Saturday, March 6, 2021

Everything You Need To Know About Scotland’s Backcountry

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Glensee is great for mellow ski tours with short challenging sections if desired. It’s packed full of long, multi-descent routes and easy access from the high road.

Time of Year: January – March

Parking: The South side of the Ski Centre car park, away from the ski lifts. There are other options on either side of the car park further down the hill, but they aren’t well suited for larger vehicles. In the past a ski tourers pass has been offered which gave three uplifts (useful to get out to Glas Maol)

There are numerous descents to be made on both sides of the ski centre. It is hard to avoid getting close to the ski resort on the Cairnwell side, but a traverse above Loch Vrotachan can be combined nicely with either the North side of Carn Aosda, or to the South descending into Choire Dhirich from Carn nan Sac.

Better touring is found out towards Glas Maol. The descent back into Coire a’ Bhathaich is terrific and offers easy access back out to the road, if the snow is low enough. Similarly to the North there is a good descent into Garbh-Choire. The route can be extended by skinning all the way around to Carn an Tuirc for a more interesting gradient slope. The return would be a skin back up the side of the road, or a lift if you are fortunate enough to have access to a second car (or can get someone to pick you up).

Maps Used:

Photo: Meall Nan Tarmachan, Ben Lawers Range, with Gavin Carruthers in foreground. Credit: Blair Aitken

Ben Lawers Range

Ben Lawers is easily one of the best venues for snow sports in the country, with a high car park giving quick access to a huge variety of terrain and multiple summits. Easy touring, open bowls, multiple descents, variety of aspects, some moderately challenging terrain if you seek it out.

Time of Year: February to the end of March, although keep an eye on January storms.

Parking: The National Trust Car Park is most suitable for larger vehicles, although the car park further up the road is a better starting point for Meall Nan Tarmachan.

There is another car park at the north end of the reservoir which can be used for Meall Corranaiche, but this should only be considered if you know the road and car park are clear of snow and quiet as there may be no way of turning a vehicle around beyond the NTS car park. It is also vital to know if the Ben Lawers road is clear of snow before attempting to drive up, as many vehicles get stuck there every year and block the road for others.

Photo: Ski Touring course on Meall Corranaiche. Credit: Blair Aitken

Meall nan Tarmachan has descent options off all sides and the best depends on where the snow has been deposited by the wind. The ascent roughly follows the summer path and the return is directly down from the first ridge.

The cliffy area above the reservoir is to be avoided but some gullies on the south side see regular visitors. When conditions allow there is a lovely mellow descent to be had from below the steps south side all the way down the valley towards Killin.

The north side of the mountain has some terrific skiing but you need to consider how you will return to the carpark.

Similarly Meall Corranaich has multiple aspects that can be descended, my favourite being east towards the old shielings. It is often possible to ski back to the road from this summit which makes for a terrific long descent.

Beinn Ghlas tends to get rather windswept but often holds good snow on it’s east facing side after strong westerly winds. A good day out combines this with a second descent down Ben Lawers South East Face.

Recommended Map:

Photo: Ski Touring towards Bidean nam Bian. Credit: Blair Aitken

Glencoe Mountain

Good For: Lift served side country with some challenging steeper skiing a short hike away.

Time of Year: February to April, with late season descents also possible on good snow years.

Parking: The Ski Centre car park has space for large vehicles but please park considerately and remember to pay a donation in the box (£2 per day, £5 overnight recommended). Although the café burnt down last year they have a temporary café and some facilities for customers.

This area is best discovered with help of Kenny Biggin’s Glencoe Guidebook.

The south east facing slope down towards Ba Cottage is the most mellow sidecountry offering, while further West of this from near the summit there are steeper options. There are some sportier options off both Creise and from the Clach Leathad ridgeline but access is by a rocky scramble from the top of the resort.

Maps Used:

Skiing steeps in Broad Gully, Glencoe. Photo: Blair Aitken

Bidean nam Bian

Good For: More challenging and serious terrain in one of the most stunning locations in the country.

Time of Year: March and April

Parking: The roadside lay-by is the best option, but at weekends please note this gets busy even in winter.

There are many good gully lines to be skied here (the most famous being Broad Gully on Stob Coire nan Lochain) but they are steep and have numerous hazards. The most enjoyable open line is known as Paradise (East side of Bidean nam Bian, there’s various options here which will depend on where the snow has accumulated). Most winters it is possible to have a lengthy descent towards Coire Gabhail (aka the Lost Valley), twisting and turning around boulders and following stream lines.

Maps Used:

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