Monday, 30 July 2007

3 Munros or 2?

Last blog entry was called "Finishing off the Fannaichs."  Certainly, I had now visited all of the main range, but lonely Fionn Bheinn on the south side of Loch Fannich still remained.   A few days of not so good weather gave tired limbs a rest, then ....

26th July   Fionn Bheinn

An easy grassy heathery climb from the centre of Achnasheen.  2hours 40 minutes to the top.  Looked down on huge herds of deer to the north.  Rather than a direct descent, we strolled along the broad grassy ridge to the east, then followed an amazing, well-built, but now largely grassed over, stalkers' track back to the road about a mile east of the village.  Munro 212

Sgurr nan Clach Geala, Sgurr nan Each and Sgurr Mor Fannaich from Fionn Bheinn (right)

30th July   Moruisg and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

Our holiday was drawing to an end.  We packed up our tent and camping gear and set off towards home.  There was a lot of low cloud around so we decided to see how the weather looked as we passed two final target hills on the road east:  if they were cloud-covered, we would drive on by and be home that evening;  if clear, we would do the climb, and then scrounge a floor from relations in the Black Isle.  When we came in sight of the hills, it was a marginal decision, but we decided to go for it!

Parking by the A890 in Glen Carron, we headed straight for the hill.  Moruisg means "big water" in Gaelic, and it is well-named!  We crossed the railway (by the bridge under it) then squelched across boggy moorland, and up water-logged slopes, with evidence of flash floods recently down some of the stream gullies (above).  As the ground got drier near the top, the rain came blowing in on a strong westerly wind.  Moruisg indeed!  

2 hours after leaving the car, we ate our sandwiches "cooried doon" behind the summit cairn (above, right).  Does it look like July?!

Next we headed south west along the broad ridge, then down to the bealach before the short easy climb to Sgurr nan Ceannachean (left), the lowest Munro -promoted to that status only in 1981 - but since resurveyed and demoted again to become the highest (?) Corbett, (along with Beinn Dearg in Torridon)!  

It's a shame, as it is the more attractive of the two hills, with a nice wee summit and crags below, whereas Moruisg is simply a big "lump".  

Good views - spent 30mins on top, before heading down the north ridge, across the stream to join a good path on the east side of an attractive ravine, then across the bog back to the car!

And so ended the 2007 Munro season (as we were in Spain rather than Scotland in the October holiday), with only 70 left to go.  4 more seasons to compleation?

Monday, 23 July 2007

Finishing off the Fannaichs

Those who read carefully will have noticed that the last posting was labelled as "part 1", and mentioned 13 Munros in its title - but only two Munros were mentioned.  So, here goes for part 2 ....  a concentrated week in the Fannaichs.

Back in 2004, I had climbed the western Fannaichs, Sgurr Breac and A' Chailleach.  That left 8 Fannaich Munros, plus nearby Am Faochagach.  It would need a good week to achieve all that.

20th July   An Coileachan, Meall Gorm, Sgurr Mor and Beinn Liath Mhor

Lovely weather made a major outing irresistible, despite having climbed on the two previous days.

So, on my own, I set off from a layby on the A835 at Loch Glascarnoch at 10.45am.  The first 3km was easy going on a forestry track, then a rough tramp over heather moors and peat hags to Loch Gorm.  Using some nimble footwork, I managed to work my way round the east side of the loch on boulders  round the shore.

For the south end of the loch, a steep climb on heathery slopes, then boulders, to reach the flattish top of An Coileachan at 14.00. (M 204)  From here, the extended high level walk could be seen (photo above).  

The going was easy over the SE top of Meall Gorm (rounded green hump above), then on along remarkable flat slabs over Meall Gorm itself (M 205) where a 15 minute rest was called for.  

One more easy top (Meall nan Peithirean), then hard work on tired legs up steep slopes, stepped by solifluxion, to the summit of Sgurr Mor Fannaich (M 206) at 16.30 (above).  

Views in all directions superb, but only time for a very brief stop (left), before heading off down the NE ridge, along the rim of the coire, and joining a good stalkers' path half way down.  

From the bealach, the path slanted up the west face of the final Munro of the day, Beinn Liath Mhor.  No obvious path to the summit, so I struck up to the right on bouldery slopes, and emerged onto the top at 17.30.   

With hindsight, a better descent would probably have been north from this summit, reaching the A835 a mile or two to the west of the starting point.  However, I chose to head east on easy broad ridges over Creag Dubh, then descended on a path towards the moorland below.  

The final mile over trackless heathery rough moorland was hard going - the heather tripping me and sending me headlong at one point!   Eventually, I was back at the stream crossing (with view north toward the Beinn Dearg group, above) and one final climb up to the forest track back to the A835 and the welcome sight of the car.

9 hours out, covering 24km and a climb of 1300m.  Four hard-won Munros!

22nd July   Am Faochagach

Another day - another hill!  After one (weather-enforced) rest day, it was time to tackle Am Faochagach (left).  This one just a single easy flat-topped lump.  Anne wasn't keen, so another lone climb.

Anne and I drove up to the same car park as yesterday on the A835. Cloud base was at around 800m, so set off in hope of it rising.  Start was a boggy tramp across the valley to reach the Abhainn a' Gharbhrain. 

According to the guide books, this can be tricky to cross, so I took a pair of old trainers.  However, it looked crossable, so I set off teetering across the boulders - and half-way across lost my footing, and put a boot under water!  Ah well, the path up the hill was so boggy that it didn't make much difference!  

The mist remained steadfast on the ridge, so the views were nil - quite eery sitting with my back to a cairn in the middle of a misty deserted boulder field (right).  

Still, that makes Munro 208 - and I've seen a view from most of those.  Needed a compass bearing to make sure I headed off in the right direction, and soon found my way back down and across the river to Anne, waiting patiently in the car.

23rd July   Meall a'Chrasgaidh, Sgurr nan Clach Geala and Sgurr nan Each

Another reasonable day weather-wise, and still feeling fit enough to keep climbing!  

Today, we parked at the big bend on the A832, a couple of miles south of Braemore Junction.  At 10.45 we set off down the track to Loch a' Bhraoin, and followed  the path a short way up the valley of the Allt Breabaig, until we could cross to the east side, to make a steep and tiring ascent of Meall A' Chrasgaidh (M209).  Like yesterday, there was mist hanging around at 900m or so, so the top was just in cloud when we arrived there at 1.30pm. (left)

We continued down and up to Carn na Criche (really a subsidiary top of Sgurr Mor Fannaich - see 20th July), where we sat and ate our lunch at 2.30pm, with tantalising glimpses of hills appearing and disappearing in front of us.  

Back down to the bealach, then up the lovely, curving ridge around the coire to the summit of Sgurr nan Clach Geala (M210).  Suddenly, the cloud started to disperse (right), giving excellent views all around.  

After 30 mins on the summit enjoying the prospect, we continued down to the col, and up the S-shaped ridge of Sgurr nan Each (left) (M211).  

It was then a long trek back to the car (2hrs 40mins);  down steep grassy slopes to the col between Sgurr nan Clach Geala and Sgurr Breac, then a good path all the way down the valley, with a trick river crossing en route.

And so the Fannaichs completed - apart from Fionn Bheinn, across Loch Fannich to the south.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

13 Munros and some other lovely hills (part 1)

Summer 2007      Ardmair and Gairloch

Having completed the farthest north Munros in 2004, we decided to return to Ullapool to continue where we left off - the Deargs and the Fannaichs.  So it was that we found ourselves heading up the A9 on Thursday 12th July to Ardmair Point, one of our favourite campsites, just north of Ullapool.

It turned out to be a fortnight of pretty good weather, and we had some great walks.  As I'm trying to catch up in this blog,  I'll just describe them in very brief terms just no, and maybe return to fill in some detail once I have complete those last 50 Munros! 
(At the time of writing, I have 42 Munros to go.  Tomorrow, we head off up to Kinloch Rannoch, so, weather permitting - and if the snow is not too deep and soft - the 2010 Munro season is about to get started!)

15th July  
Beinn Dearg and Cona Mheall

Cloudy day, but cleared in the afternoon.  Made good use of bikes up through the forest from Inverlael.  Good stalkers' path made progress easy.  

Anne on Cona Mheall (right)

Rough summits with good views in all directions.  Bizarre dry stane dyke on Beinn Dearg

Retrospect of Beinn Dearg from Glen Sguaib in the late afternoon (left).

A good long day:  7km cycle, 17km walk, 1250m climbing, 9 hours.

Especially appreciated the bikes as we sped back down the forest road to Inverlael.

Munros 202 and 203.

18th July    Cul Mor

Damp morning, but cleared up in afternoon, so a short outing required.  

Cul Mor, and its subsidiary summit, Creag na Calman, were the target.  Not the most exciting of the Coigach peaks, but a good viewpoint.  

Lovely stalkers' path (again) lulled us into a false sense of security as it stopped abruptly on a very boggy shoulder.  Still, it got drier further up, with a pavement of flat sandstone slabs round the north side of the coire, and dry grassy slopes between the two summits (above).

Dramatic sandstone cliffs (left) dropped away below our feet as we admired the views of Suilven, Stac Polly, Cul Beag and Ben More Coigach.   

Hey, they don't have to be Munros to be worth climbing!

19th July    Ben More Coigach

We woke up to a beautiful morning, with the sun shining on the slopes of Ben More Coigach across the bay from the camp site.  However, we wanted to do a traverse over all its main tops, so that meant a long drive round: 6 miles NE to Drumrunie, then 12 miles NW to Achnahaird, 3 miles S to Achiltibuie, then 5 miles SE to the road end at Culnacraig! And how far were we now from the campsite?  Only about 5 miles "as the crow flies"!

Anyway, there we were at 11.15am, and set off along a narrow path behind the houses, gradually rising across the moor to the foot of a waterfall plunging down a ravine from the hanging valley above.  A steep climb up alongside the fall, then began a delightful ascent winding in and out of the sandstone outcrops to reach the seaward end of the ridge of Garbh Choireachan, with wonderful views out to sea (above).

We enjoyed the scramble along the ridge of sandstone tors (above left), then across gentler grassy slopes to the summit of Ben More.  

Many guide books have routes to Ben More which ignore the ridge we had just come along - I can't understand why!  It's the best part of the mountain by far.

From the summit, we continued over some rocky outcrops on the grassy plateau, one of which was adorned by an intricate stone sculpture (right).  Is it still there, I wonder?

A little hard work took us down and up to the Fiddler (left) - a superb vantage point for the other Coigach peaks.

Now 4.30pm, and with legs tiring, we continued across the heather, grass and rocks to the final top of the day, Cairn Conmheall, a lonely pulpit looking out across the moorlands to the NW and the Summer Isles (below).  

Eventually, we picked up our rucsacs for the last time, and trundled down the steep heathery slopes back to the car.

An excellent day! 

(written 01/04/10)

Friday, 6 April 2007

Easter week in the Lake District

To fit in with niece Angela's wedding in Bury, we booked a week's holiday in the Lake District in April 2007.   Our location - a beautifully converted barn in High Nibthwaite at the south end of Coniston (right).

No Munros, of course, but we had lovely spring weather, some good lower level walks, and two good mountain expeditions.

The first of these was a traverse of Wetherlam, Swirl How, Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag, starting and finishing in Coniston village.  

A lovely walk - hard work climbing up to Wetherlam, then a high level traverse over all the tops.  Good views all round.

Anne (left) on Swirl How

The other outing was to Langdale (nearest parking was 2 miles form the start of the walk, and that was on an overcast day, not in the high season!).   The clouds lifted, and we had another glorious clear day. 

First summit was Bowfell.  

Our route was up "The Band", then we contoured across under the crags to ascend by the "Great Slab" (right).

From Bowfell, we dropped down to the Three Tarns, then continued over Crinkle Crags, descending over Great Knott in the evening light.

A wet and busy May and June meant that the first Munro of 2007 had to wait until July!

(written 16/03/10)