Tuesday, 26 April 2016


Patrick and the team on An Teallach
Looking east to the Beinn Dearg group
Sgurr Fiona & the NW ridge of An Teallach
The Corrag Buidhe pinnacles of An Teallach
Spring down at Ardessie Falls
Scrambling on Stac Pollaidh
The ridge line of Stac Pollaidh. Cul Mor & Beag with fresh snow
Summit celebrations Stac Pollaidh
The fabulous Quinag ridge line
Fresh overnight snow on north aspects
Lovely beach and lochan down below
Quinag, fresh dusting of snow
Mountains and sea, what a combination
Sunset on Loch Broom
Just back from another fantastic long weekend guiding regular clients Patrick and friends. The guys come up for some fun on the mountains with me at the end of April every year.  On the previous 3 trips we had snow and winter conditions on the higher mountains and this year is no different, with snow lying to 850m on many bigger hills. It's great having these guys out as I have the privilege of picking all the best mountains for them, what a dream! The 8 guys from Surrey aren't looking for winter conditions but not adverse to a 'taste of winter'. Every day we were dressed for mid winter apart from winter boots, axes and crampons. In the Ullapool area the day time sea level temperatures were between 4 and 8 degrees. Our first day was on An Teallach, the initial plan was the classic horseshoe traverse over the main ridge, tackling the wonderful Corrag Buidhe pinnacles. I had already made the decision that we would be just walking the two Munro summits, not the scrambling sections because of the snow conditions. Temperatures were forecast for around -2 deg C. above 900m. I was hoping that the ridge lines would be largely clear of any old snow, the NW had recently enjoyed a 'warmish' spell of weather. Bidein a Ghlas Thuill had some soft, fresh snow but only very small patches which were easily avoided. The second Munro, Sgurr Fiona, is just a steep walk under summer conditions. It was quite obvious that the final 150m to the top was under a full cover of old, icy snow. So we settled for just the one summit but we still enjoyed a great time on the best mountain in the UK. The next day was even colder and another dusting of fresh snow to 700m. One of the finest (if not THE finest) 'small' mountains in Scotland as got to be Stac Pollaidh. With a height of just 612m it gives a full on experience. A steep walk onto the ridge then some scrambling along the top to the main summit which is almost a rock climb. A great choice for the day. Hardly any snow on the mountain so no issues. Our final days walk was on Quinag up in Assynt. Three Corbett status summits make up this fine ridge walk. There had been another dusting of overnight snow to lowish levels. We were round the ridge with  just the odd slushy patch of snow to avoid. The NW Highlands as some absolutely wonderful mountains. Lots of  Munros but so many stunning lower peaks to choose from.
While most folk have turned the attention to Spring and Summer on the hills, there is no getting round the fact that it is winter still up here in The Highlands. I never put the ironmongery away until at least 1st May. As I write there are heavy snow showers outside my window, you can bet this April/May is going to be another 'extended winter'. The long spell of cold, northerly winds bringing the temperatures down on the summits, the higher Munro tops well below freezing this week. Constant snow showers over the last couple of days as seen fresh snow on top of the already extensive snow fields. There are many walking options if you don't have the winter kit to tackle the bigger mountains. It's all about choosing your mountains and objectives carefully. Of course for those who relish the winter hills then it's great, we get to play out in winter for a wee bit longer! My 'record' for running a winter skills course was last year, 12th May! Will it be broken this season? Stay tuned.

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