The Cobbler (Ben Arthur) (884m)

Sunday 7th January 2018

Distance: 12kms - Duration: 6hrs 30mins - Group Size: 6

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First walk of 2018 and what a stunning day; the bar has been set exceedingly high, it will take something special to beat the conditions we had today, perfect blue skies, virtually no wind, and beautiful snow underfoot, soft when needed, yet crisp and icy enough to add that little level of interest. And our photos, I hope you agree, tell the story much better than any narrative; and from a broader perspective than usual, as they are a combination of those taken by myself, Lesley, Janet and Ian, so a big thanks to everyone for their contribution to the gallery.

Easily recognisable to all, the mountain providing today's spectacular outing was none other than our favoured local hill, The Cobbler. We took the standard route from Succoth on the shores of Loch Long, up the zigzags and onwards to the Narnain Boulders. We crossed the snow line at about the 400m level, and by the time we were over the Allt a'Bhalachain and heading into the corrie there was a real feeling of a challenge ahead as the ice axes replaced our poles and the snow alternated between deep and soft, to firm with a crisp layer of surface ice.

The two major areas to negotiate, the long gully up to the 650m level, and the final open slope to the main ridgeline between the North Peak and the summit gave us some interesting moments as we scrambled our way up the gully in soft snow and ice covered rocks, and then encountered deep, but hard packed and very icy snow underfoot on the slopes towards the ridge, all of which we negotiated safely, but not without a level of care and caution being respectful of the underlying snow conditions.

A short, and less demanding walk from the ridge to the summit brought us to the point where we just stood and surveyed a wonderful panorama of blue skies and snow covered mountains; breathtaking would not be an exaggeration; a feeling shared by others we spoke to on what was quite a popular summit on this wonderful day. And, not content with one summit, we soon set off to retrace our steps to the ridge line and take a short detour to climb the less frequented, but very spectacular North Peak, just to add the icing to the cake, so to speak.

And, it was as we made the initial decent down the steep broad slopes leading from the summit to the lower ridge line, that this wonderful day was punctuated in a slightly sobering moment when, suddenly, Janet lost her footing as the icy top layer broke beneath her foot throwing her off balance and in an instance she was sprawled, face down and sliding head first down the icy slope. We could do nothing but watch as she grabbed for her ice axe and stabbed at the snow, finally swinging herself through 180 degrees and, although still sliding downhill, at least it was now feet first, crampons high in the air. A few seconds later she made one more lunge at the snow, this time arresting her slide in almost text book fashion. It was all over in a few seconds, but Janet had slid some 50 to 60 metres down the slope, and thankfully stopped her slide before things became more serious. A forceful reminder that crampons, ice axe and the ability to use them are all necessary for a winters day in the hills. Well done Janet.

Undaunted, Janet picked herself up and climbed back up to rejoin us on the upper slopes; and while she took a well deserved rest on the ridge, we continued on the short ascent to the North Peak; where once again the views were quite spectacular, especially those looking back to the South Peak and the summit, just wonderful. We rejoined Janet shortly, and made our descent down to Lochan a'Chalaidheimh to pick up the track back, via the Narnain Boulders and onwards down the zigzags to Succoth.

This was indeed a memorable day to start the year, the weather, views and company, all spectacular - Thanks everyone.

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