Every year, we head up to the Highlands and every year GM suggests it might be nice to climb Beinn an Lochain from the vicinity of the Rest and be Thankful pass. Is it an unticked Corbett on GM’s list perhaps? Of course it is. Or was: this year he overcame our resistance and we found ourselves booting-up in the lay-by a little north of the pass, close to the foot of Beinn an Lochain’s north-east ridge. Freezing easterlies were once again going to be the dominant feature of the weather, but the sky was a fabulous blue and the views were stunning. Looking along the crag girt ridge to the snowy summit of Beinn an Lochain it was hard to see why it had been so hard for GM to persuade us to head this way.
So, as you may have guessed from my opening salvo, we proceeded to not quite climb Beinn an Lochain. The hills in this area all look superb and I was to photo all of them repeatedly, each time in the hope that this particular combination of light and shadow, viewpoint and cloudscape, would give the most flattering image. (Hover your mouse over the pictures for the names of the hills.Or click on them to see larger versions on flickr)
All went well, if a little slowly, since it was necessary to move at the pace of the slowest member of the party (ie me).
Inevitably, we picked a spot which was possibly a tiny bit more sheltered than everywhere else and parked for a brew.
The weather changed incredibly rapidly. Blue skies turned black. Ben Lomond disappeared behind what was evidently a snowstorm, then the closer hills were enveloped in cloud and then snow was falling heavily around us.
The first shower lasted for perhaps twenty minutes and then, just as rapidly, things cleared up again.
Finally, we reached a point where the ridge levelled out momentarily and then steepened considerably. On the map below you can easily pick out this point, it’s where a couple of contours indicate a small hump on the ridge, just above the 600m contour line.
The path skirts right, underneath the substantial crag. I’d been examining the route as it came into view and I felt that the large, steep patches of lying snow which seemed to span the route ahead would me more than I wanted to tackle in my borrowed micro-spikes. When I caught up with the rest of the party, it was to discover that two of the others had, like me, had second thoughts. So, whilst three of our party continued, three waited and watched for a while.
The weather closed in again…
….pretty soon, two more had turned back. Deterred apparently by a short, steep climb out of a gully, where a slip would have almost certainly led to a very long fall. Who continued? GM of course: up to the top and down the far side to the head of the pass to meet us.
The snow fell thick and fast as we descended, but we had one more window of bright sunlight as a temptation to take yet more photos of Beinn Ime…
And did it matter that I didn’t make it to the top? Well, it would have been nice, without a doubt, to get there, but it didn’t really detract from a very pleasant, short day’s walk.