Scottish Offpiste - Nevis: Preface to the 2nd Impression

It seems like a lot has happened since this book was first published in 2013.  The initial sales of the Nevis book gave me the chance and the confidence to spend most of the 2014 season ‘researching’ and writing the Glencoe book – a moment in time I will always be grateful for, so a big thanks to all who supported that project by buying this one.  The first Nevis print run flew off the shelves and by 2016 it had all but sold out.  By that time, I was fully embroiled in building our new house, but held off doing a reprint straight away as I had big plans to do a new edition the next season.  It’s amazing how much can get in the way of our plans – a crap-snow season that resulted in a campervan conversion book (2017), a great-snow season marred by injury (2018), a season where I ended up back at uni doing a psychology masters (2019)… oh, and I almost forgot – a global pandemic in 2020!

Despite a (very) slow and windy start, we ended up getting loads of snow in March 2020, and I really thought I was finally going to be able to do the second edition justice.  But then, just as we were (almost) thigh-deep in Nevis Pow, Covid-19 hit and the whole thing got shut down.  The irony wasn’t lost on me as I sat at home looking up at some of the best snow I’d seen in years, with one of the few consolations being that no-one else was skiing it either, and that there were bigger things to worry about in the world anyway.

It’s been brilliant watching the growth of people skiing some of the routes in this book.  Hand-in-hand with improvements in touring kit, the ongoing social media phenomenon, an explosion in superb photography, and a general boom in backcountry skiing, more and more people have been venturing away from the standard offpiste classics.  From being a rare occurrence, it’s now quite common to see people skinning towards the West Face or An Cul Choire, and I suspect there have been more descents of Ben Nevis gullies in the last five years than had been skied in the previous fifty.

I’d still love to do a second edition, as there is plenty more great skiing to showcase in this area – the Mamores, Creag Meagaidh, and Ben Alder to name a few.  A small number of tantalising new descents have happened in the interim too, from the ‘freeing’ of Solar Face by Peter MacKenzie, to Ledge Route and Neptune Gully (with a 20m rappel) on Ben Nevis by Ben Briggs, not to mention some impressive skimo / touring exploits such as the Tranter Round by Finlay Wild and Tim Gomersall.  For my own part, I’ve had so many good days, not least just doing laps of Chancers… but skiing the North East Ridge of Aonach Beag with John Sutherland in 2015, and bagging Upper Martini in stellar conditions with Neil Muir in 2017, have to be stand-out classics.

There are a few epic stories to be told as well, from the legendary Aonach Beag tourniquet rescue, to an unintentional descent of Terror Rush / Hot Flush, and an avalanche-search motivated descent of Bum Rush on the West Face.  All these lines, routes, and stories, as well as many that no-doubt I haven’t heard about, deserve their own space in a guidebook update.  So, keep the stories and photos coming, at some point perhaps the snow gods will smile on us, the stars will align, the vaccines will flow through our veins, and the elusive second edition will find its way onto your shelves… in the meantime, I hope this reprint will keep you entertained and informed… and I hope I’ll see you in the mountains!

Kenny Biggin, Spean Bridge, September 2020

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