Saturday 31 August 2013

Over the Hills - 204 Munros

Over The Hill Club

I joined the Over The Hill Club at their AGM last November in Dufton.

Since then I have been on a Breacon meet and - last weekend - a meet in Newtonmore.

I'll be going to the AGM again this year - also in Dufton.

The club is affiliated to the BMC and meets happen in the UK, Europe and other far flung places.

The Club formed as a spin off from the TGOC.

I was in awe of the wealth of hill walking experience at the AGM. And at the meets.

The meets are particularly sociable and it seems to be a prerequisite to be in to whisky tasting.

The AGM is also attended by 2 barrels of beer and I was shocked to hear - last year - that the cost of a pint had risen to £1.20.

When in Scotland

I decided to attend the Newtonmore meet and use this a a launching place for some more Munros.

I drove up on the 22 August and was rewarded on the Friday with a day on Geal Charn in very good conditions. A fairly easy route up Glen Markie before going up by Piper's burn.

The forecast for Saturday was none too good but I joined Jacqui and John for a stroll up Carn an Fheiceadain. The weather was ok and on the way down we were passed by about 8 Land Rover type things. Each one stopped and commented about it being very midgy. I thought it wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have to stand around and wait for the vehicles to pass. I enjoyed the day. It is unusual for me to walk in company and I was in very good company all day.

The evenings were passed in the Glen Hotel where good food and good beer was enjoyed.
I particulaly enjoyed the company of Barry Sykes and Ian Sheil among others and conversation came easily.

The forecast for Sunday was very good and six of us set out for Carn Dearg, Carn Sgulain and A' Chailleach. That six was Sue, John, David and me together with Molly and Harvey, two greyhound - y type dogs that were rescued. Sue knew these hills very well (Sue and Neil and Ali and Adrian ran Newtonmore Hostel). The route to Carn Dearg started on tracks then went into pathless heathery stuff. Not too bad but I was pleased to get to where we started going uphill for real.

Once up there was a long walk over fairly easy ground that took us round to Carn Sgulain and my 200th Munro. No big deal, but, a significant milestone after nearly nine years of coming up to Scotland. (I started on 15 January 2005).

A small cairn for a big milestone.

On Monday 26 August I was booked in to the Aultguish Inn bunkhouse. The plan had been to climb the Fannaichs over a number of days.

Monday was a superb day, but, because I had a fair drive to start I decided to climb Sgurr Breac and A' Chailleach. The walk up the stalkers path was a warm up for the superb climb onto the ridge and views to die for.


On A' Chailleach I met Matthew, a climber and walked back down - talking with him - via Druim Reidh which meant a climb back up Toman Coinich but gave a good walk as opposed to the steep decent off from near Sron na Goibhre.

I checked in to the Aultguish Inn bunkhouse and found I had a room to myself - until Matthew came in. He had thought of going ovet to Torridon and camp, but decided the bunkhouse at £16.50 was a good alternative.

The food in the Inn was ok and the drinks were not bad - just no real ale on draught. We talked about the hills - he'd done some impressive climbs in Winter and got his son aged 14 equally interested in Winter walking.

Then we got on to music.

Well, Matthew used to work in the Middle East shipping in equipment for groups that were in concert over there. Frank Zappa, Here and Now, Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson (solo projects), Captain Beefheart, and many others came up in conversation. he met many of the groups and had interesting stories to tell. One where he had to arrange for his wife to travel back to England just to pick up a case for ....... I think it was Slash, but I'm not sure as the whisky was going down well.

Tuesday 27 August was a crap day and I was booked into Ullapool SYHA. It rained most of the day and although I started up by the All Breabaig to climb Sgurr nan Each etc I turned round as the weather took a turn for the worst after about an hour and a half. Time in Ullapool was spent wandering around with multi-national tourists.

My highlight that night was a curry in the only - quite good for food - Curry House in Ullapool. Pity the service/attitude didn't match the food. I think all were considered one off wonders - although I had been there before in June. Don't think I'll be going back again. I was at least two-off wonder!

Wednesday 28 August was forecast to be a good dry day.

It turned out to be the highlight day of my trip.

Back in June I set off for Seana Bhraigh. The forecast was for rain in the morning followed by drier, brighter weather after lunch. I wore just my usual Dri-clime vest and PHD windshirt.
I didn't bother with overtrousers as I was wearing a pair of Montane special editions that kept fairly comfortable in the wet.

Seana Bhraigh contends for the remotest Munro with one or two others. There is a very good stalkers path up Coire an Lochain Sgeirich. But, not long after it runs out to a very faint if any path - with little marker cairns. Only in June the visability got worse, as did the weather. The rain got harder and the wind was blowing a hoolie. I had to take off my very wet windshirt before puting on my PHD Sigma Vest over the Dri-clime and then my waterproof. I pulled on my overtrousers and swapped my soggy Buffalo mitts for extreme fleece gloves and Tuff Bags. I was frozen!

A good decision to turn back.

Roll forward two months - the visability was perfect. I still lost the faint path. The SMC book advises to find the Loch a' Chadha Dheirg and use a tiny lochan nearby as a marker in bad weather. The loch was covered in green and would have been inpossible to find.

Luckily the general direction was obvious on a clear day and I played cat and mouse with the tiny cairns until I crossed over to climb north towards Creag an Duine and then on to Seana Bhraigh.

I'll take a proper camera next time. But, I did get some photos. (The phone camera is ok but not in bright light where it's hard to see the screen or know which part of the screen to press).

I sat down for lunch and thought - this is fantastic. I was the only person on the walk in and out - all day!

I had views to die for and then in the far distance I saw .......................... the blight of Wind Turbines. Why despoil an remote area with the useless things? One day someone will wake up and say they made a mistake - I hope.

The walk out was stunning.

There is no way anyone could do this walk in bad weather - it would be a complete injustice to a magnificant hill walk.

That evening I had decided on fish and chips.

There is a superb fish and chip shop over looking the bay. It does large Haddock and chips frest while you wait. As I was waiting a woman came in and asked if there was a fish and chip shop where she could eat in? Priceless. There was an inferior place next to the pub round the corner. You can't miss it! It got me talking to the owners and I had a great fish supper.

Pubs in Ullapool charge in the order of £3.90 a pint. I bought bottles from Tescos. Petrol was £4.70 a litre.

Bye bye Ullapool.

The forecast for the next three days was for high winds, rain and poor visabilty.

I drove home on the Thursday.

Still, a great week and only 79 more Munros to go. Or, in my case 80 - as there were 284 when I started.

It's not about ticking lists - it's about Seana Bhraigh days. I love Scotland.