As in the previous year I turned my time in the flattest part of Germany into a training camp and managed to clock 140 km in 10 days. With that mileage the weight does not increase and the Christmas meal - we had duck - tastes twice as good!
On the 30th I flew back to Aberdeen via icy Paris and Ana and I drove to a hotel in Ballachulish to celebrate Hogmanay. After a great dinner by the Czech cook we met with Ryan and Forest in the Chachlaig Inn. Both had been drinking since 16.30 h (there is nothing else to do if you camp in winter!) and so we were unfortunately a bit too sober. Among the boozy fun talk I heard Ryan mention 'Smith's route' on the Ben. I thought he had done it and after conveying my most sincere congratulation to the 'Whillans of Aberdeen' and John it turned out that they just had a look at the route and actually climbed an easier gully line.
We left the Chlachlaig not long after midnight and woke up to a sunny, crisp first day of 2009. It was past 10 h when we left the hotel. We decided to do Buachaille Etive Beag, the smaller brother of the large shepherd of Etive Mor. The normally boggy ground was well frozen and there was little snow around. The ascent to the saddle was a bit tedious but there was hardly any wind and we caught the sun on the upper slopes where it was warm enough for me to walk just in my baselayer. We reached the top at 15.00 h and the evening sun shone through the clouds (see the photo below with a view towards Loch Etive).
Ana and I hurried down the icy hillside in order not to walk too much in the dark. The photo below shows Ana starting the descent.
Tomorrow Ryan and I will search for some ice and then I am also ready for some work. The MSc students are doing well and it seems that one or two of them might end up in one of the Oxbridge Universities. Keep fingers crossed for them!
And at the end of course a good 2009 to everyone who comes across our blog. I hope that we all have some unique mountaineering adventures in the Scottish hills. There is just so much to do.