Chris was keen to do the Five Sisters, but it was clear that would have been over ambitious in today's conditions, so he and Avril tootled off home to Dundee.
Bagger Martin headed off to Skye for an appointment with a Marilyn or two on MacLeod's Tables. Meanwhile Andrew repeated his walk with Max, but in the other direction and without the now bed-ridden, gout suffering, arthritic Max, who is somewhat debilitated today. Was it all that red wine Paul drip fed him last night?
In a bout of unexpected sophistication, Anne went on a tour of local gardens and other places of interest. (She saw a golden eagle above Attadale.)
That left me, Sue, Pam, Paul and Ken. We decided to drive up to the Cluanie Inn for an attempt on the three summits to the east of the Five Sisters, on the north Glen Shiel ridge. I think they are known as the Three Brothers. We left the car on a brightening day - at 10.40 - the bad weather was supposed to be clearing.
And so it did clear, at least enough for us to enjoy a shortbread (CCS) stop after just 20 minutes. Well, it was 11 o'clock!There are many old sheep pens, like this one, in the area
A good path led gently up beside Allt a' Chaorainn Bhig, and the weather continued to look hopeful as we reached Bealach a' Choinich at 600 metres. In a rising wind we turned sharp left (SW) to ascend the easy ridge of Sgurr an Fhuarail, pausing in a sheltered spot on the edge of the snow line at 800 metres for lunch, with jokes provided by Ken.Lunch at 800 metres, in a pile of slush (or was that Ken's jokes?)
The snow laden summit ridge of Ciste Dhubh to the north looked impressive as it came and went from our increasingly misty view.
Onwards and upwards we went. The ridge sharpened and the snow became deeper. It was mainly soft, but as the others slithered up next to a precipice I decided crampons were in order. I faffed for ages on a flat section of the gnarly crest - the crampons hadn't been used since last winter and appeared to be adjusted for my trainers. With my ice axe taking the place of my walking poles I rejoined the others for the final section up Fhuarail. They were flailing on, having decided the snow was too soft for crampons, each with an ice axe in one hand and a walking pole in the other (the latter hopefully ready to be jettisoned in an emergency!!).
It was quite windy, and we were being splattered by increasingly frequent squalls of soggy snow.
The onward ridge to our first Munro summit of the day, Aonach Meadhoin, 1001 metres, was easy enough, but was traversed slowly, and with care. Ahead of us was 4km of similar going - a jolly romp on a fine summer's day. It was only around 2.30 pm, so we had plenty of time. But in today's conditions?
I think Ken told some more jokes.
Reluctantly, given the unrelenting wind and the unexpected persistence of the squally showers, which instead of clearing as forecast were tending to merge into each other, we decided to descend from here.
A false start - my fault - resulted in a re-ascent to the summit before we headed south down the ridge above Coire na Cadha. It was steep but sufficiently unencumbered with mountain furniture to enable a swift glissade for the first 150 metres or so.
A herd of deer spotted us as we contoured high in the coire to cross the river before it became too swollen - it was clearly impassable lower down. Then it was an easy descent to the road and a rather tedious 2-3 km walk back to Paul's car beyond Cluanie. At least that was much closer than the car we had optimistically positioned at our planned finishing point south of Saileag.
All across? Nearly! I'll just nip back over for this self-timed photo!
The rain had continued to flail us and I don't think anyone regretted the decision to retreat.
It was 5 pm, so we'd had a good 6 hours in the wintry weather, and could now return safely homeward for another convivial evening in the two cottages.
Another fine day out...here's the route - 13 km with 904 metres ascent, taking just over 6 hours including stops: