My first experience of Scotland in winter – AMC Scotland Trip 2020

Having done loads of mountaineering as a kid in the Alps with my family I have sadly had very little opportunity to do any kind of winter walking in recent years. I didn’t go on the trip with many aims other than that I wanted snow! As it happened we had that in abundance – a little too much! Here is a brief round up of my weeks adventures and a few of my favourite photos:

SUNDAY
The weather for Sunday was pretty poor so Al, Becky, Nick & Myself decided to do a half day just down the road in Dalwhinnie. It was sunny when we set off but once we started climbing steeply up onto The Fara (in very deep powder snow) it quickly deteriorated. We got to the summit (911m) in a whiteout and a blizzard. It was my first experience of this sort of weather and I quickly realised that I was missing an essential piece of equipment – goggles. These were purchased the same afternoon!

Summit photo taken by Alastair Begley

MONDAY
The forecast for Monday was also pretty poor but James, Jon, Mike, Dave, Nick, Rich and Myself attempted the East Ridge of Beinn a Choarainn. We made it onto the start of the ridge but sadly the conditions were verging on dangerous (zero vis, high wind & snow) so we all decided it was probably wise to abort. This was a shame but at least I got to use my new goggles and previously un-used ice axe! Some of the group managed to complete the ridge later in the week – for me it remains on my ‘to do’ list.

At the start of the ridge where we called it a day
Team selfie

TUESDAY
This turned out to be a fantastic day. Nick, Nigel, Rich & Myself headed over the the Cairngorms to do the Fiacaill Ridge. It was very atmospheric whilst we were on the ridge and it cleared beautifully once we got to the summit of Cairn Lochan (1215m). I finally got to use my crampons that I have had for a few years and sadly never needed to use!

As we skirted round towards Cairngorm and the way back down to the ski center we saw James & Jon top out on Hidden Chimney ice climb – the timing was impeccable! Al & Becky soon appeared behind them – I think Al was pretty surprised to find me with a camera waiting for them at the top!

Al & Becky at the top of Hidden Chimney

WEDNESDAY
Becky was celebrating her Birthday on Wednesday and she organised what can only be described as a Munro bagging epic! 23km, ten hours and three Munro’s later we all arrived back at the car in the dark – I can’t speak for anyone else but I was absolutely exhausted! However once we got back to the house Nick brought out a lovely cake kindly baked by his wife which was gratefully recieved.

To the right – ‘The Window’ where we walked to get onto Creag Meagaidh

THURSDAY
I could really have done with having a rest day but Dave kindly said he would lead Nick & myself up The Slant, a grade I/II ice climb in Mess Of Pottage, Cairngorms. Ice Climbing has been on my bucket list for ages so I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity. Rich and Nigel also teamed up so we went as a group of 5. It was the perfect introduction – nothing too steep, nor too technical and the weather was glorious. I thoroughly enjoyed it and cannot wait to do some more – and something a bit more challenging.

The start of ‘The Slant’

FRIDAY
The last day – and what a day we had! Rich, Nick & myself had an early start planned to head over to Glen Shiel to do The Forcan Ridge. Unfortunately everyone else ended up with an early start too as at 5:30am we managed to set the fire alarm off….which then kept going off every 15 minutes for two hours. I’m not sure any of us will ever get over the embarrassment!
This was a very bad start but it only got better from here on in!

Beautiful sunrise over Loch Cluanie

We were lucky enough to find the Forcan Ridge in perfect conditions – it really did feel like we were in the Alps. It was hard work with deep powder snow and some fairly hairy climbing moves but just wow! The abseil towards the latter end of the ridge was great fun – I think I was about 10 the last time I did an abseil!

Rich on the ridge

So all in all an absolutely fantastic week with a brilliant bunch of people! Massive thanks to Becky for organising and providing a wonderful meal for us all on Friday evening. I can’t wait to do some more!