Sunday, 24 February 2013

Zermatt comes to Ullapool

A cracking half day on Beinn Enaiglair, a Corbett which nestles under the shoulder of Beinn Dearg. We got a nice early start and scrunched off from Braemore round a boggy but frozen detour to avoid whoever owns Braemore Estate being troubled by our proletarian presence. This new.. erm... path was created as an alternative to the forest track up to Home Loch which you have every right to use. On my next trip I will not repeat the mistake. The path round the hill provided growing and grand views across to the Fannichs and down towards Loch Broom. The hills were plastered in snow and Sgurr na Clach Geala looks particularly alpine with its north ridge curving gracefully up to the summit. 
Once past the big stone the route curved round to the north side of the hill and the temperature plummeted. The path was slick with ice covered in fine powder which slowed us right down. We joined a more constructed path running up the east side of the hill in gentle curves mostly obscured by snow. At about 600 metres the snow took on the consistency of chalk, firm but yielding to a slash of the boot edge to give a good grip. We moved from shade to sun and back but the snow remained the finest neve and we eventually conceded to crampons prior to the final steep slope up a small gully to the summit ridge. The upward motion on the perfect snow under a soft blue sky and warm air was hypnotic but over all to soon. I turned to look wistfully down the gully and thought of other places such as Centre Gully on Ben Lui where such movement can last hours. 

From the summit the views opened north, west and south across that unique Scottish scene of snow, sea and mountains out as far as Ben Loyal and what might have been the Statue of Liberty. Today there was nowhere finer.

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