There were 15 of us staying on the Ardverikie estate near Lagan in Scotland at the beginning of March based around an old farmhouse. The forecast had not been promising but the weather proved much better than expected. A lot was achieved during the week with people sharing their knowledge of the area and offering support for different levels of experience.
The first day promised to be reasonable with snow lying on the mountain tops. Ieuan and Joe headed for Choire An T-Sneachda in the Cairngorms to do central gully, Dave M and Mike thought they would take a look at the gullies on Creag Meagaidh and Dave Q biked and hiked to Glen Tromie and Meallach Mhor.
A group of 6, Ed, James, Vianney, Keith, Anne and Julian drove across the massive Ardverikie estate past Loch na h-Earba to climb Creag Pitridh which at 917m is just a Munro. The snow covered top of the mountain gave everyone a chance to try out their crampons and ice axe techniques in relatively easy conditions.
Ed, James, Vianney and Keith then continued onto Geal Charn, another Munro still within the estate. Meanwhile Louise and Pete had walked to West Drumochter and also explored the Apiary cafe. The weather cleared through the day so most of us were able to enjoy some mountain top views.
Monday promised the arrival over the following 24 hours of the ‘Beast from the East’ with warnings of snow and ice. Julian and Anne opted for a bike ride around the estate and Dave Q cycled into Geal Charn Mor near Aviemore.
Vianney, James, Ed and Keith went to have a look at Bennin Shuas – another estate mountain and also staying within the estate Louise and Pete set out on an 18 mile expedition walking to and over Meall Buidhe returning on the lower estate roads. This epic trek took them 10 hours. Dave M supported by Mike added Ben Tee to his tally of Corbetts and Ieuan and Joe were so impressed by Coire an t-Sneachda they opted for another gulley there. Conditions this day were not great with cloud covered mountain tops and poor visibility
The next day, despite the forecast, the snow fall on the estate was fairly light over night but we could see the mountains were covered with fresh snow. This was a great challenge but there was some serious consultation with the Scottish Avalanche Information service and a general sharing of knowledge on different options before people decided on suitable routes. Kiernan and Nic, having sorted out hiring their boots the previous day headed off with Julian to Fiacaill Ridge as also did James, Keith and Ed. Mike and Dave M and Dave Q all opted for Corbetts, Dave Q made a silk purse out of ‘The Sow of Atholl’ plus a second mountain and Dave and Mike scaled Mam na Gualainn near Loch Leven. Then Keith suffered a boot crisis when the sole of his boot proved detachable so he and Ed headed for the gear shops in Aviemore while James linked up with Julian, Kieran and Nic. However the snow proved too deep for them, plus they had started a bit late so they had to turn back without completing the ridge. Anne meanwhile had a complete rest day and took a train ride through the mountains across Rannoch Moor.
Wednesday promised to be a very fair day with 90% chance of cloud free Munros so everyone had plans except unfortunately Nic who went down with a bug. Ieuan and Joe made a very early start to catch the gondola up Aonach Mor to do Golden Oldie a grade ii climb.
Pete and Louise went up another Geal Charn in Glen Markie and Anne and Julian climbed Stob Coire na Gaibhre in the Grey Corries from where they had wonderful views of the
Aonach Mor climbs but not the climbers. Ed Keith, James and Vianney returned to Fiacaill ridge with Ed’s new boots where the deep snow was more settled and they were able to complete this very fine ridge.
Nic and Kieran spent time walking around the estate while Nic recovered from her illness. Joe and Ieuan topped out on Golden Oldie ii at 18.30pm after sun set but with still a little light to start their descent which took them
2.5 hours. It was a glorious day and everyone enjoyed the almost cloud free views, blue skies and sunshine.
The weather continued fair on Thursday if a little more windy. Ed, Kieran and Vianney climbed Meall a Buchaille, and Ieuan and Joe found the energy for another climb on Coire an t-Sneachda; despite their previous days epic. Julian and Anne drove up Glen Roy looking at the Ice Age striations there.
That evening we celebrated Scotland’s cuisine with a communal meal of haggis [meat and vegetarian options] clapshot [mashed turnip/swede and potato] and in true form we piped in the haggis [well found a suitable recording] and read Robbie Burn’s ode to a haggis. This was followed by cranachan – a Scottish pudding made with shortbread, raspberries and cream, flavoured with whiskey [lots of calories for hillwalkers]. AMC members Jamie and Lisa who were staying at a climbers hut in the area joined us although they were perplexed trying to find us due to the enormous size of the estate and initially investigated the mock castle by the loch [which the commented looks like something out of Hogwarts]
We continued to be fortunate with fair weather on Friday. Mike and Dave found a frozen waterfall to climb north of Beinn a Chaorainn.
Vianney joined with Pete and Louise to climb Meall Chauich east of the A9.
Joe and Ieuan continued their love affair with Coire an t Sneachda by climbing Hidden Chimney a grade 3 climb which was Ieuan’s first winter lead.
Anne and Julian took advantage of the good snow conditions for a days skiing at Cairngorm ski centre.
All in all it was a great week, and those on this trip for the first time said how helpful they had found the experience, with a sharing of knowledge and the opportunity to develop skills, plus the support from others on the trip. the old hands welcome the return to an area which offered so much opportunity with access to both the Nevis range and Cairngorms.
We all enjoyed the luxury of the accommodation, high standard kitchens, the wonderful wood fires with sumptuous wood supply from the estate.
If you have never been on this trip then you are definitely missing out. Truly the M in AMC stands for Mountaineering.