We left the “Shire” early Friday evening and headed to Tyndrum “By the Way” Hostel for the pre party of our annual Burns Supper meet on the Saturday evening.
The morning after the night before, the forecast was 95% rain and 50 to 80 mph winds above 800meters. However fuelled by a little Whisky & Beer our minds were set to get out and about. We took our time before leaving as the morning conditions were pretty horrible outside, wet and miserable even at low level. Not to be defeated at such an early stage Andy and I kitted up after several cups of coffee and headed out into the rain just after 10:30am towards Glen Etive. Our late start & the reduced daylight hours meant a reduction of time on the mountain therefore we came prepared with bikes for the 3km journey from the road through the forest, a fine idea if only for the freewheeling return journey. We left the car parked at the edge of the Glenetive forest and headed up the track with our bikes reaching the opposite side just before noon. Bikes safely stored below the roots of a fallen tree we headed into the open with an eye on the sky above, however at this point the conditions were not so bad at all so we continued with hope.
We stopped for a quick 2nd breakfast just before 1pm near Meall nan tarbh and then made a push for the higher ground. The wind is starting pick up a little now but it’s at our backs as we follow a line of old fence posts past the wee lochan onto the Bealach Clach nam Meirleach. So far the rain has not appeared but neither of us dare to mention it as we are both thinking it won’t be too far away.
By 2pm we are in deep snow, struggling through a snow field and are now taking much longer to gain height. What we chose as our next check point with an estimated arrival time of 10 minutes took us over half an hour as we ploughed through knee to waist deep snow with an ever increasing incline on the Mountain. Once clear of this snow field we carried on for another 15 minutes more, zig zagging through the boulder slabs until we confirmed the forecast was indeed “correct” ! With such high winds we took 5 minutes to gaze towards the summit and admire the snow blowing off the ridge on the way to it. The time was now 2:45pm and having taken much longer than expected to gain the last 100 meters we considered the next 230 meters elevation we still had to go. In addition to the wind exposure there is also another snow field in front of us on the ridge, how deep will this one be? Even without considering the wind, we may not be able to summit the mountain before 4pm if at all due to the deep snow and with sunset just after 4:30pm it was looking too risky now. With this in mind and for the love of Haggis we decided “it’s not always about the Summit” !
With a nod of the head and a handshake we about turned and headed down, taking great pleasure in sliding down the snow field that previously took us so long to wade through. As we follow the same fence post route down the wind which was so kind to us on the way up in our backs was now in our faces and with the added pleasure of some driving rain. To be fair the rain did not last so long and for that we counted or blessings, an’ a’ that.
On our way down Andy was feeling unwell, a stomach bug, making him feel sick so all the better we were homeward bound. At 4pm we were back in the shelter of the Glenetive forest where we had left our bikes, looking back at the darkening sky we again confirmed it was the correct decision to retreat when we did. Once on the bikes the track which would have normally taken the best part of an hour to walk was over in about 10 minutes with hardly a single turn of the pedals as we freewheeled all the way down on the forest track to the car. Once the bikes were back onto the roof rack and we were settled in the car the rain began to fall pretty heavily ………perfect timing.
Back at the Hostel we enjoyed a fantastic Burns Supper with superb speakers and Pipes before retiring in the wee early hours.
The End :O)