reached the summit in good time to see large expanses of deep snow stretching away into the mist below us on the east facing slopes. At last, after about two hours, we could finally put the skis on. A quick check of the map and we split into two groups.

The smaller party headed northwards and, skirting the large cornice, dropped into Coire na Feola for a fast run on good snow. The rest of us went up the ridge a little and dropped into the Coire na Feithe Riabaich.

Lovely firm snow with a dusting of fresh powder, spirits rose rapidly, and we were quickly whooping and swooping, turning, telemarking and tumbling for a run of over a mile. The cloud broke lower down giving us good views of the Moray Firth.

Skins back on and it was back to the top for a second run. By now the cloud was lifting and the wind easing as we skinned back towards An Cabar for the final run of the day. This gave us a very fast & steep run down the SE face, with a couple more tumbles, but it was over too soon.

Skis off, a long drop to the valley floor and then the walk back out with packs somehow getting heavier and heavier but with excellent views to the west in the clear air. We were back to the cars after about 7.5 hours, nine miles and about 1,200m of ascent.


There's nothing like having a date in the diary to provide the motivation to get out on the hills on a day when one's first instinct is to have a lie in. From an unpromising start the day just got better and better and provided ample reward for having to get up at 5 a.m!

 

A' Chailleach and Geal Chàrn - 29th December 2014

By Graham Boyle. I never find choosing the location of ski trips easy, particularly the first one of the winter. Monday was no different with a range of other issues having to be taken into account: the excesses of the festive season, shaking off a nasty chest infection, somewhere other than Cairngorm, shortish day, not too far to walk to get to snow. A scan of the webcams, emails to local on-the-ground contacts, and a look through MWIS and SAIS reports suggested that east facing slopes of A' Chailleach ("the old woman" 930m) and Geal Chàrn ("white peak" 889m) on the Monadh Liath would be holding sufficient snow to make the most of the fine weather and meet my other requirements.  

I was in sociable mood so an exchange of postings on the IBSC Facebook page hooked me up with 2 others looking for somewhere a bit different to ski. So it was that Simon, Dan and I met at the carpark at the end of Glen Road in glorious sunshine, a hard frost on the ground and the promise of good snow cover on the surrounding hills.  

This was only my second visit to the area having been introduced to the hills on a ski trip the previous year in equally fine conditions, by IBSC veterans Andy Ince and Mike Cawthorne, The starting point of the trip was popular for a number of people but a good land rover track soon spread us out, as the various walkers and other skiers peeled off to take their own chosen lines. Underfoot conditions favoured walking shoes so with boots clipped into our skis and hung at the sides of our packs we make quick progress up the side of the Allt a' Chaorainn ("Burn of the Rowan") beyond the end of the vehicle track, where the usually boggy path was secured under a thick skin of ice. The burn had to be crossed at some point but we continued on until we spied a line of firm snow on the far bank before slithering across the iced rocks and gearing up for our ascent.

Having our skis on feet rather than on our packs felt great and we soon picked up a good rhythm skinning up and gaining height on firm neve, crossing the occasional thinly covered patch of heather. Our line took us west above the red bothy and across the normal approach track to A' Chailleach where other walkers were plodding  uphill, making heavy weather of the breaking crust. The day had brought out a number of other hill goers and our own progress was watched with interests by numerous mountain hares in their winter colours, soon darting off across and vanishing against the snow only to be spotted again as silhouettes on the  blue skyline above us.       

The Monadh liath ("grey upland") comes into its own in winter; its vast rolling hills covered in heathers and grasses providing an excellent snow base which is very forgiving when cover is thin. Today we needn't have worried, with snow holding well in the numerous gullies running down from the hills above and we quickly gained height towards Geal Charn.

We reached the top in good time to be greeted by a fresh wind from the west but excellent 360deg views: Creag Meagaidh ("bogland crag") to the south west, Sgor Gaoith ("windy peak") to the east, the hills of Glen Affric and to the north, the Moray coast ribboned in blue. Still one of our last wildernesses and the source of many of our great rivers - Findhorn, Dulain and Tarff we were fortunate to see it yet unblemished by the threatened invasion of wind turbines.    

After a bite to eat and drink, skins were off for a short downhill traverse on excellent snow - dropping further than we needed to take advantage of the line and to give our legs a chance to be reacquainted with muscle and tendon. Skins back on and a freshening wind behind us encouraged us onwards and upwards to our final destination A' Chailleach where the walkers, a group from Newcastle University, had just made it to the summit and in time for Simon to casually be included in their group pictures.

The prospects for our descent, which we had scoped out further below, were looking very good so we didn't linger over lunch and headed east off the summit on good snow. The SAIS had given an amber warning on east facing slopes so as the gradient started to get beyond 30 deg and with earlier signs of slab we traversed onto safer ground and continued our descent putting in fresh tracks on the way. The decision for an encore was unanimous so skins were on and we climbed back for another chance to nail our turns and enjoy around 500m of decent in almost perfect conditions.

We managed to stay on our skis back to burn crossing at around 450m albeit for the final short section across thinly snow covered heather using a technique which Dan felt we could excel at if it were to become an Olympic downhill event! 

The possibilities on the Monadh Liath are extensive and need to be experienced before this wild place becomes lost to industrialisation. Have a read of Mike Cawthorne's new book Wilderness Dream to get a taste of the magic of these hills and if you are looking to do something other than Cairn Gorm "again" have a nibble at the edge of the Monadh Liath by taking in A' Chailleach and Geal Chàrn.

Meall a' Bhuachaille - 13th December 2014

After the warmest November on record, finally the snow fell in bucket-loads, and the season was on.

With 19 signed up for the trip, including a few new members and quite a few ski-touring for their first time ever, it seemed like we were on for the biggest club trip in recent years.  After a few hiccups with different interpretations of the term "car-park below Glenmore Lodge" (my bad), there we were with the most unlikely of situations - total freedom, fresh powder, blue skies, and a club full of people as excited as I was about getting up and at it...

 

Having spied the wind / snow coming in from the South West, and with there being a warmer, wetter front forecast to move in from the same direction through the day on Saturday, we had picked the Meall a' Bhuachaille ("the Shepherd's Hill") as the most likely candidate for being:

1) accessible with that much snow at road level,
2) having the best chance of clear skies and decent visibility,
3) having a long, sloping mid-mountain / grass-based NE-facing slope where the snow should have settled, sheltered from the storm which brought it, and
4) offering slopes of a gradient sufficiently low to make the trip inviting/accessible for beginners and relatively avalanche safe.
... turning up in the car-parking along the side of the ski-road, Andrew and I could see that the higher slope of the Fiacaill Ridge between Lochain and Sneachda (a similar aspect to our objective) was plastered, and we knew we were in for a special day.  Al's Todd and Bird went looking for Nicky, Jamie and Kenny headed off looking for replacement split-board parts, and the rest of us headed up the south side of the hill to see what was what.  
 
 
As we toured up through the trees at different speeds, under boughs creaking heavily under the weight of the snow, I think it was Mark who pointed out that the moistness of the snow that had fallen had blasted the trees with white in the manner of the "snow-monsters", for which Japanese tree-skiing is famous.  It is not usual to liken Scottish touring to Japanese powder-sessions, but by the end of the day it almost felt like it.  Agathe and Gaspard got an overview of the Cairngorm corries, and Lizzie & Brigid got their first taste of Scottish ski-touring.  "It's always like this", we told them ;o).
 
 
Nearing the bealach, I ventured out of the well-laid skin-track to get a feel for the snow on the windward side, and it was a complete mixture of wind-affected pow and crust, depth between shin and thigh, quite evidently difficult skiing for anyone without the modern rocker-tips which have taken all the skill out of skiing crust...  And as we approached the crest of the ridge, winds went from "strong" to "don't stop moving", and the group split into strata based on keenness, fitness and equipment - I was glad to have Al Todd's dependable presence somewhere scooping up those at the back of the pack - before regrouping at the top in three tranches for the descent.  Leading the first of these off the NE side, down to Ryvoan Bothy (our chosen lunch-spot and half-way meeting point), there was a comical 100m where I think everyone except Hebe took a tumble on the wind-packed surface-crust, but as one of the club members pointed out, "if you're not falling, you're not skiing hard enough!" And after a few more turns, the snow became a bit more straight-forward, giving rise to cheers and laughter and amazement in equal proportion at what great skiing we were enjoying on this first trip of the year.
 
 
Gliding through the mid-mountain, easily the best skiing on offer, we were soon at the steeper slopes above the bothy, where "Team Ft William", lead by Jordan on his new DPS's, sampled some early season jump-turns and leaping over tufts of sufficiently-covered heather and grass.  Snow just above the bothy was a challenge to most of us, but as demonstrated by Marty on his snowboard and the snow-hare which darted out of a hole not 3ft from my skis as I past, if you know the terrain, the snow and your equipment, it was easy to have a lot of fun and move quickly, and despite a generous helping of tumbles, I think everyone enjoyed it enough to be thirsty for more...
 
 
After regrouping for lunch and mountain-stories in the bothy, everyone was keen for a second lap, so we headed up over the shoulder aiming to make the most of the short December days.  Opting for different steepnesses, lines and starting heights, there was something for everyone on the front side that day, be it low angled trees leading to the parth, moderate trees down to Glenmore Lodge directly, or epic steep lines on what Mark called "the best skiing I've had anywhere, ever", and what massively-experienced Scottish freeride-telemarker Al Bird referred to as "about as good powder skiing as I've ever had in the UK".  Al Todd was working his magic with the camera, and then demonstrated why he'd been on the road-bike all summer by still managing catch up with the ascent team and get a further descent in, being a dutiful father to Angus, on his first club trip; and whilst Lisa swished her smooth and even tele-turns through the high-trees which pepper the limit of the alpine, the lingering sunset colours glinted flickers of evening light on smiling faces - finally not just smiling in anticipation of the season to come (those smiles have been in place for months) but now also smiling at a grand day out where we as a club were blessed with the gift of amazing snowfall and made just the right decisions and were in just the right place at the right time, in great company and in spectacular surroundings...
 
 
What more could you hope for from a club day trip?
 
Happy Christmas to one and all, and I can't wait to ski with you in 2015 - see you up there.
 
P
 
P.S.  And to "face" the rumours, yes, the face-plant photo was me...
 
 
(as an aside, sincerest apologies to the two members who had noted the date down as the Sunday, which had been originally suggested some weeks ago - the correct date was in the emails, had been in the programme on the website for a few weeks, was in the event page on ibsc.org.uk and on the club's Facebook page, but had originally been the Sunday so the confusion was probably inevitable...  In the event, Saturday was definitely the better of the two days for ski-touring, so we would likely have changed it to then anyway, but the main message here is: always keep an eye on the up to date info on the website events' pages, on the emails, and/or on the FBk page)
 
 
 

Geal Chàrn - 12th December 2014

The first day out in the hills is always special and the recent snow provided challenge and fun in equal amounts. The A9 had some snow lying on it and laybys hadn’t been cleared so we were right on the side of the road when we parked with trucks thundering past. Balsporran Cottage (Beul an Sporain – Mouth of the Purse) is at about 425 metres. To access the hill you have to cross the railway line (line speed 90mph) so don’t get a ski caught on the rail. 

We traversed up the north side of Allt Beul an Sporain aiming, eventually, for Geal Chàrn. Snow was drifted to great depth and this was no easy introduction for the season. Drifts about about 1 metre high were hard to spot from a distance and only an impact confirmed their presence. 

As we ascended, the wind increased and the air was dark and full of snow. The temperature wasn’t too cold though but stopping even for a minute or two caused an abrupt cooling and congealing of the juices.

We continued across the burn, with a near close inspection of the water, and up onto Geal Chàrn proper. The going was easy but visibility very poor. However the snow was deep, if heavy, and the hill had very few rocks to crash into on the way down.

This wasn’t a day for summits and we didn’t continue beyond the flat section as the wind was really getting up and flatter areas we well scoured.

On the way down, once we gained our confidence, the snow proved to be lovely once we gained momentum. Getting started was slightly difficult and we all did a close snow inspection at some point so the identities of the skiers have been concealed to protect the guilty.

Across the railway line, back to the vehicles and straight to the Dalwhinnie Snack Shack for calories which were present in copious quantities.  You can add “meat” to your baked potato for a mere 80p. 

A good time was had by all.  Check out our Programme for more days out like this.  

13th November 2014 - AGM and Season Opener

When we were planning the season opener we debated what format we should use.  Once again we were welcomed by the Glen Mhòr Hotel although next year we might need a bigger venue.  We reckon about 70 people turned up to the evening.  A quick calculation reveals that we were generating about 4.9kw of heat at peak output which explains why it got so warm.  If we can harness that energy on the hill then it will be a great season.  

Talking of seasons, we are definitely still in Autumn and maybe late summer with current temperatures.  The great winter of 2009-2010 started this way with the first big snow arriving on the 18th of December 2009.  It didn't stop for some time after that.  

Al Todd delivered a great slide show which included a tour of skiing in Scotland - just what the snow doctor ordered. The slide show had some pictures of Al climbing and winter climbing experience or general mountaineering in winter was a definite advantage last season when faced with ferocious winds and spindrift.  It all added to the fun though.  

Gordon went through the various benefits of being a member of the Club which are many and include discounts and gear deals.  See Member Benefits for more information.

But the biggest benefit of all is being part of a vibrant and welcoming Club which gets out on the hills in winter.  We think the programme we have lined up is great.  Things will change certainly according to conditions but we will have fun no matter what happens!  

Aonach Mòr - 19th April 2014


The juices have flowed and they have flowed liberally recently. Amongst the highlights of recent weeks have been short tours over to Aonach Beag, various descents on Aonach Mòr, skiing Coire an Lochain on Braeriach and some generally great backcountry action.

The snow in the west is still quite plentiful and the coires of Aonach Mòr are still providing great skiing and mountain settings. The weather has also meant the mountains have been that bit more special, if that makes sense. We recently skied at Aonach Mòr and decided to tour over to Aonach Beag, one of the great hills of the Highlands, and ascend to the summit. The day didn't disappoint.

Despite the recent snow loss, there was still a huge amount on the summit plateaus of Aonach Mòr and Aonach Beag. So much that there was only a short section requiring the use of “grass wax”.

There were some huge cornices at the bealach between Aonach Mòr and Aonach Beag. It was not an exageration to say there are some cornices of at least 10 metres in depth. We used crampons to ascend the narrower rocky section above the bealach and then to the summit. The descent was on some of the best snow we skied this season and being above the north face of Aonach Beag added to the fun. There are some great climbing routes on this face when conditions allow.

From that point we skinned back over to Aonach Mòr and my new skins enjoyed their bristles being touched onto the soft moss of the Aonach. I don't think the Swiss had this sort of stuff in mind when they came up with the funky design.

A quick conference saw us deciding on going back south to Summit Gully which was in superb condition. A step roll-over lead to some lovely snow in amazing mountain scenery. These coires really are great places to ski. The journey out and back to the gondola was on ski and foot and provided a good blast for the tired legs.   

Cluanie ski trip - 29th March 2014

By Donald Morris

Twas a dark and wet night in October 2013 when Mike, Donald and Peter sat down to plan the programme for the coming season.  Various trips were already planned but we needed something in the West Highlands. Glen Shiel offered the obvious location with great scenery and great skiing, potentially. The non-standard nature of the venue also motivated us to stick it down on the programme.  

It was therefore surprising to see so many people turn out for the trip. A brightly clad group met at Inshes car park, all looking forward to some uncertainty and the potential for good skiing. Sociable it certainly was and 13 people departed from the road at breakneck speed. 

Route finding was easy with good paths up the hills.  That said, we hadn't quite decided on a route so some alterations to direction were required early on and a classic burn crossing was the reward for the indecision. The rocks were slippery and one member of the party had a brief frission of excitement caused by both ski boots being below the water line.  

Boots slightly wetter than before, we continued up the glen into the coire. This was classic scottish ski terrain - walking over bogs and having to cross another river even to get to the snow. About an hour and a half saw us at the bottom of a steep snow gully granting access to the slopes above. The skinning was steep and the entire party got some good practice at kick turns. Teamwork was to the fore as good skin tracks were set up for followers to enjoy. 

The upper coire had many features and we commented on how small the numbers of people would be who had stood in those places. The ridges are well trodden but the coires less so. 

We arrived at the ridge which had large cornices. Almost double corniced in place, there was a debate as to the safety of continuing up the narrowing ridge to the summit. Once committed to though, the ridge was actually very easy and we had only been about five minutes from the summit. 

Mist always adds something to a day in the hills and Sgurr an Lochain looked amazing directly across from us on Sgurr and Doire Leathain. We didn't see the doire leathann at any point though. Too many deer?

Descent number one saw the whole party heading down into Coire a' Chùil Droma Mòr. The snow had some nasty surprises for us though as uniform easy sections were peppered with sudden, invisible sections of very slow, heavy snow. This led to sudden decelerations and was particularly challenging for anyone on telemark gear.  

 

Some of the party continued down a narrow gully which passed through a rock band where a glacial ice fall would have been some years ago. This required careful and committed skiing though with a fall being rewarded by smashing into rock walls followed by a tumble onto boulders. No one did fall though.

The party split at this point with the lowest section skiing back up the route we had ascended earlier and the second lot ascending by the descent route. There was a lot of ascending and descending on the day with GPS devices recording 1766 metres of ascent. I can't see where that was but if it's on the internet it must be true.  

Both parties met up again at the summit of Sgurr an Doire Leathainn and had a look at the much steeper entry into Coire an Lochain. The plan was to descend into this coire and ski out as far as possible before walking back to the road. More confident skiers led the way and the snow was much better in this coire. The entry looked steep from above, and was steep, but a sure footed approach meant that any issues could be dealt with. Some blasted down the slopes and got to the bottom quickly whilst others enjoyed the turns. Everyone smiled.  

Further down, close to the lochan (still frozen) of Coire an Lochain, we headed onwards unsure of how long the snow would last. It ran out above another rock band, similar to that on Everest, at about 630 metres.

Debate ensued as to the best route down and we settled for a rising traverse around the ridge which saved a bit of walking and deposited us at the top of a narrow snow line heading downwards. It was less than a metre wide in places. True to IBSC tradition, we skied to the end of the snow. And I mean the real end...

The glen looked great as we headed down towards a well deserved drink at the Cluanie Inn.  

If you like the sound of this, please join the club and come on one of our events.  See Programme and Membership.  

Ben Alder Weekend - March 2014

By Mike Cawthorne

An inch or so of fresh snow lay on the ground at Dalwhinnie as Gordon, Donald and myself set out along the track by Loch Ericht, the cold conditions ushering an end to the recent mild weather. We were all pretty well freighted with overnight gear and skis, boots and poles strapped in a cats cradle to our bikes but Donald with his panniers won the prize for excess baggage. Wobbling and unsteady at first then making decent progress on the gritted track to the lodge. Snow was encountered as we climbed steeply from the lochside and our back wheels skidded and slew. For a while I decided pushing was easier, our antics watched by some red deer and a trio of fed-up looking ponies at a feeding station.

 Rounding the corner Ben Alder with its ridges of blowing snow came into view to whet tomorrow's appetite but it seemed distant and remote and its plateau wind-raked. Snow showers came and went as we threw up our varied collection of shelters, Donald's effort on two wheels now rewarded as a high-end mountain tent complete with flashy logo sprang up. It dwarfed my double hooped bivy and Gordon's more modest half-dome.

Some grub, a brew of coffee, chocolate, and we struck out for Carn Dearg. Its north shoulder had caught recent snow and we skinned slopes awash with spindrift, onto the summit crown, the sun casting shafts of light into An Lairig below but the wind bouncing us about until we stripped our skins and turned about and were propelled downslope.

First a lovely steep descent over wind-packed powder then a long traverse and some great skiing over the shoulder, so good we shouldered skis and waded up for another run. In the last light and falling snow we cut crazy lines over snow-covered heather in a 'hope for the best' final schuss that landed us by the stony track, just about intact.

Too late to go wood foraging we settled and dined on Gordon's boil-in-bag army rations and drank coffee and later watched a matrix of stars in the void.

Wind, snow and hailstones rattled during the night and we cradled our morning brews in a freezing wind and muttered about options. Ben Alder struggled to throw off its cloud and for a while we contemplated a different hill, but a burst of sun had us geared up and on the track for our appointment.

Rather than fight the wind and attempt to reach its summit we aimed to reach and play in the immense snowfields below its eastern cliffs. A couple of kilometers in we donned skis and skins and crossed the burn and began steadily gaining height, late morning sunshine striking the twin Leachas and casting blue shadows on the snows.

 

From experience I knew the burn draining Loch a' Bhealaich Bheithe could present a bar to progress. Being fed by a sizable loch it tumbled noisily about snow-covered boulders, its margins uncertain in the drifts. Skis now strapped on our sacs we tried at a few places, toeing with poles, thinking maybe we should play safe and barefoot it across. I bridged a decidedly doggy looking gap and whooped up the far bank, but the others, perhaps wisely, wouldn't follow, and for a good time we climbed on opposite banks.

At some point a snow bridge many metres thick overwhelmed the burn and we reunited to brew and take a late lunch and contemplate our awesome surroundings, the great eastern corries of Alder stretching sun-bathed and in unbroken snow. We skinned as high as our limited time allowed and reached a point just below the Short Leachas.

Ten sumptuous turns and we were back at the crossing. Brief reward for our endeavour maybe, and Gordon reckoned he'd never cycled, walked, skinned so far for so few spins.

We did manage a few more in the heavy powder overlying the heather but downhill from the burn was the usual 'seat-of-your-pants' stuff, Donald leading the charge. Thawing snow and spring warmth by the tents then back to two wheels and mostly freewheeling to the lodge, braking only to ruffle the mane of a pony that now seemed happier with the sun on its back.

Dark on reaching Dalwhinnie and a fish supper stop at Aviemore rounding off a fantastic weekend.

 
   
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