Friday, June 15, 2012

154. Geal Charn (260). 08/06/2012

On our long drive down from the Orkneys, we wondered if there might be time to squeeze in a hill between the showers and still make it to Kippen in time for dinner. It wasn't looking good, when we arrived off the ferry into thick fog rolling in from the sea in Caithness. However, by the time we were down by Kingussie, the clouds were dispersing and we decided to risk it.

This Geal Charn (there are quite a few in this area) is quite a short walk and we were up and down inside 4 hours. The path through the heather helped us make good time. Miraculously, by the time we were on the summit ridge, the sun came out, giving us great views of Creag Meagaidh. There was a small incident with a lamb on the descent, but we were soon back in the car making our way through the traffic jams of southern Scotland.

Looking south along the summit ridge.

151-153. Cona' Mheall (176), Beinn Dearg (57), Meall nan Ceapraichean (177). 04/06/2012

With another great day weatherwise, we could afford to attempt another long walk. These three really lie in the wilderness and it was a long walk in before any real climbing was done. Once below Beinn Dearg, we climbed up to a point just below 900m from which any of the three munros could be reached by less than 200m of ascent.

Cona' Mheall was our first choice - the furthest in terms of distance from our start point and the route there passed the impressive amphitheatre between it and Beinn Dearg. The views from the top were great, but the climb was energy-sapping over large scree and this took its toll later in the descent. For the time being however, we merrily skipped our way across to Beinn Dearg, from which we had a great panorama of the Fannaichs and An Teallach. There was also a bit of snow on the north slopes, with this being one of the highest mountains in north Scotland.

The final munro was quite a swift affair, but it did afford a shot of the spike that forms the subsidiary peak of Seana Bhraigh and even views into the distant peaks of Assynt. As mentioned, the descent did get a bit tiring and it had been a very long day, but we finished in good spirits.

Beinn Dearg from the top of CM.

The amphitheatre between BD and CM.

The panorama from the top of BD.

A distant view of An Teallach ('The Forge')

Ben Hope in the distance behind Seana Bhraigh.

149-150. Liathach (Spidean a'Choire Leith (75), Mullach an Rathain (108)) 03/06/2012

On our way up to the Orkney Isles, Hilde and I stopped off in Ullapool for a couple of nights. We therefore had some time to take advantage of the good weather in the hills. In deciding where to go, I posed the question of difficulty to Hilde and she suggested we try something a bit tricky. Therefore we went for the mighty Liathach - they don't get much trickier than that on mainland Scotland.

With fresh legs we made easy work of the steep slopes of the first top and then we were onto ridge territory. The descent from here (before even thinking of the first munro) was a little exposed and we met another walker who was having some difficulty. After offering our encouragement, we ploughed on to Spidean a'Choire Leith, from where we were able to feast our eyes on the part of the ridge which makes Liathach famous - 'the pinnacles'. Only a kilometer or so long, but it winds and weaves with no route possible that doesn't include scrambling. The drivers down in Glen Torridon can look up to a 1:1 slope for 1000m and think it's pretty steep, but the drop on the side they don't see is virtually sheer...

There are two ways to negotiate each of the four pinnacles - either a 'path' round the side or a rocky scramble over the top. In general the path is technically easier at each stage without too many scrambling moves, but often the exposure is extreme with the drop right next to you as the path clings to the edge of the pinnacle. For that reason and the fact that it's nice to be on top of things, we generally went for the route along the crest.

It has to be said that there was a little bit of sitting down to do after this ridge to calm our shaky legs, but it was a thrilling experience and we'd managed without much worriment. The rest of the ridge to the second munro was straightforward and it gave a great view of our route. The descent was quite long and unforgiving on the joints, but it had been a great day.

Looking on to the pinnacle ridge from SaCL.

A close-up of the tricky bit.

The first munro, with a view along Ben Eighe in the background.

The first half of the ridge.

Undaunted on the start of the ridge.