I climbed Tomtain on Friday, mainly to see what the snow levels were doing on the hills further North.
I walked further than I set out to do, ending up with blisters on my heels due to not tying my boots properly !
The forecast was good for the weekend so it would be rude to miss out on a trip to the hills.
Packing was easy, route choice was harder and at just past midnight I printed a map off and got some sleep.
Waking late I left the house and headed up the A82, it wasnt too busy and I reached the car park at about half twelve(yes it was late).
There were a few patches of cloud in the sky but the sun was bright in the blue sky.
I had initially planned on following the track next to the Falloch and the crossing the river, following the woods to Stob Coire Bhuidhe, given the time of day and conditions I opted for the ridge joining Grey Height and Meall Dhamh.
Layers were soon coming off as the climb got steeper on the shoulder of Grey Height.
A steady climb through a mixture of soft drifting snow and solid wind slab kept the heart rate up,the rocky outcrops made route selection more interesting.
Thoughts were on snowshoes as I disappeared up to my knees in places !
I stopped for a brew on the top of Meall Dham, it was half three and already the sun was getting low in the sky causing the temp to drop.
The wind had picked up on the exposed ridge, drifting snow had frozen and was a bit more consolidated making it easier going.
Picking my way above the crags on Cruach Ardrain I ran out of light and energy, I was on the last flattish spur before the top a couple of hundred metres short of the summit.
The snow here was deep and soft which meant I had to excavate a pit to get to the hard base in order to pitch the tent !
This took a bit longer than I thought and finally by 6pm I had the tent up just as the wind was starting to get stronger, the temp was -4 as I jumped into the tent to get the stove on.
I had some food and settled into my double cocoon of down courtesy of PHD, I had a read of my book for a while as the snow battered off the outside of the tent.
I turned the torch off about elven and didn’t wake up till half seven !
I unzipped the door of the tent to see the faint hint of sunrise, the moon was now visible casting that amazing ambient light across the mountains and snow.
I got the stove on for a brew, the wind had dropped and the snow had filled all my footprints from last night.
Mug in pocket I climbed the steep slope to the summit, just in time to see the sun raise its weary head over in the east.
No matter how many sun rises I see it still brings a smile to my face, I sat smug and warm drinking my coffee before it was time to head back down.
As I followed my footprints I thought with a smirk of the person who had avoided the Saturday night party to get up early this Sunday morning to be the first on Cruach Ardrain only to be greeted with a fresh set of footprints from a pair of Haglofs Gryms !
Reluctantly I packed my kit away as the sun started to hit my camp spot, the temp was minus 2 when I left.
Contouring around Cruach Ardrain I headed towards Stob Glas.
I lost track of time as I explored the little outcrops and amazing snow shapes formed by the wind.
Crampons and poles were the right choice on the varying terrain, the drop in height towards Beinn a Chroin was a mixture of heel stamping and glassading (even with crampons).
It was a little de-motivating to drop that much height only to have to regain it on the other side.
On the top of Beinn a Chroin the weather started to change for the worse, the Suunto on my wrist was telling me it was minus 2 on my wrist as the cloud rolled in and the heavy snow fell.
I had to stop for a rest as I was feeling pretty knackered after the couple of steep gullies I had climbed to regain over 400m.
The light changed as the sun broke back through the cloud.
I could see wee H and her pal on the summit of An Caisteal but there was no way I was making the RV with them at the top.
The ridge is a rocky nightmare to the top of An Caisteal making you pay for every metre you gain.
The snow was soft and I gained half a step for every step taken, the wind scratching at any bit of exposed flesh.
The cloud was down visibility was about 10m if you were lucky as I pushed past the numerous false summits.
On the top I finally found the small cairn !
I was gubbed !
The summit was not the place to stop and have a snack so I dropped down a bit till I got a bit of shelter.
I toyed with the idea of pitching the tent but food in my pack was not plentiful !
I had to navigate on bearings and time to ensure I stayed on track, always fearful I would take the ultimate big step off a cornice in the ridiculously flat light.
I stumbled on and finally dropped out the cloud on the wrong side of Sron Gharbh !
I contoured round whilst heading for the track, crampons still on.
I finally hit the track as the light was fading.
I looked over my shoulder for one glance at the mountains before returning to the real world on the other side of the railway tunnel.
The A82 was slow but I did not care !
Aye whats the rush !