Thursday, September 07, 2017

186. Ben Klibreck (194). 09/08/2017

For Elodie's fifth Munro, we were joined by her uncle Oliver. Staying in Lochinver, this was a slightly long drive away, but that gave the dodgy weather a chance to lift a bit. It was still drizzling when we started and for the first hour or so, but it did improve and become quite good towards the end.

We started off with a river crossing, which can always be a bit treacherous in the rain, but once the correct crossing point was found it wasn't too bad. Then we had a boggy but quite easy walk across moorland to the foot of the climb. From here we went straight up the side on a small path, but in hindsight we should probably have continued a bit further SE to where the slopes eased off because the route we took was pretty steep. Not only was it tiring, I was also a bit worried about my balance with the pack. Anyway, with due care we got to the ridge and found the path along it to the summit. 

It was much nicer on the ridge, particularly since the mist was just starting to lift and we were beginning to be able to see some of our surroundings. The final pull up to the summit was quite windy and cold, but instead of this bothering Elodie, she promptly fell asleep - obviously quite snug enough dressed in her sheepskin.

Halfway back down to the ridge, the cloud lifted completely and we were able to see our way down more gentle slopes from the ridge and back across the bog to the river crossing (which was now dry). Elodie was a little less happy with this section of bog and made her opinions heard, but all in all she had done pretty well. Back to the car in 5 hours.

 A variety of reactions displayed at the summit

 The clouds lifting off the ridge as we start our descent

Looking back to the summit

184, 185. Conival (158), Ben More Assynt (141). 06/08/2017.

During my paternity leave stint, I took Elodie to the far north of Scotland for a look at some hills. It was a very successful trip and for this walk we were joined by Chris. It looked like being our best day weather-wise and so, since Elodie seemed to be happy in the backpack for at least 5 hours, we thought we'd attempt one of the more ambitious walks in the area and see how we got on. The guidebook put it at 6 hours, although in the end we took a shade over 7, but Elodie was happy all the way until the last half an hour or so. Even then she was pacified by numerous rounds of 'Old MacDonald had a farm...' (little did she know it was more likely to be Old Mcleod in these parts).

We anticipated the odd shower, but in the end only experienced about 10 minutes of drizzle - the rest of the time the cloud was clear of the tops. And it really is a great location for views. We had unimpeded views of all the famous hills in this part of the country. Suilven and Quinag being particularly impressive.

The walk starts with a long approach on a track through a glen that becomes a path further up and only after an hour do you really start to climb. There was a good dry path the whole way up the side of Conival and onto its summit ridge. From here the ridge was great. The ascent over the top of Conival and all the way to Ben More Assynt is quite gradual, although the fact you have to retrace your steps back over Conival makes you think this should count as 3 Munros. Elodie particularly like the rocky top of Ben More Assynt, perhaps because we seemed to arrive there at the same time as several other walkers. The rest of the time she did some babbling and some sleeping, but generally had a good time. Thanks to Chris for his assistance in entertaining and pacifying when she laterally became slightly less happy.

 Babbling on the approach to the summit ridge of Conival

 The ridge from Conival (R) to BMA (L)

 Elodie pleased to reach the top. Chris in the background calling a cab(?)

Elodie enjoying views across Assynt, including Quinag

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

183. Ben Vorlich (229). 17/06/2017.

On the event of Ben's (a frequent walking partner) stag do, the best man gave me the remit of 'sorting out some Scottish stuff', so it was off to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond for hills, haggis and whisky.

Frequent readers will recall an episode from 2013 where Ben helped organise my own stag do, but where we ended up climbing the wrong Ben Vorlich (some 40 miles away by Loch Earn) from the one he had planned. By a cruel twist of fate (and pure chance), this time we decided to climb the right one. This of course caused Ben huge embarrassment and he opted to climb the hill in disguise so that nobody would recognise him.

Trying to find a hill that caters for all abilities and is accessible on a weekend trip from London is a delicate operation, but this one ended up a fairly good choice. It was perhaps steeper in parts than the easiest munros and with more ascent, but we could find accommodation right at the foot of the hill and a good chunk of the distance was along a tarmacked track.

The weather couldn't be helped, but at least the persistent drizzle did fade later on and the high winds we were expecting on the top were more manageable than expected. The fog was pea soup from halfway up though, as promised.

I took on all the facets of a mountain guide by walking too fast, demonstrating navigational errors, helping members of the party solve their maths puzzles, answering everyone's questions about the local flora and fauna, providing gentle encouragement in the shape of turkish delights, safeguarding the group with 9-year-out-of-date midge repellent (that seemed more to engage the midgies' curiosity than repel them) and outright lying about how little there was left to climb. But all 10 of us made it up and down in one piece (and in more or less good spirits), so some of my methods must have been a success. Our porter (Ben) had very kindly offered to carry a couple of cans of beer to the top for each of us, so we made sure we cracked these open in the mist for some well earned rehydration.

Those who hadn't done a lot of hillwalking coped very well and maybe one or two may even climb again in Scotland. Other walkers on the hill seemed amused by our antics, but hopefully not offended - we of course got Ben to carry away all our empties!

 A moment of clarity on the descent for a victory shot

A possible yeti sighting at the summit

The atmospheric Ben Vane across the glen

181, 182. Beinn a'Chleibh (281), Beinn Laoigh (28) 31/05/2017.

After being in danger of spending a week in Scotland without climbing a hill, I was pleased to be able to find a day of cracking weather and a willing companion to take Elodie up her first Munro (and her second too).

Hilde and Hamish were off to the Scottish Sealife Centre and practicalities would be simpler if we were down off the hill in 5 hours so they could pick us up again on the return journey, so we didn't dawdle (or kept it to a minimum at least - a small amount of dawdling is inevitable with a baby).

Hamish had been very happy in the backpack at a similar age for up to 4 hours at a time, but there was no telling whether his sister would be similar. It turned out if anything she enjoyed it more, keeping very quiet for most of the walk (a mixture of absorbing the scenery and taking naps after all her hard work) and there was barely a whinge until the last 20 minutes or so.

This walk starts with a fairly interesting river crossing - I mean it's relatively easy without a baby on your back, but boots off wading followed by limboing under a 4 foot high bridge under the railway kept me on my toes (although not literally). After that there was a slightly damp walk through the forest, although it was by no means bad and then a good path up the corrie to the bealach between the two peaks. We could have gone to either peak first, but chose Ben a'Chleibh to break up the ascent slightly. Only just a Munro, but with great views of its neighbour and beyond, Chris and I couldn't quite understand when we later found it had been ranked one of the least popular in Scotland.

The walk along the ridge and up the additional 200m to Ben Laoigh was pleasant in the afternoon sunshine and conditions were very good underfoot. We were back in time to meet our lift back down south. Apart from a few stops for milk and pureed fruit (all for Elodie), the backpack didn't slow us much, but with 1100m of ascent I think this was the most I'd done carrying a child, so I felt it in my legs the next day!

 Chris congratulating Elodie on her first Munro

 Ben Laoigh, somewhat higher than Beinn a'Chleibh

Elodie admires the steep drops between naps 

Rambling back to the bealach

Monday, May 09, 2016

178-180. Beinn a'Chlachair (56), Geal Charn (81), Creag Pitridh (264). 01/05/2016

Ben and I wanted to try a longish walk, since we had the luxury of a whole day to spend. The guide books quoted this as 8 hours, but in fact we managed it in just over 7, which for 28km wasn't bad going.

The first hour was along a track and because of the wind and snow, we decided to go all the way along to the end of the western ridge of Beinn a'Chlachair before ascending. Whilst not the most direct route, I think this was a good decision, since once climbing we had the wind and rain at our backs and the extra kilometer was all along a track. There wasn't as much rain as forecast and in fact we had clear views for much of our time on the tops and ridges.

The walk to Geal Charn is quite a distance, but the terrain is easy and it seemed to pass in no time - the only slow bit being a bit of clambering over large scree near the summit. Geal Charn in particular had a lot of snow at the top and more than once when the mist came in we were left unable to see our onward route and relying on footprints in the snow.

To get to Creag Pitridh, we had to retrace our steps slightly to avoid ending up over crags, but soon we could see the top. With only about 100m of reascent, this really felt like a freebie. From the ocky top we headed west down nice springy grass to the path and the path took us north back to the track. We didn't see another person all day, so this did feel like quite a wilderness walk.

 The still snowy summit of Beinn a'Chlachair

 Sheltering from the wind at the top of Geal Charn

Creag Pitridh - the rocky 'freebie' on the way back

176, 177. Beinn Achaladair (94), Beinn a'Creachain (61). 30/04/2016

A great afternoon in the hills. Having been travelling in the morning, we couldn't start before 1.20pm, but this walk filled the gap between then and dinner nicely.

We started by heading south from the car park to the bealach with the Bridge of Orchy hills. According to one walker, we could have climbed up the side of the ridge, but it was still pretty snowy, so we thought the longer route was more prudent. It did at least mean that the climbing wasn't too steep and that the mist had almost cleared when we reached the summit. The wind was strong and there were a few showers, but fortunately we were able to turn our backs to them as we made our way along the ridge to Beinn a'Creachain.

There was a fair amount of reascent between the two, but we had made good time. From here we had a surprisingly wintry panorama of hills as far as the eye could see. The snow wasn't a problem and in fact it aided our descent in a couple of places. I have to say that the initial descent to the railway was one of the most gentle I can remember. Instead of the hard jarring rocks that can be found on a number of munros, we had a mixture of glissading and striding down soft springy grass. Unfortunately, once the railway had been passed and the river forded, we still had nearly three miles of track back to the car just to make sure the joints didn't get away without a little bone-jarring.

 Approaching the summit of Beinn Achaladair, with the 
Tyndrum and Crainlarich hills in the background.

 The mist lifted just after we left the top...

 Looking back along the ridge

At the top of Beinn a'Creachain. Nice socks!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

175. Ben Lomond (184). 17/08/2015

With the previous day having gone well for Hamish in the pack for 4 and a half hours, I thought we would try another one today with Grandma. Ben Lomond involves a little more climbing, but is all along an excellent path. The weather was set to be excellent.

We were off around 10.30, before the crowds and some of the trickiest terrain was actually near the start through the forest. Fortunately the ground was dry so it was no problem and at 200m we were out of the trees and from there it was a steady climb up the side of the hill to about 600m. Then there is a mile of plateau before the final climb to the summit. It took us 3 hours to get to the top and mum only needed a small amount of encouragement. Hamish was happy and even had a couple of naps. At the top we had hoped for a chance to relax, but unfortunately the air was warm and still enough that there were quite a few midgies, so our time was limited. Hamish got a chance to crawl around and get some food and we took in the spectacular views of Loch Lomond.

There is the option of descending to the west, but it is a little steep at first, so we opted for retracing our steps given I had the backpack. Hamish was much chattier on the descent, partly because of the hundreds of walkers we passed, some of whom had dogs with them (which Hamish found particularly exciting!). Mum's legs always find the descent taxing, so we had to go steadily, but we got down fine after a round trip of 5 and a half hours. I was expecting this to be a bit too long for Hamish, but he seemed fine with it. More munros for him then!
The summit ridge and Loch Lomond in the background

Eat/crawl multitasking

Looking north

The three generations at the top

174. Sgiath Chuil (270). 16/08/2015

This was arguably my third attempt of this hill, although I had more optimism this time due to the lack of winter. It was also another chance for me to carry Hamish up a hill, which he was jolly excited about! Here's him doing his stretches in preparation.

My friend Joe was part-way through his LE2JoG cycle and wanted a 'day off' climbing hills. He had gathered together Blaise and Nick from Stirling and Alex from Dundee. We all met in Killin at 9.30 and were climbing shortly after 10. Having done most of the walk before, navigation was simple especially since we could see the top. The grassy slopes were pretty straightforward even with the backpack, although the steep section at the end was felt by my legs!

Half way up

Hamish managing to find a moment for a nap

At the top we met a few people and had clear views of the Arrochar Alps and the hills up to Rannoch Moor. Hamish gobbled down a jar of food and I put a few more clothes on him. Having been very happy all the way up, he decided the stop at the top wasn't nearly so much fun and whinged until I started moving again. He was then very chatty for the rest of the descent, which was refreshingly gently on the joints down grassy slopes.

Pit stop 

Ben More and the Arrochar Alps

Getting a bit fed up with the delay!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

173. Stuchd an Lochan (197). 08/05/2015

Our first munro with baby Hamish! We chose the best day for weather and a short walk to give ourselves the best chance of success. With Hamish packed in the carrier, along with a ridiculous quantity of bits and bobs for him, we set off from the car park by the dam. At least we didn't need to take much for ourselves due to the nice conditions. The climbing starts from 400m and within an hour we were at 900m, leaving the rest of the walk as a pleasant stroll along the ridge to the summit. We tried a stop just before the ridge to feed the baby, but this produced tears, so he obviously wanted us to keep moving. Once on the ridge it was slightly cooler with the wind - probably just above freezing, but for some reason this encouraged Hamish to sleep. In fact he slept almost until we reached the top, when his father jolted him awake by stepping through the snow. We could see for miles at the top and spent some time taking photos before making our way back. We were back at the car well within 4 hours and Hamish was still in pretty good spirits, so it was a success all round.

 The start of the summit ridge.

 The summit with the grey corries in the distance.

 Looking north-east from the top.

Hamish enjoying his first summit

Monday, March 02, 2015

172. Meall Glas (199) 28/02/2015

The conditions weren't exactly forecast to be good, but they ended up being worse with continuous precipitation and strong winds higher up.

Walking up the glen, we had intended to come around the hill and climb from the SW, but we saw a good line from the track and decided to save a bit of time by ascending directly. Once a bridge was found, a couple of deer fences were scaled, a smaller river was forded and many large mysterious man-made holes were avoided, the going became easier. Until the final climb to the ridge, the higher slopes were quite gentle and the only difficulty was the cold sleet, which was permeating most of our clothes. Fortunately this turned to (the far preferable) snow at about 700m, but that was plenty of time for it to make us quite cold.

The final approach to the ridge was interesting in that we had to ascend a steep snow slope, not knowing much about the top. We trod carefully and kept our axes at the ready, being wary of potential overhangs, but in the end the section we had chosen wasn't steep enough for that. We found the ridge and battled our way into the biting wind for half a mile to the top. No photos were taken here - it would not have been good for our health. Some consideration was given to continuing to the neighbouring munro, but in the end discretion prevailed and we retraced our footprints all the way back to the track. 

We had a further go at the other munro the following day, but were turned back by even stronger winds and blizzard less than a mile from the top.

 When hiking it is important to maintain the latest fashion in socks.

Things became rather white... 

Yes, that's quite a lot of snow in the rucksack

171. Stuc a'Chroin (182) 27/2/2015

A great wintery walk in the hills. The weather conditions were better than expected - not too much precipitation and only cloud later on. There was a bit of wind, but not enough to slow us. In fact, it was a pity we didn't have time to try something a bit longer given the conditions that followed in the subsequent days. However, we had spent the previous night in Penrith, so only an 11am start was possible.

Walking from the Glen Ample side of the hill took us over the corbett called Beinn Each and along the complex south west ridge of Stuc a'Chroin. The snow was nice and deep and whilst there were a few slightly steep sections, nothing was beyond our abilities. We were also climbing from the best direction for having the wind at our backs and having solid non-avalanchy-snow to climb. After the corbett, we had the hill to ourselves and the landscape was a beautiful unspoilt blanket of white. This was close to the most snow I've seen on Scottish mountains and we made good use of our axes - both for safety in negotiating obstacles and occasionally for aiding our playing in the snow.

I would have been even happier had I not put my foot through some ice into a patch of bog before the final climb, but I had to keep Joe company in the soggy feet department. Something which I repeated on the following day equally joyously.

It was rather chilly at the top and we didn't hang around long, but we were able to get some idea of the steep descent over the cornices towards Ben Vorlich, but couldn't see far in the cloud.

A sleety drizzle accompanied some of our descent off the side of the ridge, but we were soon back on the path down Glen Ample. A 6hr round trip shows the going was a bit slower in the deep snow.

Joe and his North Face.

Coming over Beinn Each

Nice hat!

The summit cairn, constructed from fence posts

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

169, 170. Carn Bhac (221), Beinn Iutharn Mhor (88). 28/07/2014

It may have taken the midgies most of the night to find us, but they were there to wish us good morning when we opened the tent. Not the swarms of the valley, but enough to be a pest when putting the tent away. The other slight problem we had was being a little low on water (due to losing a bottle cap the previous day), so we opted for malt loaf rather than porridge to break our fast. Of course the weather chose to be hot and sunny to make us appreciate our lack of water all the more, still we managed to ration our remaining 1.5l fairly well.
Perhaps midgies like orange...

Our campsite (middleground, right of picture), with the Cairngorm massif behind

Setting off from the tent at 7am, it was a fairly easy walk to the top of Carn Bhac amid stunning views. We also shared the hills with a herd of deer and many sheep - no doubt also trying to avoid the worst of the midgies by being up high. We were able to spend half an hour without the packs as we climbed to the summit, before tackling the route across to Beinn Iutharn Mhor. We were well aware that this part would be tough, but all things considered it perhaps turned out a bit less than expected. First we had to cross a mile of peat bogs, but fortunately the relatively dry weather had meant that this was pretty easy. We could see that in wet weather it would have been horrendous. Then we had to ascend the 200m wall on the side of the 'Big Sharp Edged One'. It was sweaty work with packs no doubt and at first looked almost impenetrable, but tiny paths helped us find the least steep contours and we knew once at the top things would be much easier.

Reaching the summit was a good feeling and the views in every direction were splendid, but since it was after 10.30, we decided it would be too much to include Carn an Righ today (which proved a wise decision) and instead we headed west for the path to Glen Tilt.
The clearly marked Glen Tilt from Carn Bhac

The walk down to Glen Tilt was easy going and we picked up some splendid water along the way, but it took a little longer than hoped due to the windiness of the path. Once in Glen Tilt, we knew we just had to plod along to Blair Atholl and progress began well. After passing the Falls of Tarf, we were glad to see the path became a hard track, but this was a mixed blessing. After a few miles it became quite punishing on the soles of the feet and by the time we reached the town, I had slowed considerably - the 13 or so miles ended up taking us over 5 hours. We were both very glad to see the hotel (with a 'bothy bar') by the station and we hobbled in for some well earned refreshment.

A successful trip through the Cairngorms, but with a little too much left to do on the final day.

165-168. Cairn Toul (4), Sgor an Lochan Uaine (5), Monadh Mor (40), Beinn Bhrotain (19). 27/07/2014

We were up super early to avoid feeding time at the zoo. We had finished our porridge and were out the door by 7.15am. We hiked to the top of Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochan Uaine whilst they were still shrouded in mist and enjoyed some light rain between the two. I say enjoyed - I believe Chris enjoyed it less without his waterproof trousers. We were able to get some idea of the vast deep corrie to the north which separates these two from Braeriach, although Chris remarked that it may be best not to be able to see all the way to the bottom.
The two big ones from the top of the Lairig Ghru the previous day

We headed cross-country to the south in gradually clearing conditions to Monadh Mor, which although the smallest of the four, is still well over 1100m. There was some discussion as to where the top was, but we visited all the cairns to be sure and then made our way over easy ground to Beinn Bhrotain, which was by then completely cloud-free. We reached this before midday, metaphorically patted ourselves on the back, had some trailmix (the almond/sunblush raisin/pineapple blend) and headed for the gully between the last two hills to take us back to the valley and the bothy. This gully was steep at first, before becoming a traditionally Scottish, heather-clad, heavily contoured, energy-sapping trudge. We got there in the end and did see an adder on the way, which was pretty exciting.
Beinn Bhrotain from Monadh Mor

After a decent rest in the bothy, where we somehow managed to lose the cap to one of our waterbottles, we decided to continue with our original plan of heading out to Blair Atholl, despite being a bit behind schedule. We loaded ourselves up with our packs and began with the pretty easy yomp down to White Bridge (which avid readers will remember is actually red). Then we encountered a small problem - the footbridge marked on the map leading south from White Bridge was no longer in existence. And we were beset by midge. These situations lead to hasty decisions, but fording the river seemed like our best course of action. Unfortunately at least one of Chris' feet entered the river up to the knee, which was to cause him some discomfort for the rest of the day. Still we were across largely unscathed and just had to climb high enough to avoid the worst of the midgies. It was hard going with full packs and took us a good hour to climb to the safety of 800m. Here we did find a beautiful campsite on soft ground with a breeze, although we were perhaps a little too tired to fully appreciate it. There were virtually no midgies in the evening, so we were able to cook our couscous outside before enjoying a much better night's sleep in blissful solitude.

164. Bod an Deamhain (130). 26/07/2014

We had grand plans for a three-day yomp across the Cairngorms, but the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. The idea was Blair Atholl to Aviemore, with a night in the tent followed by a night in corrour bothy, taking in up to 11 munros along the way. Forecast for thunderstorms on the first night made us switch it around, so we soon found ourselves on the bus from Aviemore to Cairngorm Mountain.

After an erudite discussion as to the origin of the name 'Sugar Bowl car park' with the bus driver, we alighted and began our walk through the Chalamain gap and on to the Lairig Ghru in hot sunny weather. Along the way we helped some reindeer herders build some wooden platforms - all in a day's work. The going was good through the gap and into the deep glaciated valley of the Lairig Ghru. The cake was good too.
Helping the herders...

Devil's Point from the west

We reached Corrour bothy around 4pm, from where we had hoped to nip up to Cairn Toul before dinner. There was time to do so, but when we were approaching Devil's Point there was thunder all around, so we decided it would be safest to leave the taller hills for the morning. There was indeed a heavy shower after we returned to the bothy. Ah yes, the bothy... that quite place of refuge, perhaps shared with one or two like-minded walkers. The people sleeping in the bothy were nice enough - a family of three taking their 12yr old to his first munro and a solitary walker on a munroing mission. The problem was the thirty or more campers outside the bothy who made a mess and turned the bothy into a fume-filled sauna with their cooking. They were well organised and meant well, but thirty people are bound to leave a footprint of some sort. Needless to say, we didn't sleep much. There were also a gazillion midgies.
The peaceful, isolated bothy