A happy New Year to all and sorry for the lack of blogs over the New Year, I was having a rest and the internet access was pretty poor when I was away. I was at Roybridge over the New Year which is right amongst the hills with the Moray Mountaineering Club staying at the Roybridge Bunkhouse. It is a place I used very often in the past with the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and have great memories of the area and the Bunkhouse and the Village Hall we used as a Base Camp in the past. The drve down much of the Spey Valley was badly flooded and my heart went out to all in Ballater with the terrible floods, they are coping with.
Unfortunately the Bunk house was not in as good as we expected and it was sad to see it as it is now,but it was dry and the rooms were fine and the showers worked. It just needs some deep cleaning and TLC and the fire fixed as we had to stop using it due to the smoke. You cannot let things that upset you so we all got on with it, and you cannot move on New Years night there is nowhere to go! That is what we did, we made ourselves as comfortable as possible, had a joint moan and got on with it, are we all getting to up market ?.
The Club has a radition of a sit down meal in the bothy on New Years night and it was superb a full roast beef meal by Shona and Graham for 20 it was a grand way to start the night, many thanks. We then had the New Year celebrations and for me an early night for me as I wanted a day on the hill after my trip South.
Beinn a’Chaorainn (1052m, Munro 79) ‘hill of the rowan’ usually climbed with its neighbour Beinn Teallach or for the really fit the other three Munros on Creag Meagaidh not for me nowadays though!
The forecast was for high winds and wintry conditions and I fancied a wander to Beinn a’Chaorainn to many is a simple hill in good weather some even say boring! It is a different hill in winter weather and has some wild features in the big Coire na h – Uamha . Few see this side of the mountain and in winter its east ridge can be a great way up, an easy graded scramble in summer but in snow a great introduction to winter mountaineering. This cThe RAF Mountain Rescue teams in the past for many years used this route a lot in orrrie has lots of interesting lines easy by todays standards but a great place to be. In winter nowadays it can be well used by local guides and instructors. The East Ridge is a brilliant grade 1 winter mountaineering route that follows the ridge line. It was a fun place in good conditions to teach the techniques that we use in winter for travelling on winter ridges and it is ideal for this. The route has a pleasant walk in through the forestry track and pine forest and then across open moorland before reaching the foot of the ridge itself. You can choose easier or more difficult options on the ridge to suit your mood and will find everything from snow gullies, mixed steps to the ridge crest itself!
This Munro summit ridge is well corniced – so take care in snow and mist IT CAN BE TRICKY NAVIGATION , there have been many accidents here in the past.
On one incident in 1994 we searched for months for a missing walker who had walked over the edge on January 1994 he was located in August – 6 months later under several feet of ice, It was a sad time for the family and the length of time their loved one was missing for made things even worse. I took the young son Neil who was with his Dad when he went over the cornice a day later after hed got down to raise the alarm, Neil showed me the exact spot where he last saw his Dad and it was an incredible effort by the young 18 year old. I searched along with Lochaber MRT for many months looking for his Dad it was a hard, sad time. This Corrie can be very tricky ground to search in this wild coire is and always was threatened by huge cornices as we searched. This hill has a big history for me and is in no way a simple boring hill and at over a 1000 metres is big mountain.
2017 Dec – I met that young man Neil at a lecture for Mountain Aid that I did in Cuoar this year, he introduced himself to me he is now a member of Ochils MRT. It was a magic night to meet him after the sadness of those dark days in 1994 but we found his Dad in the end thanks to Hamish MacInnes who brought in ground radar in Sep 94 and there was still a huge amount of snow. We never give up in Mountain Rescue and it was a special night meeting and talking to Neil.
Back to New Years day. Andy Lawson (http://www.mountainsofscotland.co.uk/ a great man with a magic blog,) was up early and said he did not mind a slow day and we had an easy drive to Roughburn from Roybridge where we parked. We then followed the forestry track for over an hour through the trees and then the big Coire opened Coire na h – Uamha was looking wild. In the past we could drive up the track with the Mountain Rescue but it was a slow plod in the snow but we had a good chat. I was feeling a bit of a cold threatning on the way but Andy was fine with my slow pace and we ambled up. We were going to look at the classic East ridge and I wanted a good look at the Corrie again. I am still recovering from my illnesses and felt that the ridge was not for me today there looked plenty of snow on it and it was very windy on the tops and we could see the spindrift blowing on the summit ridge. I wished we had a rope if we had maybe I would have gone for it, but it was in the end another good decision. We saw one soul ahead of us they must have had an early start and was moving well starting the ridge. Another party had taken a short cut with a path that cuts the dogleg in the track out that we were on and we met up with them a big party of 6 after that we saw no one.
We had a wander about and then picked a line up onto the ridge that comes down to the beleach. The views were wild and the space of this glen was massive. I was finding the snow heavy going but Andy was up front making the trail thank goodness. We caught a few glimpses of the climber on the ridge making his way up that Andy caught on his big lens. I had lots of stops to look the Coire where I searched this place on many occasions in the past, it sure is a wild place. We stopped to put crampons on as it was icy and rocky and steepening as we got near the far ridge. This was the second time this year with the crampons on and then up and the hit the winds on the main ridge. It was pretty wild now with spindrift plumes on the ridge and no shelter at all. We plodded on into the teeth of the wind for about 30 minutes and were not far away from the first top at just over 1000 metres. It got worse as a blizzard blasted through and I had enough, I was getting blown about badly the gusts where we were about 50 – 60 mph. (From the weather mobility tortuous on some higher areas)I was not relishing a long walk into the teeth of it and said enough was enough for me I was pretty tired and limited strength. Poor Andy was a bit disappointed but we had both done the hill before and in the end he was not to upset with me and we turned round, yet no respite from the wind? It was wild on the way back and we had to continue to the beleach the gusts were still very strong and nearly blowing me over. I was still not up ready or strong enough to take on a full on winter’s day? I was glad when we found our bit of shelter a big rock the only one I saw on the ridge and then got some food and drink in, much-needed at the time. I needed a few pain killers, we put on more clothes it was bitter now and then the long walk home.
It was heavy going in the snow Andy out front and me following on. I was glad to reach the rough road and have a chat on the way off. It was sore going but the painkillers kicked in but I felt pretty tired and how different a day is in a wild winters day. We met a mountain biker and he had a chat with us on the way down and then it was the short drive back to Roybridge, it was getting dark when we got k to our home the Bunkhouse. At least the showers were hot at the bunkhouse and after a change and the gear sorted out it was a chill out and tea. The rest of our group were all over on the hills and two others Ella and Drummond got higher than most by making a windy ascent of our hill by the normal route but were happy with their top. They had the wind on their backs until the top a good achievement. The Others were all over from Glen Nevis to Fersit Hills and other local walks. Everyone had a good day and that is what matters?
It was good to get out for a full but slow winters day, in great company with Andy and despite the lack of fitness it was another reminder of winter. As the storm came in it was time for the big gloves, to wrap up, get the crampons on and for Andy for his goggles. The spindrift was wild and viability very poor, the Cornices were building all day in the moving snow. I have decided that I need to grow a beard again as the face despite a balaclava on I was battered by the wind. The cornices were building as we left but the forecast was for rain tomorrow so we would maybe get an easier but wetter day tomorrow? I had a good meal and an early night feeling pretty stiff but in the end it was great to be out. On Ben Nevis Lochaber were out on a Rescue and standby on New Years night. The weather looks poor for the next few days though.
You do not need a summit to have a fun day? Happy New Year!