Sat 3rd Mar - Sun 4th Mar, 2007
Cairngorms, Mill Cottage
Members Present: Andy Croughton, Roger Daley, Duncan Lee, David K. Lygate, Colin Maddison, Craig Marsden, Al Metelko, Brian Street.
|Coire nan Lochan
Coire nan Lochan We had originally booked twelve places for this meet, however due to a double booking by The Mill Cottage Trust, we agreed to reduce this number to eight. They tried to bump us completely, then change the date, however all of our correspondence had the correct dates on it, & they had cashed our deposit cheque, so they didn't have a leg to stand on. If I was being cynical, I would say that they couldn't resist the six day booking from the other club & thought that they could get away with it!
The lucky eight were rewarded for not leaving their booking to the last minute. We had fantastic winter climbing conditions on the Saturday, the day was calm with mainly clear skies & just the odd bit of cloud.
The trip north was looking good with clear skies & temperatures dropping as we headed towards the Border. However, at Gretna things started to look bad with heavy rain all the way to Drumochter. There was also an accident that had closed part of the A9 & we were diverted through Pitlochry as the only alternative route. We then sat in a queue of traffic as a lorry spent 20 minutes negotiating the underside of a bridge & almost got stuck, which would have closed the diversion. We began to feel jealous of Andy & Brian, who had left in the morning to fit in a fantastic day in the Lakes. Luckily the lorry driver gave up his foolish task & waited until the A9 re-opened. We were then able to continue out journey north & from Drumochter the rain started to fall as snow.
Once we'd arrived at the hut, Duncan's chocolate Beer & Andy's whisky kept us all up talking about Craig's shopping experiences a lot later than we should. Since we were sharing the hut, it was full to capacity, with some of the other group camping & three of us sleeping on the sofas or the floor.
Despite or as a result of the sleeping arrangements, we were all up early on the Saturday morning & heading in the direction of the Cairngorm Ski Centre. Most of the group walked into Coire an T-Sneachda, except Andy & Brian who summited Braeriach via the Chalamain Gap.
With the ice axes out & crampon on, David & Duncan (DL & DL) & Colin & Craig (CM & CM) all headed towards the same crag. DL & DL tackled The Seam, an exceptionally dramatic looking climb (100m grade IV,5*) with Duncan leading, while CM & CM tackled Invernookie, one of the best named climbs in the area (120m grade III,4*). We then combined groups to scramble up the top section of the Fiacaill Ridge (grade II). On our way back down into Coire an T-Sneachda, we stopped to watch a large party being filmed for what looked like a documentary, before DL & DL & CM & CM climbed Red Gully (120m grade II*) with DL & DL taking alternate leads. Al & Roger had been here on the main crag all day & had climbed The Runnel (135m grade II**) & Aladin's Mirror Direct (25m grade IV,4). We then all retired to the Cairngorm Hotel to meet up with Brian & Andy for a couple of well deserved pints to celebrate such a perfect day.
When we got back to the hut, we found out that the other group, who were also from the North West & mainly Mountain Rescue, had mislaid a skier. He had headed out for a short ski tour & not returned, so they had called the Mountain Rescue. He was eventually found, given a trip in an RAF helicopter for one mile & then driven to the hut by the Mountain Rescue. He told us that since it was such a perfect day, that he had decided to extend his ski tour quite considerably & timewise he had bitten off more than he could chew.
Sunday started with the smell of burnt toast, produced by an oblivious Roger, who said "Oh is it done?"
The weather report had said bad conditions to arrive after lunch, so we were all up early to blue skies, determined to get a morning route in. However, while marching into Coire an T-Sneachda the storms arrived early - high winds & snow, we made an unanimous decision to turn back as the conditions were atrocious. There were incredibly bad driving conditions on the way home with high winds, driving rain & very poor visibility. DL & DL witnessed 5 bad crashes on the homeward drive & were glad not to have been stuck out on the hills.
Despite the loss of Sunday, it had been a fantastic trip for winter climbing & thoroughly enjoyed by all. I'm sure I can speak for all that attended when I say, if we get more conditions like the Saturday, then I can't wait for next season.
The KMC's Winter Cairngorm meet is the club's once in a season opportunity to visit a most incredible & magical area in winter for walking, climbing, skiing & reindeer. However, such wonders come at a cost, there are only twelve places available. So with the level of interest that has already been shown (pre-publication), we suggest that the hut fee of £6:50 per night (cheques for £13 total payable to the KMC) is forwarded to the meet leader as early as possible to secure your place. The quickest & easiest way to book is to email requesting a place, then when your allocation is confirmed, put a cheque in the post.
Scotland in March, will there still be snow ?
- Plenty of snow and ice - well excellent it's exactly what we are going for.
- Too much snow - (i.e. very high avalanche warning - SAIS www.sais.gov.uk). Go skiing instead, sounds like perfect conditions for Aonach Mor or the White Corries.
- No snow - Treat this as a summer meet but without the fearsome Scottish Midgy.
- The west coast has better conditions - We are less than 2 hour's drive from the Ben Nevis.
- Totally unbearable conditions all weekend - Go to the Cairngorm Hotel for a fantastic slap-up meal (this scenario has been tried & tested), also the bar has a great atmosphere with an extensive selection of beers & whiskies. If this doesn't appeal, then Craig Marsden might take you shopping, a rare treat!
Now that all fears have been banished, back to scenario 1. The Cairngorms are a magnificent place in the winter or the summer, but especially in winter, be it for walking, skiing or climbing. So here are a few of the local areas of interest.
- Coire an t-Sneachda
- Cairngorm / Ben Macdui
- Lairig Ghru / Braeriach
- Creag Meagaidh
- Ben Nevis
- Plus many, many more including the suggestions above & everything else on the road down south.
I think that all of these areas speak for themselves. So if you are interested plus have appropriate experience & equipment, then e.mail, phone, or see me in the pub on a Thursday night, (places are on a first come first served basis.)
Mill Cottage is 0.25 miles to the North West of Feshie Bridge off the B970. Follow the old A9 to Kincraig, between Kingussie & Aviemore, take the side road to Kincraig (turn east), over bridge & past the Loch Insh Watersports Centre. Left at the T-junction & left into the Forestry Commission car park, taking the left fork onto an unpaved track above the car park. Turn down the right fork after passing below the pylon line, here you will find the hut (approximately 300 yards from the main road). Grid reference 844047, OS sheet 35 - Kingussie. SMC hut guide - "The hut has 8 bunks & a six berth alpine platform, all with mattresses; full cooking & dining facilities are supplied, all electric. Shower, toilets, drying room, multi-fuel stove in lounge with firewood & coal."