Thursday, 11 September 2003

brocken spectre and abysmal drops

Ben MacDui (10th Sept 2003)

Iain and I set off from Coire Cas car park at 8.45am on a bright clear morning.  As we climbed into Coire an t'Sneachda, the sun cast our shadows onto the mist lying below us, creating a perfect Brocken Spectre (right):

Enjoyed the scramble up Fiacaill Coire an t'Sneachda (left)

Iain detoured up Stob Coire an t-Sneachda, while I waited for him along the cliff top of Cairn Lochan (right), which must be one of the most dramatic cliff edges in Scotland - the almost horizontal summit plateau suddenly drops almost vertically into the coire below.  I wouldn't like to be anywhere near the edge in mist or a white-out.  Even on a clear day, I approach the edge lying flat on my stomach!

Strolled across the plateau to Scotland's second highest mountain, Ben MacDui (and, for me, my 163rd Munro).  Superb panoramic view to the west of Carn Toul, Sgurr an Lochain Uaine and Braeriach:

Headed east over bouldery ground, down to Carn Etchachan, for superb views down to Loch Avon (right):

Back across the plateau.

Iain detoured to Lurcher's Crag (is he becoming a top bagger?), while I took the direct route down the ridge.  He soon caught up - long, youthful legs!

Enjoyed the easy walk back on the superb path t the car park.

(written 31/12/09)

Friday, 8 August 2003

How near is near enough?

Mount Keen (7th Aug 2003)

A lovely outing for a summer day (and a chance to test that the ankle was fully recovered - see June 2003).

From a farmhouse B&B near Kirriemuir (highly recommended -, we enjoyed a drive up Glen Esk in the morning sunshine.  From the road end, we were able to cycle another 4km or so on a rough track on the east side of Glen Mark, as far as the Queens Well (right).

We walked easily up the rough track beyond as it zig-zagged up on to the Knowe of Crippley (left).   

From there, a horribly eroded scar led us up to the summit.  You can see it in the photo here, even from a distance.

The heater was in full bloom, and a hot sun blazed down from a blue sky.  (Don't often get the chance to say that!)

Now comes the tricky bit!   I got to within about 2m of the summit cairn (right), and found it was already occupied by a swarm of wasps!  I tried to approach to touch the cairn, but had to retreat.  Tried again from the other side - same result:  angry wasps buzzing fiercely in my direction!  Ah well - if I do a circuit of the cairn at a radius of about 2m, that will have to do.  

Is that near enough?  Can I count it as a climbed Munro.  I hope so!

(written 30/12/09)

Friday, 1 August 2003

more outings in 2003

2003 brought nothing, if not variety - from wobbly moments in the Cuillin to gentle Monadh Liath summits.  The variety continued ...

Glas Tulaichean and Carn an Righ (30th June)

Tried to set off by bike from Spittal of Glenshee, but were deterred by a bull in the first field(!), so drove up to Dalmunzie House Hotel, and walked from there.  

Cold wind on top, but easy going on tracks and paths  ... until Anne tripped and sprained her ankle descending into Gleinn Taitneach.  It was a long walk back!

(left: Carn and Righ from Glas Tuliaichean)

Ben Laoigh (Lui) traverse (30th July)

A solo trip.  I'd been over Ben Lui and Beinn Oss back in 1983, but my target now were the two outliers - Beinn DubhChraig and Beinn a'Chleibh.  The plan was to traverse all four in one trip.  I drove up the night before, and slept over in the Espace.  

Left the car in Tyndrum, and cycled down the A85 to my starting point.  Followed the path down to the river, but had to take off my boots to get across with dry footwear.  By the time I had climbed up the very soggy path through the forest, I realised I might as well have waded the river in my boots!  Anyway, it got drier higher up, which was a relief.  Reached the top of Beinn a'Chleibh (right) at 11.15am, but even lying flat on my stomach on one of the cairns, I couldn't decide which of the three tops was the highest (so visited them all!).

Back to the col, then up to Beinn Laoigh (left, from Ben Oss).  The top was just 50m into the cloud base;  lunch stop.  Continued down the long SE ridge to the boggy bealach, then round on to Ben Oss.  Last time I was here I collected a beautiful chunk of quartzite about the size of a football, and carried it home in my rucsac.  It got heavier and heavier all the way down, and looked tiny once I put it in the rockery!  A lesson learned!

No such nonsense this time.  Continued steeply down then up again to Beinn Dubhchraig (with fine views down Loch Lomond, right), then down to Cononish, and back to Tyndrum by the forest road.

(written 30/12/09)

Sunday, 8 June 2003

Cuillin Weekend (part 2)

I think we all slept well after yesterdays' exertions!  I woke up with a hint of excitement and trepidation - would this be the day we climbed the Inn Pinn?

Unfortunately, the weather didn't look too promising - low cloud and quite windy, even at sea level.   Anyhow, we set off for the Youth Hostel up into Coire an Eich.  Soon we were in the mist, and getting blown around, but plodded gamely on up put of the corrie and on up the shoulder to the top of Sgurr na Banachdich (so Munro 157 achieved).  Found a sheltered spot to have a bite to eat and some hot coffee.

The view along the ridge was pretty dramatic!

Donald followed the crest of the ridge over the next top, while Tim and I took a more sheltered (but quite tricky) line below the crest on the west side.  John did a mixture of both!

After a wee while, Donald reappeared out of the mist, looking pale, with talk of dramatic drops into the abyss below, and a real sense of exposure.

The mist opened up enough for us to see to Loch Brittle below:

We continued on up the ridge to Sgurr Dearg, for our first glimpse of the Pinnacle, shrouded in mist with the wind whistling around its cliffs.

John and Donald had a reconnoitre of the route up the short steep east face, while Tim and I looked on dubiously.

Soon, all 4 of us decided that today wasn't the day for it!   The result - a mixture of disappointment and relief!

We watched a few braver souls reaching the top, then abseiling off, before we set off back down through Coire na Banachdich.

It took us a while to find the correct route, after initially making for the centre of the corrie, only to find ourselves descending large blocks towards the top of a cliff.  Some backtracking, then contouring round to the south side, and we soon found a safer descent.

The final highlight of the day was the dramatic Eas Mor waterfall:

So, another good day - and will have to return some other time!

Saturday, 7 June 2003

Cuillin weekend (part 1)

Bruach na Frithe, Am Basteir and Sgurr nan Gillean

7th June 2003

The shadow of the Inn Pinn looms over very would-be Munroist who is more of a hill walker than a climber. On the "ambler - rambler - scrambler - dangler" spectrum, I tend to consider myself as a scrambler. In other words, I like it when you need to use your hands as well as your feet, but I'm not too keen when you need a rope!
So - now that I was well past half-way, it was time to face up to the Black Cuillin. The chance came along when 3 colleagues from Hawick High School invited me to join them for a Cuillin weekend.

So it was that I set off with John Reed, Donald Knox and Tim Stewart - a mottly crew indeed. Would you entrust your child's education to these four?

This is us atop Sgurr nan Gillean, but let's start at the beginning.

The deal was that I would provide the transport (Renault Espace),
and John would provide the food and drink. Donald had climbing
experience, so his job was to keep John in order, and Tim was over for a year from Australia, so he was the "tourist".

We drove up to Glenbrittle Youth Hostel without mishap. The weather forecast was unsettled, so we debated various options. Next morning, we drove round to Sligachan, and set off towards Bruach na Frithe. The plan was to go up the north ridge, but low cloud and a strong wind guided us into Fionn Choire first, then up the east ridge to the summit.

No views, but Munro 156 achieved.

Donald and John look happy enough, but Tim looks a bit concerned!

So far, so good. Next, we returned down to the bealach and on up a rocky scramble to Sgurr a' Fionn Choire. The route ahead looked precipitously steep, until we realised that wasn't the way down!

Back on the correct route, we dropped down to
below the Basteir Tooth, which
appeared dramatically above us as
the mist started to clear:

The Tooth itself was definitely beyond our capabilities, but we decided to have a go at Am
Basteir. We followed the rough path beneath Am Basteir's north face to the bealach at the foot of the east ridge, and set off upwards. Good scrambling, with the dramatic drop to out right, and the slightly less steep, but much longer, drop into Lota Coire on the south side.
Higher and higher we progressed, until we reached the infamous "bad step" - a 12 foot notch on the ridge, about 3/4 of the way up.

A large boulder used to sit in the notch, making it easier to descend into, but a Cuillin winter had sent it hurtling into the depths below.

We hesitated, looked for an alternative route, peered down into the notch, then decided that "discretion was the better part of valour" and headed back down the ridge to the bealach between Am Basteir and the west ridge of Gillean. Munro 157 would need to wait for another day!

<- View looking back: Bruach na Frithe in the middle at the back; Sgurr na Fionn Choire to the left, with the steep drop which we peered down into before finding the right way down; and Am Basteir's east ridge, rough and narrow
with huge drops wither side.

So, what now? "Let's try the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean", suggested John.

I'd already been on Gillean by the so-called "tourist route", but not from the west.

The guidebooks said that it was easier now that
the "gendarme" - a large block sitting in another notch - had fallen some years ago.

The path led easily at first along a ledge on the north side, staying fairly level, to the foot of the "tuning fork" chimney, a moderate scramble up to the ridge.

Donald led the way, and we lesser mortals followed, one at a time, roped up for security:

At the top, we regrouped. The next bit was on the hairy side of scary for me, although a rock climber would have done it with eyes shut and hands behind back, I'm sure!

John led, and guided us up, again well-roped up. First move was an easy, but exposed clamber round a boulder to the "tooth arete". This was the scary bit (although not difficult).
Basically it meant letting go of the boulder, and stepping across the gap where the gendarme had been, with big near-vertical drops beneath your feet, then a scramble up to safety on the other side.

Whew! Glad to have managed that.

From the tooth arete, a super scrambly ridge led up steeply towards the summit. The most interesting bit was where we had to go through a hole in the ridge to emerge on the other side!

Here's John emerging through the gap.

And so to the top, 22 years on from when Anne and I stood there back in 1981.

Admired the view, then descended down the "tourist route". Some tricky descent, getting off the foot of the slabs. I should have insisted on avoiding the slabs, by keeping to the south side, as Anne and I had done on the previous
occasions. Anyway, we reached the foot of the mountain safely, the skies cleared, and we stopped for photos on the way back to Glenbrittle.

Evening sun on Sgurr nan Gillean (left), Am Basteir (middle) and Sgurr a'Bhasteir (right).

The day was rounded off with John's cuisine, much chat and plans for tomorrow ....

Sunday, 1 June 2003

How to double your Munro tally twice in 1 day

Monadh Liath   (31st May 2003)

Well, it wasn't me!  That would have required climbing 152, then 304 more Munros, which even with our 7am start, would have been quite a feat.

Let's go back to the start ...

At 4am, son Iain and brother Andrew and I roused ourselves on the beach car park at Findhorn.  "Why?" you might well ask...  To see the annular solar eclipse, as the sun rose out of the sea!  Unfortunately, there was a lot of haze, so by the time the sun became visible, the moon had partly moved off the sun's disc.  We heard later that the best view had been from the Cairn Gorm plateau ...

The second disappointment was to realise we have forgotten to pack any coffee!

Anyway, back down the A9 bright and early to Newtonmore, then up Glen Banchor to the foot of the Monadh Liath Munros.  Enjoyed the 24km walk across rolling hills and broad ridges, taking in A'Chailleach, Carn Sgulain and Carn Dearg.

For me, that was Munros 153, 154 and 155.  For Andrew it was Munro 2 (doubling his previous 1), then 3 and 4 (doubling his tally again!).

(left) Carn Dearg, seen from Dalwhinnie

On the road home, I needed matchsticks to keep my eyes open - a result of the early start, and the lack of caffeine!

(written 30/12/09)

Thursday, 10 April 2003

early 2003

"Any new blog posts", I hear you ask?  
"We haven't heard anything for a while!"  
"I though this was supposed to be about 'those last 50 Munros', but you seem to have got stuck at number 157!"

OK - life has been pretty busy over the last few months etc, etc, but now it's time to play catch up!

So, for starters, here's a resume of 2003 ...

2001 and 2002 had been good years, with 20 and 22 new Munros respectively.   2003 was the first of several slightly quieter years, but even so, it included 13 new Munros.

First outing was Beinn Dearg in Glen Tilt.  Back in 1985, I had stopped a few hundred metres short of the summit, exhausted after trotting along behind Conan Fischer's long legs in deep soft snow, so it was time to make amends.
This time (9th April 2003) Anne and I cycled about 4 miles up from Old Blair, through the forest and into the Allt Slannaidh as far as we could, then walked on up the land rover track onto the western slopes of Beinn a' Chait.

A nice easy outing for early in the season!  Gentle slopes and easy route-finding.  Returned down a zig-zag path to cross the Allt Sheicheachan, then rejoined our outward route.  Back to the car at 6pm (after repairing two punctures!)

Next day, refreshed by a comfortable B&B in Pitlochry, we cycled back up Glen Tilt, but this time continued up past Marble lodge to the foot of the All Craonidh.    Today's target was Carn a' Chlamain:  

Enjoyed a lovely walk anticlockwise around the horseshoe under clear blue skies, with good views in all directions. 

Broad tussocky ridges making easy walking, and a lovely cycle back down the glen in the evening.