In winter, we're always watching the various weather forecasts, trying to find one that looks optimistic. Well today, we didn't have to look too hard, most were saying the same thing - stable conditions, good chance of clear summits and light winds.
It was a cold, slightly icy drive to the start of the walk, by the entrance to Castle's Farm. Six of us met there, checked our kit and then walked along the farm-track. After saying 'hello' to the farmer, we were greeted by a motley crew of cattle and a few sheep - some slightly curious, others far too busy with more important stuff to be bothered (ie munching away at the bales of hay). Through a couple of gates and around 1km uphill, we left the leisurely incline behind at a small cairn, then striked directly up the steep hillside ahead. Very quickly we were using our boot edges to stamp through a top layer of crisp ice to softer snow beneath - slow but steady progress. Further up, we arrived on the top of the south-east shoulder of Beinn Eunaich and had a break to catch our breaths whilst taking in the superb panorama - Ben Lui to the south-east poking through a layer of cloud looked particularly stunning.
Off we continued, a quickly we realised that our boot edges were not enough - time for ice-axes and crampons to be put on ! Progress was now much more secure and the group continued to the summit. WOW, what views - Ben Nevis, clear and sharp to the north, Mull to the west and Beinn Buidhe to the south. However, Cruachan was simply gorgeous, resembling the Matterhorn as cloud flowed around.
We decided to split the group, some wanted to continue to Beinn a'Chochuill, others were delighted with what they'd achieved. So after progressing to the bealach between the Munro summits, two got themselves settled into a bothy-shelter and enjoyed some warmth and more views. The others continued onto Beinn a'Chochuill's summit, still in crampons and with ice-axes. The cloud came and went and we got glimpses up Loch Etive and Cruachan from the summit.
We returned to the bealach, re-grouped and walked down to the track below. After returning to the track, a short drive to the Real Food Cafe brought some warmth back to our cheeks !
A great day out ! More photos are up on a Flickr album.