Bluebird skies on the Ben

Me and Annie both took our winter mountain leader training at Glenmore Lodge recently, so after a week of criss-crossing the Northern Corries and learning some new skills we were enthusiastic to get out and practice further from home. This week was the first time in several months that high pressure has dominated Scotland, and it would have been downright rude not to take advantage of it. Having been disappointed by poor weather the last time we travelled West for mountaineering, me and Annie saddled up the little yellow van for a late-night drive after work, intending to traverse the Aonach Eagach the next day.

When we got there in the early hours though, the moonlight on the ridge made it pretty clear that the snowline had retreated above it, and there would be little in the way of winter mountaineering to be had up there. Our disappointment was increased when we realised that, while packing the van in the dark, I had managed to leave my very black rucksack beside the van rather than in it. When the van then broke down while we drove back towards Fort William at 1am things seemed to be going very much against us.

But all wasn’t quite lost: the van miraculously restarted, we had spares of the rucksack and everything in it, and most importantly there still wasn’t a cloud in the moonlit sky. Keeping the glass half full, we parked up at the North Face car park and got a few hours sleep in the van, before getting up early and joining the groups of other early birds making their way into the coire. The reward for us and the others was easily one of the best days I’ve had in the mountains. An icy breeze and strong sunlight made the mountain feel more alpine than Scottish, and the curving edge of the CMD arête only added to the feeling. More of this please!

CMD panorama

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