Sunday, 15 October 2006

Ring of Steall (almost)

Sunday 15th October

What a contrast to yesterday's cloud and wind on the Easains.  The sky this morning was unbroken blue, with the hills appearing above a layer of mist.  Superb.  

(below) The Aonachs and Ben Nevis

Despite three consecutive days on the hill, this was too good a day to waste, so I set off to meet colleague Frank Frame at his cottage in Glen Nevis.  The plan - to complete the "ring of Steall".   

We parked at the head of the glen at 9.30, and set off up the lovely wooded track to Steall.  First obstacle - crossing the river on the wire bridge (right)!   

After that, the rest of the walk was child's play!

The path was a bit tricky round below the base of the falls, where we needed to cling on to some branches to avoid getting our feet wet or in the mud.

Soon, however, we were ascending steadily up a zig-zag path in the north coire of An Gearanach.  Talking so much that I didn't really notice how much we were climbing on the superbly engineered stalkers' path, until we came out onto the shoulder above Coire a'Mhaill, at about 600m.  A superb viewpoint for Ben Nevis (left).

A short steep final section of ridge, and we were standing on the summit (12 noon).

The hard work was now behind us, so we could enjoy the views and the scramble (easy enough_ along the rough ridge to An Garbhanach.  

A short descent (120m) to the bealach at 857m, then a similar climb up rough curving ridge to Stob Coire A' Chairn (1pm).  

So here I am (right) on Munro number 200!

We decided to keep going to the next top, Am Bodach ("the old man"), before stopping for lunch (2pm).  Munro 201!

From Am Bodach the two Bodachs(!) continued down the gentler ridge and round onto Sgorr an Iubhair.  The plan had been to continue along the Devil's Ridge to Sgurr a' Mhaim - but Frank's knee (getting stiff) and Frank's wife (expecting us back by 4.30pm) meant we had to leave that for another day.  Instead we descended to the wee lochan, then made a rapid descent down the path through Coire Mhusgain.  We were only 15 minutes late!  ... and exhausted!

Superb day.

(written 15/03/10)
PS  Anne and I returned to climb Sgurr A' Mhaim and the Devil's Ridge on an equally splendid day in July 2008.  I'll get round to describing that in due course!

Saturday, 14 October 2006

October At Roy Bridge

So, back to good old Scotland after a summer in France and Germany ...

A "bungalow" for 4 at the Tighean Beaga in Roy Bridge - cheap and cheerful, but near some Munros waiting to be climbed.  It was a wet day after some damp weather when we arrived, and spirits weren't particularly high as we drove up the muddy potholed track to our residence.  It turned out to be 4 very fruitful days!

Day 1: Thursday 12th

Today was blustery, but the cloud was high with only a few showers around.  Parking at the top of Glen Nevis, we set off on foot at 10am.

The Steall waterfall was in full flow and the paths soggy underfoot, but by 1pm we had reached the bealach between Aonach Beag (right background) and Sgurr Choinnich Beag (the wee dark peak in the centre), our first target, a short but steep climb.  

15 mins rest on top, then a short drop and up the ridge to today's Munro, Sgurr Choinnich Mor (seen here from a short way beyond the summit, down the east ridge).

Good views from here along the "back" or the Grey Corries to Stob Ban.  Contoured round Sgurr Choinnich Beag to reach the car in 3 hours.   Munro 195 for me.

Day 2: Friday 13th

Nothing unlucky about it!  

Marjory and Roger had come up from Edinburgh to join us on Thursday evening.  Today they climbed Stob Ban, while Anne and I headed up Glen Quoich to climb Sgurr a' Mhaoraich.  Last time here, we had turned back on hard snow slopes just below the summit, but this time there were no such obstacles.  

(left) view east along the ridge from just below the summit

Leaving the car at 10.40, we made speedy progress up the superb stalkers' path, stopping for lunch on the high point of Sgurr Coire nan Eiricheallach.   The cloud was just lifting off the top, as we set off up the twisting craggy summit ridge.  

Summit at 2pm.  

Anne found a sheltered spot while I nipped across to the outlying top Sgurr a' Mhaoraich Beag - worthwhile for the excellent views down to Kinlochhourn (right).  

Lovely hazy afternoon light on Loch Quoich as we returned to the car by the same route at around 5pm (below).

Day 3 Saturday 14th

After two good days, Saturday didn't look very good - low ragged cloud and brisk southerly wind.  However, Marjory and Roger were insistent we should have a go at the Easains.  So, off we headed to Fersit, and started out on foot at 9.30am along the track to the dam, then on up a forest road until a boggy path led off towards the ridge.

Once on the ridge, the going was fairly easy, but not particularly pleasant - buffeted by the wind, soggy underfoot, and no views.  We plodded onwards, and reached the first summit (Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin) at 1pm.  

We "cooried doon" behind the cairn (left) for a bite of lunch, then hurried off down and up to Stob Coire Easain.  

Rested there a while, hoping the sky might clear for a view, but after 20 minutes, decided it was a forlorn hope, so headed back across the bealach to Stob Coire a'Mheadhoin (does that count as a 2nd ascent?).

Headed on downwards by the same route, with the cloud clearing as we got lower (right).  Back to the car at 5.45pm. 

There must be good view from up there, so it was a pity to climb it on such a poor day.  Still, it didn't rain, and the Munro tally now at 198!

Continued on next blog ...

(written 15/03/10)

Monday, 17 July 2006

Alpine Summer (part 3)

Week 2 in the Alps - Le Grand Bornand  

After our week at St. Nicolas de Veroce, we moved on, with a stop en route for the (big) kids at the luge d'ete at Megeve (left) to a superb chalet at le Grand Bornand (below).

Our balcony looked out on to the jagged ridge of the Aravis range.  

Hmm - which of these might be climbable by mere mortals?

A look in the guide books suggested that our target should be Tardevant, a pyramid shaped 2500m peak right in the middle of our view.

Monday morning looked promising, so Iain, Julie, Cat and I set off early by car round by Les Clusaz to a high car park at head of our own valley.  A circuitous route, but getting us up to 1400m at the start of the walk.

Despite getting to our starting point at 8.45am, the heat was already building up.

From the car park at Les Confins, a track gave us a good start as far as Paccaly d'en Bas (1490m), then we branched off on to a lovely climbing path, partly shaded by trees, and with the views across the valley to Mont Lachat opening up as we progressed.  

Next we passed the high farm of Paccaly d'en Haut (1671m) and climbed on up to the Chalet de Tardevant (1787m).  

By now the heat of the day was on us as we continued up a series of steep zig-zags into a high valley surrounded by limestone peaks.

Suddenly, the steep gradient eased off, and there ahead of us was the beautiful Lac de Tardevant, its surface reflecting the clear blue sky overhead. 

It might have been tempting to dive in for a refreshing swim, but the ice field at the far end suggested it might be too cold for comfort!

A large group of schoolkids and their leaders were having their lunch, so we didn't stay for long.

We were now at 2210m, so getting high, with the summit only another 300m above us.

From the Lac, the path continued up through rougher ground (left) and over patches of hard packed snow to a col on the main Aravis ridge.  

The ridge snaked away to the south over some rugged peaks, and in front of us, the ground dropped away steeply over crags.

Unfortunately, the Mont Blanc massif, which should have been in plain view, was shrouded in cloud.

From the col, we turned left (north) up a small peak, L'Ambravettaz - cliffs on its east and north side, and steep grassy slopes to the southwest.  

The others followed the narrow path as it swung across just below L'Ambravettaz's summit, while I made a detour to the top, an excellent photographic vantage point for the final ridge leading up to Tardevant's summit:

Halfway up the final ridge, I turned to see the view, and there was Mont Blanc, apparently floating above a bank of clouds, looking impressively high above the silhouette of L'Ambravettaz (below).

Soon reached the dramatic summit of Tardevant, and enjoyed the views down to the Lac de Tardevant below us (left), and to Le Grand Bornand further down the valley (below):

Eventually managed to tear ourselves away from the summit, and descended by the same route.   Fantastic day!

(written 13/03/10)

Friday, 14 July 2006

Alpine Summer (part 2)

After our ascent of Mont Vorassay, we had a few other good walks from our base at St. Nicolas de Veroce.

One day we drove up the valley beyond Les Contamines-Montjoie, took the cable car up to L'Etape (1470m), then on up to Le Signal (1900m).  

From there, an easy walk up to the Col du Joly (2000m), with superb views to the Mont Blanc massif:

Cat and I continued up to the Tete de Roselette, then up some rougher paths across boulder fields and snow patches to the Col de la Fenetre (left and below), which had a real mountain feel, away from the day tripping tourists.

Unfortunately, we had to retrace our steps, but it would be worth returning another time and exploring further.

The following day, a very hazy and hot day, we walked from Le Bettex up to Mont d'Arbois - but on gravel paths all the way, and with a stop for ice creams and drinks at Hotel Chez La Tante at the highest point!  Hardly mountaineering!

Les gorges de la Diosaz was a spectacular low level walk, with wooden walkways above dramatic waterfalls and cliffs.

Our final day dawned bright and clear, so we drove up to Chamonix, and took the cable car up to Plan de l'Aiguille.  A nice way to ascend 1300m in 8 minutes.  Now, according to Naismith's rule, that would be about 2.5 hours!  

From there, we followed the Grand Balcon Nord path along to Montenvers.  Lovely path (left), with spectacular views.

At Montenvers, we descended to the glacier (Mer de Glace) in a bizarre cable car - each cabin was like a traditional red phone box!   

The glacier had certainly retreated since I was last there, back in 1973!

We admired the views, but decided against climbing the Dru (right) - I know my limits!

(written 13/01/10)

Monday, 10 July 2006

Alpine Summer (part 1)

Not many Munros this summer - we were in Germany and France for much of July and August ... but that was no hardship!  Apart from enjoying the sun, visiting old friends and being tourists, we climbed two very memorable "hills", well worthy of Munro status!

Mont Vorassay - Monday 10th July 2006

The first of these was Mont Vorassay (the green hill in the picture), which is an outlier of Mont Blanc (hidden at the back), at the end of the ridge which stretches west over the Aiguille de Bionassay (the snowy peak) towards St. Nicolas de Veroce, the village where we were staying for a week.

Looking out from our gite, Mont Vorassay (2287m) dominated the view and was just asking to be climbed! 

Unlike a Scottish hill, there were waymarked paths all the way, and it was green to the very top, but the position was so dramatic, and the summit as airy as Sgurr nan Gillean!

We began at the village of Le Champel at 1200m.  A good path led up through the forest, across the face of Mont Vorassay.  Here's Iain and Julie on the path, as it emerges from the trees above the Gorge de la Gruvaz.   the mountain in the distance is Mont Joly, which I had climbed on a previous visit.

The path led to the Refuge de Miage at 1570m, then steeply up to the Col du Tricot (2120m) behind Mont Vorassay.

The Col du Tricot (right) lies on the Tour de Mont Blanc path.

From the col, we turned west to climb up to the summit of Mont Vorassay.  

Turning right would lead on up the ridge, over Pointe Inferierur du Tricot to the Aiguille du Bionassay, and then to Mont Blanc itself.

The climb up Mont Vorassay's final 200m was steep and unremitting, then after 45 mins of hard work, suddenly we were on the dramatic summit ridge ... with the valley far below, and wide views of all the surrounding ranges - Les Aravis to the west, the Chamonix Aiguilles to the north, and the Dome de Miage to the south.

A grand place to sit awhile and admire the prospect!

Although we had climbed up steep grassy slopes, steep rocky gullies plunged down from the summit ridge - the so-called "Abrupts de Vorassay" (below).  

Behind us, the view was dominated by the Mont Blanc Massif - the Dome du Gouter and Aiguille de Bionassay.

Eventually, we managed to tear ourselves away from the summit, descending back to the Col du Tricot.

From the Col, we turned north down a lovely path down through alpine rhododendrons to the Cascade du Tricot at the foot of the Glacier du Bionassay.  

The contrast between the heat of the valley, and the huge snowfields above, was incredible.  

A good path, then track led us back down to Le Champel, with glimpses back up to the summit .

The guide book says 5 hours for this complete circuit of the mountain.  We took 7.5, but took our time to enjoy the views!

(written 27/02/10)

Saturday, 17 June 2006

Braemar weekend - June 2006

A late start to season 2006!  Easter holidays took us down to the Norfolk Broads before joining in the fun at Spring Harvest.  The May weekend passed by, and our first outing to the hills was on Common Riding weekend - 16/17 June.

We camped at our usual favoured campsite at Braemar.

The 16th was overcast, but we ventured up the glen to Inverey, and cycled 5 miles up a good track (right) to Altanour Lodge.  From there, we enjoyed a good day's walking on rounded hills:  Beinn Iuthairn Bheag, Mam nan Carn, Beinn Iuthairn Mhor and Carn Bhac.  Would many peple climb these hills if they weren't Munros?  Probably not, but they have their own charm:  7 hours walking, and we only saw one person in the distance all day.  

The most notable features were the deep coire on the north side of Beinn Iuthairn Mhor (left), and the wide expanse of dried out peat hags between B.I.M and Carn Bhac, which allowed us to make great speed across the moorland on their dried out surface.

Lovely run back down to Inverey on the bikes in the evening, with the sun now shining after a grey day.

Next morning we woke to hear heavy rain drumming down on the tent roof.    Browsed the local outdoor shop while waiting to see if the weather might improve, and ended up buying a new pair of boots!

We drove up towards Inverey and parked in the big layby to see if the weather might improve.  

Finally, about 1pm, the rain stopped and the sky started to brighten from the west.  Middle of June, so plenty of daylight still ahead;  let's go for the Devil's Point!  (this name is a prudish Victorian translation of the Gealic name Bod an Deamhainn).  

Bod an Deamhainn (right) from the Lairig Ghru path

Bikes out once again, and soon we were pedalling up form the Linn o' Dee car park towards Derry Lodge.  Leaving the bikes there, we set off up the Lairig Ghru path, and made good progress, but it was 4pm by the time we reached Corrour Bothy.  Anne decided to wait for me there, while I made a rapid ascent alone to the summit, firstly up the well-engineered path steeply up the coire, then doubling back along the bouldery ridge to the dramatic summit (left).  

From Corrour Bothy:  50 minutes ascent, 35 minutes descent!  And only a mile or so from the southern extreme of last August's expedition over Braeriach, Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochan Uaine from Coylumbridge.

Met up with Anne again (who had managed to keep her distance from the solitary, slightly drunk, male occupant of the bothy!), enjoying the summer sunshine down by the burn, for the long walk and cycle back to the Linn o' Dee.

(written 20/02/10)