|Ben Wyvis from the Culloden Battlefield|
Ben Wyvis is prominent in the view northwards from Inverness, but it is nowhere near as close as it looks. Despite being over 30 miles away by road it is still the local Munro for residents of Inverness and one that I have been up on quite a few occasions. The only time I have been up it on skis was over four years ago, in January 2008.
Motivation for winter sports can be hard to find when it feels like spring, as it did on Sunday morning, when I saw the view of Wyvis above while wandering round the Culloden Battlefield. It looked white, but I knew that the snow was a long way from the road. Conditions were therefore far from ideal for ski touring, but it is entirely possible that this damp squib of a winter is on its way out, meaning that this might be as good as it is going to get. I decided to embark on an afternoon skitour and on returning home I marshalled my equipment and set off.
I spent the entire journey on a motivational knife edge and almost turned back on several occasions, sceptical that there would be sufficient snow to justify the considerable effort involved in accessing it. When I arrived at Garbat the car park was full and the flanks of the hill were almost entirely devoid of snow. I groaned inwardly at the prospect of having to explain myself and my peculiar choice of equipment to the steady stream of ramblers who were no doubt at present returning from the summit in the mild spring air.
|Less than ideal ski touring conditions on Ben Wyvis|
Rather than carry skis up the steep slopes to An Cabhar I continued up the glen. That way if the snow cover was insufficient for a ski descent I would be spared the effort of lugging my skis up the steep path, actually more of a stone stairway in places. It was a fine afternoon and I was delighted to be out. I have a new pair of ski boots that are a touch on the snug side so I consoled myself with the thought that at the very least I would be wearing my boots in a bit and making them a bit more comfortable.
|View from the Bealach Mor: Little Wyvis on the left and An Cabhar to the right. Still no snow….|
|Snow at last! This tongue continued to the summit with only a couple of short, heathery interludes.|
Just above the bealach, after carrying my skis for about 4 miles, I found a sizable bank of snow. I affixed skins and struck up it, even then thinking that if it ran out I would at least get a few turns on the way back down. But it didn’t run out, rather it provided a semi continuous field of snow all the way to the summit of An Cabhar. The dog rolled gleefully in the granular spring snow, his arthritis briefly forgotten.
|Slightly murky on top, as is so often the case with Ben Wyvis.|
The descent was an exhilarating blast on granular spring snow, with over 1000 ft of vertical. Well worth the effort, in fact had I set out earlier I would definitely have skinned up and had another run. I think that, had I been accompanied by someone else with similar motivation levels, we would have either talked each other out of going in the first place or of continuing once we had started. Self deception can be a very useful skill.
For the record it took me 3 h 40 from car to car, including a picnic stop and would have probably been quicker had I taken the direct route of ascent.
|Emerging from the woods at Garbat with a fine tour in prospect|
|Skinning up to the summit|