piste or not to piste


Saturday the 14th of April the weather forecast looks good and there’s enough snow left to do a bit of ski touring ,but what’s left of the Scottish snow is all high up it’s a huge ascent with skis on your back before you can get your skins on skis on all of the mountains now! Bob was hatching the plan his free time was limited this week and we had no absolute set plan for where we would ski ! this Saturday was our day for it possibly our last of the Scottish hills this season,
 with that in mind I planned to get all packed up with lunch and all my equipment ready to load into bobs car in the morning, Once that was done ne and Sheila got a train and went out for a walk round Edinburgh’s bars we had dinner in indigo yard which was nice ,And ticked of 3 bars on my Edinburgh pub walk routes in my Camra guide book, I also got the 2 Edinburgh brewdog bars to put a stamp in my brewdog passport book 4 stamps now in that book and two walks completed in the Edinburgh pub walks book ( I’m such a box ticker ) , we got home early enough and I was up in plenty of time for bob arriving at 06:30 , I had porridge and coffee and was still shoving bits and bobs into different bags when bob arrived , he had asked me to also pack my normal winter walking boots and their crampons in case we decided on just a walk instead of a ski tour , I couldn’t find my transceiver and locating some small items took up some valuable  Time so we were 20 mins late ( the captain wasn’t chuffed )   I was relaxed about it as I had viewed it as a slight delay just sourcing kit and that we had plenty time , Bob thinks differently and that’s important as we are a team I shall have my bag at the door ready to go the next time we set off, this should save him from starting what became a fantastic day on a grumpy note
once on route we had a discussion about where to go ? it made sense to head to one of Scotland’s ski resorts and use their lift system to get up into skiable areas and do some back country touring once at altitude, this would save us a long uphill march with skis before setting off , we discussed glen Coe or Nevis range and opted for Nevis range , there is two Munroe’s at the back of the ski resort we could potentially get to that I haven’t been on before so this would make be a big bonus for me, when bob parked the car up at Nevis range it was a beautifull hot sunny morning ,we could easily see up to the slopes and it looked great the car park was reasonably busy but I would have expected it to be busier   , it turned out that most of the cars that were there were parked up for runners that were taking part in a running event  ,  the runners were setting of up hill from the car park and running up a trail to the gondola station and getting the gondola back down ! I think I would prefer it the other way!
                We went to the ticket box office and I just bought us two ski passes £69 for the two passes for the day , it was just automatic that’s what we do when we go skiing in Scotland you buy a day pass , I had forgotten we could just have got a return on the gondola ( I think I prefer bubble car but nobody calls them that anymore ) its £21 each for the gondola only so we could have saved £13.50 each had I just bought the gondola ticket , I’ve since had a look at the web site and a season ticket for the gondola is a good buy at £62 !
We got into the gondola and the grumpy attendant had a go at me to watch my ice axe on my pack as they have had smashed glass before due to axes against glass he said in a crabbit voice , Me and bob have been in plenty gondola’s in the Alps together but this is the first time we have been in this one together, ive skied here before and so has bob but with different groups , we had a big discussion on the way up about the mountain bike trails as they are now visible below us the snow having disappeared , the discussion was mostly about the grading of the mountain bike runs from what I could see of the jumps and banks we were looking down at, what they were grading as a red run for mountain biking was definitely black in my book and I think I would be looking at blues or even greens !  
Once out at the top we took advantage of the fact we had a ski pass and not only the gondola ticket and took two Pomas to get us even more altitude easily although pomas can take a toll on your legs , the 3rd poma that would have taken us very close to summit level was having technical problems so we skinned up our skis and started heading uphill when we got to within a few feet of the end of this last poma the technical issue was obviously fixed as it was now working again
We then skied up beyond the ski resort into the non-patrolled area of the mountains with a sign telling us that , we were off piste officially now ! we were not alone there was plenty others with the same idea but most with different agendas from ours , we skied right up and on to the summit cairn of the first Munroe Aonach Mor,( my 120th munro) unfortunately the clag had closed in and visibility was down to about 20mters , bob had to check the map and compass and regretted not bringing his GPS device we done all this while standing with our skis on top of the summit cairn , and bob explained there was some serious climbing routes with cornices around this area and we had to be sure we headed the right way for the next Munroe, Because we were heading down to a Coll  with steep sides before our next ascent , we were behind two other skiers they headed of in a different direction from where we were going to head , a group of 3 youngsters came up to the summit beside us they headed off in the direction we were going to go, we later seen them heading up hill with their skis on their backs only to disappear into the clag and then we had no idea where they went as they did not go to the second summit and did not return by the obvious route ,
We skied down to the Coll and looked at our next section of steep ascent to get to the second peak of the day , it was in the clag so we couldn’t see far but it definitely looked too steep to skin up and was covered in too many boulder out crops for us to ski back down decision time for us ? do we put our skis on our backs and scramble up the first section hoping to find snow to skin up and ski back down near the summit ? or do we not bother going up to the second peak and just head back to ski on piste for the afternoon ? or do we leave our skis here at the Coll and head to the summit by foot up and down ?
                We opted to leave our skis and walk up and down the peak in our ski boots , axes out we headed up , well bobs axe out I didn’t use mine as I haven’t attached a leash to the shaxe handle yet DOH ,
I was worried about using it without a leash so I just went up and down without using it , it took us around 40mins of trudging through snow with nearly every step sinking deep into the snow , it was a bit of steady trudging to reach our second summit , we never got much of  a reward for our trudge as there wasn’t much to see on the summit, The cairn was buried under snow and the clag was still in so no view only our maps the altitude on bobs watch and the fact the gradient had stopped going up and started going down . but we were certain we were on the top, bob triple checked everything and he was certain we were on the top and that was good enough for me,   
   
Bob got his big lensed fancy camera out to take some photos of me at the top it felt bloody weird having him point that thing at me it’s the sort of camera you would do a fashion shoot with on some supermodel! I’m a handsome devil but not really a supermodel so it just felt weird getting my photo taken with bob doing all the photographer poses! Click click
On the walk back down from the summit the clag lifted and we started to get some stunning views
, this really is a stunningly beautiful part of Scotland and we got snatches of views of the whole of ben Nevis from the CMD arête side up around the north face and we cold pick out other walkers climbers and some other back country skiers in and around the area taking advantage of the winter conditions in the sun ( when it came out ) ! we also bumped into two other skiers like ourselves they had left there skis at the Coll and we discussed the exceptionally good season Scotland has had ,
Also with the sun coming out we could now see right along the Coll where we had left our skis and the cornices at the edges , the fault lines of these cornices seemed scarily close for me ! lunch was in order now that the hardest work had been done for the day and its always better to have lunch when you have a view in my book , lunch choice is always a hot topic for outdoors enthusiasts more forums are done about food in every outdoor activity than anything else and me and bob are no different what choice of fuel we use for our treks is of great interest to us , I was trying something different today a sort of rice and bean curry with mixed veg in my soup flask it worked out ok , bob has never really deviated from sandwiches and a flask of tea , in the early days of my walking it would have been white bread pieces on cheese or ham with a tin of beer on a summit , but my choice of refreshment refuelling over the years has changed dramatically it seems to me every single year and I still never settle on one staple, well maybe the trusty banana I have 90% of times ,   
Now it was a simple case of skinning back up and over the first summit and along to the top of the ski resort this time with the cloud having lifted we got excellent views and met plenty ski tourers that were out taking advantage of the lifts to go into the back gullies and corries around here off piste ,
we on the other hand were keen to try our new skis on piste for a couple of hours as this was a first for us using our back country ski`s and boots on pisted slopes .  thosed day ski passes were worth it in the end for us as we went up the chairlift twice and also a few other pomas it was definitely worth the extra £14 ,

we were happy that our skis would be fine for the slopes should we so choose to take them to the alps with us and had an excellent afternoon taking advantage of what snow was left in Scotland’s ski resort winter season nearly over ,

 It was surprisingly quiet on the slopes with zero ques for the lifts . this was likely to be bobs only resort skiing of 2018 as he missed out on his alps trip this year, so he was enjoying the chance to get a bit of training in , there was also a lovely little natural half pipe made by a riverbed on the run down to the chairlifts that we got some fun going up and down its sides ,But our legs were shot proper fatiqued by the end of the day,
Speaking of alps and ski holidays its our tradition to have an après ski beer whilst out on the slopes and what better way to finish off an excellent day out in the hills than with a pint in the snow goose restaurant , they had a decent real ale on I had two pints as bob was driving he had one beer and  a pint of water ,
I sent my mum a postcard as it gets a special frank at the gondola station and it really did feel like a holiday destination up there with the sun on the terraces , we could dream of how much we would enjoy Scotland getting a season like this every year , the running event that we had witnessed starting at the start of the day was now finished, the finish line being not far from the gondola station and they were giving out the winners prize in the restaurant which all just added to the happy holiday mood of the day

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