Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 18 April 2008

Friday 18 April 2008 - Blue Skies over Beinn Eighe

Today Notchy and I enjoyed the walk from the Ling Hut car park along the much improved Coire Mhic Nobuil path around the 'back' of Liathach.

A strong, bitter easterly wind had discouraged us from going higher, despite the clear blue sky above. Having normally done this walk in the rain, I found it a pleasure to have such fine conditions. The four and a half hours it took to reach the car park below Beinn Alligin passed all too quickly.

The scenery reminded us of the Annapurna Circuit; only the scale was different!

We started with a number of folk who may have been going up Beinn Eighe, but were more likely just walking up to Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair for a gander at the snow clad triple buttresses. We met two cyclists battling against the headwind. They had chosen the wrong direction, and given the boggy terrain in the middle section of today's route, perhaps an inadvisable cycle track. It didn't look hugely enjoyable. We weren't sure whether they should be here at all, but they seemed harmless enough.

This is our lunchtime view towards Beinn Dearg and Beinn Alligin (the shot left to magnificent, Annapurna-like, Liathach was directly into the sun).

And here is the village of Torridon, passed through on our way back to Annat.

Meanwhile the others bravely headed up Beinn Eighe via Coire an Laoigh, for a fabulous if at times stressful (Nallo Lady may report later) day on that mountain, visiting both Munro summits and descending via Loch Coire Mhic Fhearcheir. They were elated after that, and appeared relieved to have survived after being pinned down by wind on the ridge and accelerated by ice on the steep descent into the Coire.

I recall a day up here with Nick and Johnny, when it wasn't so windy but Johnny's rope was used to rescue someone who had fallen, and the air was thick with feathers from the poor man's ripped jacket. When was that, Nick?

Nick replies:
Thanks for reminding me once again of the exciting trip we had to Beinn Eighe all those years ago. It was a week which also saw Johnny and I climb up an interesting gully between the 'horns' of Beinn Alligin. I also recall a walk we did more recently when we enjoyed a scree run almost all the way down to the deer fence, it seemed. Was that the same day we sat with some of the Aberdeen guys in a precarious position on the ridge in the mist? And I have a photo of one of the wheels of the wrecked WWII plane somewhere.
Anyway, we reckon the 'rescue' was about 1983 or 84 based on where Johnny remembers he was working at the time. I guess that means we must have travelled up from London together.

Thanks Nick - I may be able to track down some notes and do a 'retrospective' on this!

The route Notchy and I took today is shown below - 19 km and 500 metres ascent.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Thursday 17 April 2008 - Dazzled on Beinn Damh

A lie in was allowed as Janet from Inverness was joining us.

Another cloudless morning greeted us, Janet arrived as planned, and we set off up Beinn Damh at 9.30.

The walk through the native pine forest was delightful.

It was a cool morning, with a brisk easterly wind, but we were relatively sheltered right up to the 600 metre col. We made sure that our compulsory 'elevenses' were taken, according to tradition, in a nice warm sheltered spot with a fine view.

Much extra clothing was needed at the col to combat the icy wind, but heading up the ridge we regained the lee of the mountain and enjoyed warmer, calmer conditions. The snow was firm and easy today - not like yesterday's sugary blemonge (sic - see Nick's comment).

The final ridge proved enjoyable, with no horrendous abysses to trouble the vertigo sufferers amongst us.

Remarkably, it was calm and warm on the 903m summit, where the seven of us enjoyed lunch with fine vistas under a dazzling sun. Views extended far and wide, perhaps the best of the week, with all the local hills looking very close, and fine views to the Cuillins and the central and northern Highlands.

The magical vistas accompanied us all afternoon. Janet's chocolate gave us a boost before most of us visited the NW outlier, Sgurr na Bana Mhoraire, which overlooks the magnificence of Loch Torridon and the Hebrides beyond.

An easy descent brought us down to the daily tea and cakes we all enjoy, followed by the Pacific Ramblers' gunpowder sausages, then Sue's apple crumble - finished just in time to witness another stunning sunset.

And so ended yet another wonderful mountain day.

Today's route is shown below - 15 km and 1300 metres ascent for those who did it all.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Wednesday 16 April 2008 - Slioch in the Sun

An early morning peek behind the blinds revealed a cloudless sky - so no rest for the tired legs today!
Whilst Notchy went to explore the Diabeg coastline and the Pacific Ramblers donned shorts for a perambulation around Beinn Damh, Dave, Sue and I daubed ourselves with suntan cream and tried to re-energise our muscles on the walk in to Slioch from Incheril.
A lovely gentle stroll in hot sunshine took us beside the Kinlochewe River.

Then we strolled briefly by Loch Maree - where we heard our first cuckoo of the year - to a new bridge across the river from Gleann Bianasdail.
Once across this bridge, the ascent starts - on a nicely graded path that soon heads up towards Coire na Sleaghaich. We lingered beside the river, admiring strenuous waterfalls.
A man in a kilt and two others passed nearby, on their way up Sgurr Dubh. We didn't see them, or anyone else, again.

Up in the coire above 600 metres the boggy surface became covered in sugary snow, making progress slow. The steep ascent at the head of the coire (above and slightly right of Sue's head in the photo) required much effort, but once up that it was an easy snow trudge to the twin summits of Slioch (980 metres). It had taken 4 hours and 20 minutes.

Here's a view from the summit.

And here Dave and Sue are returning to the main summit from the northern summit.

The conditions were superb, with clear views in all directions. But it was cool - minus 20C with windchill.

We considered traversing the ridge to the east, but it sharpened and had lots of spindrift from the icy wind. So a quick descent through steep sugary snow back into the coire for a late lunch on a warm rock was followed by a beautiful walk back on this lovely sunny day that has given some of us very red faces.

We saw many deer today, including this small herd of females who had their patch beside the path and were jolly well not going to move, however close we got!

We also saw goats and herons and much more; back in Annat our first house martins of the year were flitting about, together with the ubiquitous oyster catchers (they weren't actually 'flitting'!). Loch Torridon also sported sightings of curlew, common sandpiper, greenshank, and many more no doubt - but we have no 'birders' with us this week.
Our home for the week, Annat Lodge, looked magnificent in the evening sun with its backdrop of a blue sky and a nearly full moon.

It just doesn't come better than this!

Today's route is shown below - 19 km with 1300 metres ascent.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Tuesday 15 April 2008 - Beinn Eighe's outliers put up a fight

More overnight snow above 500 metres gave the hills a shiny fresh look as we drove to Kinlochewe.
Five of us headed up the well graded 'Pony Track' towards two outlying Corbetts in the Beinn Eighe massif, whilst Notchy found his own route from further up the road.

Here we are with our first objective, Meall a' Ghiubhais (886m), which gradually grew in stature as we approached.

The Beinn Eighe range opened out, much higher, in the other direction. Sunglasses were essential to counter the blindingly bright yellow orb. Cameras were constantly out to record the thrilling scenery on this fantastic wintry day. Those on our Christmas Card List may see something like this in December...

Steps were kicked by Sue (again - the rest of us are pensioners)!

These led us to the first summit for more excellent vistas, with Loch Maree and Slioch now also in view.

A lone woman had just tramped past, curiously not bothering to either stop and admire the views, or visit the true summit, some 10 minutes to the west of us. Here we are at that summit, with the Beinn Eighe range stretched before us. Our next objective, Ruadh-stac Beag, is in the foreground above Paul's head.

On descent we met Notchy, and another couple of people on this fine hill in winter conditions (it may be rather boring in summer!).

After lunch we headed up our second Corbett of the day, Ruadh-stac Beag (896m). I followed the recommended route beside a burn, past this pretty waterfall.

Dave for some reason led the others directly upwards towards impenetrable crags. My shouts and arrows in the snow failed to dissuade them from their doomed quest for the summit. Meanwhile I continued to the col, then endured a 30 minute thrutch through deep, soft, sugary snow up the steep climb to the deserted summit.

Meanwhile the others gave up their bid to penetrate the crags, Pam and Paul went down, whilst Sue and Dave retraced to pick up my prints and chase me to the summit. I encountered them as I descended steeply through the sugar. Here's Dave descending from the summit, still in 'chase mode', with Beinn Eighe behind.

On the way down I rejoined the Pony Track by the small lochan from where, earlier, we had enjoyed dramatic snowy vistas. The shot on the right shows just how much of today's fresh snow had melted since we passed earlier. The April sunshine had certainly had a big effect today.

Pam and Paul, the Pacific Ramblers, had returned to the car, where all five of us reconvened at 6.15 after another superb day out.

Dave's carbonara, the manufacture of which we think featured telepathic communications with Pat, rounded the day off!

Today's route, for the three of us who did it, was roughly as shown below - about 18 km with 1400 metres of ascent:

Monday, 14 April 2008

Monday 14 April 2008 - Familiar Ground

Flinging the blinds open to a bright sunny day after overnight showers, we were energised into a 9-o-clock start up Beinn Alligin. Here's the view from outside Annat Lodge.

All apart from Notchy, that is. He set off on a 24km circumnavigation of Beinn Damh.

Beinn Alligin is a favourite hill of mine.

Familiar Ground.

Today we ascended into Coir' nan Laogh rather than start over the Horns. Above 600 metres it was a simple snow plod up the coire to the summit.

Fabulous views greeted us - back to Liathach and Beinn Eighe and the rest of the Torridon peaks.

Only now did we need a windproof shell on this fine, calm day.
There was nobody else on the hill - we have now spent two days walking without seeing another soul.
After a slightly tricky descent down terraces covered with unstable snow, we rose easily past the spectacular Eag Dubh cleft to the even more splendid viewpoint at 986 metres - Sgurr Mhor, with a fine view to the Horns, with Beinn Dearg beyond.

Snow clad peaks were arrayed in all directions, from the Cuillins of Skye to Eastern summits, with the Fisherfield Forest and An Teallach prominent to the North.

None of us fancied the scramble over the Horns of Alligin - given the looseness of the snow on the rocks, so we descended a huge snow slope into An Reidh-choire for lunch.
As we descended, snowballs raced each other ahead of us. Later these were joined by the top of Paul's flask.
I tried to glissade but just got wet trousers.
Our descent around the back of the mountain to the road was uneventful aside from a wet crawl under a deer fence to reach the road.
It was a lovely afternoon, and only 4pm, the reason Dave gave for walking the 4 miles back to the lodge. Or was he scared of Paul's driving?

Here's today's route, 12 km and 1200 metres ascent:

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Sunday 13 April 2008 - A 'Two Corbett' Day

Bacon butties and an ample breakfast fuelled us for an easy first day in good but showery weather.
The six of us set off past the Ling Hut in as good spirits as the very friendly dog we met there.

The next 3 km along the stalkers path up Coire a Cheud-Chnoic was a delight.
The showers eased and 5 of us continued easily to the Corbett summit - Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine (871m), whilst Notchy meandered around to the north ridge to which the rest of us descended to meet him for lunch.

Notchy then headed down to Coulin Lodge - he had bog and route finding problems later on - whilst the rest of us continued up Sgurr Dubh (782m) where we enjoyed expansive views over the Torridon area.
Sadly the snow above 500m was too soft to require our axes and crampons.
WNW took us past a cliff to descend easily to regain the stalkers path below Ling Hut and get back to the car by 4pm after being out for over 6 hours.
We then rescued Notchy who was enjoying an amble along the road after his adventure with a tricky 'log and wire' bridge over a river.
From the cottage we enjoyed fine views as the Munro tops of Alligin and Liathach (below) cleared.

Moroccan chicken from the Pacific Ramblers rounded off a superb day, though apart from the continuing onset of 'Hypochondriac Dave's' Alzheimer's impersonations, there were no significant incidents.
Today's route, for all apart from Notchy, is shown below:
12 km, 1100 metres ascent.

Saturday 12 April - A View to Beinn Alligin

Tonight we have a fine moonlit view of Beinn Alligin, whose slopes have a covering of snow above about 400 metres.
From here we have a fine sight of the steep gully that leads to the summit.
We enjoyed a firework display tonight, put on for revellers at a wedding at the nearby Torridon Hotel.
This after a 10 hour, 450 mile journey, loaded to the gunnels - the vibration had gone; the only discomforting sound was that of the rear mudflaps scraping along the ground, followed by a superb lasagna and fine wine,
En route we picked up Heather's TGOC food parcels and were pleased to be told that she should be walking again next week after the plaster comes off her broken metatarsal - a ballroom injury, apparently!
The above view is of Beinn Alligin, from our bedroom window, taken later in the week.