With the snow improving, plans began to be pulled together, mountain conditions checked out and gear packed in readiness for a weather break. Finally, after 6 weeks of storms, a lull was forecast before the next system, storm Dennis, was due to arrive. With recent snow having been piling into the west coast a decision was made to head NW to Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich (English pronunciation: ‘SKOOR uh Vuh-reech’) located on the edge of Knoydart. Al Bird was quickly enlisted, a call from a friend in Inverness brought a third person on board and several members of the Inverness Backcountry Snowsports Club announced they were keen.
Thursday arrived and the drive west in a perfect dawn heightened the enthusiasm, tempered slightly by still unknown snow conditions. However, after negotiating a twisting snow covered 8 miles of single track road, we rounded the final corner to see a skyline of snow plastered peaks – game on!
Boots were quickly done up, kit was checked, avalanche transceivers switched on and a short ski carry saw us to the snow line. All around the jagged west coast peaks of Knoydart and SW Ross lay pristine in their winter coat and looking very like a scene from northern Norway. Perfect snow underfoot was matched by an overhead sun which didn’t just put in a rare appearance but positively beamed down on us encouraging a rapid ascent. A ridge line was quickly reached and the views opened up. Loch Quoich lay far below, to the SE the massive whaleback of Ben Nevis dwarfed surrounding peaks, to the north the Glen Shiel hills glittered in their winter finery and ahead the wildness of Knoydart reared up in a succession of steep peaks and ridges.
Freezing winds which had been on the other side of the ridge now tugged at our clothing and extra layers were quickly donned. Increased exposure to the wind also meant icy patches and sastrugi which combined with the ridge tapering to a narrow spine, temporarily forced attention away from the views to the ground underfoot. Some of the group opted for an easier approach and we briefly split into two coming back together higher up the ridge where a cliff band meant further careful route assessment.