5th/6th March 2011.
This is one from 2 weeks ago as we almost get on top of our backlog of trips.Hooray! It has another title though.....
The Secret Diary of a hot hut Bunny!
I already knew the forecast for this particular weekend,a grim windswept hell above 1000 feet,. but decided to go anyway as its an interesting area with a nice but basic hut (almost a locked bothy really) and over 20 Munros on its doorstep.
I`d been here many times over the years but didn't have that many good photographs of the area as I was more into bagging hills then than clicking cameras.(silly me!).The forecast was for heavy snowfalls and strong winds but I had a sneaky plan that would make the forecast irrelevant.
Travelling through Fort William then parking at the top of Glen Nevis at the road end our club geared up in the dark with head torches and rucksacks and walked in Friday night.
Five of us walked in along the narrow ledges high above the gorge.Gordon ,Julian,Gavin, Graham and myself.Its an impressive and popular walk under the highest mountain in Britain,Ben Nevis at 4,400 feet.First you have the twisting path,usually walked in daytime,then a flat meadow section, then the wire bridge to the hut and then lastly a spectacular close up view of one of the highest and best waterfalls in the UK.
This is what the path looks like in daytime.We did it in the dark.Such brave boys!
The bridge is pretty easy if you are used to it even in driving rain and a howling wind and we were soon in the hut,sadly only open to climbing club members.( Quite right ,keeps the riff raff out :0 )
Mind you if you do fall off broken ankles or drowning under a heavy rucksack is a possibility.Prince Charles has even crossed it a good few years ago if I remember.
Once in the hut drink and grub appeared and was duly scoffed.The gas fire was coaxed into life,candles were lit and things got dry and cosy again.Everyone settled back to enjoy being indoors on a wild night.
In the morning OS maps were produced and Gordon (good grief he`s keen!) and a rather less enthusiastic but willing Julian set off through knee deep snow to do the set of Munros above the hut called the Ring of Steall.Given the conditions I though getting to the top of anything that day would be a herculean effort but it takes all sorts.
I was once pretty keen myself in the old days and had many juicy moments thrashing along icy ridges before I discovered my one true love...the sun.
Not believe me.Here's one from the vaults of an epic November traverse of the Anoach Eagach.We came down in the dark totally shattered.In those days I had those strange fleeting things....youth and energy.
Anyway our keen twosome geared up and prepared for the happy storm outside.When they looked askance in my direction however I could equally happily reveal my chosen team role.I was also in bagging mode and was relieved to see no one had sneaked in first and claimed my prize.
"Good news boys! I`m your weekend Hot Hut Bunny.Have a great day outside!"
The penny didn't drop so I had to elaborate.In short I would be a base camp/domestic goddess service rolled into one.I would selflessly stay behind to clean the hut,collect buckets and bottles of water from the stream for washing flushing and drinking,change the gas bottle,open tins of food (mainly mine) and raise the alarm if they didn't return.A volunteer is worth ten paid men!
I would even provide hugs and kisses for the troops on their return (they declined this service :o( and threw in a free complimentary triple bucket full flush for the outside loo.( they used this after the main meal--- better flushed than sitting stuffed I always say.
I was not alone in body swerving the conditions outside however...Gavin and Graham, normally keen hill walkers themselves watched the snow falling in disgust till after lunch then decided to cut their losses,driving home to be with family instead of spending any more time festering.
I had already been out of course.As part of my duties capturing departures of my brave troops was high on the tick list.Here's one of Jools and Gordon crossing under the waterfall to start their ascent.
Such gallant boys!
I was then able to join Gavin and Graham on the walk out.I`m actually still keen myself to embrace wild conditions as long as its semi sheltered,photogenic and interesting.I even suggested taking the little known lower gorge trail,the original and harder path below the main tourist route
.Few people use this now so its slippy,crumbling and awkward in places especially with a large rucksack.I didn't have one of course as I was only out for a ramble.
As luck would have it the rain and slush battered down.Good fun none the less.No casualties to report.
I said goodbye to the boys with a cherry wave at the car then doubled back up the gorge to the bliss of my new found kingdom.
Miss Chatelaine returns.
Unpacking my apron and fluffy mittens I spent the rest of the daylight hours cleaning the bridge, dusting the waterfalls exploring the meadow area then reading my lovely heartbreaking book which I`d been keeping for just this occasion.
Just before dark the two boys staggered back through the still falling white stuff with tales of storm force winds on the ridge,waist deep snow and zero visibility even with ski goggles on.No new Munro's alas!
"There there,never mind "I consoled".Have a chocolate chip cookie instead boys. Mummy feels your pain."
Saturday night saw another keen mountaineer Craig arrive across the bridge and Jools breathed a sigh of relief knowing he could now bow out and still leave Gordon with a willing snow wader to take turns shuffling upwards.
With a captive audience I took the opportunity,later on that night to provide another, much needed service for the troops.
Night time entertainment!
No not that! Heaven forbid.I`m a good boy me!
Singing I mean!
Dame Vera Lynn would expect nothing less.
Being a rather shy chanteuse with an average voice however the songs I picked to sing had to have a certain lyrical edge to them.I didn't want anyone falling asleep on me.My cheery little tales of evil deeds,unnatural acts and grief induced mad carnage seemed to do the trick in keeping them alert.You cant beat a good mix of foot stomping classics and dark, slow family destruction ballads.
Next day was even worse than Saturday.Winds of eighty miles an hour on the ridges,snow even heavier,brave boys still going out.
Gods tender bits in a vice! Never in my puff have I seen men so keen for a battle with the elements!
It was a perfect day for those further away Munro's miles up the glen they both decided as these also were new mountains that had to be bagged.This was also the reason Alex had called off at the last minute because he knew he wouldn't be ticking off anything without major pain and discomfort and he`s not THAT keen !
Off they went across the bridge again with a last wave.Even this was encrusted with snow ice resting on the wires.Cold on fingers or wetting on gloves at the start of the day.Hug Hug, Kiss Kiss,bye bye. Miss Chatelaine will look after all your nice toys for you...I pods,car keys,money etc..Its the least I can do.
Jools and myself then stayed behind quietly reading our chosen books in the comfort of the hut.Mine... wicked witch...His..how to be a better lumberjack.
Time passed quickly and before we knew it the boys were back mid afternoon with epic tales of hummock crawling,snowdrift wading and river jumping.It was so bad they hadn`t even reached the dizzy heights this time or maybe that was part of the cunning plan in a 10 km approach hike through deep snow.Never mind...
hug hug,kiss kiss welcome back..You want all your stuff back again?.... Really?.... oh ok.
We then packed up and headed back down the gorge to Glasgow.A great weekend to be in the mountains during what may be the last big snow storms of the winter.I`m soo glad I didn`t spend it festering all weekend on my bum.Thats soo totally unlike me.I`m a bonafide Chatelaine me!
The names Bunny. Mr Hot Hut Bunny to my friends and those who have had the pleasure.......
of my services.
A couple of pics from Gordon.
A wee video....