Santa had given my son an ice axe and crampons so we watched the weather carefully and Monday 29th was looking good on mwis.org so off we went. Stayed at the MacDonald resort which is being renovated (completion May) - lot of money going into the place and you can see some of the results already. The lad was promised a steak (£9 supplement) if we made the route ...
Set off from carpark at 8.40am - we usually move at a fair clip and Cameron (45 munros at start of the day) is now 12 so legs getting longer. Also brought the two dogs (one is at over 30 munros).
Various parties were ahead of us, mainly nutters heading to climb the crags (helmets, ropes, etc) so no problems following the wrong group or trying to work out whether to stay right or turn left (as per the commentary on the standard route). There was a large group of seven up from Wales who we caught just before/at the summit of Ben MacDui so plenty of footprints and basically taking the route that we planned to follow. I was about to take a bearing after an hour or so, before starting proper ascent, when a runner appeared - guy from a climbing shop - who was heading up the hill so that meant we could confidently follow without having to resort to the map.
Once we got onto the first plateau (couple of big cairns help mark the way) the wind was a bit nippy and the landscape was more lunar than arctic. Dogs still happy at this stage though. No need for crampons or ice axes.
As you cut across the plateau to where the lochans would be (covered at this time of year) again there are helpful cairns and the Welsh group were just heading along nice and steady so time looked good (it would be dark by 4pm).
There is then another bit of ascent before the final climb - here the runner had headed off to the right to take the more gradual slope - the Welsh group ploughed on and we were just behind them so that when you hit that next wee flattish section you again have cairns to follow. Off we went, Cameron's slow start well behind him now and his sense of competition was kicking in. Met a chap coming down with his dog - he had been up for sunrise - good job ! The last wee climb is straightforward and then I had to race the boy to get to the trig point first, made it by half a yard.
Now, Cameron climbed the trig point for the obligatory photo but my phone had died again, turns out I had a battery problem but the issue was the cold so don't have as many photos as I would like and will try to work out how to get them up. My new Suunto Ambit 3 Peak is ace though (thanks Santa) and was def worth selling my old Polar and Garmin. Was very impressed when I connected it to the PC when we got home Weds night, the route we took was almost bang on the one on this website.
Moral of story, do not rely on your phone and if you need to use it stick it somewhere inside your clothes. I usually have it in the belly pocket of a rucksack.
Back to the walk, it was effing cold on the summit so hoovered a sandwich and gave the dog some old cheese wraps and biscuits - noticed they were not happy with their paws, packed ice/snow build up between their pads so rubbing that out every so often went down well with them.
Had a quick chat with the Welsh group, nice bunch of youngsters who had driven up the day before having been unable to get anything done last year because of wind, thanked them for leading the way. They had set off at 8am so 3.5hrs to the top for them, 3hrs for us.
Retraced our steps then veered right at the shoulder with the lochans - several skiiers were skinning their way up the hill by now, bloody impressive although the ski resort was a zoo with too many people and not enough runs open so they were doing the right thing. The traverse at 1130m was a helluva slog in soft snow up to almost knee height - had only seen one walker heading that way so no real tracks to follow. Must say that the hour or so of that traverse felt unending.
As you get towards the dip before Carn Gorm all of a sudden loads of the nutcase climbers come into view. Watching a few of them climb up is scary enough for us - but then they tend to traverse the base of Carn Gorm to the route down rather than heading up top. The last ascent is tiring but not too long, less than 200m climb from memory. The weather station looked like something from Ice Station Zebra and the shelter at the Cairn was welcome I must say.
last but not least, Cameron's favourite part - bouncing down in the soft snow on and next to the path, too about three minutes to hit the ski station. Short break then I headed down to the bottom with the dogs, funicular staff let the boy go for free but wanted me to take off rucksack and buy a ticket so I could not be a**ed with the guy. Descent pretty fast in the conditions but boy was I glad to see the car park. Sadly the queue for coffee in the cafe was horrendous so no reward there.
Boy very chuffed, me too I must say. Well deserved steaks that evening (no supplement), sleep of the dead !
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.