The De La Salle Scout Group Leadership team were represented by Eoin Kelly (3rd Cubs) and Colm Ennis (3rd Scouts) on a Scottish winter expedition recently. Despite heavy rain and snow, occasional storm force winds and overall properly tough Scottish midwinter conditions, the lads put in an impressive mountaineering performance. Hogmanay saw them climb an almost deserted and somewhat wild Ben Nevis (1344m) by the Carn Mor Dearg arête, an ascent which gained them a lot of respect later in the heaving Clachaig Inn. A New Years Day storm was sat out at the Red Squirrel Campsite and then it was back into action in Glencoe with ascents through heavy snow from the Lost Valley of the complex Bidean nam Bian (1150m) and Stob Coire Sgreamhach (1072m). After the steep ascent from Coire Gabhail, cornices were mostly carefully avoided and eventually a descent was made via the long Lairig Eilde valley. A completely ‘pish’ day allowed a relocation to the Alex MacIntyre Hut and a visit to the Ice Factor where it was felt that the addition of a deep snow chamber with a steep slope that has to be ascended in zero visibility while being hit with ice pellets would be more realistic Scottish winter training.

On Wednesday an ascent of the only Munro in Scotland that is best accessed by train, Beinn na Lap (935m) from the remote Corrour railway station was made. The four hour round trip from the station was aided by newly acquired and rather brilliant Ninjaclavas and a pair of Australian made snowshoes but was still easier than the cold four hour wait for the train back to Fortwilliam.

The classic Beinn a’Bheithir horseshoe was tackled on Thursday with the mountain gods finally providing sun and perfect snow and ice conditions for the Northeast Ridge of Sgorr Bhan and the traverse to Sgorr Dhearg (1024m) and Sgorr Dhonuill (1001m). Thanks to Morrison’s Steak Pies a decent saving on the summer guidebook time was made. Finally the trip reached its crescendo on Friday with a ‘full on’ winter completion of the Ring of Steall horseshoe in the Mamores. The first three of the five munros including the crossing of the Devil’s Ridge went smoothly but Stob Choire a Chairn to An Gearanach required a bit of a fight and some serious navigation. At the end of the descent the words “it’s only an epic if I fall in the river” were regretted and it was discovered that the wire bridge in Glen Nevis is there for a very good reason. In all over 5 days on the mountains the lads made winter ascents of 12 Munros and strangely met no other mountaineers on the summit of any of them.

The next expedition headed to Scotland from the Group will be from the De La Salle Venture Scout Crew this February to be led by Eric Whelan and John Kinsella. We hear that preparations are going well and look forward to hearing of their exploits. Will they rise to the challenge of climbing even half the mountains that the lads clocked up?