(No idea why my blog software loads some of these images sideways – please feel free to rotate yourself 90 degrees)

Even though i’m acclimatising to winter in the NW, the weather is worsening. I had goggles on and hood up from the start of the Allt a Mhuilin today. A sort of rest day intended to wander in to the N Face of the Ben and check conditions.

On the way in i met 4 mid-twenties climbers from the Dolomites. The only thing that went up and down the Allt a Mhuilin quicker than them all day was the R951 helicopter.

Up to 10cm of new snow overnight. Loads of climbers out. Most that i spoke to had curtailed their plans. Curtains of ice aplenty. Sluff avalanches aplenty too, particularly around The Curtain and Great Buttress.m

As i got to the hut a father and son were just getting back from a climb (somewhere near Frostbite i think). The lad had torn his salopettes but was grinning. I wondered how he had done the climb as he was only carrying one axe, but i never asked.

There was lots of banter and the Italians were declaring the walk in to be almost roadside by Dolomites proportions (1000m ascent / 3 hrs were their small walk ins). I left the hut to walk up towards the base of the mid point of the CMD arete. About 150m out from the hut, i stood on a DMM axe which matched the one the lad had. I walked back to the hut, knocked on the lounge door, and presented it to him. He had no idea how he had lost it but was very grateful. His Dad and the other residents offered me whisky, “when i come back” i replied.

I headed upwards. The weather was grim. It was snowing heavily. The fresh snow upslope of the hut was significant. The ice by the trail was formed enough to boulder on. I spent a while teetering and tottering around.

I turned back to the hut. I claimed my reward, a healthy dram of Jura albeit served in a ½ pint Carling glass. Snow Buntings appeared to help me with my pork pie late lunch, and the Italians reappeared to help with the whisky ! Standing in the doorway of the hut the wind howled and the banter was strong.

I spent too long in the almost warmth of the hut porch, the smell of fried sausages seeping out. I set off back down.

R951 appeared in thick snow and banked around for a few moments before realising how wild the winds were. I walked on out and 15 minutes later R951 reappeared. It spooked a very well hidden deer herd on the slopes of Carn Mor Dearg who dashed down slope. The helicopter then spent as long as it could hovering opposite the N Face continuing the on-going search. I’m not a pilot, but i could admire the skill needed to keep the frame still up there.

I walked out with the Italians and bantered about all manner of things all the way back, for the second day, to the North Face car park. If only someone would fill the holes in !!!

There is bright moonlight now (10pm), but the weather is due to crap out for two days.

I am on an avalanche awareness course all day tomorrow with Mike Pescod (Guide and Lochaber MRT member). I try and do the course every year to keep my eye in. One can never ever know everything in the mountains, especially in winter.

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