Aviemore 2011 was a vast improvement on 2010 expedition as access through the snow gate was never in doubt. Mike, PJ, Ant, Claire, Sandra and I made up this years team and we met up with John, who was taking Clare for an introductory winter climbing weekend.
We all booked into the SYHA, without a snow angel or toboggan run in sight, despite the newly engaged couples protests at the old married couple for taking the only double room leaving them in a twin!
Cairngorm and the northern corries were packed with skiers and climbers, however a slow start was encountered. On route out to Glenmore the big yin found that he had left some of his gear behind in the SYHA which was a surprise as he has recently relinquished all control of decisions and rights in a new organised "Yes Mam" regime!!
At the second attempt we got up to Cairngorm and were hardly able to get into the bottom car park. We decided to walk to Coire Cas and then into Sneachda. There were hoards of climbers and conditions were fantastic. This was Sandra's 1st go at winter climbing and we headed for an easy grade 2 Crotched gully. There was quite a bit of a queue having just been beaten to the bottom of the climb by 2 other teams, partly because I dropped a glove which meant a return to the bottom of the snow slope!
I took 4 pitches to give Sandra an opportunity to get used to faffing in big gloves and buy the last pitch we were moving well. The others ran up red gully and were long gone as we walked off in the dark. We met them in Glenmore lodge and then back to town. Being in charge of transport I was exempt from cooking duties which was probably best for all but I took full leading role in navigation to the Cairngorm hotel for a whiskey (whisky) testing evening!
The next morning we were again too late for the top car park, the wind had got up and as we walked into the corries, goggles and balaclavas on, we were bombarded by frozen icy particles. A lot of the climbers and guides has already decided against climbing and were on their way back down. Sandra and I decided against a gully and headed up the goat track, fighting a river of spin and ice eventually reaching the plateau, the other 3 went up Alidans Mirror and we all headed for the summit of Cairngorm. Met a fella on top of Cairngorm who had hired ski mountaineering equipment, had only had them for 2 days and claimed was much easier that he had initially thought. (hope to spend a long weekend trying this at some stage if any of you are up for it.)
The wind was now behind us, it had started to clear and wasn't too cold if you kept up a brisk pace. We descended to the Ptarmigan restaurant and had late lunch with the skiers before descending Coire Ciste to the car.
Monday, with the weekend crowds all back to work, was to be a ski day, once again up to Coire Cas , the ski lifts weren't running in the high winds so we headed for the Lecht ski "resort" and spent the afternoon sliding about on ice, snow water and grass. Mike, on route had to make a requested an urgent stop at a phone box, but as he ran out of the car he went down on his knees behind the phone box, must have been something he ate and definitely nothing to do with my Coiln McCrea rally imitation.
Great day again and on return to SYHA we made an executive decision to go down the town for an aperitif again in the Cairngorm hotel. After about an hour, his new lord and master ordered the bard of the bogside back to the hostel to prepare the evening meal. With barely a whimper ,tail tucked between his legs and head bowed low he slowly left the company. Feeling sorry for him, Mike and I also followed but before he reached the pavement I redirected him to another hostelry across the street where we had a few "fast" beers before sneaking back into the other end of the bar in the Cairngorm hotel, dinner totally forgotten by the 3 giggling adventurers.
We were caught almost immediately by and eagle eyed Sandra but as the accordion entertainment was about to start we decided that we weren't that hungry and sang the night away. A couple of sandwiches from the 24hr petrol on route home at 2am was all we could eat and once inside the SYHA we realised that our room keys were on the board behind the locked shutter. Mike sprang to the rescue and got the a pool cue which he poked through the shutter and picked the keys off their hook sliding them down the cue saving us from a night in the TV room.