Sun and Snow

The perfect combination? (not quite)

(photos Colin Baird)

Here is my sister Liz and me on the steep snowy slope of Sgurr Choinnich in the West Morar Forest, just south of Achnashellach.

We had planned to camp! Instead Liz found a great B&B in Lochcarron. The Old Manse B&B fed us up before our epic and provided roasting hot baths and squidgy soft beds to soothe our tired bones.

The planned walk through Achnashellach Forest, up and over munro Sgurr Choinnich, a short ridge walk to a second munro, Sgurr a Chaorachain, and the seven kilometre traipse back to the car, should have taken us eight hour max. What we were confronted with at the first sight of these monstrous hills was buckets of new snow. What was described in the book as a steep clamber up a ridge was at one time a grade one ice climb. The snow was so soft it crumbled beneath our boots leaving us digging ice axes in for extra purchase.

After hours of climbing we at last topped the summit ridge. Imagine our horror when, having thought we had the day cracked, we were met with a section of narrow ridge plastered with piles of snow. A huge cornice hung, cracked and ready to fall, on one side, unstable avalanche prone run out on the other and there was no way of knowing where the solid part of the ridge was. One foot forward could have meant either crashing through the cornice to fall two thousand feet into the corrie on the north side or tumbling down amongst tons of avalanched snow to be buried in the south valley. Not much of a choice.

It was too dangerous, we turned back, there is no point taking risks. We were scunnered but, after a careful descent down the ridge we had just climbed, we were safe. The hills are still there to be enjoyed another day.

The unexpected snow meant we were very late back to Lochcarron and had no choice but to eat in the local bar of the Lochcarron Hotel. The burger was adequate, but I will seek out a tastier alternative on my next visit there.

So near and yet so far

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