'Snow - be gone!' has been my mantra for the past two weeks or so. It has been a winter of massive snowfall over the mountains of Scotland, and Lochaber particularly. The very encouraging heatwave of mid March was folllowed by more heavy snowfall over much of the Scottish mountains, and a week ago I had resigned myself to a different kind of challenge; emailing round to borrow proper crampons and looking at changing the route slightly to avoid the big steep Glen Coe mountains including the Aonach Eagach ridge until later on. Mercifully, this past week or two has brought slightly warmer temperatures and the snow up there is consolidating and slowly melting. Touch wood, the longer range forecast doesn't look like there will be any significant snowfall before I set off so the route currently remains unchanged. Dangerous cornices and packed N and E facing slopes will still give me challenging conditions to contend with. Thankfully I have the eminently capable Matt and Jane Reedy and John Fleetwood with me for those first 3 tricky days.
Beyond that, the next 10 days are a sweep of the less snowy southern Munros before I arrive at the Cairngorms on the 29th April if I'm on schedule. Although I'm not a winter mountaineer of any description, I did fully appreciate the risk I was taking in setting off in mid April. I was well aware that I could get lucky and find bare mountains, but in contrast I spent the whole of April and May of 2013 gazing in extreme concern at the 'eternal arctic winter' conditions in Scotland when undoubtably a Munro round in the style I am attempting would have been impossible in my time frame. The only reason I cannot set off 2 or 3 weeks later as I would have preferred is my situation with work. To get the time off I require, I have to tie my unpaid half term of leave in with the Easter and half term holidays, giving me a window of exactly 50 days before I have to be back at work. Not ideal in terms of the chances of good conditions, but to be honest if I get lucky it might fall perfectly. Now where's that stable high pressure weather system that is going to sit over NW Scotland for the whole of May?
Beyond weather worries, the past two weeks have truly been a whirlwind of activity; I can hand on heart say that I have never been busier. Reports and IEPs to write, writing assessments to mark, trips to the zoo and all the many other aspects of my day job as a primary school teacher have made the Munro adventure take a back seat in many ways. My last day at work is Wednesday next week and we head north on Sunday.
As the budget tightens, I have had to approach people cap in hand to borrow many of the things I will need, so thanks to Matt R, Jane, Chris, Sarah, Ian, Matt F, Michelle, Gary and Jim (and probably others) for the tents, bike wheels, ice axes, crampons, map cases, rucsacks and gloves that they have lent me. Will it all fit in the van? I dunno. I might have to leave one of my children behind.
What no waves?
Running and biking I have done a lot of, kayaking less so. I took the opportunity to get out with Matt in a sea kayak on the lake last weekend. I have done a bit many, many years ago and it was good to get back in one. I was hoping for choppier conditions (honest) as requested by Tony from Sea Freedom kayaks in Oban who is kindly seeing me across the Sound of Mull on day 1 (Mon 14th April). If it's any consolation Tony, Matt did razz around me in a powerboat to create some quite large, if unnatural, waves. One of my big worries is that conditions are too bad for Tony to take me across on day 1 as he only has a window of that day to help me. But like the snow, there is nothing I can do about conditions on the water. Any Scotland based sea kayakers free on Tuesday 15th in case I cant cross on Monday?
Trainig has diminshed slightly with work ramping up but what I have lost in quantity I have gained in quality and I have enjoyed a few faster paced runs in the past couple of weeks including a 'short, fast' 4 hour run with Gary, Stu and Matt in the Spring sunshine last Sunday.
Heading up Little Langdale
Gary chugging up Wetside Edge
Stu and Matt relaxing in Mosedale
The Charnley Cairn on Esk Pike
Training last week:
T: Cunswick 40 mins - ill!
W: ill - tummy bug
T: Scars 55 mins
F: Scars 55 mins
S: Road bike 2 hour 30
S: 4 hours 15 Langdale - Swirl How - Cockley Beck - Esk Pike - Bowfell - Crinkles - Blisco - Lingmooor
Totals: Run: 7 hours Bike: 2 hr 30
This week so far:
T: Scars 50 mins
F: Scars 45 mins
S: 2 hour run Ambleside (planned)
S: Old Counties Tops recce- prob around 4/5 hours (planned)
Likely totals: Run: 8 hours
8 days to go