Monthly Archives: September 2013

Beinn Liath Mhor, Sgor Ruadh & Maol Chean-dearg – (245-247) – 29th September

Kyle and Heather were pretty wiped out after the six Munros completed already on their “vacation” so it came as no surprise when they sheepishly requested a day off of elevation! Luckily, Andy and I had these three hills remaining, which lent themselves nicely to the four of us starting together before Heather and Kyle continued along the easy-to-follow (and not muddy!) track to do a big horseshoe (and flat) hike while we ditched our bags to nip up and down Beinn Liath Mhor.

The views today were incredible, as was the temperature given that this was in Scotland at the end of September! Sunglasses even required! At the top of our first Munro we were greeted by four other walkers and a pup, all of whom were enthusiastic about our Challenge and wished us well as we continued on to Sgor Ruadh; no rest for the wicked, as the rest of them stayed to enjoy the sunshine. The time between the first and second Munro seemed to fly, especially as we didn’t have our bags on the descent. “Hello” to a few other walkers out basking in the unseasonably warm sunshine before venturing to the third summit, which we could see in the distance.

This descent will no doubt go down on Jamie’s Top 5 list of horrible ways to get down a mountain in 2013, while Andy seemed to downright enjoy it (guess what . . . scree!). There was some huffing and puffing and moaning out of Jamie, not helped by the fact that the ridiculously steep scree slope with its awkward-sized stones gave way to a marshland. Jamie paused for a little self-pity party, trying to convince herself that the cross-legged objection to going any further was due to wanting to soak in the sun while it lasted!

Spirits were revived when we bumped into Kyle and Heather, who were nearing the end of their loop walk. We stopped for a quick chat before we continued up the easy-to-follow path, before venturing to the north to pick up a slightly fainter yet still distinct path to the summit of Maol Chean-dearg. We took a break on the top to stare out to sea; take in the views of the Torridon peaks in the distance; and for Jamie to take a mini-nap in the sun atop the massive cairn with the flat top – perfect for laying down once the stones were positioned in a non-poke fashion!

We parted ways on the descent, with Jamie retracing steps from the ascent route while Andy cut off a corner back to the main trail via some more scree.

Andy's selfie pre-scree

Andy’s selfie pre-scree

Jamie avoiding scree by retracing her steps

Jamie avoiding scree by retracing her steps

We met back at the backpacks, which we had ditched at the main trailhead not far from the bothy. Upon nearing the finish, where Andy had stashed his bike for the ride back to the car, we were fortunate to see another hillwalker who had descended  Maol Chean-dearg just ahead of us and was conveniently getting ready to hit the road in his car.

Jamie nearing the finish

Jamie nearing the finish

Heather and Kyle had clearly been taking lessons the day before, when Jamie handed our car keys to random strangers to remove the need for a bike ride; before we were even at the finish Heather came jogging toward us confirming that she had taken the initiative and asked the other walker if he wouldn’t mind giving one of us a lift back to our car (if he was going in our direction, of courseJ) Gold star!

In retrospect, now safely down the scree descent of  Sgor Ruadh, the rose-tinted glasses confirm that linking these three hills together is do-able and recommended (for those who don’t get palpitations at the thought of steep dirty scree).

Categories: September (226-247) | Leave a comment

Strathfarrar: Sgurr na Fearstaig, Sgurr a’Choire Glais, Carn nan Gobhar & Sgurr na Ruaidhe – (241-244) – 28th September

Between the Aonach Eagach Ridge and today’s exploration we did allow our little travelers a day to sit back and be tourists (above) . . .  most of it was spent with them in near-comas in the back seat of the car, but occasionally they stopped to eat and dance around on some castle ruins.

The day started out in search of public toilets that were open; luckily this was the only goal not achieved today! The road into Strathfarrar is private and adheres to very strict access times – today’s magic numbers were 0900, 1800, and 25 (time gates open; time gates close; and number of cars allowed in). We arrived at 0845 with wishful thinking that early birds would get some special worm. Not to be, but we were considered lucky enough to be allowed access (the road is open to pedestrian and cycle traffic at all times, but it’s quite a few miles of own-steam saved by driving, not to mention that inclusive in the Munro Challenge is a goal for our family and friends not to disown us after what we put them through!). We locked up Andy’s bike at the finish line of our horseshoe-shaped route, after he kindly “volunteered” to be the one to cycle back to the car to fetch the rest of us at the end of the day, and away we went.Today’s hillwalking was quite a different experience to what Kyle and Heather had experienced only two days before on the Aonach Eagach Ridge; and for that, Heather certainly seemed grateful! We set off at a good pace, up a track that gave our visitors a false sense of path-security. The track fizzled out before giving way to wet, muddy, slippery grass. Jamie must have decided the terrain was too mundane compared to the Glencoe scrambling of the previous day out so to add a little entertainment value she tripped in the mud, did the least graceful roll ever, before sliding headfirst down the hill for a few feet. After a brief second of head-shoulders-knees-and-toes check it took a minute before she’d stopped laughing long enough to stand up again! Would be disastrous to get injured at this late stage in the Challenge due to sheer clumsiness!

The temperature dropped as we got higher, but this was followed by a temperature inversion and we were afforded some great views of hilltops above the clouds below. The herds of deer must also have received the memo about the good views as we started to see (and hear) them by the dozen.

Atop the second of four summits we crossed paths with two other hillwalkers who were doing the same route but in reverse. Their plan was to walk back to their car from their finish point, which is where our car was parked. We decided to test some unwritten, unspoken code of mountaineer camaraderie and suggested that, perhaps, these two kind strangers would like to take the keys to our car (which also contained all of our belongings) in order to drive themselves back to their own car, thereby leaving our car at our finish. They didn’t hesitate to agree, leaving Kyle and Heather to spend the next few hours baffled at the fact that we had just handed our keys to a complete stranger (I never did get their names!). Thanks, strangers, for supporting my hypothesis that there are still honest, decent people out there (high risk experiment, so glad it went according to plan)!

The descent from the second summit was quite rocky and took a bit of time for Heather to negotiate, ensuring that her poor finger didn’t become even more broken than it was before she arrived! We topped the final two peaks at the same time as two other hillwalkers who were intending to cycle back to their car at the end of the walk. We agreed that, assuming our car hadn’t already been driven away and across the country, Jamie would give them a lift. Another example of the courtesy extended to fellow hillwalkers, especially when it means saving each other road miles! Jamie ran down the track to finish with the other two, leaving Kyle, Andy and Heather some waiting time to enjoy the sunshine in the grass, before we made our way out of the Strathfarrar Glen to ensure that we didn’t get stuck on the wrong side of the soon-to-be-locked gate!

As luck would have it, we were making our way through Garve for the next day’s hills – home of our favourite public car park to date! A dry night; dinner made and served with beer and cider; AND indoor plumbing . . . our visitors were feeling downright spoiled at this stage!

Look at me, I'm cookin' outside (again)!

Look at me, I’m cookin’ outside (again)!

Holy cow! Our tourists are introduced to the locals

Holy cow! Our tourists are introduced to the locals

Categories: September (226-247) | 1 Comment

Aonach Eagach Ridge: Meall Dearg & Sgorr nam Fiannaidh – (239 & 240) – 26th September

We departed from home in the morning, with our international visitors – Kyle and Heather – in tow. Prior to his visit, Kyle had declared (with very little encouragement required) that he would like to try scrambling. So, with that in mind, we had intentionally saved the Aonach Eagach Ridge for his trip. Not sure if Heather shared the same enthusiasm but she was willing to give this new activity a bash, broken finger and all (broken and dislocated prior to her visit while playing touch American football, so we already knew she was made of hearty stuff!).

We dropped Andy’s bike at the would-be finish, with the plan for him to ride back to the car while the rest of us either waited at the finish or enjoyed the Clachaig. Didn’t quite go according to plan, but near enough!

The weather was clear and dry as we set off up the trail, providing great views to Buchaille Etive Mor and along the length of Glen Coe. Ascent of the first Munro of the ridge was fairly straightforward, with little in the way of scrambling. This may have lulled our guests into a bit of a false sense of security because what followed is definitely inclusive of scrambling, which proved slightly more complicated for Heather and her broken appendage! She was a trooper and continued to smile through the trepidation, while Kyle seemed to genuinely enjoy this newfound activity and will hopefully join us for further rocky adventures in the future. We chose to descend via the Pap of Glencoe route rather than the Clachaig Gully because it was already getting dark and this is a far more sensible route even if it does take slightly longer . . . better a slightly later dinner than faces full of scree!

Jamie ran down ahead of the rest, abandoning Andy’s bike (which would have been ridiculously too big for her) and ran the few miles out to the A82. On arrival there she accidentally-on-purpose hitched a lift with a taxi – it was impossible to tell what cars looked like as they approached in the dark. The driver accepted the handful of coins offered to get back to where our car was parked. Dinner was ready and waiting alongside the hot drinks when the trio arrived to the finish point. Lucky for us, a calm and relatively warm night so we had a picnic on the side of the quiet Glencoe road before heading down Glen Etive to sleep up for the night.

Look at me, I'm cookin' outside!

Look at me, I’m cookin’ outside!

Categories: September (226-247) | Tags: | 2 Comments

Glen Affric: An Socach, Mam Sodhail, Beinn Fhionnlaidh, Carn Eighe, Tom a’Choinnich & Toll Creagach – (233-238) – 8th September

Getting up this morning was quite a struggle; Andy shifted from his overnight resting spot on the communal space padded bench, which was his preferred sleeping space rather than wandering in the dark attempting to find the male dorms following our very late arrival (Jamie had taken the wandering-in-the-dark option and slept in the dorm, fairly confident that it was merely sleep deprivation that kept her from having the energy to smother fellow dorm-mates who seemed to transfer all of their earthly belongings from one plastic bag to another at 6 a.m.!).

We’ll blame the sleep deprivation on the difficulty we had finding the track behind the hostel, but we got there eventually! The day was bright and graced by superb visibility, not to mention some unexpected ridge scrambling opportunities.

The day was marred slightly by the summit of Tom a’Choinnich, which we were convinced we were on multiple times before the real one eventually greeted us on the plateau. Was a bit anti-climactic by the third time we reached the “summit” but at least we’re sure! From then on it was about getting Toll Creagach under our belts before the long, grassy descent back to the car. The saving grace prior to the long drive home was the fact that we at least had a lovely view down to Loch Mullardoch and the dam as we walked through the Caledonian pine forest. We finished on the road on the wrong side of the dam from the car, which necessitated a walk on tarmac that seemed far longer than it was in reality. That was followed closely by Andy having to get out of the car to herd cattle off the road (and they were not for budging!) before the long drive home, but at least this time we had been successful with our Mullardoch/Affric round.

Thanks again to the SYHA and their customer service!

Categories: September (226-247) | Leave a comment

Mullardoch: Sgurr na Lapaich, An Riabhachan, An Socach, Mullach na Dheiragain & Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan – (228-232) – 7th September

This was our second attempt of these hills so we approached them with a bit of trepidation, not wishing a repeat of our experience in early August when we’d backed off due to the very strong winds. In hindsight, as I sit and type about a successful but incredibly long day, we probably did make the right decision a month ago when we turned ‘round.

As we had already summited Carn nan Gobhar in August, we continued along Loch Mullardoch to do a more direct ascent of Sgurr na Lapaich. The day was clear but chilly, but at least we had good visibility to keep us going. The ascent of Mullach na Dheiragain was absolutely brutal, reinforcing the fact that as we string together big days out we inevitably create routes that have rarely, if ever, been trodden on before.
On paper it sounds like a wild, somewhat romantic adventure. In reality, it’s boggy, uneven, asking-for-a-twisted-ankle-and-wet-feet terrain, not to mention steep and teasing as we wish the brow of every hill to be the top. The last two summits were in darkness, which made the descent to the hostel frustratingly slow. After hitting a variety of new deer fences that required going around or up and over, we knew that we were practically atop a path that would have led us directly to the hostel but we couldn’t find it in the dark. So, rather than attempting a line search and wasting time trying to find it, we plowed through armpit-high reeds, through marsh and bog, and eventually got to the remote hostel. We did our best tiptoe impressions trying not to wake every other guest who would have been sound asleep at the late hour we arrived. It was only after making our supernoodles and hot drinks in the kitchen that we realised we had no clue where the dorm beds were! Andy, too exhausted to care, crashed out on a padded bench in the sitting room!

Thanks again go to the SYHA Customer Service we received; they were very kind to honour our booking this second time around, giving us one less reason to be upset that we had backed off in August.

Categories: September (226-247) | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Far North Glen Tilt: Carn an Fhidhleir & An Sgarsoch – (226 & 227) – 1st September

Another cycle in to another blustery day! Again, the cycle was quite straightforward up a track suitable for 4x4s. We took shelter at the start, and again before the ride back to the car, in an abandoned little shed that was a nice break from the wind – and a place to ensure we could lock up our bikes and they would even be dry on our return. Another day of grassy, pathless terrain that would no doubt make for quite difficult navigation in low visibility conditions. Lucky for us the river was quite low so we managed to cross it with the bikes while maintaining dry feet – result!

Categories: September (226-247) | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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