August (186-225)

Glen Ey: Carn Bhac, Beinn Iutharn Mhor, Carn an Righ, Glas Tulaichean & An Socach – (221-225) – 31st August

Today was marked by a strong and consistent wind throughout most of the day, which the photographs don’t even begin to do justice! We started off with a cycle in from the car park in Meikle Inverey until the track petered out into boggy trail. The sun was shining and visibility was super, which went a little way toward helping us enjoy the blustery day.

These grassy slopes are generally at an angle to make walking not too difficult, but without any shelter from the wind it wasn’t as easy as the pictures suggest. We had a few opportunities to duck down against a rock or step of the hill, which we did with a sigh of relief for the few minutes of a reprieve from the gusts. Along the way we were aware of the shots of the stalkers, who we had seen in their Landrovers as we had cycled in. Andy donned his high-vis vest to minimise any risk that we would be confused for deer, as if Jamie’s lack of speed or grace made that in any doubt! We did see huge groups of deer on a few occasions and worried that they would associate us with the stalkers – Jamie tried to shout out that she’s vegetarian but they didn’t seem to understand and ran away!

On the cycle back the 8km track Andy took a quick detour to check out The Colonel’s Bed, an area of gorge through which the river flows and that was said to be the refuge of a 17th Century colonel who was outlawed for murdering a laird and who survived because his love brought him food each day. Andy took a few pictures while Jamie took a standing nap leaning against her bike.

Unfortunately, during that time a little bug decided to bite Jamie beside her eye; by the time we were back at the car some impressive swelling had nearly swollen her eye closed – quite impressive for a tiny flier. We waited for about 20 minutes to make sure it wasn’t getting worse, then headed to the Linn of Dee car park for the night – another favourite due to the composting toilets nearby!

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The Fannichs: An Coileachan, Meall Gorm, Beinn Liath Mor Fannaich, Sgurr Mor, Meall a’Chrasgaidh, Sgurr na Clach Geala, Sgurr nan Each, Sgurr Bhreac & A’Chailleach (212-220) – 24th August

*For the record, Gemma was offered tourist options for her time with us, including a Highland Games; Historic Scotland sites; pub eats and maybe even a hostel or two, but she put us to shame by insisting that a) she was not going to be one to keep us from Munros, especially in half-decent weather; b) she hardly has time to hike these days and wasn’t about to miss an opportunity; c) spending 4 nights sleeping in a car with Jamie, eating super noodles and cheese sandwiches for nearly every meal of her holiday, and trudging over pathless terrain for hours on end seemed like as good an idea as any. So, with that in mind, read on but don’t accuse us of being slave-drivers to our friends visiting from abroad!

The day started out misty, and more mist was to come intermittently throughout the day, but we were also lucky enough to have reason to wear sunglasses! The approach to An Coileachan seemed to take a while, but most things do seem more difficult when sleep deprived and midges have tried to eat you alive in the previous few hours! But, once over that initial hurdle, the Munros practically ticked off themselves.

Mimicking butt crack rock

Mimicking butt crack rock

It’s always motivating to know that we get to stay at a relatively high elevation throughout the day, enjoying time with friends – legs moving all the while – as the number of Munros increases. That is, until we neared the end. Descending A’Chailleach felt epic, not helped by the introduction of a deer fence that needed climbing; darkness that slowed us down; and the crossing of a large area of tree plantation that had us constantly worried we would fall into one of the holes that looked disturbingly similar to small, shallow graves (not sure what was worse, though, the holes or the mounds of uneven earth that tripped us and pitched us forward, threatening our ankles and the saplings nearby). After what seemed like hours (and probably was!) we eventually made it back to the main track beside Loch Toll an Lochain.

Out on the road we hopped (yeah, right!) onto our waiting bikes for the ride back to the car at Loch Glascarnoch. Today took us nearly 18 hours from the start of locking up the bikes to getting back to the car, making it possibly the longest day out of the Challenge . . . emphasising again that ever-smiley Gemma is one tough cookie! 15 Munros in 3 days, and this is her vacation! A well-deserved day off was to follow, including a pit stop at Chanonry Point en route back to Glasgow, where the dolphins put on a great show for us!

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Beinn Eighe (Spidean Coire nan Clach & Ruadh-stac Mor) – (210 & 211) – 23rd August

Gemma and Jamie awoke in the car and prepared for breakfast (frosted flakes and mochas). Andy, on the other hand, was trapped inside his bivvy on the ground beside the car, where the world’s midges had descended and surrounded him, turning his green bag black and making it impossible for him to escape without genuine concern for his safety and well-being! In true graceful form, Jamie swiftly ran around the car like a lunatic frantically waving a towel to get the midges away but they, in turn, didn’t even seem to pause for thought and continued to attempt eating us both alive. Jamie hightailed it back into the car and Andy lived to tell so it all worked out in the end somehow!

Luckily, the stressful start to the morning was not indicative of how the rest of the day would go. We walked, rather swiftly, to the start of the trail for our ascent. Today was a pleasant diversion from so many of our other days out in that we were doing a rather typical route, meaning we were following a trail previously trodden by hundreds of feet before us. Life a bit easier this way! The only downside of today was the mega scree descent to get us back to the car. Andy loved it; Gemma was smiley and somehow managed to make it look like she was skiing with ease; Jamie hated it with a passion and was grateful to get to the bottom to empty her boots of half the mountain’s worth of pebbles!

We finished relatively early and headed to Garelochhead to save Gemma from another meal of super noodles. Unfortunately for all of us, we had apparently missed the memo that Garelochhead was the place to be tonight and every single pub and restaurant was full to the brim and not accepting any other diners. Except, of course, the local Chinese take-away, where we had a meal that looked and tasted shockingly similar to super noodles! The girls enjoyed some drinks in the car, which weren’t exactly the glasses of wine we’d anticipated with dinner, while Andy drove to the start of tomorrow’s mega day out. Andy back in a bivvy bag beside the car, dreaming of a windy morning to prevent a repeat of today.

Treats after a hard day's work

Treats after a hard day’s work

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Beinn Alligin (Tom na Gruagaich & Sgurr Mor) & Liathach (Mullach an Rathain & Spidean a’ Choire Leith) – (206-209) – 22nd August

Today marked the beginning of Gemma proving once and for all that she is made of hard core stuff. After arriving in from Colorado (via Munich, Budapest and London; because heaven forbid she make things easy for herself) her suitcase didn’t make the cut but she took it all in her stride, already wearing the shoes she intended to hike in! Luckily her bag arrived just before we set off for the Highlands, stopping en route to admire the whirlpools of Corryvreckan before sleeping in the car near Torridon for an early start to our Munro adventures together.

Corryvreckan Whirlpool at sunset

Corryvreckan Whirlpool at sunset

Beinn Alligin was straightforward and enjoyable, as we were following the most typical route to connect the two Munros of this chain. We enjoyed some stunning views and we were grateful that the weather gave Gemma good reason to keep smiling.

The link between Beinn Alligin and Liathach, however, was Gemma’s introduction to pathless terrain, heather-bashing, and trodding through bog.

For a girl who claims to be out of hill practice she could have fooled us! Bits of scrambling mixed with some boulder hiking kept our interest piqued and the two Munros of Liathach brought us increasingly stunning views as the sun set.

Did that one already:)

Look what I did!

Another round of firsts came for Gemma as we had to descend in the dark but she must have acquired night-vision since becoming a mom because she didn’t seem fazed by descent-by-puny-headtorch. DCIM100GOPROLucky for the girls, Andy zoomed back down to the road and had cycled to the car and returned with it, arriving like a knight in a shiny silver Vauxhall only minutes after the girls touched foot on non-bog ground. Super noodle concoction for dinner before driving minutes down the road to park in the Beinn Eighe car park to sleep for the night.

DCIM100GOPRO

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Beinn Dearg (205) – 18th August

The winds of last night must have blown some of the bad weather away and we awoke to a rather pleasant morning (it’s so relative now that we’ve been doing this all year! A day without gales or torrential rain is good enough for us!). We passed a few walkers as we cycled up the track, reassuring to us that the bikes are a good idea for an approach, even if they seem a lot like hard work at the time.

We ditched the bikes prior to reaching the bothy, choosing to cut a corner by coming off the track and trekking over peat hags. Read: Jamie is not impressed. After what seemed a bit like forever, the peat hag bashing came to an end and we briefly re-joined the main track that we had been cycling, before hopping onto a single track footpath that zigzagged its way toward the summit. It was still dry when we reached the top, though the breeze had picked up substantially. Still, we’ll take it! Back the way we came to hit the main track before Jamie pled to jog this easy trail back to the bikes, even if it was a longer distance, rather than battle with peat again! And, anyway, it’s nice to add a bit of diversity to a route! The cycle back to the car required hardly an effort of the pedals and we were even back to Glasgow in time for dinner at a sensible hour – an almost unprecedented achievement so far this year!

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Beinn a’Ghlo (Carn Liath, Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain, Carn nan Gabhar) & Carn a’Chlamain (201-204) – 17th August

Luckily today was a success despite the poor weather forecast, especially as Jamie had to miss a friend’s hen day for the privilege of being out in the Scottish elements for hours!We cycled in to save a bit of time before advancing on foot. By the time we reached Carn Liath the heavens had opened and we were experiencing the kind of rain that made lunch quite a disappointment – in the seconds it took to get our sandwiches from the dry comfort of our bags and into our mouths they were soggy! Jamie tried unsuccessfully to bury her head inside her backpack to enjoy her eats, but that just led to even more stuff getting wet!

The showers were intermittent, giving the Paramo gear (and us!) a chance to dry out in between times, but the wind picked up and stayed with us throughout the day. The descent between Carn nan Gabhar and Carn a’Chlamain was steep, grassy and slippery – right up there with Jamie’s most detested trifecta (steep, slippery and scree). We dropped all the way back to the main track we had cycled up earlier in the morning, walking along it for a short way before ascending toward Carn a’Chlamain. The wind at the top there was debilitating so we were pleased that we had already made the decision that the fifth Munro in this area (broadly speaking!), Beinn Dearg, would be saved to do as a solo the following day.

From the summit here the descent was relatively straightforward and a well-worn landrover track took us back to the bikes, which we happily descended back to the car in the Blair Atholl car park. Amazingly, despite the deluge earlier in the day, we finished today warm and dry so a cosy night in the car was efficiently arranged. Perfectly located for tomorrow’s route, too, which starts from the same point as our start/finish from today.

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Ben Chonzie (200) – 14th August

We’re drenched, but no rain?!

Norah came along to join us for the momentous Number 200! Ben Chonzie is regarded as one of the easier Munros, especially if completed as we did – an out and back, predominantly up a well-made track. That being said, it was nearly dark by the time we set off, with the mist settling in low and wet for the evening, so navigation skills were still required. Ben Chonzie’s approach is grassy and at a relatively low grade, making for a relatively pain-free ascent and speedy descent. The summit brought satisfaction at how far we have come already this year . . . plus, Norah brought a flask of hot chocolate! Result!

The drive from the parking area back to the main road was actually more eventful than the hiking itself. The high precipitation had obviously led every frog and toad in the area to converge on the road. Andy drove slowly to avoid them but eventually Jamie got out of the car to pick up the stragglers who refused to budge despite the advancing car wheels! Suffice it to say, we got home a bit later than expected, but secure in the knowledge that we protected our amphibious friends. Norah and Andy even treated themselves to chips in the village for their efforts – not a bad way to spend a work night and to celebrate 200 Munros climbed this year!

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Carn Dearg & Sgor Gaibhre (198 & 199) – 11th August

Bright intervals; grim on top.It was incredibly tempting to have a lie in and save these two relatively close hills for a day when we weren’t so exhausted. But, with the amount spent on fuel for driving between weekends and the fact that we’re still unsure if this Challenge is feasible within the time we have, we made the committed decision to go ahead as planned.Unlike the more typical approach from Loch Ossian, we took advantage of the cycle-able track from near Rannoch Station. It’s not a particularly inspiring cycle, but certainly saved us a bit of time to get to the bridge where the walking commenced.

Some nice views were to be had as we made our way up the grassy slopes of Carn Dearg. These were in advance of the high winds to come, which put a damper in the enjoyment factor of Sgor Gaibhre.

The descent was very wet underfoot, even after we re-joined the track. Amazing what landrovers and argo cats must be able to get across in the name of stalking!

Once back at the bikes we were speedy in the return to the car; another example of an un-inspiring ride in being worth the effort when you’re nearly pedal-free at the end of the day.

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Stob a’Choire Mheadhoin, Stob Coire Easain, Stob Ban, Stob Choire Claurigh, Stob Coire an Laoigh , Sgurr Choinnich Mor, Aonach Beag, Aonach Mor , Carn Mor Dearg & Ben Nevis – 188-197 – (10/08/13)

Misty, but not too bad.We started out as a crew of 7 today; a bit later than planned to allow for Lorraine’s lack of enthusiasm at getting up before 0500 on her birthday! Carrie set up a car shuttle with us, leaving her car at our finish in Glen Nevis before starting the walk in Fersit. Today was essentially a clear up of the Ramsay Round; we had ten munros of this circuit left to do, after completing the first portion in May.

The first two, along with Carrie, Norah, Brendan, Lorraine, and Darren were quite a sociable affair. Amazing how quickly the miles can pass when it’s not blowing a hoolie and you can chat along the way! We were also sped up by Norah’s yummy muffins (and, no, that’s not a euphemism for anything!). But between Stob Coire Easain and Stob Ban our 7 became a 3, with Carrie, Andy and Jamie jogging down the grassy slopes before trudging up them again on the other side to summit Stob Ban. The approach to Aonach Beag proved more scrambly than expected – we were pleased to be going in our direction of travel because attempting to downclimb what we headed up would have been treacherous! Carrie continued to blaze a trail across the increasingly rocky ridges, before we made the final push up to Ben Nevis’ summit.

The massive boulder field left a bit to be desired on tired legs, but getting to the top of the country’s highest mountain just as darkness properly set in felt like quite an achievement. Unfortunately, the descent felt nothing like achievement; more like a relentless zig zag down rocky steps, the monotony of which was broken only by an intimidating mass of headtorches approaching us in the mist around 10p.m. No clue why 20+ people were out at this time (some of them, worryingly, in shorts!) but we were fairly sure they hadn’t also climbed ten munros today! Our descent was also made mildly more interesting by the fact that Carrie’s headtorch batteries died but we made it back to the cars safe and sound. Thanks go to Darren for driving our car from Fersit back to Glen Nevis to save us this extra journey at midnight!). We had only enough energy to eat leftover pain au chocolat and brownies before finding a spot off the Glen Nevis road to sleep in the car for the night.

This was quite a big day out and, when added to our day of climbing the Mamores, walking to Corrour Youth Hostel; and completing the three munros between the hostel and Fersit we are in absolute awe of those who have completed the entire Ramsay Round in under 24 hours . . . maybe one day that will be the year’s challenge?

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Stuc a’Chroin (187) – 7th August

We’d back off this hill earlier in the year in an attempt to avoid ruining our friends’ holiday (apparently spending time scrambling up icy rocks isn’t everyone’s idea of a good timeJ), but we were back on a weeknight to get it in the bag.

After a drive up after work we set out on the landrover track. It was a pleasant evening and we were chatting away . . . before realising that we had chatted our way past our turn off to head up the hill! So, some backtracking and a push over trackless grass later, we found ourselves back on the rocky section we had previously approaching from Ben Vorlich. As before, we were graced by a variety of weather fronts, but they at least included a rainbow! It was dark and very misty by the time we reached the summit, but there was a good sense of satisfaction that Stuc a’ Chroin was successfully completed!

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Carn nan Gobhar – (186) – 3rd August

Five Word Weather: Hurricane winds are no fun L

Today was up there with the most disappointing so far in the challenge, made more frustrating by the fact that it cost us quite a bit of dosh for very little gain. The forecast in the Northwest Highlands was grim, to say the least, but we decided to go for our original plan of Loch Mullardoch and Glen Affric Munros because we had already booked (and paid for) the remote hostel at Allt Beithe, where we were intending to spend the night between two consecutive big days out.

Most of walk in from the car park at Mullardoch was actually quite calm, with minimal wind and rain and some lovely sightings of frogsJ Then we popped our little heads up over the saddle . . . that was pretty much the beginning of the end. Heads down; try to maintain a straight-ish line; try not to get blown over. It was grim. We got to the pathetic little cairn at the summit – now was the time for a shelter cairn if ever there was one! – and Andy rightly shared his view that battling on with our intended route would be both tortuous and foolhardy. Yes, we had driven over 4 hours to get here. Yes, we had already paid for the hostel beds. But Yes, we were also still alive and (mostly) well – perhaps best to cut our losses and return home. Neither of us are generally interested in quitting, but turning around was definitely the most sensible decision in winds that were steadily over 50 mph with gusts well over 60 mph. A lot like no fun!

So, with our best pouts on we retraced our steps and got back in the car. There was briefly chat about stopping en route home to do a hill or two, but by that point we weren’t in the highest of spirits so just made the journey home. The silver lining came for some French lads who were hitching their way around the country, at least. We collected them along Loch Ness, stopped at the Commando Memorial for a photo op, and delivered them safely (with brownies and water) to Glen Coe. Also managed to get home in time to join some friends for a BBQ so not an all-bad end to an otherwise disappointing day.

**After trying unsuccessfully to make contact with the hostel to alert them to our spoiled plans, we owe a Thank You for the good customer service we received from the folks at the SYHA. They were kind enough to offer us some credit back for our booking, for the next attempt at these hills! Unfortunately, the petrol station was not so kind and didn’t accept the story of our pathetic day out as a reason to give us a free tank of fuel!

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