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First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 12:44 am
by BobMcBob
This is your fault, all of you, with your walk reports and your amazing photographs and your.... Scotland. A few years ago, less than 5, I was not a winter person. I would never have found myself living in a campervan on the shores of Loch Leven in November when nighttime temperatures were hitting minus 9, when my drinking water pump had been frozen solid for 4 days, when I hadn't removed my blooming hat for a month, when sleeping at night meant thermals, a fleece, a hat, a sleeping bag, and a duvet, You did this to me.
So the 24th November dawned and, after the heater had warmed up the van for about an hour and the ice had melted off the insides of the windows and the doors had unfrozen such that I could open them and I'd had 5 cups of tea and a pan of porridge, I put on all the clothes I could find that weren't damp and stepped outside to a morning of such brilliance and clarity that did more for my eyesight than the very expensive laser surgery I'd had 2 years previously and thought "My god I need to climb something today".
Let's be clear, it was cold. The pipes on the campsite had frozen. The frost was so thick my bike was welded to the grass. The mountains were carpeted with what from here looked like purest white. It was beautiful. The only reason I'm not posting a photo is because the battery in my camera had died from the cold. I took it out and put it in my pants - something I learned from reading a book by Ranulph Fiennes - if it's good enough for him...
Winter in the mountains has previously been a closed book to me, but the photos I frequently see on Walkhighlands had created a deep longing in me, I've never seen such beauty. I'd also recently had a depressing time with a physiotherapist who had told me in no uncertain terms that wearing stiff-soled winter boots would be very, very bad for my back and knees and should be avoided if at all possible so when it snowed early this year I'd had to start thinking about retreat. But I'd heard about Kahtoola crampons, designed for flexible footwear and on seeing a pair for sale in Tiso in Inverness and having a quick thread on these forums my mind was made up. I bought the crampons, and an ice axe and I was determined to get up something in this weather.
Disclaimer - I'd climbed a Munro in them already - the day before I'd been up Sgorr nam Fiannaidh in Glen Coe but the snow had been so soft and deep I felt I could have done it in slippers. Plus I forgot my gaiters, got wet feet, and descended quickly so I don't count that. I decided I should do something easy and familiar. Buachaille Etive Beag had been my first Munro in Glen Coe (OK first 2 if we're being pedantic) and only my second Munro overall so I felt it was perfect for a proper first winter ascent.
Winter days are very short, so taking it easy I set off at about 10:30 am :D Night, it appears, doesn't worry me. The day was already amazing, the air was incredibly clear, nearby ridges looked just an arm's reach away.
The main summits of Bidean nam Bian

While overhead, a rift in space-time opened up

About halfway to the bealach the path became a sheet of ice so the crampons went on and stayed on, and rather wonderful they were too. I've walked in 'normal' crampons once before and found it unpleasant. These, because of the flexibility, I found that I basically didn't notice I was wearing them apart from the fact I could walk over sheet ice without slipping over. This walk report was not sponsored by Kahtoola but if they'd like to get in touch I can delete this sentence :D
On arriving at the bealach I turned right towards the furthest Munro, thinking that the views over Glen Etive would be the better of the day and that there wasn't time to climb both Munros.

Things from here went pretty much as I remembered them from when I last did this in July 2011, except that it was colder and therefore - for me - much more comfortable, I was fitter after 4 years working full time as a gardener, and the fact that snow somehow makes everything look wonderful.
Towards the summit

Back towards the other Munro

And yes, I arrived at the summit of Stob Dubh. Remember, this is your fault, you, who are reading this, you made me do this. You made me sit down and gawp as if the altitude had lobotomised me. You made me gaze in abject wonder as the ever-improving afternoon light painted the landscape in reliefs of yellow. You made me blissfully happy for an hour. You did that. You bastards.

Glen Etive

Bidean nam Bian again


A couple of ravens kept me company. This one was bravest

I'd have stayed longer, much longer, but my boots were still damp from the previous day (anybody have any hints on drying out boots?) and my toes were starting to send atomic messages to my brain so after eating all the food I had (quite a lot) and stomping around like a member of seventies pop group Mud (That's neat, that's neat, that's neat, that's neat, I really love your tiger feet) I decided I ought to go down. From a photographic point of view, this turned out to not be a bad thing.
Towards Buachaille Etive Mor

Back towards Glen Etive

Back towards Stob Dubh

The ridge, with people for scale

Yes there were other people. One couple I met on the summit and another couple I passed on my way down, they on their way up. But that's 4 people on a spectacular day in Glen Coe. Where were you all? Like I said, this is your fault?
The crampons allowing me a spectacular descent speed I arrived at the bealach in no time at all and so, monitoring the prevailing light conditions with my expensive eyes, I was able to make it halfway up the other side before this happened
The Lairig -one of-em

I didn't make it to the other Munro summit. I confess I sat down in the snow, got a wet bum, and gawped like a tourist as the setting sun painted the Lairig Gartain (I think it's that one, the map's over there) in various degrees of orange over the course of as long as my piles would stand before I very reluctantly started off down back towards the van
Towards the Mamores

Sunset to the east

Sunset to the west

and then drove the short but freezing distance back to Invercoe where I was just in time to see this

before passing out, blissful and satiated, from exertion, lack of sleep, and pure unadulterated satisfaction.
You did this to me. You made me love this. You're the reason I'm sticking two fingers up to the cold. You're the reason every nighttime shiver and every extra layer of clothing is cause for celebration. You're the reason I'm here. And I am truly, eternally, grateful.

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 12:56 am
by Mal Grey
Wow. Just wow.

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 8:25 am
by jacob
"And then he said something like booyah, dropped the mic and walked away........"

Congrats Bob on one of the better stories I've read on WH

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 11:39 am
by Graeme D
Dear Bob, on behalf of all WH users, I apologise unreservedly for the trauma and unnecessary suffering we have caused you.

I would also like to ask that should I ever have occasion to meet you or walk with you in the hills, you refrain from asking me to change your camera battery for you!

Seriously though, absolutely amazing photos and one of the best reads I have had on here in a long time! :clap:

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 12:36 pm
by Borderhugh
Enjoyed reading your report and great piccies Bob. I did that mountain last winter. It definitely punches above its weight. Glad you enjoyed it! :clap:

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 2:33 pm
by rockhopper
That looked rather nice I guess :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
Not that I'm at all envious.. :silent: :silent: :mrgreen: - cheers :)

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 4:17 pm
by kmai1961
smashing report. Great words, and stun...<ahem>, I mean *nice* ( :wink:; whew, I almost said the "s" word there) photos. :clap: :clap:

There's nothing quite like an outing on a clear cold winter day -- bright white snow against brilliant blue skies, then the late afternoon light following by the rosy glow of sunset.

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 4:44 pm
by kmai1961
then the late afternoon light following by the rosy glow of sunset.

I mean, of course, "...*followed* by..."

Sheesh. :oops:

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:34 pm
by ancancha
Fabulous :clap:
Was thinking about getting microspikes...

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:17 am
by Alteknacker
Brilliant report - everything that can be said has been said by folks before me.

And the pics - WOW! I remember the views towards Starav from BnB - indeed they were what fired me up to do it; but they were nothing like these (hazy, distant, no white stuff). Just wonderful. Really envious, especially as I'm currently out of action... :(

(You need another down bag for these chilly times.... :D )

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:21 am
by Alteknacker
PS I wear B2 boots for really arctic stuff and winter scrambling; but I find that I can wear ordinary light boots with crampons for all but the most extreme snow conditions (ie the crampons work just fine, even when theoretically they shouldn't). You might want to give it a try....

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2016 5:21 pm
by BobMcBob
Thanks everyone, glad you enjoyed that, I had fun (and a couple of large drams) writing it :lol:

Alteknacker - It's not just stiff boots it's anything that prevents my feet articulating naturally, hence I think normal crampons would still be a problem even on my boots. The Kahtoolas are very flexible, but would be useless on technical terrain - I guess that's a tradeoff I'll live with.

Mt sleeping bag is supposed to have a "comfort rating" to minus 5. I'm not sure what kind of comfort that is but it's not the type I'm used to :lol: Cold comfort perhaps?

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2016 6:31 pm
by Sgurr
Well, I'd like to read the tripe report that gets TR of the month if this doesn't. I think the approved word is now Fandabidozi. Or in this case, maybe Fandabidizi.

A fellow sufferer from hard winter boots here. One day in them and associated crampons almost carved my ankles in half and made me feel as if I had been walking around dragging a pair of man-traps after me. Good luck to whoever bought both on e-bay. Kahtoolas for me from thenceforth.

Not guilty to making you crave snow. This is the only snowy picture I can recall posting, and I doubt if the chance of meeting this guy would have had you freezing in a dormobile (Yes, they are right, more sleeping bags or a duvet)

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2016 6:39 pm
by PerthAlly
Smashing photos Bob :)

Like you , I'm allergic to snow/ice/cold winds/vans.

But I suspect that one day I'll have to man up and tackle hills in winter, otherwise it's a long old wait till spring :(

Re: First Munro In The Sno-Oh -Oh -Oh My Goodness

PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2016 1:40 am
by Andymac75


You can't beat piercing azure skies,being surrounded by snow ,being half blinded by the aforementioned,and having raw,1000% proof winter air fuelling your lungs!

It's an assault on the senses of the very best kind.

glad to see the Ravens were making sure you were alright also.

They sometimes follow me .but more often than not its a White Tailed Eagle.