Monday, February 13, 2012

Half way!

Some more (eagerly awaited I'm sure) stats at the half-way stage:

The last 71 hills have contained some real good ones. Some that must be climbed again (with reasons):
Sgurr nan Gillian (was tired last time)
Beinn a'Bheithir (misty)
Beinn a'Ghlo (summit ridge)
Ben Eighe (views)
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhan (good YH)
Sgurr na Ciche (pointed summit)
Sgurr Choinnich Mor (ridge)
Buachaille Etive Mor (misty at top)
Sgor Gaoith (pointy top)
5 Sisters of Kintail (classicness)

Best weather: Sgurr Choinnich Mor or Beinn an Dothaidh
Worst weather: Carn a'Chlamain or Ben Challum
Most freakish weather: Meall Gorm (we couldn't stand up, which was fun)

Tallest climbed: Carn Mor Dearg (1223m, despite reclimbing 3 higher)
Shortest climbed: Beinn Teallach (915m)
'Best' campsite: Meall Gorm (awoke with several inches of snow on the tent)
Most exhillerating: Am Basteir
Best View: Beinn an Dothaidh
Most scary: Sgurr nan Gillian
Most classic: The 5 Sisters of Kintail
Most remote: Carn Ealar
Most desolate: Mullach Clach a'Bhlair
Least deserving to be mentioned in these stats: Sgurr nan Ceannaichean (due to no longer being a Munro)
Best pronunciation: Beinn an Dothaidh (Ben uh Naw-hee) or Shurr nan Ceathreamhan (Skoor nan Kirrinan)
Worst midgies: Sail Chaorainn ("and feast they did")

Number climbed per group size:
On my own: 0
2: 43
3: 7
4: 21
Number of new companions: 8

Longest walk: North Cuillin ridge (14hrs)
Shortest walk: A'Bhuidheanach Bheag (3hrs)
Most efficient: Beinn a'Ghlo (3 Munros in 5hrs 30) or Glen Shee (6 Munros in 8hrs)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

142-143. Beinn an Dothaidh (129), Beinn Dorain (64). 06/02/2012

This was one of those days you can wait for a long time - I am struggling to think of a hill I have climbed in better conditions.

From our lodgings in the Bridge of Orchy Hotel (which was very nice btw), it really is the obvious walk and we could see our twin targets only a couple of miles away as soon as we set out. As we climbed up to the bealach, the ground became a bit icy, but nothing too much to worry about and by the time it got steep this was just hard packed snow. The four of us all took ice axes (which is good practice), although on this walk they weren't required. The only worry was that the section before the pass would be too icy to get up, but this proved not to be the case. By this point the views were already superb and they were only to improve.

The snow slopes slowed our progress a little, but also later cushioned our descent. We were soon at the top of Beinn an Dothaidh (pronounced Ben uh Naw-hee, clearly), from where we had clear views for hundreds of miles in all directions. The snow-clad peaks of Bens Lui, Cruachan, Starav, Nevis, Lawers, and More were amongst the clearest and most obvious, but we could also catch glimpses of Skye, Mull, the Paps of Jura and all the hills in between. Also, reaching this top meant that I was over the half way point in terms of Munros - A fact that I forgot to celebrate having only realised it when we were back at the hotel.

Having feasted oor een for a moment, we ambled along to Beinn Dorain to the south. I had been well warned by every guide book and several co-climbers that there was a false top here, but fortunately it was a clear day, so we weren't fooled into stopping too soon! The last 100m of ridge gave a great idea of scale, since we were able to look straight down to the A82 as the side of the hill took one continuous swoop for some 1000m of descent. Needless to say, this was not the way down. We retraced our steps to the pass and easily negotiated the steep snow slopes from there to the path. Definitely one of my best outings.

Distant Nevis, some 30 miles away.

Back along the summit ridge from Beinn Dorain.

The four of us at the to of Beinn an Dothaidh.

BaD with the Glen Etive hills behind.

The pointed top of Ben Cruachan, from the bealach.

141. Beinn Mhanach (211) 05/02/2012

Despite the forecast looking similar to the previous day, this turned out quite different: a couple of 20 minute showers and some high cloud, but otherwise excellent walking conditions.

Not trusting the forecast an inch, we opted for Beinn Mhanach. This was a fair walk away, but we knew that once there the summit climb would be short and we wouldn't have to bear the worst of the conditions for too long. It was an easy walk down to Auch, where the railway line makes the pleasant shape of an Elliptic Curve, as I'm sure you will have noticed. From there we walked up the perfect glaciated trench that is the Auch Gleann. Here the track was clearly not designed for walkers, since it crossed the Allt Kinglass no fewer than 11 times before we reached the hill. None were really difficult, but needless to say, on the 22nd crossing I did finally get my feet wet.

There was still cloud covering the tops when Chris and I began the final mile up the hill itself, but miraculously there was a half hour spell of blue sky which coincided with our approach to the top. The climb itself was fairly easy and we were pleased to be able to get some snaps from the summit.

Although the track gave aching legs after 15 miles when we got back to Bridge of Orchy, the walk had only taken 6 and a half hours and it was definitely no trouble to use the hotel as a starting point, rather than getting a bit closer by car.

The length of the Auch Gleann, looking SW.

Looking east from the top.

Beinn Mhanach from Beinn Dorain on a clearer day.

140. Ben Challum (106) 04/02/2012

Sunshine: negligible.
Clarity: minimal.
Wind: howling.
Precipitation: plentiful.
Amount of sleep: negligible.
Navigation: average to poor.
Fun had: small and concentrated in an area around breakfast.

It could have been ok - the plan was to get a nice rest on the Caledonian sleeper to Tyndrum, from where we would set up on a day of average forecast (some rain and wind expected, but not too much) to a not-too-distant hill. This would give us a good warm-up day for our weekend.

Needless to say, that didn't happen. The sleeper train turned out to be a bus (because some freight train had got in a muddle in southern England) and the grumpy bus driver dropped us off in the cold at 7am, with nowhere open to shelter. About 90 minutes later, our B&B kindly let us in and gave us a sympathy breakfast (which was excellent) and then we forced our cramped muscles into action and plodded off up the hill.

Despite not being a particularly long or hard walk in good conditions, in the constant sleet/snow and wind without any landmarks, it became a bit of an ordeal... Throughout the ascent we kept expecting the snow to abate, but it was not to be. The top was discovered via Garmin, but it was more reminiscent of the south pole.

At least up to this point, the wind had been largely behind us, so we decided to carry on down the sheltered side of the hill and make our way back round lower down. In principle, this was a good idea, but we must have got the bearing slightly wrong, since the slope we found was steeper than the map had assured me. With a mixture of bum-sliding and ice-axe-planting, we eventually made it down onto gentler slopes, but it had taken us from 'cold but mostly dry' to 'sopping wet'. The rest was a bit of a trudge down to the river and out to Auchtertyre and involved a crossing that was not to be achieved dry-shod.

Still, it wasn't long before we'd warmed up in 'Paddy's' with a pie and a pint and were soon looking back on it as a character-building adventure. We were just hoping for better conditions in the coming days!

What Ben Challum actually looks like - we had no idea.