Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 2 April 2010

A Great British Ridge Walk - Number 45 - Ben Mor Coigach

Perfect weather attracted Ken and me to this classic round, whilst four went home and Pam and Paul tackled a couple of Munros.

Sue, Anne and Janet (newly arrived last night) came with us to Culnacraig for their low level stroll back to Janet's car at Blughasary. They took longer than we did over their 10 km!

Ben Mor Coigach, at 743 metres, isn't a Munro. Nor is it a Corbett. But it's a fine hill that on all previous visits (four or so) I've ascended via the steep gully from Lochan Tuath. So Bill Birkett's route was a new one for me, and also for Ken whose previous experience of this hill had been via the Speicein Coinnich spur.

From Culnacraig we headed up Garbh Choireachan, the snow line being around 400 metres today. It was steep, leading to a flat-topped, narrow rock crest crowned with little tors and towers of sandstone. Delightful. We skipped along, enjoying every minute, with impressive views over Assynt to the north, and to the Fannaichs and An Teallach and beyond across Loch Broom.

Lunch was taken out of the wind on the 743 metre summit, from where the preceding two postings were snapped and sent. It's a great viewpoint.

The route took us onwards over the deserted hill to the spiky point of Sgurr an Fhidhleir, another fabulous viewpoint. The scenery in these parts compares with anything else I've seen in the world - perhaps I'm biased, or not well travelled, but that's how I rate it.

The walk back down the broad ridge to the car was simple. We were entertained by a couple encountered earlier at our parking spot, who could be seen slowly descending from half way along the Garbh Choireachan ridge. One of them had obviously encountered difficulties, and they hadn't managed to get as far as the main summit where Ken and I had savoured our lunch.

The above image shows Ken near the end of the 10 km, 960 metre ascent, 5.5 hour day, with the ridge behind.

All seven of us then regrouped for a final delicious meal (the larder is now bare), before preparing for tomorrow's long drive home.

There is likely to be a short interlude now, before some better images from this most successful (despite the weather) trip are uploaded.

And so, as they say, it's goodbye from me, and it's goodbye from Ullapool...

...until next time.

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Bon appetit, Ken

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A Nice Little Ridge

It's lunchtime on a fabulous day. Ken and I have just negotiated our way along this fine looking ridge - a bit like Crib Goch, but completely deserted.


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Thursday, 1 April 2010

Thursday 1 April 2010 - A Touch of Spring at Inverewe Gardens

Whilst others tootled along Stac Pollaidh's spiny ridge, Sue, Ken, Anne and I took a 50 mile drive south to Inverewe.

The snow was down to below 200 metres, so the road was slushy for much of the journey. Views through the squally showers were dramatic as we rounded the vast bulk of An Teallach.

Inverewe Gardens opened today. We were amongst the first visitors. The coffee was excellent. Outside, coal tits, bullfinches and others were vying for pole position on their own restaurant.

The gardens were remarkably colourful, with lots of new life sprouting from the ground that is constantly warmed as a result of the gulf stream. Some images will follow. Sadly we were unable to walk along all the paths in the walled garden due to a 'jobsworth' Health & Safety officer having forced closure of certain excellent pathways.

Returning via the Corrieshalloch Gorge we enjoyed impromptu halts at a wartime pier, and when a bird the others thought might be a sea eagle flew over. It was probably a buzzard. Ken's an expert - he confirmed that Neil's grey goose theory was probably correct yesterday.

The gorge, also a National Trust property, harboured dangers far more hazardous than the walled garden, and would surely be closed down if inspected by the same person. We admired it from slippery pathways in a blizzard.

Back at home the sun shone for Janet's arrival from North Kessock, and all eleven of us (Lucy stayed in) enjoyed a good meal at the Arch Inn, just a few doors away.

Today's image is of Slioch, from Inverewe Gardens. The snow-capped mountains were impressive all day.

It's good to hear that Mick and Gayle are managing to bumble their way along a lumpy canal towpath, and that JJ is all set to embark on the Pie Man's big adventure. (Peebles to Moffat to Peebles.) We hope that trip is a great success, and an entertaining read...

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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Wednesday 31 March 2010 - A Snowy Sea Shore Stroll

Waking again to squally snow showers and reports of roads closed all over Scotland, we opted for a lazy day.

That had nothing to do with the excesses of our 'gala dinner' last night, of course!

This morning the delights of Ullapool Pottery's superb products drew us inside, but the price labels soon repulsed us. I did really fancy a fruit bowl. But for £325?

The bookshop was far more successful at emptying our wallets.

Morning coffee was followed quite briskly by lunch, then Andrew joined the six residents of Tigh na Mara for a 12 km stroll with 300 metres ascent - to Rhue Lighthouse along the shore line beside Loch Broom, returning by road.

En route we spied two familiar shapes, lurching towards us like ghosts from a horror movie. Ken and Anne emerged from the blizzard looking very pale. They had been birding, and reported 'seagulls and ducks'. We took the opportunity of taking a group photo and went our separate ways.

A man was collecting (peri)winkles in a big bucket on the beach. "They go to France" he said, adding that he harvests different beaches every day. Further along the shore there was much life to observe, including bucket loads of winkles.

Beyond a field of cute black pigs, a river crossing was needed to reach the lighthouse. It wasn't very deep, but our little troupe (pictured) conspired to make it as difficult as they could. This was one of the day's few photo opportunities, in between snow squalls.

Slithery rocks led eventually beyond busy oyster catchers to the small white lighthouse at Rhue, in the lee of which we rode out a violent blizzard. Sustained by a shared KitKat, the seven of us then hit the road for an hour long stroll back to Ullapool, passing the site of a couple of pre-historic round houses that may have been home to an extended family of 20-30 people around 3000 years ago.

We were entertained on the drag into Ullapool by a flock of grey geese, grazing in a field. Most of them were Greylag Geese, but one noisy intruder was being eschewed by the rest of the flock. It was different. Neil thinks it's a juvenile Pink-Footed Goose that has 'got lost'; whereas to me it looked more like a 1st winter European White-Fronted Goose. Neil is probably correct.

Back in 'town' the hedges and trees were teeming with bird life, including busy chaffinches and greenfinches, cooing collared doves, and a treefull of bedraggled starlings.

Now we are looking forward to Neil and Sam's culinery contribution, a curry. Interesting smells are emanating from the kitchen...

Sorry about the poor quality of the postcard images on this trip. It's been difficult. Judging by Jamie's comment, the weather in Timperley has been no better!

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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Tuesday 30 March 2010 - Fresh Snow Up North

The curtains were thrown open to a wintry scene this morning. The day then gained a leisurely start. We are on holiday, after all.

Morning coffee having been imbibed, and Ken's arrival having indicated impending activity, yesterday's Munro bagging quintet plus Ken drove up to the Braes of Ullapool, where a local homeowner acted as parking attendant for P+P's car.

It was snowing.

We wrapped up warmly and trudged slowly up to the 558 metre summit of Beinn Eilideach. The snowline was around 200 metres and the summit held 10-15 cm of fresh snow. Well, 'held' is a misnoma as most of the stuff seemed to be airborne, blasting into our faces from the north east.

We huddled briefly around the trig point, itself enclosed by a wall/cairn. There wasn't a copy of Pravda to be seen today, though apparently copies have been found there in the past. There must be a hill-bagging breed of Russian seaman!

I'd judiciously kept to the back today. I had no map. Yesterday, when I thought Paul was 'in charge', I had inadvertently drifted to the front a couple of times. "Thank you for leading" had been something of a surprise comment at the end of the walk! Not today...

Neil led us down through a gusty avalanche-free snow shower past herds of red deer and a noisy grouse to Leckmelm, where we lunched beside a snowy farm track (pictured).

Then a spot of road walking and very muddy forest paths led us past some 'eco-lodges' to our safe car parking spot. Neil and Sam's car hadn't enjoyed the guidance of a local attendant, and sadly had been involved in an accident! 'C'est la vie', as they say.

The 9 km walk involving 600 metres ascent had taken about 4 hours.

Blustery showers continued whilst Sue continued to teach Andrew and Anne some Photoshop skills, and our resident chefs set to work preparing a 'progressive' multi-location meal for 10 people and Lucy.

That's all for now as this evening's 'gala dinner' is unlikely to leave any time for blogging.

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Monday, 29 March 2010

Monday 29 March 2010 - Sgurr Mor on a Sunny Day

We started in light snow, but the amenable forecast eventually prevailed.

Crampons and ice axes were deployed after a couple of hours. They stayed on our feet for around four hours. At the top of the icy ramp that led us to the summit of Carn na Criche, a huge avalanche reverberated from the vicinity of Sgurr nan Clach Geala. A big slab of snow slid down its steep east face, leaving a huge brown slash down the mountain.

The five of us, Pam, Paul, Neil, Sam and I, had a great day out, continuing over Sgurr Mor and Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich to add two Munros to Paul's impressive quota (56 at the last count). 18 km and 1150 metres ascent, in 8 hours, were the day's stats (14 km, 750 metres, 6 hours - yesterday), particularly impressive in Sam's case as she was wearing brand new Scarpa Mantas for the first time and suffered no ill effects.

Snow showers did their best to blur our views through the otherwise clear air, and the above image taken from BLM Fannaich towards Loch Broom is sadly deficient despite incorporating a number of iconic profiles. Can you spot Stac Pollaidh, for example?

We saw nobody on the hill yesterday, but today, being Munro country, we got waves from two distant walkers, and a gruff greeting from a lone speedster who appeared just as we had finished using the self-timer on Sgurr Mor.

Nick - thanks for your comment, we'll certainly add some better images when we get home.

While Lucy and Rosemary stayed at home today, the others (Sue, Andrew, Ken and Anne) contrived to arrive home later than the rest of us after their brave ascent of the Graham, Beinn Ghobhlach. Very impressive!

Tonight's catering, courtesy of P+P's stilton and pine nut mountain, was nothing less than superb.

And so, it's goodnight from Ullapool, after another fine day in the hills.

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Sunday, 28 March 2010

Sunday 28 March 2010 - A Wet Corbett

Thanks, everyone, for your good wishes concerning this week's weather. We'll need all the luck we can get, especially as Dave - our good weather mascot - has been unable to join us here this year.

Beinn Enaiglair was a good choice for this showery day. Ken and Anne could leave me at lunch time to continue to walk around the hill using amiable stalkers' paths, and I could nip to the summit (pictured) and slither down the other side in time to meet them for afternoon tea.

The remaining snow was very soft. Ice axes and crampons proved to be unnecessary encumbrances on this small (889 metre) 'hill of timid birds'.

Throngs of red deer were low on the slopes in the stormy weather, but wheatears and meadow pipits flitted about, seemingly impervious to the rain. Unlike my old leaky boots. Sealskinz socks came to the rescue today, and hopefully I'll start tomorrow dry, thanks to the absorbent qualities of some handy Sunday papers.

By the time the three of us got home, after our 5 hour walk, Sue had given Andrew a lesson on some technical aspects of digital photography, and Pam, Paul, Neil and Sam had arrived and installed themselves in Tigh na Mara. Ken and Anne joined the six Tigh na Mara residents for the chicken dinner that Mike usually gets at home (did you miss it, Mike?) and Andrew, Rosemary and Lucy joined us later. At some point amidst all this, I burnt a hole in a finger.

Ouch!

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