Last of the Winter

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As snow lines creep ever higher and ptarmigans begin to lose their white, winter plumage, you know summer is approaching. This winter has been a beauty, with the mountains looking as magical as ever. Today was the perfect moment for capturing people out and about for an end of season mega day in Britain’s stunning Cairngorm National Park.

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The Great Ridge

There is no doubt that Glencoe is one of the most dramatic valleys in the world and along its north wall lies the iconic Aonach Eagach ridge, described by the UK climbing website as “a formidable array of spines, offering several kilometres of inescapable scrambling above a yawning gulf. In snowy garb Aonach Eagach looks and feels truly Alpine, and rates as one of the best winter mountaineering expeditions in the UK.”

Teaming up with two experienced friends, we enjoyed perfect conditions on this beautiful route.

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Early start in Glencoe valley.

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Getting ready after an hours ascent to the start point.

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Stunning views across the valley to Stob Coire nan Lochan.

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Delicate movement along the ridge.

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Looking back at the ridge, showing its many challenging features, including the 30 metre abseil at the start.

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Progress was fast in the mini-gullies.

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Assessing options in the pinnacles.

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We operated as a rope team for much of the route.

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After 5 hours the ridge ended, with Glencoe village visible at the bottom.

 

6,000 Steps

Apparently it takes some 6,000 steps to reach the top of a Scottish munro. Combine that with floundering around in snow drifts and carrying loads, you definitely get enough exercise!

Here with the week’s highlights:

Glencoe’s Buachaille Etive Mor was the perfect place to warm up as a team and get a feel for the conditions.

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Summit of Glencoe’s Stob na Doire.

With aspiring winter guide, Harry, joining the team, we set our sights on Great Gully on the beautiful Stob Dearg.

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Stob Dearg looking gorgeous as ever!

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Looking up at Great Gully.

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First pitch of Great Gully.

Time constraints forced us to turn round. For another day!

With further sunshine forecast, we headed to Craig Meagaidh for some classic Scottish ski touring and steep skiing on Raeburn’s Gully.

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Glorious day for ski touring in Craig Meagaidh.

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Narrow grade I gully making for interesting skiing (photo: Scott Muir).

With the arrival of a storm, we planned a low valley trek to a bothy in the Cairngorms, but 100mph gusts made progress impossible, quite literally blowing us off our feet!

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The trail passing Cairngorm ski centre (seen in the background).

All in all an incredible week for being in the Highlands. February is a great time of the year there, with the weather mostly clear and crisp.

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Looking towards the mountains near Ullapool.