Home Forums Meet information and reports Scottish Winter meet, Glencoe/BenNevis Thursday 2 Mar-Sunday 5 Mar 2023

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    Stu Gorman

    Rule number one of Scottish Winter Climbing I was told – “Never plan to go winter climbing, the conditions will always be dreich” – well, our bottle of whisky sacrificed to the weather gods obviously paid off as the forecast for our weekend meet was stable high pressure bringing sunshine and settled winds. So, in search of snow and ice in a season which has so far been thin in places, 4 members of the KMC headed north to Port Appin, their new home for 3 nights in the western highlands. With a mix of experience and objectives, hopes were high and most importantly – people were keen!

    Friday’s forecast was suggesting a blue bird day. With little hesitation, Jonny H and I planned a big day out on Ben Nevis. We arrived in the North Face car park bright and early after waking up in the early dark hours. 2 hours later we arrived at the CIC hut and made a line for Coire an Ciste. Gearing up at the snow line, we weaved up the steep snow slopes between No. 3 and No.4 Gully to find our route – North Gully (Grade II**). We swung leads up the route on bullet hard snow, myself leading the crux pitch, a 20m steep ice section. I had the pleasure of leading the top out over the cornice on my first winter lead climb – I was a very happy guy! With Jonny safely on the plateau, we plodded up to the summit to touch the top, before making our way down the tourist route under bright beautiful blue sky with views stretching to the horizon.

    Oli, needing to finish off some work was lured by the bright lights of Fort William where a shiny new pair of mountaineering boots were purchased. Feeling keen and not wanting to miss out on the stunning weather, he broke his new boots in on the snow banks near the CIC hut underneath the imposing faces of The Ben.

    With Mike arriving on Friday evening, Saturday saw two teams heading out to different areas. Mike and Oli headed for their big day on The Ben and climbed Comb Gully (Grade IV,4***) with Mike leading Oli on his first big winter multi-pitch. The smiles from the pictures showed they had an amazing day, topped off with a descent via No.4 Gully. Jonny and I headed for Glencoe in hope that Dorsal Arête (Grade II***) on Stob Coire nan Lochan would be in condition. From pictures and looking up from the valley bottom, we were hopeful, however the gamble did not pay off – and worse our back up routes were also out of condition. With limited options available, we elected for a single axe trip up Broad Gully (Grade I*). Another amazing day out in perfect weather conditions with views stretching for miles.

    By Sunday, the weather was starting to change, but still being exceedingly kind by usual Scottish Winter standards. Mike and Oli headed to Aonach Mòr, taking the early morning Ski Gondola, then hiking up to the top of Easy Gully, where they descended off a snow bollard into Coire an Lochain and climbed Left Twin (Grade III,4***). Jonny and I fixed up our accommodation giving the other team an early start and headed back down the road – full of happy memories, ambitions for future trips and tired legs.

    The Team – Stu G, Jonny H, Mike M & Oli W

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