In many respects this was a shuffle around the edge of the Monadhliath. Plans were made to spend the Christmas week in the Monadhliath. However, as is often the case in winter, the weather dictates what is actually achieved.
The journey up to Newtonmore was fairly straightforward. Mind, the trains from Edinburgh and Perth were hugely overcrowded. There are only a few trains a day that stop at Newtonmore and I arrived shortly after five thirty in the evening. My intention was to spend the Friday night at Newtonmore hostel. This is an excellent hostel and much recommended by fellow backpackers. Neil and Sue are backpackers themselves and I was made most welcome. The hostel is warm, cozy, clean and tidy. Rules are few. A place I would certainly recommend to anyone heading in that direction.
Saturday morning I nipped up to the local co'op for a few extra supplies. It was windy with sleet and wet snow. Thus I dawdled in getting away, giving time for one of the village cafes to open. A cup of coffee and a slice of cake and I headed out. My intention was to head up Glen Banchor. As the road out of the village climbed higher, the weather worsened. Soon I was in driving snow with a head on wind.
Flooded ground and a burn in spate rather put paid to my intended destination. Following a deer trail that led me to the edge of a stunted plantation and a flat piece of ground. There was just about room for the tent on the edge of the trees. They offered scant protection from the wind but any protection was better than none.
By Sunday morning a rapid thaw had set in. The wind was still strong but it was now raining and felt very mild. Keen to get out and do something, I followed the track that leads up the glen behind the old Glenballoch farmhouse. It was not a bad wee wander, despite the wind and rain. However, the wind was noticeably picking up.
With the wind starting to push me around, I turned back. By the time I reached the tent it was blowing a hooley. Great gusts slamming down the the glen and causing the tent to shudder under the onslaught. Using the ice axe as an extra ground anchor, I hooked a spare guy line on to it and, placed another couple of heavy rocks on the tent pegs. With the tent snugged down as much as possible, it was a case of putting the kettle on and sitting out the storm.
By evening the wind had eased a little. The temperature had dropped again and once more it began to snow. The snow continued through the night and was still coming down thick on Monday morning.
It was still windy in the morning and still snowing. Needing to top up on water, I had a short wander but it was not a day to be out.
Monday was largely spent in the tent reading and drinking tea.. By the afternoon the weather cleared and another thaw set in.
The wind eased over Monday night and another rapid thaw set. Deer wandered around by the tent during the night. Tuesday morning broke dry and I was able to get out without being togged up in waterproofs. There was nothing ambitious in mind, just a walk up to Creag nan Abhag. Everything was streaming with water. Being in no rush and basically, not that fit, I took my time. A chill wind was blowing across the broad, wide open top. A meander across to a craggy top and wanting to be out of the wind I was soon heading down again. A cleft in a rocky outcrop allowed me to sit out of the wind and enjoy a cup of coffee. Dark clouds were scudding across the tops but the glens below were clear.