Strawberry Cottage has been a favoruite venue for the club for many years now. The hut is owned by the An Teallach mountaineering club and has impressive amenities considering the remote location on the western end of Loch Affric.
We met on Friday evening at the Loch Affric circuit car park, where we consolidated our kit into the two most capable vehicles. It had been snowing on the drive in and as cargo convoy continued down the forestry track to Strawberry Cottage, the rest of us enjoyed an atmospheric bike ride along the loch. There was some reflection on the decision to take take gravel bikes instead of mountain bikes as we slipped and slided all over the place!
Once we had settled into the hut, we started making plans for the morning. On past trips club members have had luck finding snow in Coire Coulavie and Coire Leachavie, however, this year the coverage was particularly poor and a strong easterly wind was stripping those aspects and transporting the new snow onto west aspects. We opted to split into two groups and head towards Sgurr nan Ceathramhnan, where we would hopefully get a chance to scout out a few different aspects in the hunt for some decent descents.
In the morning we were greeted by fresh snow outside of the cottage. It was already pretty wet so both groups started the day with a ski carry to delay the saturation of our skins. Visibility was poor throughout the day and when we did catch glimpes of ridgelines there was no evidence of complete runs down – the snow was mainly a dusting over rocks and heather.
The snow kitties group opted to get their skins on earlier and had a pleasant slide up to Bealach Coire Ghaidheil followed by a few turns down before heading back to the cottage. The snow bunnies group continued up the path to the headwall of Coire Coulavie for a reccie that confirmed the expected strong winds and rime-covered, wind-stripped east aspect.
Rather than attempting a descent down into Coire Coulavie, the snow bunnies retreated and linked up some deposits of fresh wind-transported snow on the way back down to Bealach Coire Ghaidheil. This was followed by some combat skiing through the heather for good measure.
In the evening we delighted in the usual high standard of food brought along by club members. A new and welcome addition was RidgeMonkey nachos… it has to be seen to be believed! We were all cosy with the fire roaring. The forecast for Sunday looked good but no plans were made for skiing based on what we had seen that day. Instead, we had a leisurely breakfast and once everyone had made it back to the car park, we went our own ways on a mix of running, biking and swimming advenutres.