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)