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The High Mountains of Britain & Ireland Munro Almanac Munros Tables SMC Magic of the Munros Wilderness Walks Ski Mountaineering in Scotland Ski Touring in ScotlandThe Munros in Winter

Ski-ing the Munros:

Even the most humdrum and gently-contoured of Scotland's Munros is transformed by a blanket of snow into a much more interesting and challenging proposition for the intrepid hill-walker. Venturing into the winter wilderness however is a serious undertaking and not for the ill-equipped or faint-hearted but does yield some of the finest experiences to be had in the Scottish Highlands.

While firm snow provides solid footing and allows rapid progress, icy, convex slopes, such as on Meall a Burraidh in Glencoe and at the summit of Ben Nevis, are deadly traps for the unwary. Lifes of professional mountaineers have been claimed by avalanches on supposedly safe slopes.

Deep, soft snow, especially beneath a breakable crust, can render uphill progress frustratingly difficult and exhausting and put one's objective beyond reach - unless other methods are adopted.

In California I used snow-shoes for a springtime excursion into the Sierra Nevada of the Sequoia National Park and skis in Scotland to enable day trips to some of the remotest Munros.

With the obvious exception of the Skye Ridge and its Inaccessible Pinnacle, the vast majority of the Munros, from Ben Lomond, the most southerly, to Ben Nevis, the highest, are possible on skis. Many suitable routes are given in the excellent "Ski Mountaineering in Scotland" by the SMC - an embarassment of riches - too many for one lifetime - particularly in view of the short, January to May, season. April is normally the optimum month when granular spring-snow and longer days pertain.

Sgurr na Sgine

Sgurr  na Sgine

My introduction to ski-mountaineering was a one-week course by the Scottish Council for Physical Recreation at Glenmore Lodge. The essential items of equipment are bindings that allow the heel to lift on the ascent and skins to give traction. The latter originally made from real seal skin are now of synthetic fibre. Like stroking a cat they are smooth when rubbed one way but rough the other thereby allowing skis to be slid easily uphill but not to slip backwards. They are removed for the downhill.

On my first foray away from the increasingly overcrowded pistes served by mechanical uplift I enjoyed exhilarating runs on perfect, untracked snow down the crests of long aretes on Meall Coronach, Ben Lawyers and Beinn Ghlas - not another skier to contend with - only a few surprised hill-walkers. The effort of the uphill carries on the steeper sections was far outweighed by the greater pleasures of the descent.

Some of the longest ski tours, and many opportunities for Munro bagging, are offered by the extensive plateau of the Cairngorms although navigation errors in bad weather on the vast, featureless expanse can have dire consequences.

From Achlean in Glen Feshie a well-graded path gives easy, skinned access to the western edge of the plateau and a host of peaks. To the north, close nearby, lies the gently-rising summit of Carn Ban Mor followed by a broad, flat-topped ridge to Sgor Gaoith. In heavy mist I was pleased to come across another set of tracks - until I realised they were my own - I had walked in a complete circle. A belated compass bearing brought me back on course.

 Moine Mhor in the Cairngorms

Moine Mhor in the Cairngorms

On subsequent visits I ski-ed due east across the wide, shallow basin of the Moine Mhor ( the Great Moss ), skirting the deep trench of Loch Einich, to collect the remote Monadh Mor and south along the boundary of the plateau to Meall Dubhag and Mullach Clach A' Bhlair.

In the Dee Valley, on the other side of the Cairngorms, a pleasant bicycle ride on the estate road through pine woods and alongside the Quoich Waters gains the starting point for the long ascent to the South Top and spacious plateau of Beinn A' Buiridh. Gentle gradients lead over to the North Top surmounting great cliffs above the Dubh Lochan.

 The Grey Corries

The Grey Corries

From the cairn I retreated round the corniced edge of the huge corrie to ski down open slopes before re-ascending to the rocky outcrop of Ben Avon - another of Scotland's remote Munros. A long downhill run, some five miles in length, ended a fine day's outing.

Greater challenges are presented by other summits. On Stob Choire Claurigh an ice-axe and crampons were necessary at the head of the corrie to climb the steep, snow ramp leading to the crest of the ridge to gain a splendid vista to the west of the outstretched, parallel arms of the Grey Corries and Aonach Mor. Beyond protruded the black summit of Ben Nevis.

A pair of "sawn-off", short skis were employed one Easter in Glen Shiel to ascend the dazzling-white, snow cone of Faochag and continue round the summit ridge to Sgurr Na Sgine.



A total of 38 ascents on skis contributed to my round of the Munros and this practice is commended to aspirant Munroists and skiers wishing to escape the queues and congestion of the piste to experience the freedom and pleasures of uncrowded, untracked slopes - it is even possible, as I have found, to have a whole mountain all to yourself.

( The Commentator, Glasgow HERALD, Saturday 22nd January 2000 )


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Travel & Guide Books & Maps - Scotland:-

Gairloch, Ullapool & Loch Maree OS Map Aviemore, Granton & Cairngorm Mountains OS Map

Torridon Map Kintail, Glen Shiel - Map Cairngorm - Map Arrochar Alps - Map Glasgow Popular Hills - Map Lochnagar & Glenshee - Map Skye, Storr & Trotternish - Map Skye - THe Cuillin The Munros Map Ben Nevis Map West Highland Way - Map Ben Nevis & Glencoe OS Landranger Map


The High Mountains of Britain & Ireland  Munros Tables SMC  The Munros - Scotland's Highest Mountains  Scotland - Lonely Planet  NW Highlands - SMC Guide  Exploring the Far NW of Scotland  Guide to Walks in NW Highlands

Walking in Scotland - Lonely Planet Mountain: Exploring Britain's High Places  National 3 Peaks Walk Scottish Highlands Hillwalking Guide The Scottish Islands Bouldering in Scotland

Scotland - Lonely PlanetScotland's Highlands & Islands - Lonley Planet Scotland's Highlands & Islands - Rough Guide Highlands & Islands of Scotland - Hidden Places Rough Guide ScotlandScottish Highlands & Islands - Rough Guide Rough Guide: Scotland Lonely Planet, Walking in Scotland Lonely Planet - Walking in Britain

50 Walks in Glasgow & SW Scotland 50 Walks in the Scottish Highlands & Islands 50 Walks in Edinburgh & Eastern Scotland 100 Walks in ScotlandVisit Scotland - Touring Guide Scotland: Where to Stay - Hotels & Guest Houses Scotland: Where to Stay - Bed & Breakfast Hillwalker: The MunrosHillwalker: The Corbetts

The Munros: Scottish Mountaineering Club The Munros and Tops The Corbetts - SMC Call of the Corbetts Munros & Corbetts Chart The High Mountains of Britain and Ireland Magic of the Munros The Munros - Scotland's highest mountains

Munro Almanac The Munros: Scottish Mountaineering Club Hamish's Mountain WalkThe Munros in WinterMy Scotland by Hamish MacInnes 50 More Routes on Scottish Mountains Scottish Mountains - 50 Classic Routes

The High Mountains of Britain and Ireland Scotlands 100 Best Walks Scottish Mountains - 100 Best Routes Big Walks of Great Britain Classic Walks in Britain & IrelandScottish Hill & Mountain Names Classic Mountain Scrambles in Scotland Classic Climbs - Central & Southern Highlands

Mountaineering in Scotland and Undiscovered Scotland by W.H.MurrayMore Wilderness Walks Wilderness Walks Wilderness Walks 2 - Video Ski Mountaineering in Scotland Ski Touring in Scotland Skye Scrambles The Cuillin

Skye - W.A.PoucherA Long Walk on the Isle of Skye 50 Best Routes on Skye and RaasayScrambles in Skye The CuillinsThe Isle of Skye

50 Best Routes on Skye and Raasay - Chris Townsend Pathfinder Guide: Skye and NW Highlands Walks Pathfinder Guide: Fort William and Glen Coe Walks Rambler's Guide: Ben Nevis and Glen CoeGlencoe Rock & Ice Climbing Scrambles in Lochaber Rock Climbing in Scotland Rock Climbing SkillsThe FACE: Six Great Climbing Adventures

Ben Nevis: Rock & Ice Climbs Great Snow & Ice Climbs of the British IslesTorridon: A Walkers Guide 100 Best Routes on Scottish Mountains From the Himalaya to Skye One Man's Mountains - Tom Patey A Mountaineer's Tale - W.H.MurrayDougal Haston: Philosophy of Risk

The Glens of Rannoch Cairngorm Glens Glens of Trossach Knoydart to Morven Scottish Glens: The Atholl GlensThe Isle of Arran The Isle of Arran Walking in the Hebrides

  Southern Highlands - MapNorthern Highlands Central Highlands West Highlands The Islands Central Highlands SMCNW Highlands SMC Central Highlands: Six Long Distance Walks

The Cairngorms Cairngorms, Lochnagar, Mounth - SMC Walks in the Cairngorms The Cairngorms of Scotland Cairngorms Walks Winter Climbs in the CaingormsCairngorms - Mountain Bike Guide

West Highland Way: Official Guide West Highland Way: Rucksac ReadersWest Highland Way: TrailblazerThe West Highland WayWest Highland Way: Footprint MapWest Highland Way - Map West Highland Way - Map 100 Hillwalks around Glasgow

Weather for Hillwakers & Climbers Mountain Weather Guide to the Weather Weather: Collins Gem Hillwalking Handbook for Mountain Leaders Hillwalkers Manual Hillwalkers Guide to Mountaineering First Aid on Mountains

All Mountain Skier Off Piste Mountain Travellers HandbookMountaineering: Freedom of the Hills Mountaineering: The Freedom of the HillsHistory of Mountain ClimbingWorld's most significant ClimbsClimbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World

Mountain Leadership Handbook of Climbing - Hamish MacInnes Rope Techniques: The complete guideMountains of the Mind - A history..Mountains of the Mind - ExperiencesMaps and guides from Maps Worldwide

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