Our blog - Creag Meagaidh, 9-10 Dec'17

A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Creag Meagaidh and neighbours

9-10 December 2017
Weekend of guided winter hiking up Creag Meagaidh and the neighbouring Munros north of Loch Laggan. Johnny was leading both days, with Steven also helping out on the first day. Here's Johnny's tale....

Day 1 - Creag Meagaidh to Carn Liath

Two really good winter's days this weekend on Creag Meagaidh and her neighbours. What you want in winter is ice, snow and challenge, and the Saturday had that aplenty, with a biting Northerly wind that added an Arctic feel to the plateau. Sunday however we had just as cold, but with blue skies and no wind - The views were utterly breathtaking. A perfect winter's combination.

On Saturday we met at the Scottish National Nature Reserve car park, and wrapped ourselves up against the cold. We expected there to be really deep drifts on the walk in to Coire Ardair, but were pleasantly surprised to find that most of it had been scoured away by the wind whistling through the gap between Creag Meagaidh and her neighbour Stob Poite Coire Ardair, commonly known as the 'window'. There was a fair bit of ice forming, but with some judicious route finding we zig-zagged up to the top without needing crampons.

From there it was possible to just see the path, and we made short work of the ascent, glad of the effort to warm us. At the plateau it is necessary to set your compass, as it can be a very disorientating place in mist as we had, and also we wanted to find the weirdly situated Mad Meg's cairn, a large but unusual cairn perched on the side of the hill for no apparent reason. We were successful in finding it, snuggling into our Goretex and various balaclavas and hats, as the wind was directly into our faces, at an estimated wind-chill of -25c!

After some summit shots of us all covered in rime ice, we made a sharp exit back down to the window for lunch, before the short ascent to our second munro summit of Stob Poite Coire Ardair, and then the long walk to the third summit of Carn Liath. This has several undulations and interesting breaches in the broad ridge, most of which were wind scoured, but a couple had very deep drifts indeed, which we were good fun to slide down. The terrain is rocky, and despite being a little awkward underfoot at times, we were a fit group, so made the summit with daylight to spare.

We were then treated to a lifting of the cloud and some lovely atmospheric views as we commenced the descent towards the cars at Aberardar. The path is not obvious at the best of times, let alone snow covered, and both Steven and I remembered different descents that we had done over the years that had taken us through rough bouldery, tussocky heather laden ground that is very tiresome in 'summer' conditions' let alone winter. I was determined to avoid this, and thought I remembered a route that in reality was as direct a descent as we could have done....but it was purgatory, and exactly the description above! Thankfully the team had had a sufficiently good day to forgive my error, (or at least to my face ;), and we made the cars without the need for head torches in a very respectable time indeed.

Day 2 - Beinn Teallach and Beinn a'Chaorainn

Sunday dawned cold and crisp, and promised to be a bluebird day. It didn't disappoint. Our aim was an anti-clockwise round of Beinn a'Chaorainn and then Beinn Teallach, and though we had a lot of snow to break trail through, it looked a real treat. Even better when we realised there were two hardy souls ahead of us on the ascent via Meall Clachaig, and they broke a very respectable trail indeed. The pull is long and relentless, and the guys stoically gained height efficiently, bouyed by ever more expansive views. I can't stress too much how wonderful they were - Just look at the photos!

We caught the other two folks at the South summit, and after thanking them for their work, they set off again sharpish whilst we had a snack. I showed the team the dangerous and infamous in-cut gulley that cornices heavily in winter, and explained how it had caught out a lot of folks with tragic consequences. It was easy to see today, but in mist and whiteout..... It was then skirt the cornice and on to the North summit, and true summit, where Johnston celebrated his 100th munro, well done to him. Then our ways parted from the intrepid couple, as I cut the corner down to the bealach at Tom Mor whilst they stuck higher on the ridge. There two of our team decided to take the shorter route back to Roughburn and the cars, having some heavy legs from the big day before. The rest of us ground on upwards, once again thankful for the trail, as although we hadn't taken the same routes, we were only minutes behind again. The two summits were again perfect places for more poses and soaking up the views. Then it was just a case of wading down and back to the cars, through a Narnia-like forest trail to end a perfect winter's weekend of walking. Splendid.

More photos by Steven and Johnny are here on Flickr.

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