PTC had an impending deadline yet again for Trail.
As ever the perfectionist in him was waiting for the perfect weather so he could get the pictures.
I thought he might have gone whilst I was in Iceland but when I phoned him and asked I got a plain “NO”.
With work dictating available days we hatched a plan to avoid an early start.
I got in from work and packed my stuff which happened to coincide with everybody and their brother phoning me as I was doing it.
Just before 6pm I left the house and headed for PTC HQ.
On Arrival PTC was packing the last of his stuff and getting changed.
We headed out on the A82 with food plans that were only soon to be scuppered as the Real Food Cafe was shut !
Onwards to Fort Bill which was equally as shut at 9pm !
Petrol station snacks it was and as we neared Creag Meagaidh in the dark the cloud was starting to come in and there was no sign of the moon.
We parked up and ate the sandwiches in the darkness of the car, quizzing ourselves as to why we were about to leave the car at 11pm at night in the middle of winter.
Packs and headtorches on we headed up the new track that was not their when we both climbed these hills.
The path had a bit of fresh snow on it that masked the hard uneven pack underneath it formed by many pairs of boots.
This made the going a bit harder as we pushed on up the path past the farm.
Not long after that the moon poked itself over the ridge and out the cloud.
It was strong enough that the headtorches could be turned off and night vision could be restored.
As we stumbled up the path all was silent apart from the crunching of our feet on the compact snow.
For some reason I don’t seem to be carrying any more gear than normal but my pack feels as if it weighs considerably more !
I pondered if it was the fact that the Ascent 48 is just under 2kg?
As we trudged further my head was down and my thoughts were inward, I laughed at myself and compared myself to some Dof E exped candidate only I did not have a 70ltr pack and half my wardrobe in my pack.
I dont know if it was the late hour or the weekend before catching up with me but I was tired.
I think PTC sensed this and suggested at just before midnight that the patch of snow off the path might be a nice wee spot.
After a bit of scouting we found a flatish spot and as PTC started pitching I scraped a ledge for my tent.
The snow was compact and it took a bit working with the Snowclaw.
As I attached the poles to the footprint of the tent the pivot point for the poles came apart again.
This happened a while back and I thought I had fixed it, obviously not.
I reached for the multitool only to find the phillips screw driver on it was too wide to fit in the hole.
Luckily on the other side there was a thin flat head that fitted and 5 minutes later the poles were up.
At this point PTC was unpacking and blowing up his neo-air.
It felt like it took an age to get the tent up again was it tiredness or just that PTC had chucked his up in very little time as I faffed about?
Tent up and kit in the tent it was time for Hot Chocolate.
The moon was still up and as I lay in my bag and drank my hotchocolate I was now a happy bunny.
There was no Waltons “good night John Boy ” as we both zipped the tents up and disappeared to the land of nod.
I woke up to what appeared to be very light outside, on checking the watch it was 07:50 OOPPSS !
Any advantage from the walk in was ebbing away before our very eyes.
I chucked my kit on and stepped outside to clear blue skies but the sun was not over the tops of the hills to the East.
As I was about to go for a pee I noticed the numbers of climbers coming up the path and sought another more private spot.
We messed around taking picture whilst drinking Lyons Coffee and eating breakfast bars whilst wrapped in down to keep the morning chill out.
The thought of getting packed up and on the trail was lost, especially after we filmed this clip.
We had another brew and started packing up and at the same time melting snow to top up the flask.
It still really had not got above freezing despite the sun being up over the hills.
This made the task of taking off the down trowsers an unpleasant one and stripping down to layers for moving off in.
We continued up the track towards Lochan a Choire watching the sun glow on the cliffs in front of us.
Climbers could be made out hanging on the near perfect blue ice on the impressive routes.
We stopped at the bottom of the slope to fit crampons.
I chose to keep the poles out and PTC opted for the ice axe.
The slope was a mixture of hard crust and soft deep drifts of snow, making the going harder.
Finally getting to the top we passed few climbers who said it was the same conditions on the tops.
We skirted round the tops of Coire Ardair commenting on how featureless the tops were, it would certainly be a challenge to navigate up here in a whiteout.
The visibility was reasonably good but the flat light made it hard to pick features out as we moved.
We looked for some shelter so we could eat, it was almost 3pm and apart from some Jelly beans I had nothing since breakfast.
There was nothing so we walked further on along the tops of the cliffs, any thought of getting to the summit of Meagaidh was gone and the order of the day was food and then off the hill.
We found a slight rise on the ground and took shelter behind it as best we could.
I used the water from my flask for my Chilli and a cup a soup whilst PTC got the stove going to melt snow for his lasagna.
It was getting cold, the front that MWIS had promised was moving ever closer swallowing up the views to the West.
The wind had also picked up and was biting at every bit of exposed flesh.
Buffs were utilised as nose and mouth protection as we moved on with re new ed energy after some hot food.
Along the ridge to Sron a Ghoire you have some great views on where you have come from and of some of the cornices that have been formed.
Heading down the slopes back towards the car park some of the snow bank’s were steep enough for you to think that having an axe in your hands would be reassuring.
The Kahtoolas as always were great and gripped the varying surfaces well.
We could see the track in the distance but the tussocks of grass and hidden heather snow drifts tested our strength and interrupted our happiness.
Finally on the track we crunched down to the car park as the last light faded and the snow came on for real.
A quick change of footwear later we departed the car park and headed for the A82 again.
The thought of food and coffee stabbed at us as we were stuck behind the snow plough doing 20mph all the way to Bridge of Orchy.
Finally we could see the lights of Tyndrum, as we pulled in it was a ghost town and again the Real Food Cafe was shut.
Our hearts sank as we continued through the snowy desert !
Our vision was blurred by hunger and tears.
There was light at the end of the tunnel and not just the cars coming the other way !
I was tired due to being a passenger.
I chucked my kit into the truck at PTC HQ and set off over the bridge and on the motorway.
All the way I drove in the outside lane which was slightly snowy, I am sure the cars on the inside lane looked on with comments such as ” silly young man does he not know its snowing ” and ” bloody 4X4 drivers think they are invincible”.
I didn’t care, I know the limit of my truck so was happy and on my way home.