Tackling Bidean from the A82, up the Coire nan Lochan means that you are on a succession of ridges, safe from avalanche, as long as you assess the approaches correctly, and although we knew that it would be hard work in the drifts, it seemed the best option.
And what a choice! The forecast had been for heavy snow showers in the morning, with a possibility of a clearing later, but coupled with strong Westerly winds. We knew we would be sheltered in the coire, but expected a battering on the ridges. What we actually got was almost no snow, and a wonderful clearing as we summited Stob Coire nan Lochan. It was sublime. The ascent was indeed hard work, but Chris dealt with little scrambles and climbing sections with aplomb, and indeed, although you need to wade a lot, some of the bouldery sections were easier than in normal 'summer' conditions, allowing us to stick to the crest for some exciting little sections.
We couldn't pause long at the summits, as it was cold of course, but we did wait long enough to get our appreciation from a following Plas y Brenin group for our trail breaking! We asked hopefully if they intended on going on to Bidean, but to no avail, so we'd be breaking trail ourselves again...at least we'd have their trail for the descent. I shared a conversation with their guide though, and we both expressed dismay and disbelief that we had seen a party trying to ascend the steep head-wall of the Lost Valley. Had they not considered the avalanche forecast? We never saw them or evidence of their passing again all day, so can only assume they either backed off of went a route with which I am not familiar. I can only hope they didn't come to harm, but am incredulous that they would choose such a route on such a day.
The onward ascent of Bidean looked brutal, and it was. Deep drifts, cornices, and no possibility of course of seeing the path, let alone using it! The only safe way was straight up the crest, not normally done in summer due to the looseness of the rocks and awkward boulders, but today, feeling your axe strike a rock under the deep snow was reassuring, knowing your were above terra firma. The final section usually involves a short flatter section above Church Door Buttress, where a pause can be taken before the last pull. Not this time though - It was a huge snow pillow, heavens knows how deep, and I had to wade though it. Chris held back, as we were keen to not weight the snow too much, cornices breaking off at 45 degrees as they do. Eventually, sweating profusely, I was across, and Chris followed on, still finding it a toil. Then it was a relatively scoured section to the top, and some simply stunning views. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
The descent was actually quite easy, still being able to follow our trail most of the way, and we wearily slogged back up to the summit of our first peak. This time we turned West, and from then on were able to use the Brenin group's trail, which made life a lot easier. The views continued to be a joy, the light constantly changing, and we almost tired of snapping pictures, as we needed to press on. We retained our crampons well down the path, and had a smile as we spotted slip after slip in the snow on the path...there seems to be a kind of snobbish machismo from some folks, (especially hard-core climbers) to get your crampons off asap, in a kind of show of skill and technique in descent. Me, I am quite happy to descend steadily and securely, finally taking them off when there was more rock than ice. And of course never once slipping :)
We got to the cars at 17:30, so a full 8.5hrs to do the route. We hadn't hung about, and our legs knew they had had a day out, but it was a day to remember. Let's hope the winter keeps delivering days such as these......