On Loch Avon – Shelter Stone Crag behind
Not quite brave enough to march straight across the frozen waters of Loch Avon, we skirted across its western fringe, picking our way through the snow-laden hummocks abounding it’s south western shores before beginning our 200 metre climb up towards Loch Ethachan.
The descent off the summit is a long way from straightforward, as we aimed to drop down into the wide basin that drops off the NE side of the summit, avoiding bands of cliffs to both the East and North. Navving on a bearing whilst on ski proved exceptionally problematic and we relied heavily on our altimeter as we dropped down, losing all sense of spacial awareness in the white-out conditions.
Near ‘White-Out’ conditions removed all sense of slope aspect or direction
Descending slightly further to the east than we had meant to, we skirted with the much steeper and rockier NE ridge, being forced to side slip in places as we lost all sense of slope angle – probably only 20 or 30 metres further to our right than we had intended, but it was unnerving all the same, eventually finding ourselves atop a broad and flattish shoulder high above the Fords of Avon (GR032025).
Steady and defensive skiing was the order of the day as we descended.
We could still see nothing and knowing we were a little further to the SE than planned we skirted the top of the cliff band before being able to descent the steep, but wide and open North facing slopes than fell back towards Loch Avon. Only once we were below the 850m contour line did the visibility improve enough for us to enjoy the descent!
Rich at the eastern end of of a frozen Loch Avon
After a much needed re-fuelling stop, we once again tenatively crossed the frozen fringes of the Loch before climbing up towards the Saddle (GR018033) and, on dog-leg bearings once again, skinned upwards through white conditions towards the high col of Cnap Coire na Spreidhe (GR011046).
Keith on the short climb towards ‘The Saddle’
No let up in poor visibility as we approach Ciste Mhearad
And as we stood alone in a sea of white, the roar of a Piste Basher sounded. It was less than 15 metres away from where we stood; we were totally oblivious to how close we were once again to civilisation other than our knowledge in the map, suggesting we were just a few hundred metres from the Ptarmigan top station. And with that we raced down through the mist, safe in the knowledge we were within the ski area once again.