A weekend of winter mountain hiking was planned taking in the Munros above Bridge of Orchy. Cold and crisp weather was forecast, hopefully ice-axe and crampons would get an airing !
I met Fiona, Lawrence and Keith in the large car-park by the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. We had a chat about the plan for the weekend and got our gear sorted out. We started up the path, under the railway line and uphill. The sleeper train pulled into the station, posing against the magnificent backdrop - what a great way to arrive ! Ahead we could see a few folk, the fine weather was bringing people out of hibernation. Up into an icy Coire an Dothaidh, we met some climbers - the 'Salamander' was their goal, an icy cliimb up the west face of Beinn an Dothaidh. We opted for ice-axe and crampons at this point, even tho we weren't doing any graded climbs, we still ended up heading up some fairly technical terrain. Up to the top of the coire, we turned south and romped up Beinn Dorain. The views were stunning and cameras clicked away. A stiff breeze forced us to seek some shelter for lunch and we found a little hollow perched above Beinn dorain's southern crags.
We returned to the col, meeting several people on the way - most folk were doing the same route as us, but in the opposite direction - I wonder if this is what the guidebooks or Walk Highlands suggest ? The advantage of this traffic was we were now following footprints rather than making them, therefore maiking good progress. We met a couple of Glaswegians on the way who were singing the praises of 'micro-spikes' in these conditions - I felt they were inappropriate, but couldn't get a word in edge-ways - ironic that the same day two guys got stuck in Snowdonia and had to be rescued - they were wearing spikes (see this on Grough) !
We got ourselves up Beinn an Dothaidh and took in the views as we made a circuit or the three summits on this mountain. We returned to the col one final time and began our descent. We met the climbers again, they had to give up on their climb due to the ice beginning to melt. The sun began to set behind the peaks ahead for the walk out to Bridge of Orchy, making for some awe-inspiring scenery.
We were down to two on the Sunday - Keith had to return home early, house building bekoned :( The day began with an amazing moon-set over Stob Gabhar and an inversion over the Black Mount. Fiona, Lawrence and myself began the walk from the new car-park by the head of Loch Tulla. With deep snow, we were following some footprints and were quickly taking a direct route into Coire Achaladair. There was lots of interest to detract from the fairly tough going - huge icicles, erratic boulders, animal prints and much more. We opted to aim for the col between Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Achaladair, rather than the steep direct ascent up Beinn Achaladair - yes this would be much longer, but much easier. Up to the col, we sought out some shelter from the breeze that had picked up, finding a spot in some sunshine to take in some views.
Now in mist, we aimed up the southern spur of Beinn Achaladair. Having a well defined crest, the route was fairly obvious even in near white-out conditions. Ice-axes were out, but not the crampons, yet. Onto the summit, we pondered which point was the highest and concluded it was between the two cairns, not having a cairn itself. Views to the north were briefly exposed as mist occasionally lifted.
Onwards to Beinn a'Chreachain, we met a couple and enjoyed a brief chat. Descending Beinn Achaladair's eastern shoulder required crampons for a short section to reach the col below Meall Buidhe - concentration required, mist had lifted and we were distracted by a cracking view southwards. Crampons off, and over Meall Buidhe to the col below Beinn a'Chreachain. We met a few guys all wearing crampons, and asked one of them if they were really necessary for our last ascent of the day - "Yes" was the reply ! So, on they went and uphill we hiked to the summit, meandering a route through the rocks, trying to keep to snow. "Yahoo !", summit reached ! No views tho :((
I took my crampons off for the return descent to the col, as did Lawrence, Fiona kept hers on. Over Meall Buidhe, we aimed north-west down to the railway line below, having a woohoo sliding down some of the gentle gullies filled with snow. We returned to the car-park as the end of the day's light disappeared.
A great weekend, lots of snow and ice, good company !
More photos on Flickr !