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And snow it starts; Moonwalker.


IT was one of these days when everything had to be put on hold. Snow, beautiful snow everywhere and the further west we travelled the more there was of it.

After the false winter starts of the previous few weeks, here was the real deal - sun splitting the sky, hardly a breath of wind and the white stuff right down to the roadside.

We were heading up to Dalmally on the Oban road to climb Beinn a'Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich.

These two Munros are often derided as dreary hangers-on to the magnificent Ben Cruachan but that's a bit unfair. After all, there aren't many hills that can rival Cruachan and its horseshoe ridge of satellite peaks.

It had been nine years since my last visit to these summits. I had set off walking at 6am on an icy December morning and rose above the low-lying cloud inversion to be greeted by the rising sun and skies shining with every colour and shade.

Once you've had that view, the rest of the day becomes almost irrelevant. But the pull-up to Beinn a'Chochuill's summit was accompanied by a low, warm sun and perfect visibility and the day continued in this vein round to Beinn Eunaich and back to the car.

The overhead conditions were almost the same this time but the track upwards was covered by snow and ice and the slopes ahead painted a brilliant Dulux white.

A dozen or so Highland cattle were straddled across the track doing their tourist pose in front of the snowcapped peaks, their chilled-out attitude summing up the mood of the day perfectly.

Our initial push up steeper slopes was made easier by a party ahead who had already broken trail. By the time we were approaching the summit ridge, the snow was consistently up to our knees.

And then came the real hard work. The descent from the first summit to the bealach between the peaks took us through snow that was reaching midway up our thighs.

Sometimes it was impossible to gauge the depth and a sudden drop into snow up to the waist meant a series of acrobatics to roll out and regain your feet and dignity.

The ascent of Beinn Eunaich started with more deep, soft snow but gradually it turned icier and more solid and we had to kick steps to get footholds at times.

The wind had also picked up and we were being pelted with spindrift coming from our right as it blew across the slopes, but it was calmer by the time we hit the summit.

We expected an easier route down but, if anything, the snow was even deeper in places. As we got lower there were signs that much of the early-morning snow was melting. Let's hope it doesn't stay away too long.


SUMM VIEW The picturesque scenery on show from the top of Beinn a'Chochuill
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 21, 2013
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