On front points of my crampons and daggering the rock-hard neve with my one ice axe there was no finer place on Saturday than on the north flank of the Devil’s Point, enjoying the sting in the tale – the last steepening before the open gully leant back towards the summit.
The wind, though quite strong in gusts and bitter cold, was nothing like I’d been expecting from a discouraging forecast and the cloud was staying well above the summits, giving extensive views even if the light was a bit flat.
But tip-toeing up the ice onto the summit ridge the flat light only added to the austere pleasure of the day: the bite and tug of the wind, the scoured snowfields the feeling of vast space, with no-one in sight on any of the hills in view.
Through the week I’d been reading someone on the internet bemoaning the ‘dewilding’ of the Cairngorms but this, standing up straight as the slope eased and walking towards the snowed over summit cairn, felt pretty wild to me. Corrour Bothy may have been nestling in at the foot of this very mountain, but at just over 1000 metres and looking across to see the normal ascent route (and my planned descent) looked corniced, it felt a long way away from where I was.
It wasn’t all serious though. I was still amused at some of the extreme dog-walking photographs I’d snatched a few hundred feet lower just before I lost my hill companions.
Neil Findlay and I were out to do some tidying up at Corrour Bothy (not really so desperately needed as it turned out) and got there late morning, so decided to ‘nip up’ Devil’s Point to fill in the afternoon.
Neil had his border terrier Alfie with him and even as we climbed the first steep slope at the back of the bothy it became apparent that the icy conditions were causing the pup problems. Our steel crampons were biting into the neve quite easily, but Alfie’s were not quite up to the job and he was slipping about a good bit.
Despite this, some strange part of our minds seemed to think that it would be a good idea, instead of going right to the back of the corrie for the normal ascent route, to take a shortcut straight up one of the gullies on the north flank, just beyond the cliffs.
As the slope steepened Neil put Alfie’s lead on, and cut a fine figure, with crampons on and ice axe in one hand and dog lead in the other. Extreme dog-walking indeed!
It was all rather fun but as the angle of the slope continued to increase, Neil decided carrying on would be a tad foolish and turned around to pick his way back down with Alfie.
It was a shame to lose my climbing companion (temporarily at least) but I must confess I enjoyed the feeling of being alone on the hill – substantial enough on its own but dwarfed by Cairn Toul just across the way and looking particularly impressive in its winter monochrome.
I didn’t hang around at the top very long and headed back down by the conventional route. The descent from the col at the top of the corrie was awkward enough to make me move carefully. The normal route was corniced and I had to fight my way blindly through the spindrift channel of the white-choked streambed and then traverse in below the cornice where the stream steepened. Even then, the zig-zag path was buried and the slope steep enough to demand careful footing until I was almost down into the bowl of the corrie.
Then it was down to Corrour and a convivial night in front of a well-stoked stove. Sunday morning dawned gloriously sunny and I was tempted to sneak in another hill, but legs were tired and I was supposed to be home by afternoon, so we enjoyed a pleasant walk out, picking up our bikes at Bob Scott’s and cycling through increasingly heavy snow down to the car park, glad, by the time we got there, that we hadn’t delayed any longer. The road home was snowy enough.