Sat 20th Mar - Sun 21st Mar, 1999
Aite Cruinnichidh Hostel, Roybridge
Linda (Yomping) Crossley, Andrew (Romantic) Croughton, Tony (Telemark) Gask, Chris (Sleepy) Ivory, Norah (Dead 'ard) Maddison, Mary (Decaf) Stuart, Brian (Tramway) Taylor, Chris (Leading from the Rear) Williamson, Dave (Precisely) Wylie. Guest appearance - Gavin (Captain Hook) Hogg.
We all know it. Endless paragraphs have been written about it in these very pages. It doesn't stop us, but the fact is - conditions and weather for Scottish Winter Weekends can be awful! Face it, it's a fact. So, there's never a good month to pick for a meet. But, none the less, we're here again. Well, you never know unless you try. So we do ...and some times, just sometimes, there's a surprise in store.
Friday night, you know the score. The M6 goes in a blur. The Seventy Four was packed with migratory orange cones; where are they heading, what do they know about the weather? There's the long drag up the A9. Ta Gaeltaght ny h-Albey cur failt erriu - Welcome to the Highlands. Rally practice over the Laggan is optional.
He's threatened for the last three yeas or so, but this year Gavin has been busy. Aite Cruinnichidh is being rebuilt, very nice. Tony Gask and Brian Taylor are here already and appreciating the new kitchen. We all appreciate a beer before bed. Next year, or will it be the year after, tra dy liooar, Gavin may just have got round to finding the right sort of wood to panel the new sauna. Life here passes at break-neck speed. We're warned not to break ours. The man has lost at least one paying guest this season. Tomorrow is another day. Somewhere in the gap between, the remainder of the party ends their long journey and tiptoes into bed.
It's early morning. We're at the end of the tramway; disused it seems. There's not a tram in sight and hasn't been for years; so much for an easy way into the Grey Corries. Three sets of nordic skis, three hopeless optimists and bugger-all snow; well, not quite true. There's snow up there somewhere, we've seen quite a bit of it - in the distance, on the high slopes. Got to be, it was the right colour - white - when we saw it last. It didn't look three or four hours walk away then. Brian and I send Tony out ahead to apprehend it. In fact, we insist he get it to come down to where we are. In the end we all sneak up on it together and the flog is suddenly worth every bit of effort. Conditions are well towards the phenomenal end of the adjectival spectrum. Even the sun deigns to shine. Brian's perpetual smile gets even bigger, but quick, we must catch up with Gask. This is skiing away from the crowds.
Despite brave efforts to skin the precipitous, icy slopes constituting the last hundred feet of Caisteal, we make the summit on foot; a brief stop and then to the hard part of the day, the joy of riding three pin bindings to the tune of gravity. Recent practice in the Dolomites, on the part of Gask and Taylor, is leaving me at a serious disadvantage. My side-slide doesn't have quite the grace, elegance and poise of Tony the Telemark. However, the gradient eases sufficiently to get us on a roll. Gask is the master of coordination. Brian and I make a fair imitation - apart from every third or fourth turn - getting the skis crossed or just face-planting for the hell of it.
We're last back to the hostel. Everyone else has been out on Beinn Teallach. Shocking but true, we end the evening in the pub. Very probably this is some doing of Norah's.
Somewhere in the last few hours before Sunday daylight, there's a fierce hammering of rain lashing the roof. Another Scottish Winter Weekend has caught up with us. The savage pounding outside is encouragement for slumber inside.
Eventually though, bladders and breakfast prise people from their pits in dribs and drabs. Outside, it still drips, though the rain has nearly stopped. There are plans and half plans. None of them involve carrying skis for hours on end - been there, done that. None of them involve getting up hideously early and trudging up the Allt a Mhuilinn to climb on the Ben. Very cunningly, it's too late to do that either. You don't get meet leadership of this quality without lots of practice.
In the end Linda proposes a day on Stob Coire Sgriodain and Chno Dearg. The rest of the party propose a day at low-level around Lochan na Earba to admire Ardverikie Wall. They're still in a state of disarray and breakfast, not to mention there being a certain scepticism about the weather. So, there are just two of us for the hill. I get special dispensation to be able to stop for lunch. After that, all I've got to do is keep up. If you've had a serious day out with Linda, you'll know what I mean. Map in one hand, SMC tick-list in the other and we're off. The day is one for views. There's cloud for atmosphere complementing a vista to a very distant horizon. It's impossible to speculate how far we're seeing or to begin to name the endless white topped hills that appear to stretch beyond the imagination. So we've been surprised again. Breathtaking.
Next year, I guess, we'll be back for more.
Once again, the bumper fun Scottish winter weekend with something for everyone.
This ever popular meet has moved to mid-March, for 1999, in the hope of usable white-stuff. We have fourteen beds booked. The full fee of sixteen pounds, pressed into my hand, reserves yours. Cheques to the KMC preferred.
For those who aren't in 'the know', your money buys you a single bunk and duvet, central heating, hot water, all mod cons and somewhere to plug your hair dryer in - what a rufty-tufty bunch we are. If that isn't enough, it's about two minutes from Hostel to Hotel.
... and of course, all the attractions of Lochaber are there for you to enjoy, from walking, though both varieties of skiing, to the really frightening stuff. Need I say more?
Location: Aite Cruinnichidh Self-catering Lodge is at GR300810 on OS 1:50 000 sheet 41, Ben Nevis & Fort William.
Due to Covid restrictions many meets have been cancelled and remaining meets are members only. Please check back after the restrictions are lifted.