Billed as 3 days Munro-bagging in the New Year, we were aiming up several of the peaks above the southern shore of Loch Laggan.
On our first day, I met Catherine, Paul and David in the long lay-by by the western end of the main part of Loch Laggan. Gear ready, we biked it along the fine track to Lochan nan h-Earba. In summer, there's a fine beach here, but with all the rain and snow we'd had of late, the beach was well submersed. In fact, the track by either side of the bridge over the loch's outflow was becoming badly eroded by the strong waves. A bit further on, we dropped the bikes off and headed uphill on foot.
The original plan was to do the bagging circuit in a clockwise direction, but there was still a bit of a south-westerly wind blowing, so we opted to do the circuit in the opposite direction. We were following a fine path, and as it came to a junction in the burns flowing down, we left the path behind and crossed heathery ground, aiming for Beinn a'Chlachair's central northern spur. Most of the time, this ground is wet underfoot, but not today - nice crunchy snow instead ! As we gained height, we could see a line of four vehicles on the track far below - turns out they do 'safaris' round here ! Up the spur and onto the plateau, it was time to concentrate on navigation as mist pulled in and created whiteout conditions. The summit bagged, photos taken and we about-turned.
Back along the plateau required more compass work for a couple of km, then the cloud lifted just as we approached the rocky north-eastern side of this mountain. No difficulies getting down, but ice-axes were used just to be on the safe side ! Up Geal-charn, again in mist for most of the way, but magically clear on the summit as we approached.
Creag Pitridh was our last peak of the day and only around a 45 minute hike from Geal-charn. Clear conditions made for initially easy going, but as we neared the col, it was into a blasting wind being funnelled through the gap between the two hills. Up to the summit, standing up wasn't too easy, but shelter was had in a nook behind the cairn - time for some food before the return.
With gale force winds and 100mph+ gusts forecast, we unanimously decided to forego our second day.
Calmer conditions were forecast for our third day, so with a song in our hearts and fresh legs, we headed up into Coire Ardair from the northern shore of Loch Laggan. Our objective today was the two Munros east of Creag Meagaidh - Stop Poite Coire Ardair and Carn Liath. A fine path leads into this beautiful area. At around 450m we began to meet the snow level - looks like there was a significant dump of snow over the last day or so. We met a group of 4 guys heading back - after a brief chat, we found out they'd been to the foot of the crags, but decided to give up on climbing as the snow was too heavy and loose. We reached Lochan a'Choire and stopped for some food and took in the glorious view. There were some avalanches to be seen - some cornices had collapsed and carried snow down to the southern side of the 'Window'. We were going to be keeping well clear of any of this !
Up to the 'Window' took a fair bit of step-kicking, the snow getting harder the higher we went. Onto the icy crest, Stob Poite Coire Ardair was reached fairly quickly. 'Is that it ?' said Catherine, surprised at the small cairn. In and out of mist, we followed the line of fence-posts eastwards. It's 5km between the two Munro summits and fairly easy going. There's one tricky bit of navigation in mist where a small gap is reached around halfway - today this was corniced over as we approached in the mist. Two guys were in the middle of the gap and we chatted before heading up and re-joining the line of fence-posts. Carn Liath reached, all that was left was a trudge over snow and ice to gain the wood below and return along the path. Back at the SNH building, they've got a board where they ask you to tell them what wildlife was spotted - we saw 4 ptarmigan, 3 grouse and a mad raven !
A great two days out with lovely company !
More photos on our Flickr site.
A wee video clip from the summit of Creag Pitridh is on YouTube.