Saturday, May 07, 2022

242. Beinn Bhuidhe (216) 03/05/2022

Needing a half-day walk to allow for the drive south, we went for Loch Fyne. Beinn Bhuidhe involves a long walk-in along a farm track, before taking a path up the hillside following a stream. It was a great path, but Cicerone told us to leave the path below a prominent waterfall (which we duly did) and make our way up the grassy slopes. This was OK and despite losing our direction slightly in the mist, we were able to find the way trough the hill's defences onto the summit ridge. However, we found on the descent that had we followed the path it would have taken us straight there in a more direct way. Anyway, we weren't delayed by the navigational challenges for too long and the descent back to the track was fairly rapid.

After walking back along the track, we were also able to stop at the Loch Fyne Brewery, which was the perfect refreshment for the end of the walk. 1050m, 5h15, 22km

The pleasant stream we followed for the ascent

Not much to see at the top


240, 241. Sron a'Choire Ghairbh (239), Meall na Teanga (276). 02/05/2022

With slightly tired legs, a slightly shorter walk was in order and we opted for slightly further inland to hopefully get the best of the weather. These two sit along the Great Glen, so there was some hope of views too. It turns out that the forecast was optimistic, because apart from a brief window of sunshine after we'd finished the walk, the day was cloudy throughout. Plenty of others had the same thought as us though.

The walk starts along a flat forestry track, before climbing to a bealach between the hills. From there, take your pick between the two excellent paths up each one. Not a huge amount to report from the tops, but it was still a pleasant day out.  5h30, 20km, 1250m


Clarity as far up as the bealach

The window of sunshine just after we were back at the car

233-239. South Glen Shiel Ridge (Creag a'Mhaim (218), Druim Shionnach (160), Aonach air Chrith (109), Maol Chinn-dhearg (168), Sgurr an Doire Leathain (122), Sgurr an Lochain (131), Creag nan Damh (275)). 01/05/2022

There are a few groups of Munros that are well known and well remembered. Several of those are around Glen Shiel. The long chain of tops (generously containing 7 Munros) on the south side of the glen is one such group - it requires a small amount of logistical organisation, but the reward is about 18km of continuous ridge walking above the 700m mark.

We parked in the "battle layby" before 9am, hoping to catch the mysterious bus that supposedly picks up walkers if the driver is feeling in a good mood that morning. We can't report as to whether this bus exists, because we hailed the second car we saw after parking and it turned out to be people intending to walk the same route. They had two cars and were staying in a cottage next to the Cluanie Inn.

We started with a 6km march along the military road round the back of Creag a'Mhaim, before a stiff climb straight to the top. Knowing there was still a long day ahead, I definitely felt this climb. But once at the top, with the cloud lifting on the ridge ahead of us we began to enjoy it a lot more. The walk to Druim Shionnach hardly justified the status of a separate Munro, so we were there in very little time, but it took a little longer (over a minor top) to get to Aonach air Chrith, the highpoint of the day.

With no wind at all, we spent a bit of time on each top, enjoying the trailmix and the views. Maol Chinn-dhearg, Sgurr an Doire Leathain and Sgurr an Lochain passed in fairly quick succession and even included a little easy scrambling, before a longer gap to the last Munro - Creag nan Damh. After that, the descent was generally easy, apart from a point where the path seemed to descend over a precipice (we opted for a grassy gully to the right) and then the last few minutes through a tree plantation (which involved some clambering over and along fallen trees on a steep slope to find a way out - we should probably have skirted the eastern edge of the plantation altogether!). Overall it was a great day out though. 26.2km, 8h45, 1850m ascent.

Looking back from Druim Shionnach

Chris at the top of Maol Chinn-dhearg

Looking east from Sgurr an Doire Leathain

The route of ascent up Sgurr an Lochain

231, 232. Ben More (16), Stob Binnein (18). 30/04/2022

Avid readers will understand that the choice of hill is occasionally determined by where the Scottish rain is located on a given day. On this one it was all over the North-West and gradually moving south and east. This encouraged us to get up at 6.45 at the border and drive to the nearest hill: Ben More. This meant that at least the majority of the ascent was dry and an optimist would even say we had clarity at the top.

Ben More is simply a long 1000m of ascent on a good path. Chris decided this wasn't sufficient and so arranged to leave the map near the bottom so he could return and get it a little later to add a further 200m to his day (much to the amusement of some fellow walkers).

Some weather hit us near the top and then more on Stob Binnein, but nothing too severe. We had warmed up again by the descent off the side, which was actually quite cushioned and gentle on the joints. This was a surprisingly short walk considering the ascent, but that was helped by the lack of hanging around on the tops.

4h15, 1350m, 12km

Our best view of the summit, from near the start

Some level of clarity on Ben More, with Stob Binnein behind

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

229, 230. Beinn Alligin (Tom na Gruagaich (268), Sgurr Mhor (162)). 21/06/2021

Having tired ourselves out a little the previous day and with rain forecast for the morning, we chose these hills so that we could start later in the day and make the best of it. They turned out to be a cracker.

Starting at 11.30, the light rain was just finishing and the clouds cleared ahead of us. The initial climb doesn't mess about and we were quickly into the upper reaches of Tom na Gruagaich. The path was of top quality throughout, having had the benefit of a multi-million pound donation in the recent past. In the upper part of the ascent, this follows a stream, which must originate from a spring which produces some of the clearest and most delicious mountain water I have tasted. 

There were dramatic views from the top or the ridge and "horns" to come. The path clung to the northern slopes of this hill as it made its way to the ridge. On our way up to the summit of Sgurr Mhor, we found the famous gash that was very dramatic and cleaves the whole mountain.

From the top the real fun began and we climbed down towards the first of the Horns of Alligin. This was all quite straightforward scrambling, but there was a lot of it and keeping to the crest made for half an hour of continuous interest. Once over the third one, the descent was sharp and straightforward, with steps in many places. This was followed by a gentle walk out. Overall, 12km and 1300m ascent took us 4h45.

The hillside up to TnG

The steep sides of Sgurr Mhor and "the horns" beyond

The gash of the wailing. And Ben

The Horns from above

Back to the shapely summit of Sgurr Mhor from mid-scramble

223-228. A'Chailleach (144), Sgurr Breac (138), Sgurr nan Each (267), Sgurr nan Clach Geala (53), Sgurr Mor (43), Meall a'Chrasgaidh (243). 20/06/2021

Time for a long day. I had 6 hills remaining to be climbed in the Fannaichs and by only adding a small amount to the suggested route, these could all be achieved in a day. 

We set off from the bend in the road south of Braemore Junction at 8.30am, but unfortunately the weather was cloudy and drizzly at first. The drizzle left us as we began the ascent, but the cloud was there for a while. The initial climb was steep, but there was a path of sorts and the shoulder levelled off to be completely flat at about 700m. We lost the path in the mist as we contoured round to try and get to the col below A'Chailleach, meaning we climbed 80m extra of the intermediary top before realising our mistake. The summit of A'Chailleach was quite dramatic, but the views were non-existent today and it was chilly, so we didn't stay long. On the way across to Sgurr Breac, we did manage to contour round the intermediary lump and it wasn't long before we were on another cloudy top, but there were the beginnings of signs that the cloud might be lifting.

There was quite a drop down to the bealach and we didn't find a path for the 300m of ascent to gain the ridge to the east, which made it sapping for the legs, but once we reached the crest it was an easy walk on to the top of Sgurr nan Each. We decided to have lunch here and the extra few minutes of waiting allowed the cloud to catch up with us and we actually had views before leaving the top. Something similar happened by the time we got to Sgurr nan Clach Geala, even though this was nearly 200m higher and from then on we had complete clarity. Sgurr nan Clach Geala was like a smoking volcano crater, having an arc of steep cliffs at the summit.

We now realised that including the extra Sgurr Mor in the itinerary did add a little more ascent than we had anticipated, but we were still feeling relatively fresh, so we did make it up the steep climb to the top. The views were by now spectacular from the top and we could see all the way to Torridon and Skye. By now the legs were getting weary, but the ridge over to Meall a'Chrasgaidh was easy and the descent down grassy slopes was "mercifully" swift and cushioned. What seemed longer was the remaining walk out along a good path back to the car. In all, the 30km route included 2300m of ascent and took 9h25.

The elegant ridge to Sgurr nan Each once it was clear of cloud

The crater-like summit of Sgurr nan Clach Geala

Looking back from the final summit to SM and SnCG

A look across to SB and A'C now that we could see them

That extra bit of ascent to Sgurr Mor

219-222. Sgurr Fhuar-thuill (82), Sgurr a'Choire Ghlas (60), Carn Nan Gobhar (153), Sgurr na Ruaidhe (151). 19/06/2021

Glen Strathfarrar is a strange one. The only road is privately owned and there is a quota of 25 cars allowed in per day. In the summer this is open from 9am-8pm, so we arrived at 8.30am to eat our breakfast in the car. Being a Saturday, we were a little worried it could be busy, but we were about the 4th car there and weren't the only ones eating - one couple were having a fry-up out of their boot! Most people waiting were off to climb the hills, but there were a few others there for the wildlife, which is prevalent in the glen due to the limited human interference.

When we were let through, the strange effect was that we all started climbing the route at the same time, which made it feel like a hill race or something.

Despite mist covering the ridge at the start, this cleared and apart from a little cloud at the top of Carn Nan Gobhar, we had clear views throughout. The walk itself started easily enough along a track before a small path struck off directly for the summit of Sgurr na Ruaidhe. This was a steady pull up, but passed quickly enough and from here it was a pleasant stroll along the ridge with the remaining ascent in small pieces. Carn Nan Gobhar was bouldery at the top and Sgurr a'Choire Ghlas quite steep and the best views were on Sgurr Fhuar-thuill.

The descent followed a clever path into the corrie to the south-west of Sgurr Fhuar-thuill, which was pleasantly soft on the joints and we were down to the road in good time. As we have come to learn, we walk much faster than Steve Kew (of Cicerone guides) on the ascent, similar between tops and he goes faster on the descent. This time we managed the route in 6h compared to his 6h30, but he still did the descent 30mins faster than us, which means he must run the whole way down! Once back at the road, it was 6km and a little over an hour back to the car. Total time 7h5 for 25km with 1650m of ascent.

Looking on to S F-T from the high point of the day

Looking back to Sgurr a'Choire Ghlas

The beginning of the descent

217, 218. An Teallach (Sgurr Fiona (73), Bidean a'Ghlas Thuill (72)). 18/06/2021

With some long June days and good weather, we chose this high-level scramble and it proved a great day out.

The first part of the walk was retracing my steps of 13 years earlier, when staying in Shenavall to climb in the Fisherfields. Just as this path began to descend to Shenavall, another path broke off to the east to climb the slopes of An Teallach. Once above 900m, the scrambling began and the "two 12m pitches" described in the guide books did have a couple of trickier moves and some exposure, but nothing seriously challenging. At one point a helpful climbing guide pointed out the correct line to us, which saved us a bit of thought. We tried to stay to the crest of the ridge where possible, although there were a couple of places where that was a little unnecessary. Towards Lord Berkeley's seat, we poked our heads over the edge to realise the extreme drop on one side, although it was quite straightforward scrambling on the other where we were. It was only after passing this bit that we realised the whole ridge was overhanging the corrie here!

The scrambling section was not particularly long, so we were soon at the top of Sgurr Fiona, from where the walk is straightforward to the second (very close) munro and then an efficient descent into the north-east corrie, from where a path took us back out to the road. Right at the end, we got a little lost in a forest of rhodedendrons, but eventually found a way through and across a river. Overall, the 22km and 1600m of ascent took us 6h30.

Looking forward to the crennelated bit after the initial ascent

Looking back on the first part of the scramble

Ben at the first munro, with Lord Berkeley's Seat in the middle ground and the rest of the ridge beyond

A side view of the whole ridge up to from Bidean

Monday, September 21, 2020

214-216. Ladhar Bheinn (111), Luinne Bheinn (234), Meall Buidhe (222). 19/09/2020

With some fabulous weather in store, taking in the hills of Knoydart became a possibility. In order to climb these three remote hills, one needs a boat or long walk-in to either Inverie or Barrisdale, where there are camping options (and in non-covid times, hostels). From there it's two long walks to climb the three most remote hills.

We walked along the delightful Loch Hourn in the afternoon and then lugged our camping gear up to 460m at the Mam Barrisdale, aiming to make the three hills possible in one long day. Our planning may have been assuming we were still in our twenties, but it did prove just about achievable.

The coastal walk was great and Barrisdale was a beautiful spot with ruined houses, tranquil waters and a large beach at low tide. We reached the campsite after 3h and saw half a dozen tents there, but we kept going up the wide path to our campsite in the bealach, reaching it 75 mins later. Here we ate our pasta and drank our whiskey as the sun went down.

In the morning, we were off before 8 with the luxury of one light pack between us. The grassy ground towards Ladhar Bheinn was a bit squidgy and therefore heavy going. This was compounded by some navigational inefficiency that led us to reascend on easier slopes before reaching the ridge. The walking along the ridge itself was superb, with some interest in the scrambling department and views out to Skye, Rum and Eigg. In fact, the only evidence we could see of human beings was a few houses on the southern peninsula of Skye. The only downside (so to speak) was the amount of reascent along the way - at least 200m of it.

We spent a while at the summit admiring our surroundings before heading back to the tent for lunch - a little behind schedule at just after 1pm.

Having replenished the water and food stocks, it was off to climb Luinne Bheinn, which was a straightforward pull up 500m of rugged Knoydart rock and by this time our legs were already beginning to find it tough.

From the summit, we made our way to the east top before following the undulatory path all the way to Meall Buidhe. However, the amount of rocky terrain we had to cover here made this both long and tiring and I was certainly feeling the exhaustion and needed a good rest.

There was a lot of chat in Cicerone about the route back under Lunne Bheinn, but we found a way of sorts without too much difficulty and were back at the tent before dusk, by which time a couple of other tents had been pitched nearby - not close enough to be considered poor etiquette I hasten to add.

It had been a great day, if a little on the ambitious side. After 11.5 hours, we'd walked 32.5km, including 2050m of ascent.

Walking in along the picturesque Loch Hourn

An abandoned house in Barrisdale Bay

Our campsite for two nights in the Mam Barrisdale

Ladhar Bheinn's north ridge and the snaking fjord of Loch Hourn from the summit

 Eigg, Rum and Skye from Ladhar Bheinn

Looking east to Sgurr na Ciche from the summit of Meall Buidhe

213. Mullach nan Coirean (236). 18/09/2020

Some unfinished business in the Mamores from our previous adventures here. With a plan to walk-in to Knoydart in the afternoon, we needed a hill to climb in the morning that would not exhaust us too much.

We left Glen Nevis at 8.30am and once again the weather was fantastic. The path all the way up this hill was excellent, so we made good time. Again the views were great from the top for the whole ridge of Mamores and of course Ben Nevis looming to the north.

Being down by midday allowed us enough time to walk into the heart of Knoydart for the endeavours to come.

Looking east to all the other Mamores

Layers of hills to the south, still covered in morning mist

211, 212. Criese (50), Meall a'Bhuiridh (45). 17/09/2020

As is often the way at the start of a trip, we needed an afternoon walk not too far north and this pair of hills were very efficient in terms of time required.

We parked up in Glen Etive after the long drive from Cambridge around 11.30am and started out by crossing the river and walking across grassy slopes that became increasingly steep. I certainly detected a slight lack of hill-fitness after months of lockdown and the ascent was a bit slower than usual, but stopped noticing the tiredness once the scrambling began in the upper slopes of Sron na Criese. Once over this lump, the slopes eased to the summit, from where we had grandstand views of all the hills of Lochaber and the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor in crystal clear visibility. Buchaille Etive Mhor was particularly present being just a few kilometers away.

The ridge over to Meall a'Bhuiridh was straightforward and from that viewpoint Rannoch Moor opened up still further. The descent took us past the ski slopes, but we stayed west of them and they didn't spoil anything too much. Re-crossing the river proved less successful that the first attempt and we both ended up opting for a cooling paddle rather than risking wet boots. A great circuit in some of the best autumn weather I've seen in Scotland.

At the top of Criese

Looking north to Buchaille Etive Mhor, Ben Nevis, etc

Rannoch Moor from the top of Meall a'Bhuiridh

Our line of ascent for Criese, with the shepherd in the background

This also marks the 75% stage of my Munro efforts, so there are some obligatory stats:

This quarter had a different feel to previous and perhaps a more relaxed pace. It included two stag dos and carrying each of my children up several hills, but also some long trips linking several days of walking.

Some of the favourites:
The Mamores (a camping ridgewalk adventure)
Lochnagar (we saw a brochan spectre)
Beinn Laoigh (pointy summit)
Liathach (great scrambling)
Beinn Dearg (wilderness)
Aonach Eagach (scrambling and views)
Criese (views and great weather)
Meall nan Tarmachan (looked great, but need to reclimb the ridge due to bad weather)
Beinn Sgritheall (great perspective)
Cairn Toul, etc (classicness, despite the midgies!)

Best weather: The Mamores
Worst weather: Carn Mairg

Tallest climbed: Cairn Toul (1291m)
Shortest climbed: Beinn Vane (915m)
Best campsite: The Mamores
Most exhillerating: Liathach
Best View: Criese
Most scary: Aonach Eagach (only a tiny bit)
Most classic: The Mamores
Most remote: Beinn Dearg
Worst midgies: Devil's Point, etc

Number climbed per group size:
On my own: 0
2: 50
3: 6
4: 11
5: 1
10: 1
16: 1
Number of new companions: 19

Longest walk: Mamores ridge (11hrs)
Shortest walk: Meall Bhuidhe (Glen Lyon) (3hrs)
Most efficient: Lochnagar (5 Munros in 7hrs 45) or the Mamores (7 Munros in 11hrs)

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

210. Carn a'Mhaim (95). 05/01/2020

The weather was very blowy today and with rain to accompany it in the west, we decided to head east and tackle my final peak in the Cairngorms. This proved to be wise, because we stayed virtually dry throughout and it therefore turned out more comfortable than expected.

We set out from Lin of Dee at 9.15am along the track past Derry Lodge that leads to the Lairig Ghru. We followed this for 5 miles over one new bridge (not on the map), through a slightly boggy section, over a ford and to the beginning of the rise round to the Lairig Ghru, before we took the fork which went straight up Carn a'Mhaim. This was a very efficient and well made section, which climbed up steps most of the way to the summit. We were below the clouds until 900m, but even at the top, the wind gave us fleeting glimpses through the cloud.

The wind was very strong at times at the top, so we were glad for the lack of precipitation and given that we'd made good time, we decided to wander a little way along the ridge towards Ben Macdui. We turned back after a kilometer, but it was well worth it, as we were gifted some impressive views straight down to Corrour bothy in the Lairig Ghru (the scene of a midge-fest from a few years previous). 

Progress was fast back along the valley and we were done in 6h, despite the extra time spent on the top.

A view of the top from near Derry Lodge

A windy top just in the cloud

Looking down into the Lairig Ghru

An action shot of Chris failing to fall in

207-209. Creag Meagaidh (30), Stob Poite Coire Ardair (76), Carn Liath (127). 04/01/2020

A damp and misty day in Scotland, but with weather set to deteriorate significantly, we opted for our longest walk today. This meant an early start from Edinburgh to begin walking at 9am.

The walk up into the corrie was along a well made path all the way to the lochan below a notch in the ridge called The Window. It included one detour across the heather, but that was entirely our own fault, having misread a perfectly clear signpost. On climbing the steeper path to The Window, we saw a small amount of snow, but there was still very little and certainly not enough to please the ice climbers that frequent this corrie. We were able to imagine the popularity of the north-facing gullies which line the slopes here. 

Without this notch in the ridge, access would have been difficult, but there were no problems at all. Creag Meagaidh is a big plateau and we didn't necessarily find the most efficient route to the summit in the mist, but we got there eventually over the occasionally snow-covered ground.

The wind appeared to be less than forecast, but it was still a relief to turn our backs to it as we made our way to the more ridgy section of the walk on the other side of The Window. Getting to the summit of Stob Poite Coire Ardair took little over half an hour, making a very quick second munro and the walk on from there was more interesting and no doubt spectacular in better visibility.

We passed a few walkers going into the wind and were glad of our choice of direction, before making it to the summit of Carn Liath. By this time we were a little cold and damp, which made the descent a bit more tiresome, but it was a fairly swift one to the end of the south spur and then down across heather and to a path through the birch trees (which became a stream). We rejoined the good path and were back to the car in 6h30.

Not much visibility on the ascent up to The Window

The summit of SPCA in the mist

The view of CM with a little more clarity 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

206. An Socach (227). 07/01/2019

The need to catch a train made us chose a short walk today and a look at the forecast made us unsure whether even that would be possible at all. "90 mph gusts will make walking tortuous in exposed areas", severe wind chill coupled with some rain meant I wasn't too optimistic, but things turned out better than expected!

It is also worth noting that the route we took (up the glen from Badoch) was far preferable to that of two guide books we had read, taking only slightly more time and begin far more pleasant all round. We opted for staying in the glen for as long as possible to be in some shelter.

We began at first light in moderate wind (even in the glen) and rain. This continued for a little over an hour as we made our way (into the wind!) up the glen. Then the rain stopped. Then the clouds lifted. There was still some wind, but we could see everything and were in no discomfort as we left the far end of the track and made our way across the frozen bog to the summit ridge.

Having been gradually climbing along the track, there was very little ascent left and what little remained was in the shelter of the hill, so we could put most of this behind us before pausing to don extra layers, batten down the hatches and climb out of shelter onto the ridge. We then had about 1km to walk into the wind to the summit, but we got the feeling the wind wasn't as strong as billed and this was quite doable. We had a great view of our walk from two days previously and stayed for a short while before sailing back to where we had sheltered.

With the wind behind us we decided to continue the more direct route back to the start by following the ridge for longer. It was now that the wind really picked up and for a time perhaps we experienced what had been forecast, being unable to stand as we approached the munro's lesser north top. We reflected on how lucky we'd been that this wind hadn't hit half an hour earlier, since the walk to the summit would have been a real challenge. As it was, we were able to descend easily back to the track and were at the car in 4h30, just before some more rain hit. It felt particularly pleasing to have climbed a hill on a day where we weren't sure we were going to be able to get up anything.

 Battling through the wind to the summit

Glas Tulaichean and Carn an Righ from the summit