Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Lawers 7, Mar'15

We had a big uptake on this event, with some people wanting to bag all 7 Munros and some 'just' wanting to do 5. So Richard and John stepped up to the guiding challenge, here's their tales of their day....

Richard taking his group up the Lawer's 5 Munros....

We met up as arranged before splitting into two groups one heading for 7 Munros and mine heading for 5. I was walking with Christina, Gary and Duncan today.

After some car juggling to enable our planned traverse and wrapped up against a fresh breeze we made our way up the path to Beinn Ghlas from the Nature Reserve car-park. It was getting busy behind us with plenty of keen walkers out and about. The route up was largely free of snow with its southern aspect and western winds scouring the hillsides, but on our arrival at the top shelter became a premium and snow was visible on all eastern or sheltered aspects ahead.

We picked our way carefully up onto Ben Lawers where we encountered some fierce and cold gusts, so departed quickly and worked our way down to find some shelter in the rocks for a much needed bite to eat. The route from here descends further over some lovely snow slopes to the foot of the ridge up towards An Stuc, which was also snow free. We were now enjoying some fantastic conditions with bright sunshine and increasing blue skies overhead and the views back to Ben Lawers was impressive.

It was time to tackle the crux of our route and descend the steep east ridge of An Stuc - though it often seems more like a face than a ridge. We carefully negotiated the large convex bulge of snow guarding access to the descent wearing our crampons and slowly worked our way down the snow using several islands of rock before reaching the slightly more gentle snow leading into the beallach. It was a brilliant descent and very technical in terms of winter walking, but thoroughly enjoyable and the group were on something of a high as we sat out of the wind for some more food and drink.

The going was straight forward from here though the sun was now surprisingly hot as we traversed the rocky summit of Meall Garbh before enjoying a wee slide down towards Meall Greigh our last summit, which was baking in the sunshine! The layers had to come off on the last ascent and we even found a wee nook out of the cool breeze to savour the amazing views back to the summits we had just climbed not to mention the wonderful shaped clouds indicating some strong winds higher up. An easy descent in the sun took us back to the cars at the Ben Lawers Hotel to finish off a brilliant winter day!

John taking in the Lawers 7 Munros....

Sunday 22nd March '15 saw me up early and driving back up to Killin for another traverse of the Lawers 7. Saturday had been a bluebird day, but today forecast was overcast yet brightening, with increasing winds. It actually did just that, and had Saturday not been so special, we would have been happy with what we got! The meeting place was the same as Sat (see the Blog for Sat. 21st March for the situation with parking), and Richard and I split the group into those wanting to do the 5, and those the 7.

After organising the usual shuffling of cars, and the fitting of hire crampons, Mirsie, John (with Bryce the dog), Mike and Johnston and I set off from the area just North of the reservoir. It was relatively dry on the usually boggy approach to our first Munro Meall a’Coire Leith, so we were soon on the summit for a snack and some piccies of the improving views. The next summit was Meall Corranaich, and on the way we took the opportunity to cover how to use the axe for self-belay and walking in crampons, mainly for Johnston’s benefit, as it was his first time with winter tools. The corniced ridge on the route had an Alpine feel in places, and I pointed out the cracks in the cornices that indicated where NOT to walk!

The descent to the bealach was soon dispatched, but rather than directly, we traversed right and had a fun time down a soft snow slope.  Then it was crampons off and up to our third summit, Beinn Ghlas, from where we tried to spot Richard’s party, but they were well ahead, having only come up from the car park at the old visitor centre. Ben Lawers was next, and it was here that John and Bryce turned back to re-trace their steps. Whilst Bryce the dog felt he would have been able to show us a trick or two on the steep descent of An Stuc’s East face with his built-in crampons, John the guide didn’t want to be shown up, and so John the owner spared him the embarrassment! ;)

The rest of the party cramponed up, and then had an exciting descent of the snow slope towards the bealach in quite a strong cross wind. We passed some guys with no ice equipment, skittering and sliding all over, as well as some with micro thingies too. Inappropriate, and dangerous I am afraid ! After a snack in the relative shelter of a large rock, it was on to An Stuc.

An Stuc, the shapeliest of the Lawers summits, and the one with a sting in its tail. The descent eastwards is steep, and in winter conditions can be quite serious. Having resorted to using a rope the day before to descend a steep snow slope, today I decided we would continue carefully SE down the very steep grassy terraces, before cutting back left. We made a couple of airy traverses following footsteps, (one of which Richard later told me his team created), and were soon safely on open, easy angled snow. We congratulated ourselves on our safe work, whilst watching two guys try an ascent but retreat, and two others moving rightwards on very steep ground that was in the Grade I/II category at least. (We thankfully met those two later, who were safe but exhilarated by their efforts!)

We had the bit between our teeth now, and raced up Meall Garbh. On the descent of this, I demonstrated the fine art of bum sliding once or twice, but the group were too dignified for such high-jinks!  Our final summit, Meall Greigh, came after interminable false rises, but we were a happy team, pleased with our efforts. Thankfully, Johnston and Mirsie had been rationing the jelly babies and jelly beans, and had a good supply left to share, so duly sugared-up, we descended rapidly.

We got back to the Lawers hotel less than an hour after Richard’s team, and before dark, a great day out, and a strong effort. All that remained was the fetching of the cars….again!

More photos are on our Flickr site !