Tuesday 2 July 2013

Ben More Assynt - second try

The Plan

So, the plan was to break through the 200 Munros barrier.

It didn't happen.

Lots of things are happening at home - not least we have a 10 month old grandson, Gareth. That's in addition to two 15 year old grand-kids ...........................and one more on the way.

But, I had decided to head for the hills at the end of June and had booked SYHA accommodation. This despite the sworn vow to avoid Scotland in June, July and August (midges).

It is just as well that I love being up in Scotland and I'm not desperate to tick off the list of Munros for the sake of it. I want to enjoy the views as much as possible and I'm not going to go up in day long zero visibility and heavy rain. Ok, it rains and visibility does go in cloud and mist. But, as long as there is the prospect of some breaks in the weather I will go for it.

But, the plan included Torridon and, Liathach and Beinn Eighe. These definitely are good day mountains.

What happened

It started well.

On Tuesday 25 June I drove from Glencoe to Ullapool, stopping off just past Loch Glascarnoch to climb Am Faochagach. This is an easy one. Very wet getting over to the uphill bits with a knee deep crossing of the Abhainn a' Gharbhrain. But, after the boggy stuff, up hill and round to the top was straightforward.

I could see the Beinn Dearg group clearly and I even met a hill runner who had ran all the way over from Seana Bhraigh and was heading back there. Seana Bhraigh was clear in the distance and was also in my plan - to climb it on Friday.

Am Faochagach, Eididh nan Clach Geala and Seana Bhraigh were the last three I had to climb in the group to the South and East of Ullapool.

Wednesday 26 June was a special day.

On 10 October 2008 I climbed Conival and headed over to climb Ben More Assynt. I never got to Ben More Assynt. Although it was dry that day, the wind was ferocious. No, it was horrendous. I was being blown around at the best of times, but, from the Beinn an Fhurain - Conival bealach and upwards the wind was very bad. On the crest between Conival and Ben More Assynt I reached a stage where I was unable to stand and, worst still, I was being lifted off from my hands and knees. I turned round half way along the crest and stumbled and crawled my way back.

So, on Wednesday 26 June I made it.

It was a great day with good visibility until the afternoon, when low cloud enveloped the hills. It was a bit windy too. The sort of wind that makes you think, but not of turning round.

I only met 4 other people on the hill.


 Ben More Assynt

A great day.

Thursday 27 June was going to be a big day: Eididh nan Clach Geala and Seana Bhraigh.

Only problem was the low cloud and mist.

I walked in from Inverlael car park and took the clear path up towards Lochan a Chnapaich. The path was clear but it was very misty and cloudy. A day when one out of two would be good.

I walked up towards the Lochan and was looking out for a way up to the broad West ridge. For some reason, I was looking out for a stalker's path, although I checked my books later and couldn't find a reference to one. Odd. Even odder was a micro mechanical digger complete with cattapillar tracks. This had managed to ruin about 150 meters of path which was otherwise perfectly ok. It can only have got there by helicopter. Why?

I turned back and made my way up the grassy bits that eventually took me up to the broad ridge and the lochan that nestled on it. I picked up a faint path and set off into the mist until the mass of jumbled rocks loomed into vision. It was an easy scramble up and over these to reach the summit cairn. The mist and low cloud set the agenda for the rest of the day. Back.

Seana Bhraigh would have to wait until the next day.

It was a good day and not without some visibility once out of the cloud and mist.

Friday 28 June was forecast to improve in the afternoon. This, according to MWIS and the BBC. It was meant to improve from damp light rain and drizzle to dry and, even sunny. So I set out wearing just a windshirt and my superb Montane Polartec trousers - the Limited edition ones that can take a fair amount of rain and still feel comfortable - for Seana Bhraigh.

From Inverlael this is around 5 hours to reach. I set out at 0900. Just well timed to reach Seana Bhraigh by time the weather was supposed to improve. It didn't.

There is a excellent stalkers path that takes folk most of the way; up through Coire an Lochain Sgeirich and round past some low - no shelter type - rocky outcrops and on towards Seana Bhraigh. There is a mandatory river crossing. Only ankle deep, but ensuring wet feet.

So, I rounded the low outcrops and all the while - for the last couple of hours - was thinking: this is going to improve. But, the light rain turned to heavy rain. The wind increased and the visability closed down.

And, my windshirt was starting to feel uncomfortable. Too wet to remain on under my my waterproof. There was no shelter, the wind and rain was whipping down and I was cold.

I had already decided to turn back and got back to the rocky outcrops. These provided next to no real shelter, but I got down low and managed to take the windshirt off. I then put on my driclime gillet, my PHD Sigma gillet, and my waterproofs. I replaced my soaking wet Buffalo mitts with my dry fleece gloves and Tuff Bags. I ate some trail mix and a couple of Mars bars and set off back into the teeth of a gale. It was cold. No it was bloody freezing, especially with wet feet. With all my layers on, it took me a while to feel comfortable. I was in good spirits, but had resigned myself to revisiting Seana Bhraigh.

Saturday 29 June was forecast to deteriorate from late morning. I took this too literally and decided not to try a couple of the Fannichs on the way down to Torridon. Mistake. It would have been ok. There was cloud and rain, but not until later in the afternoon.

Instead I visited the Beinn Eighe Centre and then went over to Gairloch, before heading to Torridon SYHA.

Here, I met John Rayment - look him up on Google.

John is walking the coasts of England, Wales and Scotland. He set out in August last year.
He took a break over the Winter and will finish in November this year. We went to the Torridon Inn and had a very good meal, a couple of pints and a good chat.

Gairloch was a great place to visit

And in black and white

This was the view on Sunday morning and was a good way to cutting a long story short. The forecast for Sunday was dire and in reality it was.

The forecast for Monday was not good.
Liathach and Beinn Eighe are definitely good weather hills.
I transferred two days SYHA bookings to August and set off home via Glencoe SHYA.
One thing you can be sure of in Scotland is the weather. Sometimes you get great weather, sometimes not. But, the mountains will always be there and it's great going up to play with them.
Roll on August: an OTHC meet in Newtonmore and some more Munros - I hope.

1 comment:

  1. That was a bit of an epic trip!
    Good luck for the weather in August