Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Some Thoughts

I felt that some highlights were needed at this quarter-way stage:

Some favourite hills that must be climbed again (with reasons):
A'Mhaighdean (wilderness aspect)
Seana Bhraigh (misty)
Sgurr Mhic Choinnich (Hart's Ledge)
Sgurr a'Greadaich (summit ridge)
Bla Bheinn (views)
Braeriach (size)
Ben Alder (good bothies)
Sgurr na Ciche (pointed summit)
Ben Strarav (summit ridge)
Ben More (misty at top)

Best weather: Sgurr na Ciche or Ben Lawers
Worst weather: Ben Eunaich without a doubt
Most blizzardy: Ben Udlamain (this was a good thing)
Most freakish weather: Beinn nan Aighenan (snowstorm in June)

Tallest climbed: Ben Nevis (obviously)
Shortest climbed: Beinn a'Chleidhaimh (916m)
Best campsite: Sgurr Thuilm
Most exhillerating: Sgurr Mhic Choinnich
Best View: Ben Oss or Bla Bheinn looking west
Most scary: Sgurr Alasdair
Best pronunciation: Ben Chonzie (Ben ee-hoan) or Beinn a'Chleidhaimh (Ben Ashleev)
Best name of feature: The shank of Drumfollow (Mayar)
Worst midgies: Meall Chuaich ("that's not rain falling on the tent, it's the Midge")

Number climbed per group size:
On my own: 12
2: 38
3: 16
4: 5
Number of different companions: 12

Longest walk: south Cuillin ridge (17hrs)
Shortest walk: Schiehallion, Ben Hope (both just over 3hrs)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

71. Am Faochagach (210) 19/07/08

With slightly lighter packs, we began our walk back to civilization. The fact that the river was high and that the next 3 km to the track would be boggy persuaded us that it might be better to cut over the hills back to Black Bridge, thereby taking in Am Faochagach, 'the heathery place'. This proved to be a good choice, since it saved a few miles and was a pleasant walk when the rain stopped.
There were intermittant showers for our ascent, but it was mostly over good terrain and not too steep, so it was quite doable with packs. There was a small stream crossing, which took us on a detour, but it was no great loss, since it gave us some views of Beinn Dearg. Once over the summit, we took the long SE ridge back towards Black Bridge. This was jolly pleasant. Overall, the route from bothy to bridge via the hill was 1.5 miles shorter and took a similar length of time (5.5hrs). We feasted in the local Aultguish Inn before getting the bus back to Inverness.
Jo and Lilie coming down from the rounded summit

69-70. Seana Bhraigh (262), Eididh nan Clach Geala (257) 18/07/08

The cosy bothy in Glen Beag is a great base from which to climb the Ullapool hills and we shared it with some real bothy experts - a couple who were on a 13 day trek through the wilderness. They had everything sorted, down to dried meals and slippers! They did envy our baked potatoes, though.
We arrived after the 11 mile walk from black bridge in sunshine and crossed the slightly tricky river to the bothy, before spending the evening settling in. In the morning it was drizzling, but we set off NW, not knowing whether we would get any of the 5 munros in the area climbed. It was a bit damp underfoot, but we were soon on the higher slopes of Seana Bhraigh as the mist began to envelop us. There were moments of clarity though, giving us an impression of the northern corries from the summit - definitely one to return to in good weather. As we made our way round to Eididh nan Clach Geala, we did get views into Corrie na Ghrunda, which were quite spectacular. It took a while to traipse over to the top and by the time we reached it, the rain had set in properly and we decided to return to the bothy. Continuing to the other peaks, although now very close by, would have been miserable - far better to leave them for a clear day. We saw lots of deer on our cold, wet walk back and it was definitely a good idea to keep to the higher ground rather than descending into the glens. It made progress quicker and less demanding on the feet. We built a big fire in the bothy to dry off. There may have been some Glenmorangie consumed as well.

Seana Bhraigh from its less interesting south side

Glen Beag bothy

68. Ben Wyvis (Glas Leathad Mor) (85) 16/07/08

The weather wasn't forecast to be amazing, but it was bright when we got the bus from Inverness. The walk began with a pleasant stroll alongside a babbling brook in the forest followed by a steeper climb up the shoulder of the hill, all along an excellent path. We entered the mist at about 800m, but did get eerie glimpses of roiling clarity from time to time. The wind was quite strong on the summit ridge, but we battled the length of the 2km plateau to the summit cairn, where it was suddenly quite still. Not great views, but at least it wasn't raining. A fair representation of Scottish hills for Lilie's first Munro. The descent was down steep grassy slopes to start with and then a damp trudge without a path back to the trees. A 4hr round trip, but we then had to add to that a trapse along the road for an hour to the nearest bus/train stop. Then we failed to spot the thrice-daily bus as it whizzed past, so had an hour's wait for the train. We enjoyed the delights of deep fried haggis in the evening in a cheap restaurant, since we had completely failed to find any pubs in Inverness. I'll remember not to have it again.

Lilie at the summit shelter

62-67 The Fisherfield Six 13/07/08

Ruadh Stac Mor (276), A'Mhaighdean (187), Beinn Tarsuinn (238), Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (115), Sgurr Ban (157), Beinn a'Chlaidheimh (280).

This is rugged wilderness par excellence. A ring of 6 hills lies north of Torridon in Wester Ross and the only real way of climbing them is to stay in Shenavall bothy. Once here, if prepared for a long day, it is possible to climb them all, since once you've got to A'Mhaighdean (which boasts the honour of being the most remote of all the Munros - a 20km walk from the nearest road), you may as well come back via the ridge to the east.
With one day of sun forecast in the midst of endless drizzle, I set out from Inverness, hitched with a journalist and a 'white van man' to Dundonell and then hiked past An Teallach to Shenavall. I shared it with a philosophy teacher, his son and a Paraguayan! We made a fire and enjoyed the lack of midgies and the vistas of Beinn Dearg Mhor. I envied their baked potatoes.
Setting off at 8ish, I had to leap two rivers, but they weren't in spate so I escaped dry-shod (almost unheard of, according to the book). A long ramble along an increasingly good path took me to the slopes of Ruadh Stac Mor after about 3.5hrs - the entrance to the corrie south of this is particularly impressive, with one peak on each side. The final ascent was steep and one had to be careful to find the correct path for descent - a group of walkers coming after me missed it and looked like they would have benefitted from a rope.
A'Mhaighdean is a very elegant mountain, with fairly gentle slopes on the east and sharp ridges on the other sides. It also has excellent views of mountainous wilderness in all directions. A real cracker of a Munro if you are lucky with teh weather.
Making my way to Beinn Tarsuinn, paths petered out and there was a fair amount of re-ascent, so by the time I achieved the summit ridge, I had been walking for nearly 7 hours and was beginning to tire. I was still able to appreciate the scramble along the ridge to the top and fortunately I had now completed the bulk of the climbing. A pleasant walk along the ridge over Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair and Sgurr Ban then followed, both still just clear of the cloud. The former has a great summit, which unfortunately I forgot to photograph. The latter was much more rounded and was littered with awkward sized scree, which proved troublesome. Now, with scree, if the pieces are large, then they don't move much one can step along confidently, making good progress. If they are small, then one can slip and slide one's way down the slope rapidly and also make good progress. This scree was neither. It rolled under every step and though I was still feeling reasonably good at the top of Sgurr Ban, the descent over this sapped the remainder of my energy. If doing the walk again, I would descend more steeply down the grassy slope due north, despite this not being the obvious route. Still, I made it to the top of Beinn a'Chlaidheimh after about 10hrs, as the cloud was coming in over the highest tops. This, though I was unable to appreciate it at the time, is another of those hills whose pronunciation never fails to astound me - Ben ashleev!
I now had a weary descent left to get me back to Shenavall and in hindsight, I should have taken the gentler slopes NE of the top, but instead I descended the steep NW side between crags. Such was my physical and mental weariness, that this half mile took me 2hrs. I had to stop several times to keep the concentration needed for steep descents. I then had to jump back across the river, though I was beyond caring if my feet got wet.
Still, I arrived happily at the bothy to a dram of whisky and a large pan of pasta. I had covered 18 odd miles and over 2.5km of ascent in 12.5hrs. Needless to say, I slept well. Another group were staying in the bothy, planning the same walk in less good weather the following day - heh.

Beinn a'Chlaidheimh from Shenavall

The final three of the Fisherfield 6 from Beinn Tarsuinn

Looking west from A'Mhaighdean

The forge of An Teallach and Beinn Dearg Mhor from Ruadh Stac Mor

The summit buttress of A'Maighdean