After an evening at The Bealach na Ba waiting for a glorious sunset (that didn’t happen!), I headed for the shores of the beautiful Loch Maree. I had arranged to meet Gerry in the car park where we would get some kip, rise early and perform an aquatic raid on the mighty Slioch!
The light was fading when I left Applecross but the roads were quiet (if you don’t count the herds of deer!) and things were looking good. An amazing part of the country and the drive down “that “ road and on to Shieldaig, through Torridon to Kinlochewe was lovely. It was past 11 by the time I pulled up to join Gerry (and two mobile homes) in the car park that was to be our home for the next few hours. A quick hello and I was soon rearranging the boot of the car into a bedroom. After what seemed like minutes, I was woken by a knock on the back seat drivers door. Gerry was up and ready to go! The sun was already up and the light was fantastic looking over Loch Maree to Slioch. Yellows and pink hues lit the sky above the mountain and coffee was enjoyed with a little porridge, before a short portage of the boats to the shores. A little after six and we were off, paddling across calm waters. The crossing was short, only about a kilometre or so and by half six we were transforming from paddlers into hikers! In just over 3km you ascend to the 981m top of Slioch so there is little time for a gentle approach! You are pretty much straight into it and ascending the slopes! Into the corrie and the gradient settled for a short distance before the final and steepest section up the “spear”. The weather was on the slide and the lovely colours we enjoyed over breakfast had now been devoured by monochrome greys! However the cloud was still above the summits and the views from the top were fantastic. The eye is drawn down the length of Loch Maree, but turn your head to the north and east and Letterewe and Fisherfield provide a stunning vista.
The wind was picking up as the weather front approached so we didn’t linger. Memories of previous turbulent loch crossings were in the forefront of our minds! We needn’t have worried . Although the wind had increased the loch was still passable with care and before long we were back loading our cars up and starting our long journey home! It was 10am ….
After a grand day on Bheinn Bhan, I wanted to head somewhere to have picnic. Seeing as I was at the bottom of theroad to Applecross, I decided to head to The Bealach na Ba and enjoyed a dinner with a view. I hung around and did some photography until the sun had disappeared.... next day was an adventure on Slioch on the kayak
A long weekend and the weather had ben glorious, so I packed my gear (and kayak) and headed for the northwest highlands! I was due to be meeting up with Gerry to tackle Slioch via Kayak on the Monday so had the Corbett book out looking for some hills I had yet to climb. Immediately I was drawn to my remaining Applecross Hill – Bheinn Bhan….
I had always fancied climbing here and the hill looked good and the weather superb so I decided it was time to get this one in the bag! Unlike the other Corbett in Applecross , I decided not to cheat (joke!!) and started at sea level and the start of the famous Bealach na Ba road. Last time I had driven to 2000 feet and easily bagged Sgurr a’ Chaorachain (my wife even accompanied me some of the way on that trip!!). However starting 2000 foot further down the mountain meant today was going to be a tad more challenging! The weather was perfect or hiking – it was sunny, a little breeze and the temperature was reading about 14 degrees at sea level – not too warm (unlike my trip here the following week with Thomas Heaton)!
I set off along the well-constructed stalkers path and after a few kilometres soon branched off and started to head uphill headed for the small lochan. The views to this point were good with the Torridon hills starting to show themselves. However as I reached the loachan the true grandeur of this mountain revealed itself! Similar to Ben Nevis , one side of this hill slopes gently down to sea level, whilst its eastern side holds some of the most dramatic scenery in Scotland! I was blown away by the views and as I skirted the lochan I found a cracking private beach!! I was starting to hatch a plan for my adventure the following week !
From the lochan, I headed into the Corrie and to be honest I couldn’t see a weakness to get up the steep headwalls! However I kept the faith and soon started up a steep grass slope which eventually took me to the mountains magnificent plateaux. Some snow still held onto the Corrie rim and care was required to get past this , a slip here would have serious implications!
If I thought the views of the eastern cliffs were good, I was amazed to find the views from the plateaux were even better! The high mountains of the NW highlands lay before me and the crowning glory lay to my south west with the Isle of Skye and other islands of the inner Hebrides lying before me. The sun sparkled on The Minch and I was in heaven!!!
The breeze was lovely and I sat at the summit for a good while enjoying the views. Not wanting to leave , I eventually dragged myself away from the summit, but the walk back was just as good as the walk in. The views down the south of the hill were just as stunning!
Eventually I got back to the car and immediately started on my next adventure – The Bealach na Ba Road…….
Possibly my favourite way up the Buachaille and certainly one of my favourite ways to spend an evening. With the days drawing out, we headed to Glencoe as most people were thinking of heading home. The weather was ok but set to improve as the evening drew on. After leaving Altnafeadh we took the familiar path round and past the waterslab, with the scrambling soon starting. The clouds started to clear and Rannoch Moor was lit up behind us as we leisurely picked our way up the ridge. It never fails to impress!
After enjoying the ridge I scrambled up Crowberry Tower to enjoy tea with a view - what a place!
Soon I was joining Gerry on the summit of Stob Dearg, but the most tricky part of the day still lay ahead - the descent into Coire na Tulaich. Although well into May, substantial amount of snow remained. A simple slip would result in reaching the bottom in a world record time, so ice axes came out to aid our descent and possible any trip we could have encountered!!
Another fine day on The Buachaille!
Winter weather windows can be short lived, but can also show off Scotland’s mountains at their best (no better place in the world !). High pressure was visiting, but only for the morning so I set the alarm for 3am. I needn’t have bothered as I was wide awake before 1 am and by the time 2 am came round I decided just to get up and go!
A moonlit night greeted me as I headed off and the frost glistened at the side of the road. Crieff, Comrie, Lochearnhead, Tyndrum all came and went with no sign of life at all. Driving through the night and I pulled up in Glencoe at around 4.15am. I was excited as the weather was cold but it was still and patches of mists had given some variation on the drive , this was going to be good, as long as those mist patches weren’t lingering on any summits!
My initial plan was to head up one of the easier gullies in SCNL, however the avalanche forecast had made me alter my plans, and I decided I wanted to enjoy a sunset from Stob Dubh. Setting off about 4.45 and the moon shone brightly in the sky to the west. I probably didn’t need my head torch but kept it on until the bealach, spotting the hundreds of eyes watching my progress up the hill! The bealach between the two Munros was reached and I stopped here to get the crampons and axe out for the last section. Over The Big Buachaille, a faint band of blue was starting to silhouette Stob Dearg, I had about an hour to get to the top.
The sound of crampons biting frozen snow now accompanied me and on reaching the spot height 902m a grand view welcomed me. Dawn was now eating away at night and the moon was setting over the Bidean Massif and the sweeping ridge up to Stob Dubh was inviting me on. I followed its crest upwards and the views opened up. Mist lay low in the glens and the howling winds that accompanied me on many trips this winter were only a memory. The blue hues were now taken by high cirrus turning pink as I reached the summit. A short distance later I set up the cameras, just in time to watch the sun rise to the north of Schiehallion between Stob Dearg and Stob na Doire. Not a drop of wind as I sat down to enjoyed breakfast with a grand vista, watching the peaks illuminate as the first rays of sun lit the up one by one. After an hour, I pulled myself way from the top and enjoyed a sublime descent, again following the sweeping ridge back to the bealach and eventually back to the waking world….
After a stressful start to the year, we decided to treat ourselves to a weekend beak. Log cabin booked and off we set after work on Friday up the A93 toward Blair. A short drive and we arrived at our lodgings for the weekend. Located above The Spittal of Glenshee we were all super impressed! Views up Glenshee towards the ski centre and up Glen Lochsie as well as back down Glenshee, I really didn’t need to leave the lodge to get some nice photos!
However, curiosity got the better of me and I was soon looking at the map and what hills could be scaled near bye! The usual suspects (i.e. Munros and Corbetts) had been walked on numerous occasions and I immediately noticed that the Cateran Trail ran along the side of the lodge. In fact the hill that the lodge was situated on looked inviting – Meall Uaine. More research followed and I discovered that Meall Uaine was listed in the original Corbetts list. However in the 80’s it was realised that it didn’t quite make Corbett status as the 500ft drop wasn’t quite 500ft!, and in fact there were no drops sufficient to meet this criteria between here and Glas Tulaichean (around 10km away along the ridge)!
So as the rain fell on the Friday night I hatched a plan to rise early and try and catch a sunrise, and be back before the family had risen!! After a few beers I had a one final glimpse outside and to my delight, I noticed the hills were white from about 600m, winter had returned with May only a few days away.
A comfortable sleep and I was up at 4am, with the first signs of dawn starting to light up the surroundings. Coffee and porridge devoured and I was soon heading up the Cateran trail. After a few hundred yards I decided to make a beeline for Mealle Uaine – the ground was frozen so the pathless, and probably usually boggy ground was fine to crunch across. The clear skies that had welcomed me on leaving the lodge were now being filled with mid level cloud unfortunately. However the increasing white terrain underfoot was putting a big smile on my face J As I gained height the Perthshire hills started to emerge and were looking fine with their fresh white coatings. Although a bright sunrise failed to develop it was still a lovely soft light that started to illuminate the landscape. Dapples of light started to break through and Beinn a’ Ghlo caught some of these rays. The true summit was a short walk from the NW top and I was soon enjoying views across Scotland. Down in Glenshee the green spring foliage was being light up by the odd burst of light but it felt like a different world up on the cold monochrome tops.
After soaking in the views for half an hour I decided to head back – it hadn’t turned 7 am yet! I had the ideal treat waiting for me at the lodge too after the cold on the tops (see end of video!!) ;)
Beinn Alligin via Deep South Gully and The Horns of Alligin…
“What a place!” – You may hear this a few times during the video but if you’ve ever been to Torridon, you’ll understand why this phrase was used – A LOT! ;)
With the Easterly winds in control of the weather, west was best, and in fact the only place that seemed to be getting any sunshine this weekend was the North West Highlands! More snow was forecast for the eastern side of the country down to sea level so I made the decision to head to Torridon! I had already driven 150 miles on the Saturday (following a family day out) before I even started packing the car and setting out for my adventure. A further 200 miles later and I arrived in the Beinn Alligin car park at 9pm and got ready to settle down in the back of the car. A rather cold night followed and despite there being a million stars in the sky as I fell asleep, when I woke it was cloudy, snowing and a tad breezy!!
My plan was for Deep South Gully a route that I had wanted to tackle for some time. I remember seeing its deep gash from the northern slops of Beinn Dearg on a winter traverse a few winters back and it looked amazing! The timing seemed perfect as no new snow had fallen in the area and a thaw earlier in the week had turned to cold frosty weather – hopefully freezing up any soggy snow held in the gully! The avalanche forecast for the area was on the lowest rating so I was really looking forward to this J I was also eying up a traverse over The Horns and two Munros however due to the high winds I was unsure as to whether I would continue round The Horns of Alligin to complete the traverse or come back down via the first horn – only time would tell what the winds would be like on the ridge!
I eventually dragged myself out of bed and faced the cold, brewing up a coffee as soon as I could! Soon I was striding along the NTS path with Beinn Alligin revealing herself, she was looking might fine – a Jewel indeed.
I was heading up the same path I had taken to gain Beinn Dearg on a wonderful winters day a few years ago. The landscape was looking great however there was something missing here- snow!!! It was a bit thin to say the least (read no snow below 750 metres!!) and I was starting to worry that I was going to be trying to head up a rocky gully!! You can’t see the gully when approaching from this direction until it opens up in front of you, and when you get to this point, you really cannot miss it!! A deep chasm on the side of Na Rathanan and today the snow was indeed there in fact it was spilling out from the gully leaving a large fan in the glen (I just couldn’t see it on the approach!).
Excited I soon got the crampons on as the wind buffeted me from side to side and I was soon making my way up the “fan of snow” towards the chasm. The snow, even at this low level was firm Neve and things looked promising. I was glad to reach the gully as the steep sides sheltered me from the winds and I made easy progress. The gully was banked out and well stepped out, making progress fine J
It’s not a place to rush up and I stopped many times to take in the atmosphere (and get the camera out!). Massive ice formations decorated the chasm walls and the views back through the slit of the cleft were , well “Torridonian!”.
As the gully trends right its starts to steepen and in lean conditions I had read that there are a few chockstones that require a squeeze through. Not today, these were well and truly buried! The climb to the top was magnificent and as with most gullies the gradient steepened further as I neared the top. What a place to be! Soon I was standing between the first and second horns and the views were incredible. A decision now had to be made on whether to continue round the traverse or have a short day and head back over Horn number one! The winds didn’t seem too bad so I decided on the traverse! Before long I realised that this was the correct decision. The scramble over horns two and three was fantastic. Striding along the airy ridge to the summit of Na Rathanan is amazing and I would have been happy had I called it a day here! The scrambling was grand and the views even better!
Next up was the steep pull to the highest point of the day – Sgurr Mor. The high winds arrived as I gained altitude, but with them being easterlies, they helped push me towards the snowy summit! It was grand to be back here and it brought back memories of my last visit to the summit – a wild camp with a visit from the aurora borealis! However on this occasion the winds saw my visit to the summit as a brief one and I was now being pushed and blown back down past the Eag Dubh – care was required as the gusting winds were knocking me about now! Didn’t fancy a slip down the Black Cleft!
As I reached the bealach I found a sheltered spot and in the sunshine , it now felt like spring! A short break for lunch and I was soon scrambling my way to Tom na Gruagaich. It was still relatively early and I had been lucky that I had only met one other party when descending Sgurr Mor. On the top of the second Munro I met some other lucky people who were enjoying the snow capped views and blue skies, including Mike from Mountain and Sea Guides. It was great to catch up with Mike as I hadn’t seen him in nearly ten years.
Soaking in the views, I soon had to descend as I still had a long car journey home! The crampons remained on until I exited Coire nan Laogh as the snow was nice and firm all the way down enabling speedy progress J
Another cracking day in Torridon and a route I have wanted to do for some time, now under the belt. I think the smile is still on my face J
In between the beast from the east (s) we headed west to try a days fun on The Cobbler. Having don Chockstone Gully a few years ago - we knew what to expect and the great (if short) route that it provides.
Leaving the shores of Loch Long, we made our way up the never ending path that zig zags through the woodland! Once the forest was left behind we soon reached the snow line - and there was more snow than expected. Heavy falls the day before had left a good dump of fresh snow! Luckily for us there had been some footfall on the path and we followed the footsteps. Not so lucky was the fact that as we approached the turn off for the Cobbler the footsteps went straight onto the Bealach nd not to The Cobbler! Breaking trail we headed into the gloom (the winds were light but the mist was in and with the snow on the ground and zero visibility, we knew finding the start of the gully may be tricky!). However we did find the gully and it was as expected - snowy but magnificently atmospheric. A good route when other gullies may be more susceptible to bad condition we found the snow in Chockstone to be super and we made up way up and eventually under the chockstone itself. This is a marvellous location and a super end to the short route under the rock and on steep ground:)
Up and over and we went for a look at Great Gully. Not as sheltered as Chockstone - there was a lot of windslab here so we backed off and set about the next adventure - getting of the mountain safely in zero visibility and drifts up to our waists!
Soon we found the path we had made on our ascent and made our way off the mountain. Another superb day :)
Heavy snow had fallen all morning but the forecast was for this to clear to blue skies by the afternoon so I headed up the A9 hoping the gritters had been out. Luckily they had and they had done a great job as the snow was lying thick at the side of the road. Leaving my wife with the decent car (i.e. the one with winter tyres) so she could get about back home, I had a rather non wintry rear wheel drive car with summer tyres! Due to this I decided not to risk getting stuck in the Balsporran cottage car park and pulled in about a km west at a layby that had been cleared.
The snow shoes were on from the start as the snow was about 20cm deep as soon as I left the car. I crossed the rail line and then the river and crossed what would have been a bog with the snow shoes on. Headed for A’Mharaconaich I quickly reached is NW ridge and started heading up. As I had started late (about 2 pm) I only had a few hours of daylight and was keen to get up and down before darkness (and the next weather front) got me!
The going was helped greatly by the snow shoes and I was soon battling a gale as I reached a flat area before the final pull. The ice axe came out here and the snowshoes were off as I battled up the final slope to the summit. The winds were blowing a mesmerising spindrift across the surface and it made for some spectacle. The sun was dropping now and the shadows lengthening so I didn’t linger. A hefty snow storm had engulfed Ben Alder behind me so I was off like a shot and soon descending the way I had come up!
A grand few hours on the hill and the snow shoes got another outing J
Some thoughts and reports from my outdoors activties...