Published 13th May 2024, 18:37

    NAPOLEON, Alexander the Great, JFK, Walt Disney, the list of those who have asserted that nothing is impossible goes on and on.

    Well, with the greatest respect to all of the above I would suggest that none has ever tried to second-guess Scotland's mountain weather. Impossible doesn't begin to describe it. Four seasons in one day? Try four seasons in one hour.

    Take our club trip to Arrochar on Sunday. Wet and wild was always on the cards but the degrees with which the forecasts varied over the preceding days was off the chart.

    Thursday: an evening check suggested Saturday would be bad in the west but Sunday even worse, heavy rain and cloud at ground level with snow and winds of 55-60mph on the tops, along with a wind chill of minus 10. The east wasn't showing that much better, although the heavy rain wasn't due to arrive until later in the day.

    Friday: things had moved on fast, the forecasts now pointing to Saturday as the wilder day of the weekend with the fronts having moving in faster. Sunday still wet and windy though, albeit taken down the tiniest notch.

    Saturday: a surprise glimmer of hope for Sunday, the possibility of a relatively dry morning and wind speeds slightly reduced – only in this country could that be described as a lull – before heavy rain arrived in the afternoon. Basically the forecast was horrific, then downgraded to miserable, then miserable-lite and finally it-might-be-okay-for-a-while-but don't-be-blame-us-if-it's-not.

    We had toyed with the idea of switching venues to the east, but the unpredictability of the forecasts meant there were no guarantees we would call it right. Besides, the logistical problems of a last-minute turnaround for a large group are huge. We would just bite the bullet and head west, armed, of course, with a back-up plan.

    We dropped a couple of the planned walks and changed direction for others so that the bulk of the day would be spent going west to east with the wind at our backs.

    It was calm and clear for much of the journey, more overcast but still dry when we dropped the first groups at Arrochar. The major roadworks on the A83 section below the Rest and Be Thankful meant we had to sit in a queue for a good 20 minutes at a red light on the old military road, and that was when the first raindrops hit the windscreen.

    It was frustrating being static and watching the rain getting heavier, the view ahead to the top of the pass disappearing more and more into the grey. When the coach finally started going again however, conditions relented. Or maybe a moving target was just harder to hit.

    Wary of an ambush, full waterproofs were on as we climbed north up the impressively steep slopes of Binnein an Fhidhleir, the long wall that fills the head of Glen Kinglas. The ascent to the highest summit of Stob Coire Creagach is a vertical 600 metres in just 1.5 kilometres, the way ahead a constant exercise in crag avoidance with one short scramble.

    As we rose, we could pick out the other group winding their way up towards the white-capped Beinn Ime. The cloud moved in and out, but the visibility was far better than expected and the likes of Beinn Luibhean and Beinn an Lochain were showing well.

    We moved on up through brief spells of light rain, then hail and finally some snow on the summit ridge, but for the most part it was dry and there was even a glimpse of blue overhead at one point. The steepness of the ascent meant the depth of view from the cairn was spectacular, seemingly nothing under your feet, Loch Restil a distant oasis seen through an extra-fine layer of gauze. 

    Some of the group decided to head west to the named summit, while others chose to drop north-east following the continual undulations of the ridge and then down to Abyssinia bothy where we had arranged to rendezvous. The rain finally arrived mid-afternoon and the short walk out of the glen was a soggy one, but it felt we had made a great escape. 

    Those who chose the Munros traverse had managed to reach the top of Beinn Ime, the highest peak in the area, without too much trouble but the weather eventually caught up with them as they crossed the lower Beinn Narnain. 

    They were battered by rain and snow being driven by strong winds, but this was just a taster of what might have been and even then the gusts were never as fierce as initial forecasts had suggested. I've no doubt that somewhere on the west coast the wind may have touched 55 or 60 at some point during the day, but as far as we were concerned for the most part it was negligible.

    The forecasters do their best but when conditions are developing so rapidly all over the country it's impossible to pinpoint what it will be like in any one locality at any one time. The best advice is to be prepared to make sure your plans can be as changeable as the weather.