Monday, May 07, 2012

148. Meall Ghaordaidh (93). 07/05/2012

We had a train to catch in the afternoon and the weather was due to be turning ugly around lunch time, so this forced us into a shorter walk and gave us ample encouragement to set off really early. 'Really early' was met with some resistance from the Shuter camp, however, but we were still off by 8.45. This meant we were commencing the climb before 10am, which proved easily enough time for the train, although not enough for the bad weather.

The ascent was fairly easy going over slopes of grass and heather, which meant our pace was fast, but the clouds were faster and although we caught a glimpse of the top on the way up, in was well into the cloud by the time we got there. The terrain at the summit was much rockier, but there was nothing too difficult and we were able to stand up for long enough to take at least one snap inside the summit shelter. Then it was time to battle our way back through the snow showers, but at least the ground was perfect for descending and we had no complaining joints by the time we were back at the car.

A blustery, cloudy and snowy summit

146-147. Aonach Mor (8), Aonach Beag (7). 06/06/2012

Having found a room for the four of us in a B&B in Ballachulish, the hills of Lochaber were at our mercy. We chose Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag, partly because they weren't too far inland where the weather was due to be worse and partly because they're nice and big.

The top of Glen Nevis is a really nice spot and was attracting the 'crowds' on that particular day. We soon left them behind though, gawping at the Falls of Steall and began the ascent of the glen to the west of the plateau containing Aornach Mor and Aonach Beag. We were glad here for the fact it hadn't rained too much - the ground looked like the sort that would boggify easily.

The final 400m of ascent was steeply up the side of the plateau, on top of which we found a snowy alpine environment quite different from our previous day. From here the going was easy over the hard snow to Aonach Mor. Then we headed south to Aonach Beag, which ironically (for those fluent in Gaelic) is 13m taller than Aonach Mor. Throughout our time on the plateau, Ben Nevis and the CMD Arete were ever-present to the west. The descent from Aonach Beag would definitely have been tricky in lesser visibility, since a fairly precise SW bearing from the top is required to avoid crags to the west and a very steep slope to the east. There were a few light flurries of snow, but on the whole we had no problem and were soon enjoying the delights of the Water of Nevis once more on our way back to the car.

The Falls of Steall, with the Mamores behind

Aonach Beag from the summit of Aonach Mor

The ever-present Nevis

A crag as we come down from the plateau, with Carn Mor Dearg in the background

144-145. Meall Dearg (212), Sgor nam Fiannaidh (188). 05/05/2012

 A bit of an experiment, but it's quite possible to leave Cambridge after work on a Friday and get the train to Edinburgh that evening, then stay somewhere cheap and drive a rental car up to the highlands in time to be walking before 11am on the Saturday morning. So that is how we found ourselves scaling the steep north side of Glen Coe towards the Aonach Eagach. This is reputed to be one of the trickier ridges on mainland Scotland and it certainly provided some entertainment.

The initial climb was steep, but over with quite quickly. The perspective from the top was incredible - you feel like you're almost on top of the A82, which is some 800m below. Descending the first top was probably the most tricky section of the whole ridge - only scrambling grade I, but in descent it always seems a little more exposed.

From the top of Meall Dearg (the first Munro), we had a great view of the whole ridge, which includes several nobbles and pinnacles. It provided a great variety of scrambling, from chimneys to buttresses to ledges. Nothing would be classed much above scrambling grade I/II, but there were a few exposed sections to raise the heart rate. Thoroughly enjoyable, especially given the good conditions.

We took our time along the ridge and there were lots of other parties out too, so it was a couple of hours before we reached the next top, from where it's a stroll to Sgor nam Fiannaidh. There are then three choices for descent - a steep scree slope, a precipitous gulley or a gentle meander around the next top. We opted for the latter - probably the safer route and it afforded a nice view out to sea along Loch Linnie. We reached the road after 7 hours and I was able to hitch a lift back up the glen to collect the car.

The almost vertical drop down to the A82

Looking west along the ridge

Mike and his 3 kilo camera, with Bidean nam Bian in the background