June (115-133 )

Beinn Dorain, Beinn Mhanach, Beinn a’Chreachain, Beinn Achaladair, Beinn an Dothaidh – (129-133) – 29th June

Joe, Gaynor, Jamie & Andy

Joe, Gaynor, Jamie & Andy


Cloudy, with chance of cloud!

Joe and Gaynor joined us for the first of today’s Munros, following a painfully early start to get up to the car park near the Bridge of Orchy Hotel with enough time to have us finishing before midnight. Despite a recent mountain bike-related wrist injury, Gaynor was a trooper and got to the top of Beinn Dorain, before a slightly treacherous descent down toward the valley.

We parted ways there; Joe and Gaynor walked out via the valley and it’s lovely stream, while we contoured round and up the crossing burn toward the ascent of Beinn Mhanach. The cloud came down and snow was STILL spotted as we approached the second Munro of the day, but at least Jamie had her trusty new buff to keep her warm (and to add a minor variation to the photos, while she attempted to take one of the few self-portraits herself for a change!). Not much variation in the views today, adding to our ever-growing list of Munros we’ll have to return to if we ever hope to get “munro claravisticus” – the as yet unknown Munro Round with views from every summit! Perhaps a challenge to tackle over the next five decades!

Thanks to Richard Sharp and co at the Buff Shop for their superb customer service! Check out:


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Ben Vorlich (Loch Lomond) – (128) – 26th June

Nicola, Jamie, Andy & Loch Lomond

Nicola, Jamie, Andy & Loch Lomond

(4 hours) Despite the fact that Jamie hadn’t slept more than 6 hours in the past 50 and had only arrived back from California this morning (and managed to stay awake for a full day in the office!); and despite the fact that Andy finished his day saying goodbye to years of his Wednesday badminton crew at work and had to collect our car from the mechanic (we no longer have a “lazy” starter motor!), we managed to complete our weekday Munro!

Nicola joined us for the last of the Munros we’d be accessing from Inveruglas along Loch Lomond’s shores. It turned out to be a dry evening with enough of a breeze to keep the midges at bay without making us too cold. We took a somewhat direct ascent up the grassy slopes above the dam, with Andy occasionally diverting for some scrambling.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear to the top we crossed a well-trodden path that we obviously had missed seeing from the access road, but this turned out to be for the best. After enjoying a few photo opportunities on the top, we took the well-trodden path to descend which made for a much quicker jaunt to the car and meant we were able to do a loop rather than an out-and-back.

Jamie & Nicola - thank goodness this is a bad shot of their footwear fashion faux pas!

Jamie & Nicola – thank goodness this is a bad shot of their footwear fashion faux pas!

A dive into the car because the midges were ready and waiting for us before making our way back to Glasgow to finish off another successful weekday evening Munro!

Summit of Ben Vorlich

Summit of Ben Vorlich

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Conival & Ben More Assynt (126 & 127) – 16th June 2013

We woke up in a car park just outside of Inchnadamph (“meadow of the red deer” in Gaelic), where we had slept in the car and Jenny had camped for the night. The views were gorgeous and the Gaelic name rang true as we saw deer everywhere. Unfortunately, it turns out that their tick friends resented being missed out in the naming process of the area and were out for revenge by attacking Jenny (at time of writing she had extracted 35 from herself and countless more from her belongings!).

The walk up to Conival was stunning, graced by a path that followed a stream first up the valley and then along its mossy, stony descent from the hillside with drop-offs and pools that were almost too picture-perfect to be true! The main walker’s path is stony but straightforward and we reached the summit after a snack break in the sunshine in just under 3 hours.

Jamie and Andy pressed on to Ben More Assynt, while Jenny enjoyed photo opportunities, a slightly more leisurely descent, and nap time. Lucky for Jamie the weather was turning out to be half decent or there would have been some serious nap-envy happening! The ridge between the two Munros is short and sweet; we covered the 1.5km in about 35 minutes, which was unfortunately too long for it to still be cloud-free. The wind was negligible, though, so we enjoyed a chat with another hillwalker on the summit before choosing the long way round to get back to the car.

We followed the east ridge, which turned out to be quite interesting, with some opportunities for scrambling and opportunities for varied views of this beautiful remote area. Descending down to Dubh-Loch Mor proved a difficult half hour for Jamie, who managed to fall twice slipping down scree (leading to a tear in her new Paramo trousers :(. This was definitely a longer route than just doubling back on ourselves from Ben More Assynt, which is certainly the most popular choice, but we weren’t in a hurry to get back to Glasgow and always aim for maximising views and making our route as interesting as possible. This way also provided a natural opportunity for a mini-detour to explore the caves of the Allt nan Uamh, which were well-worth the visit!

Back at the car we managed a quick change of clothes before the midge descended and attacked, prompting a dash into the car for snacks and the drive home (via Aviemore for curry, of course:)

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Meall nan Con (Klibreck) & Ben Hope – (124 & 125) – 15th June 2013

5 word weather: Better than forecast; that’ll do!
With a forecast that included risk of lightning storms throughout the country, with the exception of the far north, we decided that it was finally time to tackle the four northernmost Munros in the country. While we’ve been out in every other weather condition imaginable so far in the challenge, getting struck by lightning wasn’t high on our list of ways for it to come to an end so we planned accordingly; and we were lucky to have the company of our friend, Jenny, too. The weekend began with the long drive from Glasgow via Aberfoyle to Altnaharra, which included the statement from Jenny: “I saw a slug do the most amazing thing yesterday.” This, combined with an obligatory pit-stop for chocolate buttons and minstrels pretty much set the tone for a weekend of light hearted walking and clearly not taking ourselves too seriously!
After the agreed minimum 6-hours of sleep in the car (on a forestry road near Altnaharra) we were the first car parked up at the start of Meall nan Con. Today was an out and back route, marked without nearly as much rain as predicted and instead graced by low cloud and lovely lochans on the approach. Wildlife of the day:

We took a rather direct ascent, which got the climbing over with relatively quickly and we were at the summit in just over two hours from leaving the car. With only intermittent showers and glimpses of sunshine once we descended from the cloud we were counting ourselves lucky that we weren’t soaked!

Back in the car for the drive round to Ben Hope (lucky for everyone Andy did the driving, as Jamie was experiencing post-Munro sleepiness and passed out in the passenger seat). There was some debate about which route we would take, particularly when it started pouring while we were still in the car (i.e., the route of driving to the pub was suggested). We landed on Jenny’s suggestion of starting on the main ascent route, then diverting north along the bottom of the 2km of crags before ascending the ridge, looking forward to a bit of scrambling rather than the straightforward walkers’ route. We were greeted along the traverse to the ridge by many frogs and a few lizards of yellows, reds, and stripes. The cloud descended as we ascended, giving us little in the way of views but adding dramatic effect to our walking. Before starting some scrambling we stopped for a snack, at which point Jenny pulled out a chocolate bar bigger than Jamie’s head – it was quickly agreed that Jenny will be invited back!
We chose different lines of rock to play about on, but only Andy was brave enough to make a start of the scramble of the final buttress to the summit. Unfortunately, rock that is likely grippy and fun in sunshine was slippery and dangerous in today’s conditions so after about 15 minutes to attempting a few line options Andy backed down and we ascended the easy gulley together. Just as the first time Andy and Jamie were here a few years ago, we could see the trig point and not much else due to the cloud, but the descent back to the car was surprisingly dry underfoot, but that didn’t stop the waterfall from providing us with some breathtaking scenery.

The drive from Ben Hope around to the start of the following day’s walk at Inchnadamph afforded us the chance to check out Smoo Cave (yes, Smoo!!) and soak up the stunning sunset skyline views of all that Assynt has to offer, including Suilven, Sail Ghorm, Quinag and, of course, Stac Pollaidh (ah, if only every mountain could be as much fun as Stac Pollaidh . . .). While these aren’t Munros they’re fabulous mountains that we look forward to coming back to when we’re not feeling so Munro-centric in future!

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Gleouraich, Spidean Mialach & Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich – (120, 121 & 122) – 2nd June 2013

(4 hours & 3.25 hours)

We were both feeling quite sluggish after a late finish from the previous day’s adventure with not enough sleep to make up for it, but once we got moving the sunny skies and crisp wind rejuvenated our spirits and we made great time up and round the first two Munros. A well-trodden trail exists the entire way round, which almost made our efforts seem like cheating! There were still a few patches of snow here and there, but the paths were completely clear and we thoroughly enjoyed the grassy and rocky link between Gleuraich and Spidean Mialach (or Spidey Man Mountain, as Jamie took to calling it allday; heaven forbid she spend a day without being a dork at least once).

We saw one other walker between the two peaks – the only other person we saw on the hills throughout our two days of hillwalking in knoydart this time around. Another pleasant reminder that it really doesn’t take much to get away from it all! The descent offered great views of yesterday’s adventures, putting into panoramic perspective the four Munros and the kayak in between.

Back to the car after the descent from Spidean Mialach, which seemed to wipe out Jamie’s reserves of sleep and knee function, we had a little snack and drove round in search of the starting point for our third hill of the day. The car was warm and comfy, the snacks were handy, and Jamie’s legs were comfortably recuperating propped up on the dashboard. Luckily, Andy was motivated and despite the comfort of the car Jamie was logical enough to know that missing out this hill while we were at the foot of it would have been crazy given how long it takes to get to the access point.

Andy had suggested a less common route for this one, as recommended by Steve Fallon, and it proved to be a great shout! Once we started the sun was shining and we picked our way up the grassy slopes, aiming for the lowest point we could see on the horizon to access the ridge. En route to Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich we were greeted by a lizard – clearly things are warming up around here at last!

The ridge offered spectacular views to the route we had ascended, along with views to Barrisdale and the Munros of Knoydart that we did many moons ago (see the early days in January!) and the hills we tackled yesterday. Truly stunning scenery of mountains, lochs, and views as far away as Rum and the Skye Cuillen. How lucky were we!?

The descent was fairly speedy, with a quick stop to marvel at an erratic boulder and for Andy to have a quick play.

Andy and his erratic . . .

As we approached the peat hags and Andy waited patiently for Jamie to catch up he heard a unique squeak. We paused in silence as he tried to identify what strange bird was making such a noise, only to realise that it was a newborn fawn curled up on the peat “hiding” while its mum was likely out feeding. It clearly missed the memo that it was supposed to stay quiet for anything other than its mum! Andy took a quick picture before we ran away, not wanting to frighten the mum into abandoning this little guy!

Fawn in the peat hag

Fawn in the peat hag

Back to the car and we had a few minutes for hot drinks and soaking up some afternoon sun (while Jamie continued to rid herself of ticks!). A great end to a great day, capped off with a meal at the Real Food Café in Tyndrum. Go Team!

Descending the grassy slopes, with the summit of Sgurr a' Mhaoraich in background

Descending the grassy slopes, with the summit of Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich in background

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Ben Narnain – (123) – 5th June 2013

(2:10 to summit; 25 minutes on top; 1:10 down)

Five word weather: Sometimes it’s nice in Scotland (Wait, it can be still?!)

Before . . .

Before . . .

Our Wednesday post-work Munro was graced by warm air, calm skies, and the company of boy Jamie. We started out on the same popular track that leads to the Cobbler, but ventured North leading us away from the river in order to make a loop of our route. The footpath was boggy in places and craggy in others, leading Andy to enjoy some rock scrambling to attempt to keep his feet dry and to keep him entertained.

Turns out that Ben Narnain is a really nice hill with a variety of options for getting to the top. Thanks to the Challenge we’ve now been able to experience it for ourselves on a lovely summer’s evening.

This was by far the most calm summit we’ve experienced this year and it was surreal to be able to sit at the cairn, soaking in the views around us – laughing and snacking – without having to swiftly don extra layers or force ourselves to linger despite freezing wind or other undesirable elements. If they were all like this our year wouldn’t be quite such a challenge, but we were so pleased to be able to share this one with boy Jamie before he ventures off to faraway lands.

From the stunning summit we descended below the temperature inversion and into the cloud, prompting Andy to get his compass out so that we didn’t make any silly mistakes on a school night. We dropped down to the saddle between Ben Narnain and Ben Ime, at which point we reminisced about being in this same place much earlier in the challenge for our first weeknight adventure in incredibly different conditions (Ben Ime, 16/1/13). Once free from the cloud we hit the popular track that descends from the Cobbler back to the car park, with opportunity taken for some running, if for no other reason than it was a lovely night for a run (says girl JamieJ). Despite Andy claiming to hate running, he didn’t miss a beat sprinting his way down the zigzags to be the first down to the road, doing well to avoid being prodded by Jamie’s outstretched walking poles in her attempt to sabotage his win! We were home around 23:00, though it seemed much earlier than that since it’s still staying light out.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Long may they continue like this one!

After! And not lookin' too shabby!

After! And not lookin’ too shabby!

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Gairich, Sgurr na Ciche, Garbh Chioch Mhor, Sgurr nan Coireachan & Sgurr Mor – (115, 116, 117, 118 & 119) – 1st June 2013

Five word weather: Man, that wind is cold!

15 hours; 20km kayak; 25 km walking; 400m dragging kayaks across stone, up and down grassy slopes, and through gorse bushes; 5 ticks acquired (though more may have been discovered after writing!)

In our continued attempt to make some of these routes a bit more interesting than the norm, we’ve finally shelved our axes and crampons and Andy cleverly worked out a way for sea kayaks to play a part today in the challenge!! So excited!!

It took us awhile to find a “good enough” launching area to start the day. The 1.4 km paddle across Loch Quoich was calm and peaceful; a nice start for two sleep-deprived adventurers! After pulling the boats onto shore we did a kit swap, changing out of our kayaking gear and into hill clothes and shoes. This 5km walk was path-free, no doubt due to the fact that we took an alternative route to the norm. The summit was cloudy so not much in the way of views at the top, but the day was just beginning so ample time for views to come!

The 9km kayak up Loch Quoich was rudely interrupted by a heavy shower and headwind, but at least in a kayak we’re dressed and ready for getting wet! Today’s forecast was for intermittent showers and only a 40% chance of cloud-free Munros so we were actually quite fortunate that the only shower we experienced over a very long day occurred when we were already decked out in waterproof everything anyway.

After another clothes/kit swap we set out for a round of four (20km). The first ascent was physically draining as we climbed over tussocks, bog and rough terrain, all of which made it feel much further than it actually was (though we were at least greeted by loads of tiny frogs along the way!). This all made the summit feel like quite an achievement and Andy has renamed it the Loch Quoich Matterhorn.

The distance between the first two summits was only a few kilometres so where the first summit had seemed quote tough the second seemed downright easy. It was only in January that we started our Munro challenge on Knoydart, but at that time we spent days in cloud with minimal views. It was brilliant today to have views of those first summits, not to mention many others that we have since tackled (and even more that we have yet to do!). The forecast proved incorrect in that we didn’t have to contend with rain throughout the day, but the wind was definitely blowing harder than predicted and it was COLD!

It was only about four kilometres between the third and fourth summits but with a high non-Munro top between them that necessitated going up to 890m only to have to drop back down to 720m again before our final climb we were definitely ready for a snack attack tucked behind some rocks for shelter!

Snacking complete, we zig-zagged our way from the saddle to the summit, feeling quite pleased that we were beginning to make a dent in our June figures in some of the most remote and stunning scenery the world has to offer (in our humble opinions 😉 )

Where the paddle out in the morning brought us a heavy shower and headwind, we had a nice tailwind to help push our tired selves the 9km back to the car. We finished the paddle back to the car just as it got dark (we love summer in Scotland – “dark” was 11:30pm!). After an impressive coordinated effort of boiling multiple pots of water (hot drinks; flask filled for the next morning; super noodle dinner); unloading kayaks and bagging wet gear; loading the kayaks on the roof; packing our bags with provisions for the next day; and shoving food in our faces we finally welcomed sleep in the back of the car at 0115. What a Day!!

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