On 16th January myself and Suzy decided to head up into the Mamores. From the forecast it looked like Lochaber could be a better bet than the Cairngorms, although the opposite was true in the end and the cloud came in early.
The Mamores isn't really an obvious choice for ski touring, excepting spring skiing the bowls off Sgurr a Mhaim and a few others, as it's pretty rocky and scree topped, with a fair few narrow ridges. I have always wanted to head up there on skis however as the idea of travelling on skis along the ridge traverse appeals to me. There are also some pretty remote slopes which look like they would be amazing to ski in the right conditions. Also with an eye on the Tranter round, it was worth a reccy.
We headed up from Achriabhach onto the slopes of Mullach nan Coirean. Getting the skis on it was straightforward to start with, but then as it got more rocky it became more awkward. The basic problem was the lack of any significant base! There was quite a bit of soft snow, but not much between it and the (many) rocks. We made our way up into the mist as the wind picked up...
This was a fairly ski wrecking sort of descent with what tantalisingly looked like enough snow, but which really wasn't, and the rocks scraped through far too often! Thankfully no major damage was sustained. That done we got the skis on the packs and came down the North Ridge. It was all soft snow so reasonable to just pick our way down the scramble carefully. From the bottom of this there were some nice turns (between the rocks) down the long ridge, and then it got silly as the grass to snow ratio increased.
In Glen Nevis, the wind had dropped and fluffy snowflakes were falling straight down onto the road, turning it white. We enjoyed that silence you get when snow is falling straight down, muffling the earth.
It was a useful day as information gathering for the Tranter - some sections were definitely quicker using the skis, but of course a better base and more consolidated snow were sorely needed. It's potential ski trashing terrain up there - but then again using the ski as a tool for travel, getting all the way along the Mamores would be worth quite a few ski gouges.
For Sunday I headed to the Cairngorms. The weather apparently had been brilliant on Saturday so I was kicking myself a bit. I got a reasonably early start going up Cairngorm into the mist, which I felt was likely to clear from the forecast I had read. The snow cover was much better here and I couldn't wait to get a glimpse across the Lairig Ghru. Unfortunately the visibility just got worse and I spent a slow 2 hours on map and compass work to Ben Macdui and back. Finally the cloud lifted a bit at Coire Domhain and I headed down into a fantastic looking Loch Avon basin. Its been ages since I saw the Shelter Stone so gliding down to the base of it and then onto a frozen Loch Avon felt pretty special. It was a quick ski along the flat and then up to the saddle back into the mist. I skied towards the Ciste car park but then thought better of it as the snow gave out, and came over the An t-Aonach back to Coire Cas carpark.
Glenshee Skimo Race 23rd January
There was a record turnout of about 50 skiers for the second race of the season. Although there had been a bit of a thaw, there was still plenty snow around and a course was set on the east side of the resort.
|Glenshee start line (Picture: Fiona Wild)|
I really enjoyed the course, which mostly ascended at a relatively gently angle with pretty fast open piste descents. I managed to break away from Ben Bardsley and then keep my lead to come in first after 48mins. It was great to see so many folk out racing, and some more lycra speedsuits too. As dusk approached the wind increased, and by Sunday the mega thaw had set in.
|Ben Bardsley crosses the finish in second place (Picture: Fiona Wild)|
|Myself (1st; centre), Ben Bardsley (2nd; left), Jon Morgan (3rd; right)|