Thursday, 4 June 2015

Creag Meagaidh group, May'15

John and Andrew were heading out to the Grey Corries for a 1:1 epic day. However, the forecast wasn't great, so plans changed. Here's John's tale....

The forecast for today was not good, especially for the 1st June. 35mph SW, increasing to 60-70, with gusts over 80mph, rain, hail and snow showers, 'merging', 2c on the summits, cloud base 700m but variable. I met Andrew at the Creag Meagaidh car park at 7am, in an attempt to beat the worsening weather, and after a discussion about our sanity, we decided the lure of his 'First Fifty' Munros was stronger than our desire for warmth and comfort, and off we went, leaving one vehicle there, but driving one to Roughburn.

After faffing about in the wood, and realising water doesn't run up hill, (a nav error leaving the car park, moi?), we were soon tracking up the East bank of the Allt a'Chaorainn looking for somewhere to cross, as it was in spate. We knew that we only had this one burn to cross all day thankfully, as others would have been impossible as the day progressed. This done, it was the long, boggy and increasingly snowy pull up to the first summit of Beinn Teallach. We got some surprisingly good views of the Easains, Grey Corries and Loch Treig, but that wasn't to last. By the time we descended to the bealach and started up Beinn a'Chaorainn, the clag was down, and it was a case of battening down the Goretex and deriving that perverse pleasure us hill-goers get from a tussle with the elements.

We got the compass out as we neared the summit ridge, as this hill is famous for its cornices, and the scene of a good few accidents, but made the summit fine. Up here it felt like it was mid-January, not June! We descended carefully on the compass, (and Andrew's GPS, which whilst giving me the comfort of knowing where we were, puts a leader under a certain amount of pressure to perform meticulously!), and onwards towards the summit of Creag Meagaidh. I felt like I was on my WML assessment again, and it was a full-on proper whiteout over 900m.

I was relieved to come to the cairn spot on, but now we had the double-corniced narrowing before getting onto the plateau, and there was zero visibility. I don't mind admitting I was very focussed indeed as we paced carefully along the ridge, myself in lead, walking into the 'white room'. There was a large snow bank which was impossible to tell from a cornice. We progressed onto the plateau, Andrew just confirming I was 100% correct on my pacing, timing and bearings, and the cloud broke as we neared The Window, the bealach between Creag Meagaidh and Stob Poite Coire Adair.

From then on, we knew the long ambitious route(for the conditions) was in the bag. Our tired legs pulled us up onto the undulating ridge, and it was just a long, hard battle against the gusting wind, bits of cornice that were breaking off and flying upwards through the air, sleet and hail and the bouldery terrain. We triumphantly high-fived on Andrew's 50th Munro at Carn Liath, and scuttled off down as quickly as our weary limbs would allow. 29k, 1950m of ascent and descent, all done in guidebook time despite the challenging weather meant it will be one he remembers I suspect....as will I!

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