Ben Nevis via Bla Bhienn!

A busy wee Bank Holiday weekend this one; after getting back from a DofE exped on Thursday night, it was time to pack a bag for a trip to Skye to revisit Bla Bhienn, before travelling back down to Fort William to meet Wendy Young and some of her colleagues from Christian Aid to guide them up Ben Nevis via the recently renamed ‘Mountain Track’.

Cat and I had originally planned to leave for Skye on Friday, but things didn’t go quite according to plan and we opted instead for a night in our own bed and a viciously early 3.30am start for the drive up to Skye. The long drive via  Glen Coe and up through Glen Shiel does have it’s rewards though, as the rising sun illuminated a stunning selection of hills with their features teased out by the previous week’s snow showers.

We arrived at Torrin under blue skies, with only the occasional cloud, but with a hefty weather front forecast to arrive later in the day, we pushed on up Bla Bhienn at a fair rate in order to reach the top while there was still a view; we succeeded, but there a fair bit of high level cloud had gathered in the intervening period, and it was clear that we were in for a bit of a breezy evening. Back down at the car, we opted to explore some potential wild camping spots around Elgol, before opting for a more sheltered location back at Torrin, trading the spectacular views over the Cuillins for a night in the tent with only a minimally flapping flysheet.

Compared with Saturday’s start, Sunday’s 8am alarm felt positively decadent in comparison. We opted to use the day to carry out a bit of research into the quality of coffee shops in the area before heading down to Fort William for a bit more cake in the Nevisport shop and a demonstration of my ability to do the impossible;  cook a dinner of stuffed pasta and sauce cooked in an MSR Reactor – there is no limit to my ‘skillz’.

A check of the weather forecast for Sunday saw a split between the Met Office which was predicting a day of heavy snow showers, and MWIS which offered a more optimistic “overnight cloud clearing to broken high level cloud and sunny spells”. The overnight rain was still much in evidence when we met Wendy and her team at 8.30am, but within an hour or so the waterproofs were off and we were sweating our way up towards ‘halfway lochan’.

The cloud swirled in around us as we reached the top of the ‘zig-zags’ and made our way up the gentle slopes of the plateau towards the summit. Thankfully, our arrival at the trig point coincided with a break in the cloud, and the team were treated to a glimpse of the stunning panorama; from the nearby top of Tower Ridge, over to the CMD arete, Aonach Mor and south to the Mamores and distant Glen Coe. To top it off, as we stood at the top, we caught a distant sound soon to disappear completely from the scottish hills, as Rescue 177 appeared through the gloom and treated us to a leisurely hover taxi up the final slopes of the CMD and across the edge of the summit. After quickly getting the group to pack anything loose back into their rucksacks in case the Navy was planning to ‘land on’, we indulged in a frenzy of photography before the venerable old Sea King peeled away and headed off down Glen Nevis.

After that, the descent could have been a bit of an anti-climax, but an impromptu snowball fight and the prospect of dinner at the Real Food Cafe kept everyone cheery on the long plod back down to the car park at Achintee.