The Lochaber Traverse in winter


 

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After many years of dreaming and planning, I have succeeded in completing the Lochaber Traverse in winter.

This week was all about good planning and astronomical odds coming together to create something I’ve been dreaming about for a decade now – something so good I’m still struggling to comprehend and quantify it. I’ve had eagles riding thermals over my head, aurora blazing down on a summit camp, temperature inversions stretching from horizon to horizon, twenty miles of pristine alpine ridge, and an objective in the bag that I started thinking about when I was a teenager. Everything, and more, the mountaineer could ever wish for or hope to see. Almost too good to be true.

Sometimes, when I go to the hills and fight through hard weather and the mists that obscure the magic, I find myself wondering if it’s all worth it. Sometimes years go by without seeing those piercing glimpses of truth that have the power to shape an entire life.

But, very occasionally, you’re permitted to really see – and those moments are worth the long graft and the years of keeping the faith.

The wings do not grow of their own accord.

I came down from the summit filled with the acute awareness of an imminent revelation lost; a shadow that stalked at my side ever more openly among the hills. Something underlying the world as we saw it had been withheld. The very skies had trembled with presentiment of the last reality; and we had not been worthy.
W.H. MURRAY, ‘Mountaineering in Scotland’

I read those lines at the start of my journey, recognised their power, but did not comprehend them. At last, after all these years, I feel that I understand.

I will as always be writing up a full account of my adventure elsewhere, but here are a few photos I’ve kept for personal use to whet your appetite.

Camp one, near the summit of Stob Coire Claurigh

Camp one, near the summit of Stob Coire Claurigh.

It proved to be the best wild camp of my entire life.

It proved to be the best wild camp of my entire life.

A spectacular display of aurora over Glen Spean, 15/03/16.

A spectacular display of aurora over Glen Spean, 15/03/16.

A taster of what it was like on the ridge itself. The Lochaber Traverse is the ridge route that just keeps on giving – peak after peak, arete after arete, Grade I snow faces and ice walls, soaring summits above the glens. It's everything I had hoped it would be and more.

A taster of what it was like on the ridge itself. The Lochaber Traverse is the ridge route that just keeps on giving – peak after peak, arete after arete, Grade I snow faces and easy walking alike, pinnacled summits soaring above the glens. It’s everything I had hoped it would be and more.