Sorry for the no show today on Meall a’Bhuiridh WS-017.
The forecast was for mist, low mist in the morning to clear to 900m by mid-morning and to lift completely by lunchtime. WS-017 is 1108m so that meant I expected 200m or so ascent in mist.
In fact the mist was rain and it rained a lot between Edinburgh and Rannoch Moor. It was raining whilst I got ready in the GlenCoe Ski Centre car park. (The name GlenCoe Ski Centre is a hint of what I found). But it soon stopped. The cloud base was about 500m.
There isn’t a good path to the summit. There is a good path from the car park to the 1st chair lift station, steep but a good path. There is a good track across the plateau to the next two charlifts. Most people climb up by following the pylons for the lifts. Again it’s steep but surprisingly easy, I’ve done it before. The final chairlift is the steepest and this comes out by the top station and a transmitter building and mast. There’s a BIG drop right behind the TX building… I mean “oh look the TX building, yikes I nearly fell 500m, gulp!”. It’s a short hop and skip up the final 50m or so to the top.
I wasn’t fazed by the very dense mist, just follow the pylons like I did last time. All went well till I started up at the base of the second section. Through the mist I could just make out something on the ground about 30m above my route. A massive snow bank. The mist thinned a bit and I could see there was a lot of snow. The snow had also gathered in the gullies the pylons are built in. I got up the next run and was able to skirt the large snow patches. But I felt decidedly uneasy with a ground gradient that is probably 1:3 at this point, large (10-20m expanses of snow) and no crampons or ice axe.
I started the 3rd run and got about 1/3 up when I came across a massively deep and vast snow bank. The others I could see rock beyond them but this one extended to edge of visibility. I tried kicking steps and the 1st few were ok then the snow got much icier. I looked up and down, I looked at the lack of ice axe and crampons and I decided I didn’t want to be the next hill walking statistic. Quite simply the potential risk was greater than my desire to summit and operate.
I did feel a bit of a wuss as I turned back as I had reached 950m on a 1108m summit. 158m to go and I bottled it. Back at the top of the 2nd lift I met 3 guys coming up. We discussed the snow banks and they said I should go up with them. That still left coming down on my own. Would have been less difficult if the mist had lifted but there’s no guarantee it would, it should but WX can and does change. One of the guys suggested he wouldn’t have crossed what he crossed if he had been on his own either.
So sorry, no WS-017 today. As I drove away and looked at the hill now the mist had lifted to about 950 I could see just how much snow remains at the top. I guess you don’t build a ski centre where there is no snow. But the amount of Northern face snow about 900m is quite spectacular. Enough to make at least put the ice axe and crampons in the car.
How much snow is there? I did see a few people with skis on the chair lift that was running. But most of the traffic was blokes with downhill MTBs, hundreds off them. Boy do they go fast!