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

Gulvain and Loch Lochy Munros

20-21 Febraury 2016
We're in the midst of winter, lots of snow and ice. Two fine days of hiking planned on some Munros west of Ben Nevis and Fort William. Steven was leading.

Beinn a'Bheithir, photo 1 I'm looking at the forecast for the weekend and it's a touch blowy, but otherwise fine. Prior to this event, there had been a few fatalaties on the hills, two climbers lost on Ben Nevis, two climbers taken by an avalanche on Creag Meagaidh and tragedy in the Southern uplands. So a few emails were sent out to folk, just to re-assure we won't be putting ourselves in danger.

On Saturday we met at the western end of Loch Eil (Stevie, Ann, Alex, Diane and myself), then after planning the day (with a revised forecast, it was now looking doubtful we'd get to the summit, but thought we'd give it a try anyway), we gabbed as we hiked up the track. Gulvain came into view - I seem to remember 'intimidating' was the adjective I used ! Above around 400m, there was a fair bit of snow and we could see the southern summit - things looked promising. We hiked to the bridge at the foot of the mountain and stopped to take on some food for the uphill.

Beinn a'Bheithir, photo 2 Our hike up the steep southern slopes began - we could see a couple around 200m above us - I suggested catching them up and bag the summit first (yeah, that'll be right). Up to 500m and the wind really picked up. Slightly further on, the altimeter reading 535m, the wind suddenly started blowing us over. We had no option but to abandon and retreat and we returned to the bridge for another bit of food and hot drinks to warm us up. I hate binning a day, but I felt vindicated when the couple who were infront now walked passed us as we ate - they'd only got up to 600m and were hit at the same time as us and also made the decision to retreat.

Beinn a'Bheithir, photo 2 The forecast for Sunday had previously put it as the better of the two days and on this day we planned to start with our other group who were being led by John Walker - they were doing a weekend of Winter Skills and the slopes of Sron a'Choire Ghairbh had some promising slopes to play on !

At Kilfinnan, my group arrived before John's, so we set off ahead of them on the fine track through the forest. At the point where the track is left behind and the uphill starts, we waited for John's group, taking in some food for the effort needed shortly. John arrived and we all hiked uphill through the undergrowth (Alex - remember the fallen tree ?) and past some lovely waterfalls. Last summer's rain had caused some severe errosion - the path has been dramatically washed away in bits. With much overnight snow, the snow-level was much lower than yesterday and soon, whoever was leading (initially Ann and later myself), would occasionally end up waist deep in snow - tiring, but fun !

Beinn a'Bheithir, photo 21 We reached the col between Meall na Teanga and Sron a'Choire Ghairbh. One advantage of the strong wind was that the deepest snow had been lifted and dumped eastwards, so the hillside ahead and above us was more scoured then the glen we'd just walked up. It was however cold, so after hiking up around 50m from the col, a decision was made to get ice-axes out. Just another 50m higher up and the axes were joined by crampons - the spindrift and snow making putting them on a challenge. Into the mist, we carefully avoided getting near the cornice edge and then bagged the summit - we really felt we'd achieved something today !

We'd already made the decision not to head up Meall na Teanga due to the cornice that forms on the northern aspect of this hill, we felt it would be just a bit too dangerous given the conditions. Instead, we battled against the wind to get back the col, then in relative shelter, we traced our footprints back to the forest. We caught up with John and some of his crew for the pleasant sheltered walk back to Kilfinnan.

More photos are up on Flickr !

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