Monday, 10 February 2014

Loch Lochy Munros, Feb'14

Avalanche debris near col
A small group of us were heading for the two Munros west of Loch Lochy. Unstable snow cover and a belting wind due in the afternoon made us a bit cautious about heading out, but heh, this was a hardy group, so we went for it !

Some of us were walking, so they headed along the track a half hour earlier than the others who we cycling in. We gathered at the start of the uphill hike and began walking. Through the forest was warm, the mass of trees were giving shelter. As soon as we were beyond the forest boundary, it was into a breeze and light rain. Some views were to be had looking back. Higher up and into snow, fairly deep at the col. No-one else was out, so we were making the tracks ! We decided to head up Sron a'Choire Ghairbh first - it's technically the easier of the two Munros.

Heading up from the col
Al blazed a trail through the deep wet snow. Higher up we were on a fine layer of slab covering rock-hard ice, time for folks to get their ice-axes out ! We could see back to Meall na Teanga - this mountain has an awkward ribbon of snow that forms in winter around half way up the slope - today it looked heavily ladden.  At around 750m we were in white-out, so with nose to compass we proceeded with care onto the summit's crest, just making out the edge of its cornice above the hill's northern corrie. With its small cairn just poking out of the snow, we were glad to reach the summit and gave each other a 'high-five'.

Tough conditions on the summit
The lull in the weather had by now past and full-on winter conditions were blasting us from the south-west. So the group unanimously decided to head straight back down to the col. The other decision made on the way was to not head up Meall na Teanga - the direction of the wind and the amount of snow that was building up on lee slopes meant that this mountain's slopes would be dangerous. So we headed downhill, on the way passing two other guys who were heading up the hillside using what could be traced of our footprints. Some fun was had doing some winter skills stuff on the safer slopes. We found a crag lower down near the col to shelter behind and have lunch.

Doing some winter skills
Back down the footpath to the track below, we could see a RAF helicopter coming in and then hovering around the col between the two Loch Lochy Munros. We thought the worst, then guessed they were having a training exercise ! We later found out that one of the two guys heading up we saw earlier had fallen through the cornice just before the summit. He fell around 50m, but was fine, just stuck and couldn't get back up !

More photos are on our Flickr page.