12 photos from an overnight visit to four Munros in the Ullapool area, a pilgrimage to the Northwest for the first snows of the season, and my first camp since Spain, well over a month before. What I appreciated most of all was the silence and solitude, which save for the chatter of an occasional Ptarmigan, reigned complete. A bath of cold silence, enveloping, renewing, an implacable space to empty my own chattery head.
Third time lucky for Ben Avon and I, and a 2 day traverse from Toumintoul, with a bike in to the Linn of Avon. I also walked over to Ben a' Bhuird's north top, and then around to pay my respects at a crash site. I don't wear a poppy, but I'm not dumb to the cost of war. It was a deeply affecting place to spend some time. Otherwise, I was alone and saw no-one for the duration, so I spoke to myself and I spoke to the mountains, and once or twice I think they might have answered back. That's a good outing then, and always useful to get a reminder of winter's wildness just before it begins in earnest. I wanted for more warm clothes both moving and at camp.
For those interested the long shots are taken with the new Sony FE100-400, which for my money (and that is a lot of my money) is a really wonderful lens. On the downside, the battery life on the Sony A7Rii (new to me) is appalling in the cold!
Time is short, so to the pictures... As always, if on a desktop, click to make big.
My window was a little marginal, but I couldn't pass up a camp under a clear sky and the snow moon. The East ridge of Ben Lui under winter conditions has been on the wish list for at least the last 3 seasons, and it didn't disappoint. Getting up it with a full pack in soft snow took all morning and also felt pretty marginal in a couple of places, that pack tipping me backwards on exposed boulders near the top. Next time, a bike and a day sack. Extremely high winds (too fierce to stand up, let alone mess around with the Windoo toy... but from experience I'm saying gusts of 50+mph on the top of Beinn a' Chleib) meant I bailed on a try for the four Munro group. There was simply no place sheltered enough to camp, and I wasn't convinced the snow was deep enough under Ben Oss to dig a snowhole. The walk out involved way too much tarmac, but gave me time to make my peace with the change of fortune.
I'll save the commercial shots for elsewhere, but here's a few I like for now.
Balquhidder was a family day walk shortly after christmas, and the little'un was tired so we didn't get as far as the lochan. I only had the X100T, but I like this little camera, and managed to grab a few that felt ungeneric enough to post here, and caught the feel. Just like with music - I couldn't care less about picture perfect, what I want is vibe - lens flares 'n all.
Click to make big
On new year's day, with a tiny weather window and no hangover I went out to dust off my Munro bagging habit, making for 2 between Killin and Crianlarich. After the long sit of the festive period, I think I wanted the walk and the camp more than the tops themselves to be honest. So the ticks themselves were unimportant, but nice things happened on the way to, from and inbetween Sgiath Chùil and Meall Glas.
The inconvenient truth when you split childcare is that it's all about the timing - and more so than ever in this start/stop winter season. A furtive but watchful eye, a 5am start and a whole lotta huffing and puffing through fresh meringue saw us on Meall Lighiche and Sgùrr na U-laidh just before the most recent thaw. I'm not sure our route onto the second was entirely orthodox, but I was proud of my mate Mick, who breathed through cramps on a chossy, steep and nasty slope to break through to the ridgeline vista. We really are so lucky to have these spaces. A superb winter mountain day, the second best of the season so far for me, with a few shots to show off at some point, but four for here and now.
Hope you're enjoying your time out too.