I opted to give myself a couple of weeks off during the Christmas period (what can I say, I’m a generous boss) and, while I deliberately spend a good portion of that relaxing on the sofa, meeting friends, catching up with far flung family members and generally being sociable, it was hard to resist the lure of the hills, especially when they were coated with a fresh covering of snow.
I managed a couple of excellent outings; to the Ring of Steall with Adam, which was followed by a pleasant evening in the Clachaig and a comfortable night at the Glencoe Independent Hostel, which Keith kindly opened early to give us a bed for the night.
We started our day out on the Ring of Steall as a foursome, which was rapidly reduced to a pair when one of our group slipped on ice on the path up Glen Nevis and aggravated an already damaged ankle; especially harsh when they’d driven all the way from Aberdeen that morning, and the first glimmerings of the sun indicated it was going to be a fantastic day weather-wise.
Conditions were pretty much perfect up on the airy ridges that link the peaks of the Mamores; it’s a great place to be in summer, and transformed into a mountaineer’s wonderland under a covering of snow. I often wonder how many people get deterred from heading out onto these hills by the overblown descriptions given to the ridges in some guidebooks; while the ridges are narrow in places, it doesn’t require much beyond being careful where you put your feet to avoid most difficulties. The worst aspect of the Mamores undoubtedly comes at the end of the day, when the steep descent back down to almost sea level puts tired knees and ankles through the wringer; by the time we reached flat ground mine were begging for mercy, not helped by my failure to spot a patch of ice on the path and dumping myself in a heap on the ground, Bambi style, with legs and arms flailing helplessly. Sadly, this was the last straw for my suspect achilles tendon, which put paid to my plans to fit in a climb in Stob Coire nan Lochain the following day.
Family commitments meant we couldn’t do our usual New Year’s Day outing, but Cat and I had a top quality day out on the Grey Corries on the 2nd. Another grimly early start saw us heading up the long slog to the main ridge as the sun came up, and we made our way over the tops in a carbon copy of the weather earlier in the week, with more blue skies and fluffy clouds. Cat doesn’t get the chance for quite the same amount of crampon practice as I do, so we took things at a steady pace along the rocky snow covered ridges, with Ben Nevis peeking over the long crest of the Aonachs, and the Mamores glowing in the sun to our south. However, by the time we reached Stob Coire an Laoigh, the clouds were massing over the hills to the west and, as Cat was beginning to tire on her first snowy outing, we opted to miss out the out and back climb to Sgurr Choinnich Mor and made our way down the long north ridge of Stob Coire Easain and back to the car.