1977 Winter West – East Scotland. Kintail to Fort William heavy snow and a meeting with the Sea King helicopter.

Day 8. – 4/11/77 – Kintail Sheil Bridge – A very steep start to the day after a walk up the road and then huge hills on the 5 sisters of Kintail ridge. This is classic walking/ mountaineering. I feel a lot better today that we have axes and crampons. We see no one, the hills are very quiet no wonder it is November. Sgurr Na Ciste Dubh, Saileg, Sgurr a. Bhealaich Dheirg, Aonach Meadhoin, and out the long ridge to Ciste Dubh. It was a great day with lots of height, snow on the ridges and left early at 0630 and just got in to the bothy in Glen Affric at Altbeithe Youth Hostel in the dark. It was a wild descent into the bothy which we could just make out between the storms, with the rivers giving a bit of trouble in the dark. The bothy is the Youth Hostel very remote and access by a long walk. It is left open to help walkers and is a magic place and in winter solitude. There was lots of food in left by others it so we ate well, this was great but will have to leave early and start in the dark; it is a big day in the tomorrow. Knee hurting with all the descent will it cope?

Affric Youth Hostel

What a cosy night in the Youth Hostel am still amazed that is was left open in winter for the few that venture out. The new polar fleeces are magnificent well worth the expenditure; Jim is still wearing “curlies” the team issue boot. I am in my big winter boots but still getting cold feet due to the constant wetness. 18k/2412mtrs – 4 Munros Total 17 Munros

Day 9. – 5/11/77 – Altbeith Youth Hostel Glen Affric.  Away in dark as always it took a bit of time to cook and get sorted, wet socks and gear is never easy to put on, especially with the snow about. Snow is at 1000 feet – up the glen big rivers and onto Tigh Mor Sleige, Sgurr Nan Conbhairean, Carn Nan Ghlusaid, all new hills for Terry and Jim. Tricky navigation in poor visibility, it is a head down day only 3 Munros. Down onto the road A887 where we were buzzed and met by a RAF Sea King  with the late  Mick Anderson the winchman from RAF Lossiemouth who stopped and brought us some goodies, it was out of the blue and magic. We had a long road walk along the road to Greenfields near Loch Garry. They left us some goodies at the Bridge at Greenfields; we took ages finding it in the pitch dark. We also had trouble finding the bothy as we had never been there before far less in the dark. This is an new area for me and it will be a huge day again tomorrow. These hills and the road walks are very hard, body aching, gear very wet, great to have dry gear on after a day being wet. This is the best part of the day along with the soup and tea. I crave for bread, we have some now thanks to Mick and the Sea King. Looking at the map and reading my battered book before I fall asleep. This was a big day 39k  2274 metres 3 new Munros 20 Total Munros  . We see lots of Deer and many are now down very low a sign of wild weather. I hate the roads not easy on my knee; we wear our RAF sandshoes on the road and look like tramps now with our stubbly beards.

Where next ?

Day 10. – 6/11/77. Greenfields is a beautiful place at the back of the Glengarry Forest and the plan is the Corbett Ben Tee and the Loch Lochy Munros Sron A Choire Garbh and Meall Na Teanga. It is great to be out of the forest and a new way up old favourite hills. This is big country and great to see a new aspect to these popular hills, I wonder how many come this way? There are few paths coming from this side until we reach the hills. It is a very steep descent to Clunes battering on the knees and all more new ground. High winds and more snow we are battered and nearly drop off at the beleach due to the weather but push on. We sign the wee book hidden under snow on the summit hidden in a tin. The ridge walk was great and these hidden Corries are full of deer and we see many hares turned white already for the winter, we have yet to meet anyone on the hill! We are rewarded with a great view in the clearing of the big hills ahead and Loch Lochy; they are plastered with snow as are the hills behind us to the West. This walk is turning into a winter walk and we are glad to hit the road and the long walk to Fort William to make the next day easier. The road walk is awful, feet are battered and we are soaked bags very heavy but stop at Spean Bridge for some food and then the long walk into Fort William. We are staying at the ATC Hut so no chance of getting our gear dry. There is a wee shop nearby and we stock up and sleep the sleep of the just, even Jim is feeling it. My knee is getting worse but once I get going its manageable. We make use of the phone box and I phone the Team and the weather forecaster it looks awful for the days ahead same again with more snow and high winds. I also phone Mum and Dad they are watching the weather to and worried?. These hills are usually fairly easy but with the long approach and the long walk out make it and each day a slog. A day off planned after tomorrow. I need it. This is another big day 40 k and 1828 metres. 2 Munros Total Munro’s 22

Meall na Teanga and Stron Na Coire Garbh

Day 11. 7/11/77 – Fort William ATC Hut – the plan was the Big four The Aonachs Mor and Beag and Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis but again the weather is awful and we are running on empty. We decide to climb Carn Mor Dearg is tricky in the wind and snow and we meet out first few people on the Arete. We feel that they intrude in our solitude and by now are walking at our own pace, I am grinding it out and glad we have only to climb the two Munros. We get great views of the North Face the gullies and ridges are favourites and we pick out familiar climbs. Jim and Terry going very well but good to see they are tired. We met a few on the Ben summit with no kit, it is winter now and icy, the wind batters us but we are now used to it after 10 days on the hills. There are big Cornices on Ben Nevis already and we take care as the navigation can be tricky and we are tired, no errors yet and all are checking. Jim and Terry so powerful and I feel the pressure but they make use of my area knowledge at times and I take my turn breaking the snow. I feel that we are becoming at one with the mountains and see a storm coming and are ready for it with the gear on quickly, no faffing about now. I noticed this on my other walk how the mind and body is aware of the weather and the terrain after several days out in a row on the hill or is it just me? We travel light today no sleeping bag or cooking gear as we have a day off in Fort William, the body is battered and the gear needs a bit of sorting but a day off bliss. What a difference going light weight is and the effect on the knees is great. Note to myself never do a walk unsupported again! 20 k 1700 metres easy day at last! 2 Munros Total Munros 24 .

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Bothies, Equipment, Hill running and huge days!, Mountaineering, Munros, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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