Hill: Creag Meagaidh
Date: Sunday 25th February 2018
Company: Just myself
Distance: 18.9km, Ascent: 1135m
Time: 6Hrs 20Mins

It wasn't my intention to go walking this weekend, however, on seeing the MWIS and SAIS forecasts for Sunday I decided to re-arrange my plans. Heading out to the pub on Saturday evening, to hear one of my friends singing, wasn't the best idea given it was now my intention to be up and off by 5.30am on Sunday morning. When the alarm went off, despite being tired, I was excited to get going as I suspected it was going to be a somewhat special day.

On a good day it is worth doing a good hill. Having ascended Creag Meagaidh only once previously, way back in 2001, it was seriously overdue a re-visit. I was keen to see beautiful Coire Ardair in full winter garb.

On arrival at the Creag Meagaidh car park, I decided to wear my four-season Sportiva boots and take my DMM crampons leaving my three-season Meindls and Grivel crampons in the car. The conditions looked full-on winter.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

From the car park, I set off along the track leading to Coire Ardair. It was a stunning morning with wall to wall blue skies overhead. From the outset my feet began to ache owing to the stiffness, tightness and lack of supporting insoles inside my B3 winter boots. I was starting to wish I had worn my Meindls.

During the walk to Coire Ardair, I passed only one couple who were heading in to ascend Easy Gully. The car park was already very busy so I suspected many climbers were already making the best of the day.

On the track leading to Coire Ardair:

The circa 5km walk into Coire Ardair passed quickly with the views getting better and better as I approached the fine coire. Lochan a' Choire was completely hidden under a blanket of ice and snow. Despite it being only a little after 9.00am I could already see a number of climbers getting ready to climb a number of different winter routes.

Coire Ardair:

On looking towards 'the Window', I could see a sizeable patch of avalanche debris ahead. Had this been the weekend previous when there was an avalanche risk of "5", i.e. High, there is no way I would have ascended via this route. However, on Sunday the avalanche risk was "1", i.e. Low, and the snow consistency was perfect névé. Therefore despite the avalanche debris, I reckoned it was safe to proceed.

Ascent route via 'the window':

From Lochan a'Choire, I progressed to just below the steep section where I stopped to put on crampons and to get out my ice axe.

Steep ascent ahead:

Crampons on:

I then initially followed a line of footsteps before deciding to take a higher line close to the rocks and well-above the avalanche debris.

Following the steps leading towards 'the Window':

During the ascent, I stopped for a few minutes to watch and take photos of climbers progressing up one of the steep gullies. It looked great fun but alas I was on my own and was without harness and rope.

Climbers climbing one of the steep gullies (full zoom):

On reaching the avalanche debris I could see that it must have been the result of a fairly large avalanche. It is difficult to get a sense of scale from the pictures. Some of the debris was I would guess seven feet deep or more.

Avalanche debris:

Avalanche Debris:

The final fifty metres or so of steep terrain was not quite so good as there was an inch or two of soft snow on top of the névé. Beyond the steep section was a snow-covered bowl with a very well-constructed snow hole. I took a line skirting round the side of the bowl such that I did not lose any height.

Above the steep section leading to 'the Window':

On reaching 'the Window', I stopped to soak in great views of the Monadh Liath range.

By this point I was really struggling with my foot ache becoming foot pain. I therefore stopped to take some Paracetemol and Ibuprofen. These tablets got me through the remainder of the walk but somewhat masked the real pain which I was to feel when the tablets wore off!

Ascent of Creag Meagaidh from 'the Window':

After circa 150m of height gain, I was onto the flat plateau of Creag Meagaidh. I could see Mad Meg's cairn ahead and having recently re-watched The Munro Show knew that this was not the summit cairn.

Onto the wide plateau heading towards Mad Meg's cairn:

On eventually reaching the summit, I stopped to soak in 360 degree views and to have a drink. Despite the weather looking tropical, it was fairly cold but not as cold as I had expected it to be. I was only wearing two of the four jackets I had with me .

My favourite view was looking towards the Grey Corries, the Aonachs and the Ben.

At the summit of Creag Meagaidh:

Lochaber hills from the summit of Creag Meagaidh (zoom):

From the summit, I returned to 'the Window' via approximately the same line stopping en-route to have a chat with another solo walker.

Looking back at the heavily-corniced edge leading towards the summit:

On reaching 'the Window', I zig-zagged my way down the initial steep section before taking a more direct line back to Lochan a' Choire where I stopped for some lunch - an idyllic spot! After removing my crampons and exchanging my axe for poles, I set off back towards the car.

Descent from 'the Window':

The walk out passed fairly quickly as it was a delight to be walking in such great weather and getting such great views.

On reaching the car it was bliss to get my boots off. I think this may well be the best walk of the year as it will be difficult to beat.

What a day .