On the weekend of 17-19th January 2020 fifteen IBSC members made their way into Corrour for the annual ‘legendary’ Loch Ossian Scottish Youth Hostel Association club trip. About half came in from the north from Spean Bridge or Tulloch either on Friday night’s Caledonian sleeper seats, or using Scotrail’s daytime services. Members came from the south from Crianlarich, and from Glasgow by train, but from even further afield- Dundee, Perth, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dumfries- great effort and well rewarded.

The quaintness of this trip has to be the trip to Corrour in itself; at 408m Corrour is the UK’s highest and most remote mainline railway station, and superbly situated for skiing all round, and the mile way to the hostel. Perhaps the most convenient railway station for such purpose in the UK! And you can’t drive to the door- making it that little more adventurous having to carry all you need in for the weekend; meals, drinks and ski gear…and then Simon and Susan bringing their guitar and accordion in made sure we were all well treated to some live folk music in the evening- superb!

This photo was the scene we arrived to- having been mild for a few days before, we fortunately had a dusting of snow to 400m overnight Friday to Saturday, with temperatures staying just above freezing all weekend, so snow continued to lie to around 600m making 300-400m downhill skiing possible…and rest assured club members certainly made the most of that. Some members chose to winter walk and had a great time in the hills regardless. For those with skis, some inevitable carrying of skis was needed to get to 600-650m but from there we all enjoyed some lovely skinning up, and a decent ski down to the same level from Munro height- and each of us enjoyed much better snow than we’d all expected initially!

Walking down into the bleak winter remoteness of Loch Ossian, with the Scottish YHA tucked by the trees. The dusting of snow made it ever that little more special!

On Saturday groups set off to ski Beinn na Lap adjacent to Loch Ossian, as well as some of the Munros at the north end of Loch Ossian. We all enjoyed some fine sunny intervals dispersed with fresh cold north westerly winds, which made the time on the summits brief but ever more focused ‘skins to skis’ changeover time!

This was the view over the bleak expanse of Rannoch Mor, seen from Beinn na Lap; with the low winter sunshine just picking out the contours.

Downhill skiing the north eastern flanks of Beinn Na Lap; we were pleasantly rewarded with some decent snow and a few interesting paths between rocks and heather making it ever more exciting. Three groups set off on this mountain; all enjoyed a downhill ski without exception, with every member beaming with a smile at the end of a descent that most expected would be a walk down, but instead kept skis on to nearly 500m!

This was Loch Ossian at sunset Saturday; with a clear sky meaning we were stunned by super bright Venus on the southerly horizon at sundown, which reflected perfectly in Loch Ossian by the hostel as the wind subdued and the stags appeared locally- there really is nothing like this remoteness with a Scottish youth hostel right next door! Then the sky was magnificent- a lot of members were seen outside at all times of night gazing to the heavens; we managed to locate Andromeda Galaxy it was so dark, with the Milky Way so bright it was hard to pick out Cassiopeia directly above!

Sunday dawned with high cloud cover and a few degrees milder, but then pleasantly opened up to be bright intervals with a strong NW wind making it atmospheric to say the least on the hills. Three groups went up Leum Uilleim 909m on the southern aspect of Corrour station- making a splendid ski tour whether one does an out and back to the main summit, or the whole horseshoe as time allows. A few other club members skied some local Munros the other end of Loch Ossian too.

Club Members have long been known to be innovative and imaginative when it comes to carrying as much kit as needed into Corrour using the train, and down to the hostel But never before has one club member been seen using a wheelbarrow on the train to cart all the kit in, with all the club food and rubbish returning too- well done Donald, this has to be one of most memorable moments of the trip! As well as drinking into the early hours of the morning after a great vibe and singing along to folk tunes in the hostel common area.
And credit to Scotrail for running the first daytime service on a Sunday in winter timetable for 30 years- this mean we could catch a 1230 service back towards Glasgow, and a 1524 service back towards Fort William, negating the need to wait until 1830 southbound or 2120 northbound.

Let’s hope our support for the daytime Sunday trains means they last future years to make accessibility even better for this well-established quality trip, which often sees the first proper snow of the season.

Who said Scotrail weren’t accommodating to extra luggage? Well certainly not on the West Highland Line! Before you know it, we’ll be piling onto the train for next January’s West Highland Line epic…there WILL be maximum fun, there WILL be extreme weather, there WILL be a high chance of snow, and the WILL be great craic. Hope you’ll be joining us- watch out for next year’s date soon so you don’t miss out 😊