The (un)beaten path.

21st February 2016

The mission: Balloon Gully. (700m).

(Above) More detailed pic of the mission. Balloon Gully is a steep SE-facing re-entrant on the side of Coire Ardair that gets cross-loaded readily when we have snow and drifting on West winds (and is sometimes corniced). The gully (left branch) was ‘loaded’ and not at all enticing – for obvious reasons – so opted for a location below the shelter of the crags.

Finding the path was a good game today. In the spirit of ‘Spot the Ball’ competitions of yore, here’s a wee on-line challenge for you: ‘Find the Footpath’!

Spot the path(Above) ……so where’s the course of the Coire Ardair gravel path in the photo?

No idea?

Neither did I….

Spot the path-paint(Above) ….until, after venturing into the bog and a couple of wee burns a few times, I eventually managed to find it.

Path birch(Above) Approaching the shelter of the juvenile birch on the return leg the weather worsened.

Skis or snow shoes would have been a good idea today (…why didn’t I think of that?…Doh!), or a co-operative trail-breaker. I had The Apprentice lined up again but after looking out the window this morning he complained of having an “upset tummy” and cried off. (Actually, from his point of view, quite a wise move!)

Comments on this post

  • Grant Duff
    21st February 2016 6:13 pm

    I’m surprised no one had broken the trail. Nice photo of the pit site and a challenge in its self just to get there!

  • Helen Rennie
    21st February 2016 10:15 pm

    Reading your blogs are a highlight of every day! Always educational, interesting and amusing, with great photos. Thank you for all the effort you make. Much appreciated !

    • meagaidhadmin
      21st February 2016 10:41 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Hillie.

      Making blog entries is interesting and quite good fun after a day on the hill. I hope they give readers a ‘flavour’ of our mountain day, an idea of hill conditions and some enlightening stuff on snow and avalanches. I imagine our readership to be quite a broad church comprising those who are very active and expert in winter mountain sports, through to those who are armchair ‘voyeurs’ of this strange job we carry out in a beautiful but wild and savage arena. Of course there’s some tongue-in-cheek content too, as well as little in-house banter, which I hope is received in the right spirit by all of you out there in internetland.

  • Louis
    22nd February 2016 7:24 am

    We’re loving it, it’s a breakfast ritual and all your efforts to make it factual, educational & entertaining are appreciated.

    Put it this way, we only went to ‘meggie’ once in half term week but we always read yours first.

  • Steve
    22nd February 2016 9:25 am

    We walked into Coire Ardair on Saturday; some drifts but path scoured for quite long sections, so passable. May have been buried by today. Breaking trail doesn’t mean it would be safe to climb!

    • meagaidhadmin
      22nd February 2016 10:25 am

      Thanks for your comment, Steve.

      Definitely not safe to climb on Sunday!

      However, did you mean to say, “Breaking trail doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be safe to climb”??

      If so, you’re quite right. No definitive assessment of stability can be made from breaking trail alone. However, if snow is drifting – and drifting heavily – when you’re breaking trail then it would be a clear indication that stability was declining somewhere, probably higher and most certainly on a steep lee slope, as was the case on Sunday. Another scenario would be when you’re postholing up to your butt in relatively new snow and the weather becomes dramatically sunnier/warmer and/or wetter. Again, that would be a precursor to rapidly declining stability on a steep slope somewhere nearby. Also, you really need to build the ‘Big Picture’ of stability and hazard by gathering a wide variety of other easy-to-find stability clues. (The ‘bulls-eye’ clue for instability is, of course, actual or recent avalanche activity. If you come across that then all uncertainty over stability instantly diminishes…..)

      I think The Apprentice and I spotted you on Saturday! Saw a group of four from a distance on the Coire Ardair path. Was that you?

  • Steve
    22nd February 2016 11:02 am

    Yes – guess we saw you with your skis? We went up to the lochan – introducing some of my club to Scottish winter conditions. Certainly no higher in view of extreme avalanche risk. Got them to dig a snow hole in one of the bigger drifts on the way down!

    • meagaidhadmin
      22nd February 2016 11:05 am

      Glad you got something useful out of a bad weather day. Certainly an interesting one for teaching about snow and avalanches!

      (Yes, that was us on skis. Day off for me today. Looking to rest up a little after countless days of terrible weather.)

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