In what looked like a stable hour or five of weather I made a ‘dash’ for the summit of my local hill Sgurr Coire Choinnichean which sits directly above our house. It’s only a small mountain at 796m absl but when you are starting from that sea level every centimeter has to be ascended..!
With a brief stop at the boundary of the plantations to shed some layers I made a rising traverse towards the Slochd a Mhogha - a chasm which cuts a small swathe at the base of the hill. Here, I decided to drop down to the stream bed and reach an old stalkers path which zig-zags up the edge of the chasm on the far side. I’d made an ascent close to this route a few years ago, but here I was on the old path directly. Barely discernable under the 20cm’s of snow, more in places, less in others.
A figure, another adventurer was on the hill. I spied them descending the head of the chasm - a route I thought unusual, and I wondered who they might be. Only one individual locally I thought would make that particular descent…! They were too far away to hail, so I continued my ascent, zig-zagging upwards. Eventually the snow became more continous pockets of thigh deep powder, so I tried to join up areas where I could see rocks and tussock protruding - this made for less leg work in the long run.
As I climbed higher the northerly wind became more keen and with a cold air temperature I hazard that the wind-chill was between -10o and -20o. Cold enough to freeze the shutter mechanism on my camera.
I eventually intersected the strangers trail, a series of deep postholes made sinuously through the snow drifts. Then all of a sudden they had stopped, decided this was their high point…? I wondered why, they had seemed confident when I’d seen them earlier, Why did they decide to go no further? I pondered. Then continued the remaining 700m to the summit, maybe a further 50m of ascent. The route does become narrow here, not unduly so, maybe half a meter, dropping on each side, but not so much that the exposure is felt.
As I approached the remaining steps, the cloud descended and obscured further views and made the differentiation of snow/ground and cloud/air more difficult to seperate. I almost stumbled as the step I took was further below my foot than envisioned.
At the summit cairn I turned my back to the wind, took the flask of Hot Chocolate from my rucksack and quickly warmed my insides with two hasty cup fulls, I also boosted my energy levels with a fruit slice - all sugared crumble and gooey raisins.
After a brief wait to see if the cloud would lift, I retraced my steps, more or less and made quick progress down the easier snow slopes, confident in my steps and ability to read the ground. Eventually I came to the head of the chasm and decided to follow the strangers steps downwards. Under a great wall of damocles icicle’s.
Before long I was back home for tea and cake.