Sunday, 17 March 2013

Ski touring Fionn Bheinn (Achnasheen)

Approaching the summit of Fionn Bheinn
Ask a child about their ambitions and they will tell you that they want be an astronaut or a Formula 1 driver. As I age my ambitions become increasingly mundane and attainable. One was achieved on Saturday, the ski descent off the back of Fionn Bheinn. The last time I toured this hill, back in 2009,  I had chased down a post-holing snowboarder named Davie. When I caught up with him on the summit he decided that he should buy himself a split-board. This is a common theme among snowboarders of a certain age, who suddenly realise the limitations of their chosen snowsport. At the time I was hampered by ill-fitting second hand equipment and an inability to ski powder, so when Davie blasted off down the back I didn't join him, knowing that it would require all my energy to retrace my route of ascent. 

Summit view to Fisherfield
On Saturday I left Inverness with the intention of skiing either Ben Wyvis or Fionn Bheinn.  The hills to the north were plastered in snow and bathed in sunshine, inducing me to whoop with excitement. A thin veil of cloud often envelops the summit of Wyvis as the day progresses and I've yet to ski it in wholly clear conditions, so when I spotted an ominous layer of cloud lurking to the south I decided on Fionn Bheinn, reasoning that its slightly lower summit would remain clear for longer. At that point I remembered the run off the back that I had missed on 2009 and resolved to sample its delights, both skills and equipment having improved in the intervening years.

Fresh tracks and ominous cloud
In the end it stayed clear for just long enough. After briefly savouring the summit views north to Fisherfield I enjoyed a fabulous ski descent, linking powder-filled depressions in the open slope. It was so good I decided to skin up and have another shot, but alas the first whisps of cloud were starting to curl over the summit and the visibility deteriorated steadily over the 30 minutes it took me to ascend. I lingered on the summit over lunch and coffee, hoping that the cloud would clear. Unfortunately it didn't and I descended haltingly in the flat light, delighted that I had managed that one superb run before the weather changed.

Skis off time

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