Sunday, 24 October 2004

a few more days out in 2004

Tollmount and Tom Buidhe

9th October 2004

Lovely day - up "Jock's Road" from the top of Glen Clova - through the forest - the massive craggy amphitheatre of Glen Doll - steep ascent to upper valley - easy walking over Crow Craigs, then Tollmount, Ca Whins and Tom Buidhe.
Munros 174 and 175 for me.

(left) view from top of Glen Doll cliffs towards Davy's Bourach and the path onwards towards Tom Buidhe

Stob Ban (Grey Corries)

20th October 2004

A week's holiday in a cottage near Spean Bridge - the weather was varied(!), but we managed two hill days.  
We left the car at the "tramway", a mile above Coirechoille, then tramped up the forest track through the pass to the Lairig Leacach bothy, occupied by Outward Bound campers. 
Followed a very muddy path up the NE ridge, getting drier as we went up.  Final 200m were very cold and steep.  Dusting of snow above 750m, so Stob Ban was even more "ban" than usual.  Excellent views in all directions, but not a day for lingering.  Descended north towards the Grey Corries (can it really be 23 years since we were up there?), then down beside the Giant's Staircase.  Long trudge back to the car.

(right) Stob Ban and the Giant's Staircase

(below) looking south from Carn Liath

a round of Coire Ardair       23rd October 2004

Creag Meaghaidh offers plenty of possibilities.  My first skirmish was a walk up Coire Ardair with Anne, as far as the lochan, but no further - wind, mist and snow - back in May 1982!  Next visit (also with Anne) was an ascent from the south taking in the southern tops and the summit, in 1992 - memorable for having to lie down on the plateau feeling really ill after eating a Mars Bar!  Then, in 2001, Iain and I climbed Carn Liath, and its eastern outlying top, then back over Carn Liath, on a wintry April day.  

So that left one Munro - Stob Poite Coire Ardair - and several tops still to be visited.

We set off from Aberarder at 10.30 and climbed the meandering path up to Carn Liath (third time on its summit!)  Nice to have the hardest work behind us by 12.45!  Enjoyed the high level walk over various humps and bumps round to Stob Poite Coire Ardair (the target Munro) for a late lunch.  The mist had been hanging around at about 1000m, but now lifted.  

(right) Coire Ardair from Stob Poite Coire Ardair

Continued down to "the window", then steeply up again and round the edge of the plateau, with great views down into Coire Ardair to the left, and Moy Corrie to the right.
Crossed the last top at 4pm, and made a slow descent down tussocky moorland and bog as darkness began to fall.  Glad to reach the car park at 6pm, with an owl swooping over our heads!

written 18/01/10

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

The many tops of Lochnagar

Summer holidays over - but a work commitment in Aberdeenshire, and a free day before it - and the weather was looking good.  Time to collect the scattered tops of Lochnagar.

I'd been there before - a quick up and down of Lochnagar back in 1980 with Anne, Mary and Conan - see earlier blog entry.  Then, my half-way Munro in 2002 was Broad Cairn, just across the Dubh Loch, another rich seam of top-collecting.

So, on 31st August 2004, I left Selkirk early, and reached the Glen Muick car park at 11am.  All looked good, with blue skies but a cool breeze from the NW.  Made rapid progress up the Land Rover track and up on to the first top of the day, Meikle Pap.  

Enjoyed the superb view across the coire to the cliffs below the summit, Cac Carn Beag (right).

Back down from Meikle Pap, and then up on to the plateau.  A short detour to the left to visit the summit of Cuidhe Crom.

(left) plateau and summit from Cuidhe Crom

Retraced steps to rejoin the path / motorway across the plateau, then up to Cac Carn Mor.

Peered down abysmal drops, then a short rocky scramble to the summit, Cac Carn Beag (14.10).  The views all round were extremely clear.

(below) Meikle Pap and Cuidhe Crom from the summit

From the summit, a pleasant amble across to The Stuic, then to Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach, (formerly known as The White Mounth) the 2nd Munro of the day.  It was quite windy, and I had to lie low behind some rocks to get shelter for a cuppa.  Seems hard to justify this as a separate Munro in my opinion, as the rise to its top is only 40m, except that the whole massif is possibly too big to be counted as a single Munro.

Anyway, I continued on my way, dropping slightly down now into Coire Boidheach.  Suddenly it felt warm, so it was 'change into shorts' time!  A short rise to the next top, Top of Eagle Crag.  A large herd of deer ran across just below the summit, and I descended slightly to get a better view.  Also, a great view across to Cairn Bannock and Broad Cairn across the Dubh Loch.  The photo here shows the view. 
An American artist, James Swanson, had read on my website about my trip over Broad Cairn, and was interested in the name Dubh Loch, and asked if he could turn my picture into a painting - here is the resulting painting!  You can read about the making of the painting on James' blog "painting from afar"
So, onwards towards the last two tops of the day:  firstly to Creag a' Ghlas Allt, nothing more than a gentle swelling on the plateau, then down to cross the Glas Allt and main path before contouring round the south side of Cuidhe Crom.  This was hard going, and not recommended.  it would have been easier and quicker to go back over the top of Cuidhe Crom - I'll know better next time!  Finally reached Little Pap at 17.00, and rested a while, admiring the view over Loch Muick, before descending back to the main path over heathery slopes, and back to the car park at 18.50.

A good day - 2 Munros, 6 other tops, 25km round trip in 8 hours.

Saturday, 17 July 2004

Summer 2004 - the (not quite so) far north (part 4)

Having completed all our targets in the "far north", we decided to strike camp at Durness, and move down to Ardmair Point (just north of Ullapool - right), another favourite campsite.

So, what to climb next?  Seana Bhraigh was the next most northerly Munro still to be experienced.   Reknowned for its remoteness (whether approached from north or west), we were glad to be able to use our bikes to cut down some of the distance.  But first, we had to wait for a decent day ...

Seana Bhraigh 12th July 2004

The first good day was July 12th, so we drove down to Inverlael (see Farm or Forestry - 1979).  We were able to cycle about 3km up through the forest to Glensguaib, then set off on foot up the good but boggy stalkers' path on to Druim na Saobhaidhe.  Our target still lay 10km away, so we were disappointed to have to make a detour over heathery moor as the Allt Gleann a'Mhadaidh was in spate and not fordable where the main path crossed.

(view back down to Inverlael)

Followed the path on into Coire an Lochan Sgeirich, with its succession of tiny lochans, and its stone table, under the craggy face of Eididh nan Clach Geala.  Beyond the last lochan, the path climbed onto the watershed plateau, then dropped down through a confusing hummocky landscape to the bealach at the top of the Cadha Dearg.  From there, a steep climb up grassy slopes, past the top of a wind-blown waterfall, and suddenly the summit of Seana Bhraigh appeared ahead. Craggy drops into its NE coire contrasted with the grassy SW slopes we had ascended.

The day was wearing on, so, after admiring the view across to the lower (but higher-looking) top, Creag an Duine (right), we returned by the same route.  The cloud, which had never been far above our heads, dropped on to the summits behind us as we descended.

We were very glad to see the bikes at the end of the day!  22km walk, 6 km cycle, 1050m climb, 9hrs 15mins in total.  Munro 169 was hard won, but immensely satisfying.

Western Fannaichs - 15th July

After a 2 day interlude cycling in Lewis, I had a solo day on the two western Fannaichs from Loch A'Bhraoin:  Sgurr Breac and A'Chailleach, on a cloudy but warm day.  Had another go with the new boots, but I think they will have to go!

view of A'Chailleach and Tom a'Choinnich from Sgurr Breac - Slioch in the distance.

Maol Chean-Dearg - 16th July

Next day, we were on the move again, and swithered over whether or not to have a go at Maol Chean-Dearg (bald red head) en route from the Findlay's cottage at Diabaig to the campsite at Applecross.   Cloud was low, and showers all around as we drove south.  However, by luchtime, the day seemed to be clearing up, so we set off from Coulags up an excellent stalkers' path, passing the Clach nan Con Fionn standing stone, before striking up the hillside to the bealach between Maol Chean-Dearg and An Ruadh-Stac (below).                  (above: on the approach to Maol Chean Dearg)

As we headed up the scree path toward the summit, we could see the wall of cloud and rain approaching from the west.  It struck us mercilessly at 750m, but we pressed on up wet boulders.  Reaching the top, we "cooried doon" thankfully behind some rocks for a quick bite to eat...  then the cloud cleared and we realised that there was another 100m of mountain still above us - we were just on a minor top.  A further 20 minutes of struggle and we were at the real top - with its magnificent cairn -  but no view!

Coming down on wet boulders, with wet glasses, in a howling wind, on a compass bearing, was no fun at all!  Fortunately, the rain and wind stopped as suddenly as it had begun when we were back at the bealach, but it was still difficult to distinguish the path from the Allt Mnatha Luadhadair burn on the descent back to the glen.  

We were so wet, we decided to find a B&B, but there was none to be had - as tomorrow was the Lochcarron Highland Games!  

Instead, we ended up camping at the (rudimentary) camp site at Shieldaig.   

A lovely sunny evening ensued.

Thursday, 8 July 2004

Summer 2004 - the far north (part 3)

Foinaven - 8th July 2004

Another magnificent non-Munro (with its height confirmed in June 2007 as 'only' 911m - see (e.g.), but, like Ben Loyal, more than worthy of a day's climbing.

(L to R, above:  A'Cheir Gorm Ridge, Lord Reay's Seat, pt 869m, Ganu Mor (main summit) and Ceann Garbh)

This time I was on my own (and comfortable back in my old boots!). 

Started out from Gualin Lodge at 9am, and threaded my way across the bog between the many lochans, gradually gaining height and approaching Ceann Garbh.
Climbed the steep gully visible on the photo above, and reached the top, just as the mist was rising at about 12 noon.  

Dramatic views down towards Kinlochbervie:

Followed the lovely sweeping ridge path around to Ganu Mor for lunch (left) - and jumped in the air at highest point(s) just in case it was declared a Munro at some later date!   

PS it wasn't!

Beyond Ganu Mor, the path became much rougher, and the view was dominated by the spectacularly shattered ridge of A' Cheir Gorm, stretching out to the north of the main ridge (seen here with Ben Hope beyond).

I continued over the 869m top where A'Cheir Gorm joins the main ridge as far as Lord Reay's Seat, an excellent viewpoint.

Taking this photo of myself on a shattered section of the ridge required a couple of attempts, and a steady head - there's a big drop just behind me!

Who can blame Lord Reay (whoever he was) for sitting here all day long?

Now it was time to retrace my steps to pt 869, to head out along the rough rocky top of A' Cheir Gorm - an exhilarating scramble.

Returned then to the col to descend NW down steep screes into a boulder-filled coire below.  It was actually possible on this slope to stand still, and find that I was still moving slowly downhill on the "whispering screes"!  

As Ralph Storer puts it very eloquently in his guidebook '50 Best Routes on the Scottish Mountains': "descend mobile slopes on the north side - please leave some mountain behind for the next person"!

From the rocky coire, a small path led into the beautiful Coire Duail, then down to the track through Strath Dionard.  A 4 mile hike back was a tiresome end to a wonderful day.  

PS There used to be a rather discouraging "No Cycling" sign at the end of the Strath Dionard track at Gualin Lodge.  Hopefully, with the improved access rights, this has now gone.  If so, a cycle along this track as far as the outflow form Coire Duail would improve this walk immensely.

(written 04/01/10)

Tuesday, 6 July 2004

Summer 2004 - the far north (part 2)

6th July 2004 - Ben Hope

A little cloud on the hills today, but it looked like it would burn off, so we set off (from our campsite at Melness) to climb Ben Hope - the most northerly Munro.  

We decided to take the "tourist route" - which proved to be a very steep muddy ascent to begin with (right), until we reached drier ground on the upper slopes.  

We followed the path all the way as it zig-zagged up toward the broad summit plateau (reached at 2pm after 3 hours of walking). 

Glad to sit down for a rest, lunch and a sunbathe (the cloud had indeed lifted off).

Took a wee walk along to the top of the north ridge (above the "bad step") for the fantastic view out north and west (left) as far as Cape Wrath.

Decided to descend across the plateau to the SE top for the views to the east, then down a broad tongue towards the long southern ridge, Leitir Mhuiseil.

View from Leitir Mhuiseil, looking back up to the summit (left) and SE top (right).

Followed the undulating escarpment, with fine views from its cliff edge over Strathmore below, then gradually descended to the top of the Allt na Cailleach waterfall (below).

Descended steeply back to the road, for our 2km walk back to the car.  

As we walked along, a police car approached and stopped.  "Have you seen a lady walker on her own - reported missing by her male companion form near the summit?"  "No, but we'll watch out"  

We both immediately thought "Jill!" (see yesterday's blog).  Back at the car, I looked up the path, to see a lone figure descending.  Might be her, so I headed off up the path.  It was - and she was completely oblivious to the alarm that she had raised!

No mobile signal, so we headed out of the valley, and phoned the police, from the big house at the end of the road, to call off the mountain rescue!

Evening view of Ben Hope

(written 03/01/10)

Monday, 5 July 2004

Summer 2004 - the far north (part 1)

July 2004 - Anne and I set off with tent for a couple of weeks in the far north, and were blessed with excellent weather.  Here's what we achieved:

4th July  Ben Klibreck

Parked on the A836 at the footbridge just north of Vagastie.  Headed across boggy ground, gradually rising up to the broad ridge of Ben Klibreck.  Followed a nice wee path along west side of ridge then final steep climb to Meall nan Con (M167).  

New boots still not comfortable!

Ben Loyal from Ben Klibreck:

5th July Ben Loyal

Not a Munro, but surely one of the best hills in Scotland - especially when viewed from the the Kyle of Tongue (left) - and deserving of its nickname "Queen of Mountains" 

From left to right: 
Sgor Chaonasaid (708m), 
An Caisteal (764m), 
Sgor a' Bhatain (700m), 
Sgor A'Chleirich (642m) and 
Sgurr Fhionnaich (568m).

We started off by bike, but could only manage a short distance beyond Ribigill Farm, then continued on foot across the moor.  The river was full, but we managed  to cross dry shod on a fallen tree!  From Cunside, a steep muddy ascent to the coire, then up steeper (but dry) grassy slopes to Sgor Chaonasaid.  Navigation was a bit confusing in mist, but this lifted as we walked across the grassy plateau over to Sgor a' Bhatain (right), and the views opened up nicely.  

We enjoyed some scrambling on the rocks, then continued to the huge rocky summit block of An Caisteal.   

Chatted to a couple on the summit - earlier we had met the chap looking for "Jill" who had gone wandering off on her own.  (see tomorrow's post for continuation of that particular story!)

Meanwhile we continued on along grassy slopes over Heddle's Top (Beinn Bheag), and round to Sgor a' Chleirich.

This final top is a superb viewpoint, looking across to Sgurr Fhionnaich (right).  Returning to the col, we dropped into the coire below An Caisteal, then negotiated our way down through the crags and woods to the flat lands below.  The next trick was to cross the Allt Lon Malmsaig - only a burn, but it had been channelled into a just-too-wide-to-jump canal.  We found an old plank long enough to stretch across, and strong enough to get 1.5 of us across!  I ended up with wet legs!  Anyway, it was a warm day, so the experience wasn't too unpleasant.   

The final challenge was extricating the bikes from the centre of a herd of cows!

(written 03/01/10)

Tuesday, 11 May 2004

The Sleeping Dragon, some rumbles of thunder and a deer fence ..

Beinn  Sgulaird (10th May 2004)

Beinn Sgulaird (seen here across Loch Creran) reminds me of a sleeping dragon, with a long knobbly back and tail stretching  out to the North East, from it's head - the little nameless 488m peak above Druimavuic.   Read on to hear about the rumbles of thunder and the deer fence!

Anne and I had camped overnight at Barcaldine, so it was only a short drive to our starting point at Druimavuic.  

The morning was hazy and warm, and we enjoyed the 5 mile walk alonside the River Creran with the mist gradually rising off the hill.

We continued up Glen Ure on a good track to reach the "dragon's tail" 2 hours after leaving the car at the loch side.  

The view below is looking up the dragon's back (the NE ridge) from the "tail" towards Stob Gaibhre (right) and the main summit (left).  

The sky was fine and blue, but large cumulonimbus were gathering to the east.  After lunch on the summit (below), we continued along the knobbly ridge over a series of small rocky tops.

As the rumbles of thunder grew more and more frequent, I was getting increasingly concerned about our slow rate of progress, and was keen to get back down off the hill before the storm headed in our direction.  So, no more lingering -  we hurried along over the last top, and down towards the "dragon's head"

When we reached the col, we were faced with a decision: go down to the left, go over the top of the "head', or go down to the right.  We took the right hand route - mistake!  

Unfortunately, this led down over some fairly rough ground and then through some forestry.  At last the road was in sight!  Oh no - a high deer fence barred our way!  There seemed to be no gate anywhere near, so we did some rather acrobatic teetering up and over!  Once on the road, we discovered a gate about 200m to the left.  Ah well, we'll know next time!

Later, we heard that a climber had been killed by a lightning strike on Ben Oss, about 20 miles away ....  see

Saturday, 10 April 2004

Easter 2004

Today is Jan 1st 2010;  Selkirk is (unusually) still deep in snow, which has been lying continuously since before Christmas.  This blog is still stuck back in 2004, so I'll need to press on through the next few years ....

Easter 2004 - we spent a week in a lovely cottage ay Keltneyburn, near Aberfeldy, with the whole family (right).

The weather was pretty good all week, so we had several expeditions to the hills.

First outing (5th April) was Schihallion (below) - a repeat climb for Anne and me, but a first Munro for Fiona!

We parked at the Bridge of Foss car park, and made speedy progress up the new NT path.  Half-way up, I was saying "I wish I'd worn my shorts", as it was lovely and warm.  I soon changed my tune once we got onto the summit ridge, where it turned absolutely Arctic, with a very cold wind blowing the powdery snow horizontally in our faces.  We didn't stop long at the cairn - just long enough for a photo of Fi on her first Munro!  (and maybe her last?).

Next day (6th April), I set off alone up Glen Lyon, to climb Meall Ghaordie (M 164).  Steep damp grassy slopes up into Coire Laoghain, then more gently on to the ridge at Cam Chreag, with snow underfoot from 750m, and a cold wind.  From the summit, there were beautifully clear views (right), and a superb sense of isolation for the world below.  It took 2.5 hours up, but only 1 hour to descend on snow, then grassy slopes into Glas Choire and round below Creag a' Mhadaidh.

Next outing (7th April) - persuaded Iain, Julie and Anne to join me to climb Beinn Tulaichean (M 165), from Inverlochlaraig (Balquhidder).   Very steep slog up to the ridge, with feet suffering in a new pair of boots.  Cold wind, but warm sunshine and clear views.  Several showers around, but none fell on us!  Enjoyed the snowy ascent (left) to the rocky summit, then descended north towards Cruach Ardrain, then east down into Inverlochlaraig Glen.

Reverted to my old boots for a traverse of the Tarmachan ridge, with Anne and Fiona (so another Munro for her!) on April 9th.  Started at the Ben Lawers car park, and followed the good path on to the hill.  Hit some snow, and mist above the SE top at around 950m, which cleared away later in the day.  Enjoyed ourselves as we progressed along the narrow ridge beyond Meall Garbh, with the wind at our backs.  The girls dropped off from the col beyond Beinn an Eachan, while I continued over the last top, Creag na Caillich (right) - arguably the best part of the ridge - before returning along the hydro board road to the starting point.

(written 01/01/10)