This winter is proving to be a wee bit odd. Wettest on record they say, but I’m pretty sure they say that every month now. There’s certainly a lot of snow out there. The ski chaps are struggling to keep their tows running and even MacInnes stirred from his slumber (for that is what giants do) to say that’s it’s more than he’s ever seen on the Scottish hills.
The only problem with so much snow, is that well, there’s just so much snow. Cornices are massive. I’ve heard many a tale from climbers in the last few weeks who have retreated from their planned route purely because of the 10 metre cornice hanging above.
I ventured out at the weekend to go and check out a wee circuit I’d been planning for a while. The MWIS had been 50/50 but the forecast had a high degree of uncertainty. It was well after lunchtime when I left but two and half hours later I was parked up in Glen Nevis.
I started packing my gear and used the binos to survey the route ahead. The snowline was relatively high, but there were big cornices on the two main ridges I’d be covering. The cloud was low and broken, but rain was coming. There was a lot of evidence of avalanche and landslip on my planned descent route.
My gut started giving me a clear message: this was a bad idea. I’ve learned to trust my instincts in these situations.
I dithered with packing, long enough for the rain to start. I checked the forecast again. What they had said was to be a clearish night was no longer, the weather was moving faster than expected and it would be wet all night. The prospect of a damp night in the tent and a morning of navigating through the fog on laden slopes was not tempting.
I messaged home, and the return message was spot on: “No place for heroics”
Shortly afterwards I was ensconced in the Mountain Morrisons, filling my face with scampi as the rain lashed down. I pootled south again, with a view to stop in the Coe, but it was driving sleet with no hint of let up when I got there. The fire had gone from my belly at this point, and I continued down the road, with a view to revise if it looked more promising further east. It was still hosing mercilessly when I pulled into my drive.
I normally only post trips here when they have some merit, no-one wants to read about the plods in the rain, although so many of the trips are just that. No, I tend to focus on the good stuff, but it occurred to me that deciding not to go can be absolutely the right thing to do, and so that’s worth mentioning here. There’s no point spending years honing your mountain instincts if you don’t pay attention to them.
So five hours in the car and 20 quids worth of petrol, but I live to fight another day. The scampi wasn’t bad either.