We decided on an ascent of the Buachaille Etive Beag, affectionately know as the 'Wee Buachaille', which sits alongside his more illustrious brother at the head of Glen Coe. Storm Doris was due to wreak havoc a little further South, and I calculated that balancing the forecasts, we should be situated in the lull between the lows, and indeed the MWIS forecast concurred. We knew there would be a fall of snow overnight, so wanted a route relatively free of avalanche risk, that had alternatives if necessary, would be sheltered from prevailing wind, and with a couple of nice summits to boot. The plan worked.
We were relatively off-piste initially, as the path was impossible to find under the snow. We used someone else's tracks for a time, but they were heading up the glen, so had to break our own trail. Steve is fit, so we ploughed upwards confident we would find the shallow gully to follow that led to the bealach between the peaks, and soon we did. An hour or so later we were on flatter ground, where we paused before turning left and picking off summit number one after some deep wading in the pathless drifts of fresh powder snow. Stob Coire Raineach 925m, and Begsy's first munro!
We then retraced our steps and tackled the longer ascent of Stob Dubh, the second munro on this mountain, higher at 958m, and at the end of an undulating ridge adorned with deep drifts and cornices. The wind was almost none-existent at this point, and we were pleased to have snatched such a great and atmospheric winter's day. On the way down we greeted the only other pair on the hill that day, before breaking trail down the path that we could now locate OK and onward to the car.
Friday had a better forecast, and after some planning in the Clachaig, (well, you have to, don't you?), we settled on Ben Nevis by the Pony Track. This may be a straightforward if long 1300m ascent in summer, but in winter is an adventure. As we set off from Achintee, we passed some crazy foreign skiers who carried their skis to the halfway lochan, then bumped and scraped to the Red Burn cutting, before managing to shush up to the summit. Fair play to them, but it looked hard work to me, and the descent was strewn with boulders!
Due to the poor visibility over 800m, it was simply a case of head down and work, and this we did, faint old prints making my job easier. There was just a fraction of the folks that can be found on this path, so the conditions had something going for them! ;) We did pass a group of Welsh guys with more kit and gadgets than I have ever seen, and we giggled as he authoritatively announced that we had done X thousand-odd steps, and there therefore at position Y. I pointed out that maybe his step counter might be compromised by the snowy conditions, and his mates looked at each other, and then remonstrated loudly. It was funny. The safety cairns of the plateau were just visible in the cloud, and I pointed out the dangers at the top of Gardyloo Gully, before we arrived triumphant at the summit.
We had a quick bite to eat and then set off down very quickly, as both our hands got very cold indeed almost immediately due to our damp base layers, so we all but ran the first half an hour to warm up. After some minor hot-aches, we enjoyed the easy and soft descent, and then over the splendid new path that the guys are still working on, and which is to be applauded as it was sorely needed. We got to the car in a very respectable 6hrs and 10mins.
So thanks to Begsy for his company, and hope to see him for some more bagging adventures.....will he get the bug? ;)