If you found yourself at the River Affric car park just before six o’clock on a Friday evening in early March you might have been surprised at the flurry of activity before you: a pickup truck, two campervans, six mountain bikes, twenty skis and three trays of lasagne gathered in a corner of the dusky car park. With them, ten intrepid IBSC members bound for the wilds of Strawberry Cottage in Glen Affric.

The journey in offered just brief glimpses of small snow patches on the east-facing corries of Càrn Eighe. Any concerns for Saturday’s inevitable long walk-in were quickly abated by an excellent three-course dinner, courtesy of Jacob. Starter: lasagne, Main: lasagne, Pudding: lasagne. Full stomachs and a good night’s sleep all round.

On Saturday, we took our chances as a team and carried our skis two hours north-east along the track into Coire Leachavie, finding good snow cover on the north-eastern aspects of An Tudar. After bootpacking up to a col at 1000m, Dave led the first of two laps on refrozen snow that was firm, but not icy. As the cloud descended below 1000m, we descended back to the burn (Allt Coire Leachavie). This was perhaps the best skiing of the day as the snow softened at lower elevations and we enjoyed our turns between the rocks and heather down to the burn.
Evening activities included a chilly dook (for Sam, Lisa and Jacob) and a cycle along the glen (for James, Dave and Jenny). We were spoilt with Dave and Jenny’s veggie chilli and Mike’s veggie stew followed by cheesecake and crumble courtesy of Lisa and Sarah. More than enough food to go round (even James was defeated) with plentiful discussion of ski objectives past and present both in Scotland and further afield.

Awaking on Sunday, the cloud and persistent drizzle had fallen further into the valley so skiing was sadly not on the cards today. Most opted for an exploratory walk or bike in the Glen, with Jacob and Dan visiting the Camban bothy while others recced bridges and river crossings necessary to reach nearby ski objectives, for future trips in more favourable snow conditions. James and Sarah embarked on a run up Mullach Fraoch-choire via its north-eastern ridge, but turned back several hundred metres from the summit having encountered challenging snow conditions and poor visibility on a final exposed snow arête. A challenging munro to summit in winter from any aspect, but one that offers many promising ski lines for future visits.

By early afternoon, all had reassembled at the cottage (timing orchestrated by the IBSC club radios, which really are wonderful bits of kit). After a final pack up we rode and drove out to the cars. What could have easily been a disappointing weekend of little snow and poor weather turned out for the better thanks to a friendly group who were keen to make the most of the available conditions. A really enjoyable trip (and IBSC first for me) to a remote and special place. We will be back next year, wishing as always for bluebird powder days, but expecting more Glen Affric magic regardless…