Yesterday my two pals Al and Jimmy who is recovering from a big knee operation wanted a day out on the hills to test his leg. Both are very fit and I fancied a day out as well so it was an early start when Jimmy picked me up in a frozen Burghead. We picked up Al in Nairn that was well frozen and the side roads especially covered in ice. These boys work in the oil industry and they were soon bleathering about life off shore. It was a super drive from Inverness the hills are plastered and Scotland was looking magnificent. We had decided on Ben Wyvis is my local Munro for those in Inverness and Dingwall it is a dominating hill located in Easter Ross, Ross and Cromarty, Highland, in northern Scotland. It forms an undulating ridge running roughly north-south for about 5 km, the highest summit of which is Glas Leathad Mòr and is a very popular mountain for the locals. It was bitter cold in the car park and there were already a few cars there when we arrived at 0900 and met another mate Mark who lives nearby.
We could not hang about it was very cold Mark said – 8 at his house a few miles away and everything was frozen the path very icy from the many feet that had passed over the weekend. It was tricky walking and we soon warmed up.taking care on the icy path The path is now excellent all the way from the car park and the trees were snow blasted looking incredible, it was a winter wonderland. You soon get out of the forestry and onto the open moor that used to be a bog but now easy walking up onto the slopes of An Caber our first top of the day at 950 metres.
All the way up the views are incredible the whole of the wonderful North West of Scotland open up and on a day like this it was wild. It is a steep pull and Jimmy and Al were going well a bit fast for me but it is was a real grind up onto the first top at 950 metres. It is incredible walking but there was a lot of snow in the Corries.
We had already met a runner blasting down from the tops and moving so well as we made our way up. We met a lovely couple on the summit up from the deep South on a weeks holiday and had a great day on the Achnashellach hills on Sgorr Ruadh and Beinn Liathach Mhor the day before they said it was hard work in deep snow and he had slipped on the icy path on the way off and had a big bruise on his face, so easy to do in these conditions. We had a great chat and enjoyed a bit of banter they had a busy week ahead and I hope the weather hold for them.
From here it is a long plateau Glas Leathad Mor was friendly today the bitter wind had dropped but in a wild day this is tricky navigating and a few of my pals have had a hard time gaining the summit. In a heavy winter huge cornices can form and there is no shelter and you are open to the elements for a while.
I have been battered many times on this ridge and it is a good place to teach navigation on a wild day with poor viability, We met a few enjoying the weather but so little gear, no ice axe that in my opinion they were lucky that the conditions were benign and the path was easy to follow. On another day?
It was easy walking and by now we could see the whole Moray Coast and the sea and the Cairngorms and even Ben Nevis was visible today and the walking easy on the well trod path. It was another special day and one to treasure. How amazing the hills looked and I was taken back to my Walk in November 1977 that crossed many of these hills on a West to East winter walk but with more snow and terrible conditions, how did we do it? Limited daylight, heavy gear, wild weather and average 12 hour days, start and finish in the dark. No wonder the body is sore!
We were soon on the summit and I wandered over to look into the huge Coire and the snow off the path was hard going. It became clear what the group I met on the summit had said about the snow of the well tramped path is not easy work, but it may be fun descending?
These Corries are huge and this was where the plan to run a train up to Wyvis for a ski complex but stopped due to finances and possible lack of snow!
It was then back the same way and a lovely walk in the sun and then down the steep An Cabar with Jimmy out in front. He went off onto the soft snow of the path his knee holding out and the path for us tricky in the ice and bone charring but we dropped height quickly meeting a few more walkers on their way up.
Myself and Mark took it easy and the boys waited for us at various times it was warm now and we stopped and took some layers off and had a drink, Al and Jimmy rarely stop so it was great to stop and marvel at the views.
We were soon down on the lower path back on the ice and had chat with an ex marine who has moved up from the south and loving the area. I never tire of these hills and days like this make the winter and the tricky path made it a slower wander off back into the snowy frozen trees and the sun had never got to this place.
We were soon back at the car park and then went off to Mark’s house for a brew where he showed us his man shed and what a place to live. Then it was off home via another brew in Nairn with Al and his family. The side roads were lethal with black ice everywhere but we took care and were soon home.
It was sort out the gear get some food a bath and then relax, the wind got up and it was a wild night but what a day we had and thanks for the great company.
I am so lucky where I live and that my health is so much better now. I never take for granted what we have on the mountains but be aware it is full on winter the paths are icy. The side roads and many others are untreated take care and enjoy Scotland’ winter wonderland.