Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Thigh Deep in the Fannichs

Being out of action for climbing at the moment has meant looking for some winter suffering down different avenues. After very little deliberation I decided there was no better way to expend some energy than snow plodding up some Munros! With the fresh snow down so low a choice of venue allowing easier walking was difficult to find but a round of the Fannichs, in the North West of Scotland, seemed a good option as the ridge may have been blown free of the worst.
A partner in crime was needed for such a trail breaking mission, and keen to help was Sheffield based, engineering student and Uber Alpinist: Malcolm Scott. An early start was decided upon so after a long, hard night in the library Malc made the 8hr drive Northwards arriving at Altguish Inn at 2am, getting his head down for three hours before I arrived.
Our initial plan was to complete all 9 of the Fannich Munros from A’Chailleach to An Coileachan. This was ambitious given the snow conditions but if we set the bar high then maybe we would come away with some sore thighs and a few Munros.
Spirits were high despite lack of sleep as we left the car and headed out along the 4X4 track along the side of Loch a’ Bhraoin. We glibly remarked on how the snow wasn’t too deep and doing the nine would be “No problem!”. Our initial optimism was dashed as we begun the first climb up onto the Drum Reidh ridge. Deep drifts and steep terrain made progress hard, despite this though we had a fantastic sunrise to keep us occupied.



The realisation that this might be a harder task than anticipated continued as we reached the summit of A’ Chaileach. The snow was soft and varied from knee to thigh deep, the weather had closed in and 3hrs sleep in his car was catching up with Malc! Not to be defeated that easily we pushed on over Sgurr Breac and began the long descent down to the col between it and Sgurr nan Each. Here 400m is lost and then must be gained immediately. This proved to be the toughest section requiring all of our leg power to blaze a trail in the deep snow. On reaching the tops it we were both tired and Malc was feeling the effects of being desk bound for the past few months with only the Peak Districts rolling dales and boulder problems to keep his legs tuned up.





With the prize of the nine Munros slipping away we battled over Sgurr nan Clach Geala with some tough white out conditions drawing us into the jaws of the cornice. Once we had relocated we decided that it was time to call it a day and a descent was planned taking in Meall a’ Chrasgaidh on our way back. With another 2km trail breaking under our belt we finally reached the path out and arrived back at the car tired but having completed only half of our original target. This didn’t matter however as the main aim had been achieved which was to kick start the winter fitness and enjoy the Scottish hills!

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