"If anyone should sup from a cup of ale, yet eschew the view for the sake of another, then he shall be damned to forever walk in the shadow of the midge", so the Mamores were shelved for a traverse of Beinn a'Bhethir (AKA the Ballachulish Horseshoe).
OK, I made the last bit up, but it did look so inviting that I was prepared to accept my tally wasn't going to increase by the planned three, only two, but did suggest a FULL traverse, up the cracking Schoolhouse Ridge from Ballachulish, over Sgorr Ban, Sgorr Dearg and Sgorr Dhonuill, but then descend into Gleann a'Chaolais, to which Paul readily agreed.
The forecast was for a damp morning, slowly improving, with brooding views and little rain. We even hoped that despite the lack of wind, the prolonged dry spell would mean few midges as we traipsed up through the bracken and heather on the lower slopes of the ridge. Wrong! The wee blighters were waiting in gangs, getting in our ears, throat and drowning in our sweat as they clamoured for a bloody snack. This spurred us to move quickly, and once we got to the scrambling sections, there was thankfully enough breeze to keep them down.
The scrambling is never hard, always a little loose, but great fun as we gained height to where the N ridge adjoins onto Sgorr Ban, and there is then an elegant sweeping ridge onto the first munro of Sgorr Dearg at 1024m, where we stopped to take in the views and eat some lunch. We then descended quickly to the bealach at the top of the 'normal' ascent route to P757 before making the final ascent up the increasingly rocky Sgorr Dhonuill. When I first climbed this 16 years ago, I came up Gleann a'Chaolais, and up the final red scree-filled coire wall, and I wanted to go back that way to refresh my memory. The path in the lower reaches of the glen has been greatly improved, but the scree slope is still for connoisseurs only, and Paul was very careful after having only just recovered from an ankle injury! ;)
The car was parked strategically at the end of the long fire road by the church on the A82, so after a visit to the Laroch for a pint of shandy, we were soon back at the lodge for a welcome shower after the midges.
Today was to be a short day, and I had planned a solitary munro on the way home, but the law of 'climb what you see' was invoked again, and as Paul hadn't done the shapely Sgorr na Ciche, or Pap of Glencoe, that was the chosen target. We ascended up the very eroded (but drier than normal) path that branches off to the end of the Aonach Eagach ridge, and once we got to the bealach, we took the decision to spice things up and scramble directly up to the summit. Again, it is loose at times, but the rock was dry and warm, and in the sunshine it was a joy. The views were grand, and we shared them with a pretty American hill-runner who arrived just as we got up to leave, muddy and breathless but happy with her work.
To keep to the trip's ethos of circular routes, we went straight off the nose, due West, down some great little rocky terraces that would be interesting in the wet, but handily marked with wee cairns. Once lower down, it was a mix of steep peaty grassland and bracken, and once we crashed out onto the track I was careful to brush off the half a dozen ticks I expected and found on my trousers. Paul had none, apparently due to the fact insects don't like the toxicity of Teeside blood! ;)
Two great days on the hill, whatever the objectives had been. That's how to deal with disappointment or unplanned change - Do something else. Above all, enjoy it!