It’s hardly seasonal but what the heck. This must be close on 30 years ago but I remember still how blown away we were by the sheer, in your face glory of it all. I don’t recall why we weren’t climbing – in those days it was all about climbing, and we had been set on Coire an t-Sneachda, where we climbed on the Sunday – but however it happened we were out for a walk. Up over the Fiacaill a Choire Chais and down Coire Raibeirt to a completely white Loch Avon.
It had been one of those great, blue-sky winter days from the start, and as we emerged from the gully of Coire Raibeirt the view that opened up was breathtaking. The loch was frozen and snow-covered from end to end – and there was a set of prints right up the middle.
We were younger then and, as barely competent winter climbers, accustomed to taking what I’d now look on as rash decisions. So we went out to join those tracks. The edges needed treating with care, but out in the middle of the loch, where we went, the snow was about six inches deep over ice that felt solid. At one point curiosity overcame any remnant of reason and I took my axe to the ice to see how thick it was. I was down about another six inches before water started to rise through. Thick enough? Probably not, but we got off with it that day.
We walked right up the middle of the loch, surrounded by some of the most magnificent scenery in Scotland: great cliffs soaring – Carn Etchachan; the mighty column of An Sticil, the Shelterstone Crag; the Garbh Uisge crag; great, slab-faced Hell’s Lum Crag; and the aretes and faces of Stag Rocks – all of them striking black against the billowing snow which softened the contours and gleamed blinding white in the sunlight, the whole spectacle capped with a ceiling of blue more intense than can ever be conveyed in a fading photo.
It was stupid. But it was glorious. We were in heaven that day.