Catching up on blogs again this evening and this trip was done on the lead up to Christmas. Another fine morning may happen - well according to the 10.30 BBC weather on the Saturday night:) So I set the alarm early - way too early not sure if the forecast would materialise (there were varying forecasts!) and hoped to catch a mountain sunrise... I wasn't disappointed...... here the report form the time :
Sunrise Carn Liath
Half decent weather was forecast and I was itching to get out on the hill- the only issue was I needed to be back by midday on Sunday for family commitments… Usually Ben Vrackie meets the bill in this scenario – nice and close and can be up and down and back home without losing too many brownie points ;) However I had been up here lots in the prior two months and I fancied a wee change so set my sights on Beinn a’ Ghlo! It is a wee bit further up the road so my alarm was set awe bit earlier(ok a lot earlier!!4am ;)). I wanted to catch the sunrise from near the summit so was out and on the road for 4.30am, early but hopefully worth it!
Arriving at the muddy car park, I got kitted up and headed into the night! To be honest I was feeling pretty rough with ma flu and at this point the sky was showing absolutely zero signs for a good sunrise. In my minds eye I was imagining starry skies with a glorious sunrise, and this wasn’t happening as I headed towards Carn Liath! Heading past the hut in darkness I splodged though the extremely marshy ground at the foot of the hill before the main ascent!
It was now nearing 7am and I caught a glimmer of hope! Far off to the south east and the first signs of dawn were emerging. A slight reddening of the horizon gave me hope and a spring was again in my step! Soon the sky was starting to light up so I found a spot just off the summit and in the shelter from the strong north westerly breeze… To my delight the sunrise was perfect, the sky was pink and red and I sat feeling very smug until the colours faded as the sun rose above the horizon.
10 minutes later and before 9 oclock and I as stood on the summit fighting the wind! Getting shelter behind the summit cairn I once again watched the skies illuminate as the sun found a hole in the clouds on the horizon and put on a show illuminating the changing clouds to the south above Ben Vrackie!
The remaining peaks of Beinn a Ghlo were shrouded in cloud so I had my fill and decided to bank my brownie points and head back. By 10am I was back at the hut at the base of the hill and once again I stopped to soak in the sunshine. Not much wind down here and even though it was winter, the sun actually felt warm. I sat and had a drink and enjoyed the mackerel cloud formations above Carn Liath- superb…
Home for 11.30 and a cuppa tea and a bacon butty were enjoyed J
I am a few weeks behind on my blog! So writing this report now into 2018, I can say that I think this may have been my highlight for the whole of 2017! Right at the end and as it wasn't a trip in high pressure weather conditions I can safely say that I was a "jammy git" on this one! Capturing what is in MHO the finest mountain scenery (anywhere!) in glorious winter conditions was fantastic, but throw in some mountaineering a snowy ridge traverse and returning in a blizzard - this wee trip had it all... hope you enjoy the video and here is the report I wrote at the time..... :
The Cuillin in Skye have always captured my attention, whether Red or Black the combination of mountain and sea creates a magical spectacle and a visit to Sky always fills me with excitement! The northerly winds had brought snow to the northern half of Scotland and now a low pressure system was hovering over the northwest highlands! The day before on the drive through I had stopped in Glen Shiel and walked up Sgurr Mhic Bharraich, wading through drifts on the top and catching a little sun light between hefty showers!
I spent the night in Broadford contemplating what to do the following day… The forecast was varying between the different weather websites, with some stating the afternoon would be better and others indicating that the morning would be better! I had my eye on Garbh Bheinn, a Corbett in the Black Cuillin, not far from Clach Ghlas and Blabheinn, which I hadn’t been up before, however I didn’t fancy heading up in a white out!
A short evening walk along the shores of Broadford Bay revealed a starry sky and I looked skyward in the hope of catching some of the meteor shower… I saw two shooting stars and made my wish!
Breakfast as at 0730am at the hotel and I was up early to see which forecast was right! Stepping outside and everything sparkled- a deep frost had descended overnight and cloaked everything in ice! Anticipation was growing, although the stars shone here with the clear sky, it didn’t mean the mountains along the road would be clear! I set off and to my delight the skies remained clear as I drove the short distance to my start point near the waterfall at the head of Loch Ainort, the dawn light was revealing a white blanket coating the Cuillin Hills- to say I was happy would be the understatement of the year! I really couldn’t have asked for a better morning, the heavy snows of the prior days had left the Red and Black Cuillin decidedly white! The sky was blue, the mountains were white ad nobody else was on the hill, solitude seemed a little unfair however I was enjoying it all! The shooting star and wish the night before had held true;)
I made my way up the Druim Eadar Da Choire, all the while trying to make steady progress and not stopping every two steps to pick my jaw off the floor! Marsco was dominating the skyline ahead and to my right, the other Red Cuillin stood behind me watching my progress and all the while Garbh Bheinn was waiting to the southern horizon! These views were amazing but as I reached the top of the shoulder (489m), the Black Cuillin Ridge came into view- what a sight! I was lucky enough to summit camp on Sgurr na Stri when snow covered the Cuillin previously, however on that occasion the blanket was only half on – today the blanket was almost down to sea level. I spent a bit of time enjoying the view at the shoulder top and would’ve of been happy to turn and go home here – however I now had to cross from the Red to the Black and get my mountaineering head on! Garbh Bheinn, in comparison to other Black Cuillin peaks may be less technical and in the summer a easy scramble, however under a coating of deep, soft powdery, unconsolidated snow, I knew I was going to have to concentrate and perhaps not summit her today…. No one was on the mountain and a simple slip would have consequences- especially on the summit ridge where I knew the narrow ridge would test me….
Crampons on – ice axe out, I now headed up steep ground with some steepening sections. The snow made everything look so festive but foot placements gave some surprises. The deep snow hid rock and scree and the fact that the snow was so powdery meant I had to take my time. Up I went and the views got better and better! Behind me and looking north I could see the weather was rapidly changing, the low sun to the south was still illuminating the white hills but the northern horizon behind grew darker and darker with the approaching weather!
Soon, I was about to gain the summit ridge! Pulling myself onto the final ridge before turning east and a new view came into sight as Blabheinn appeared in all its glory! I sat and enjoyed it, but not for too long – Glamaig and its neighbours had now been engulfed with the storm clouds and were disappearing from view- I needed to crack on! Probably a hop, skip and a jump in summer conditions, the final ridge was now a sharp snowy arête, the knife edge crest of snow hiding the rocks under the coating. Probing my way along slowly I had to circumvent a few small steps the axe a necessity ! Exhilarating and lofty it certainly was! Soon I reached the summit and the blue above was now replaced by grey as white flakes started to fall! Half way! The same amount of concentration was needed to retrace my steps and soon I stopped heading west and was headed north towards the car. The hills and mountains that had caught my gaze all the way up had now disappeared and a sheet of dark grey enveloped everything. The wind had increased dramatically and heavy snow now fell from the sky stinging my exposed skin! The blizzard raged around me as I descended! My plans (had the weather remained perfect) were to continue to Marsco, that was no binned as I fought my way back to the car! It wasn’t until I set foot back on the Red Cuillin that the snow started to ease so a couple of snaps and piece to camera before descent on the red part of the walk! The snow eventually turned to rain as I reached the car and a quick change into civilian uniform;)! On to the Sligachan and a soon I was tucking into a festive dinner in front of a roaring fire, trying to take in my day’s adventure – what a day, what a mountain – what a place….. Not sure I will have such a good day on the hill for some time……..
Sgurr Mhic Bharraich
Winter was in full swing in the Highlands of Scotland and a few days of snow further south had made the news also, but the snow had been falling in the north west for a lot longer than a day up here. I had a couple of days off work and was headed for Skye. The forecast was uncertain with a low pressure centred off the NW Highlands and not moving anywhere very quickly!! However the gamble was that the winds and showers may ease up here as the centre of the low was almost on top of this part of the world! On the flip side, it would also mean that there was also the chance of the low moving and the showers and winds being a constant companion !! The last few weeks had seen every summit I stood on being blasted by gales and had me longing for some High Pressure systems !
Anyway, leaving Inverness in the morning and the forecast was for a thaw in the wintery conditions and the sleet fell on the shores of Loch Ness as I headed towards Invermoriston. The good news was that with the thaw , the roads would be black (wrong!). As I headed west towards Glen Sheil, the snows hung heavy on the Glen Moriston trees and the roads held onto their icy, slushy mess! Feeling like Bamby on Ice , I was glad when I pulled into the Sheil Bridge parking bay! The snow had turned back to rain here and it was battering off the windscreen – I really didn’t want to leave the car! …
After wondering why I was about to head out into the rain and then up into a waiting blizzard, I eventually hauled myself into my waterproofs and set off along the shores of the Allt Undalain. The snow on the lower slopes was a bit slushy but soon after leaving the car, the rain went off!! I carried on the stalkers path around the eastern slopes of Sgurr Mhic Bharraich and eventually reached a very snowy Loch Coire nan Crogachan. I had planned a wild camp here but to be honest, I was really glad I didn’t have the extra weight of camping gear! Breaking trail through the powdery, deep snow was tiring enough!!
At the loch, the sun actually made an appearance and the views back towards the saddle and the five sisters was amazing! Next up was to gain the ridge of Sgurr Mhic Bharraich. Had snow conditions been better I may have taken a more direct line, however the loaded slopes and the prevailing winds of the prior week, made my decision to take a wide berth of the steeping slopes ad head onto the ridge further east. A bit of a detour but a much safer option. Once on the ridge the snow was at times waist deep. Some of the drifts I had to swim through as there was no way around them!! I had left my poles with the snow baskets at a friends so was cursing every time they and I sunk into the drifts !! Snow shoes would’ve been useful!!
As I neared the summit the visibility was still ok but the skies were pitch black!! Made a nice contrast to the white mountains but I knew it wouldn’t be too long before they engulfed me! And so it was , as I reached the summit they came down and from there on the snow fell! I took a direct route back down the eastern slopes of Sgurr Mhic Bharraich and soon made it back to the car. The snow was now falling as forecast ( the thaw was only in the morning!!).
Next up SkyeJ
My favourite place and the next day was one that will live long in the memory……..
Beinn na Gainimh
A few hours free on a sunny Sunday, so I headed up to Glen Almond with the bike in the boot. I had thought about heading up Ben Chonzie as the first sprinkling of snow had hit the summits, however the days are short and I reckoned night cycling would have occurred on the way back!! The skies were blue , however the winds were to be high and as I pulled up at Newton Bridge the bending trees certainly suggested the forecast to be right. The direction was northerly so I thought I may have been sheltered in the Glen – wrong! The wind howled through the glen and I was blown over a few times!! It was a biting wind and I soon had an idea of where to go. From no go Chonzie, I then set my sights on Auchnafree Hill. However there was no shelter on its northern slopes and the sun was nowhere to be seen on them either. A hill to the north of the glen was going to be my best bet.
A quick look at the map and I found a wee track heading to the north. Pushing my bike up the steep track, I was soon enjoying myself. The southern slopes were relatively sheltered and the sun was shining down J
I soon left the bike and headed up heathery , pathless slopes, trying to keep to the southern slopes as much as possible. The views soon opened up and a fantastic view to upper Glenalmond was enjoyed. Up I went and as soon as I reached the shoulder , the wind returned!! A few cairns and standing stones were passed as I set my sights on Beinn na Gainimh. The ground was frozen which made the going easier and if it wasn’t for the wind this would have been an enjoyable stroll! Soon the smallest summit cairn in Perthshie was reached and I about turned and raced the locals back to the bike (white hares are super fast!!) lol..
Glad to be back at the bike, I was looking forward to my cycle back – downhill then win assisted back to Newton Bridge. The latter was fine but I soon discovered my bike needed new brake pads!! The gradient on the descent was too steep and the brakes were pretty useless. Luckily I was taking my time and I hadn’t gathered too much speed before realising I wasn’t stopping very efficiently!! Pushing the bike downhill wasn’t in the plans !! However the cycle along the glen was wind assisted and great fun J
A grand afternoon and when I got home I realised that I had managed to tick off a Graham (never realised this was one!). Pretty sure that if you like solitude then you don’t have to travel too far from the central belt – this hill will almost certainly be deserted (well apart from the wildlife J)
Meall nan Tarmachan
Having taken my first trip in years up Meall nan Tarmachan, last December, I have re visited it twice since then. A summer yomp with the kids and this weekend we took a snowy drive to say hello to winter J
A superficial, but visually convincing layer of snow covered the Central Highlands and the forecast was looking wintry for Saturday. However a fine dawn saw us meeting up in Killin then jumping in an appropriate vehicle to take the un-gritted road to the Lawers Nature Reserve. The road was white but the 4 by 4 had no problem get us to the desired starting point thankfully~J
The forecast cloudy skies and misty tops looked a long way off, as the Lawers group sparkled as the rising sun in the south east illuminated their white blanket giving a spectacular vista on our drive up. Parking with the sun rising above the horizon , we all had spring in our step! Off we went and it was glorious! The suns rays were shining down and the shoulder we were about to climb was protecting us from the strong North Westerly. Onwards we went – hopes high for a traverse of the ridge…. These hopes were soon called into question though! As soon as we hit the crest of the ridge the force of the wind was felt. Goggles were put on to protect our eyes from the stinging snow and we were now getting buffeted about !
The familiar ridge soon met the final pull and as we were first on the hill a trail was being made up the snow filled cleft where steps normal take the walker towards the summit! Given the covering of snow we decided to take a direct and sporting route to the summit, good fun was had…. A little later we were stood on the summit watching the views come and go between the clouds that were whizzing past! A decision was taken to head back down, didn’t fancy the traverse in these winds, been across it many times and we made a pact to return when the winds were a little lighter ;)
A fine morning out and back in time to watch a rather good rugby game – all in all – a grand day J
A spare morning and we were keen to fit in a hill to welcome the first signs of winter. The tops had seen their first sprinkling of snow but the only issue was to be the wind speeds. Forecasts had 45-50mph with higher gusts so after some thought and deliberation we decided on taking a well known track and also a hill further south and east where visibility and weather were marginally better.
Arriving at Ardvorlich around mid morning, it wasn’t surprising to find that we were the only car ! The wind was blowing white horses up Lochearn and the clouds were fairly scudding by above us! Heavy raining battered on the windscreen as we finally left the warmth of the car and set off Vorlich. Heads down and waterproofs on we headed up and finally met the snow line round 750m. The winds were gusting and standing upright was a battle all by itself ;) As always the final pull was brutal, the rain turned to horizontal snow and time on the summit was kept to a minimum. First taste of snow and although rather breezy, a fine morning on the hill J
I go through spouts of “bagging” and having (nearly) finished all the Munros, I have spent the last 10 years or so slowly heading up the Corbetts! To be honest I think that these maybe more demanding than their bigger brothers, mainly due to the fact that “clumps” can’t be bagged in one outing!!
Another factor slowing my progress , is the fact that as with the Munros, once you are half way through them, the distances involved to reach their bases increases dramatically! Weekends away are required – or 3am starts! I usually see Fort William and Inverness as the cut off points – anything south or east of these landmarks are easily day trippable! However beyond that, then multi day trips are needed…. Added to this is the fact that I am also really enjoying just getting out, the bagger in me is usually curtailed and I’m not too bothered (hence why I’ve had about 5 Munros left to do for about the last ten years ;).
As long as I get my mountain fix at least twice a month , then I am sorted… However – every now again I think about getting the hills bagged, and with my buddy off this weekend, I decided to head to the north end of Glen Roy to compleat the Corbetts that are within a day journey from home !! To really compleat will take a few more years and perhaps will never come but hey ho!
So up at 6am and I headed for Roybridge. The forecast was ok and early season snow was forecast J The roads were dead and the only people I saw on my 97 mile trip were a couple of gentle policemen in Roybridge, out before anyone elseJ
Up the Glen I went and past the point I stopped the last time…. An enjoyable wild camp before headed for Pygmy ridge! That was an enjoyable weekend adventure.
Arriving at Brae Roy Lodge around 9am, I headed up the track and to my delight, the sun came out causing me to shed layers…. So much for the cold weather forecast ;)
Up past the two chimneys and up Glen Turret. The path was now a boggy track and my plan was to stay low out of the wind by heading up Gleann Eachach to the Bealach and then ascend the hills from there. However this track was a bit boggy so I decided to head straight up on to the ridge between Teanga Mhor and (the first) Carn Dearg. I usually love hitting ridges , but not so with this one. It was peat hag hell! Lots of gloopy peat hags and bogs to negotiate- just glad my boots were waterproof and the gaiters tight!!
As I got through the bog the weather closed in and the snow started. Wet snow stung my face and it was a marked contrast between the warm sunny weather in the Glen! However it soon passed and I was stood on the summit in a gale!
Some carefully navigation eventually saw me back at the Bealach and ascending the second Carn Dearg of the day! The clag cleared again but the wind picked up, by the time I reached the summit it was rather blowy!! I descended SW and reached the upper reaches of Glen Roy. Enjoying the tranquil Glen weather, I sat and watched some large predatory birds circle ahead whilst enjoying a bite to eat! A fabulous setting and it felt nice and remote. Hadn’t met a soul all day and felt the better for it – some cracking wild areas up here…..
Chasing a Sunset
The clocks went back – an extra hour in bed – hoorah! Sunset also moved back an hour …
So when I found myself free for a few hours on a glorious Sunday afternoon, I decided to see if I could catch a sunset from the top of Ben Vrackie! Sunset was due to be around 16.30 so I thought if I set off from home at 1400, this would give me plenty of time to reach my goal….
Best laid plans of mice and men though! A rather slow phone update (well took nearly 50 minutes) put pay to that plan and I didn’t arrive at the car park till nearer 15.30. When I had arrived at the car park the bottom car park was full so I tried my luck at the top station and found a space. I knew it was a busy place, and rightly so.
Quickly getting the boots on I headed through the lovely Autumnal woods as the lowering sun glinted and flickered through the trees. The familiar path and gate through to the open hillside was soon reached and a stream of people were heading off the hill, having enjoyed a fine day in Perthshire.
Instead of taking the path much travelled, I decided to take the path which runs off to the NW of the main path and eventually takes you to the western shores of Loch a’ Choire. It was cracking, blue skies ahead and a fresh northerly wind ensured no overheating was occurring.
A quick photo stop at the head of the loch and I was soon heather bashing up steep, pathless, heathery slopes. There isn’t a path on this side of the hill and it’s not for those who don’t like thick heather interspersed with boggy steep ground!! However it does provide a lovely contrast and differing views from the normal route.
The sun was just about touching the horizon but I was still 100m from the top, so I decided to stop and take some more pictures before heading onto the summit.
To my surprise, the summit was empty and there was no signs of life. I hadn’t expected this, so I enjoyed a good 20 minutes watching the clouds turn pink before fading and feeling the darkness creeping up from the east. I headed down the normal route and it wasn’t until the loch that the head torch was required. The stars were appearing too so I stopped on a few occasions and took some more snaps before arriving in pitch blackness at the now empty car park. Another fine outing on BEN Vrackie, never seems to disappoint!
Sometimes its the journey that's important - well that what we are told ! This certainly seemed the case when we decided to finally head to Mull to bag Ben More. The time on the hill was minimal in comparison to the 4am start, car journey, ferry ride and car journey to get to our destination! In fact the highlight of the trip was the ferry crossing, seeing Dolphins and a wide range of sea life as well as some cracking weather! Storm Brian kept at bay, but the weather wasn't that great on the hill! However a fine outing all in all : walk report here - https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=76310
Rothiemurchus to Loch Eanaich…
I was looking forward to my long weekend away with the family. It had been a busy month and with the stress of the last holiday (a rather stressful trip to Las Vegas) some family time in Rothiemurchus was strongly needed!
Arriving on the Friday, myself and my daughter went out almost immediately after unpacking. Our objective was a visit to Loch Morlich to try and get some snaps. We ended up doing the circular walk and managed to get right round the Loch before sun down, the colours were cracking and Autumn had very much arrived in The Cairngorm National Park!
Back at the hotel and we had booked a late dinner and finished eating about 9 o’clock. Feeling the need for some fresh air me and the wee lass headed out on our second walk of the evening! Head torches at the ready and we set off into the Rothiemurchus Forest . It was a bit spooky with the old twisty pines lightening up as our torches moved around the forest and with it being Friday the 13th we heard every small noise and decided that we were being stalked by the Grey man!! In hindsight I maybe shouldn’t have chosen this moment to tell my daughter the story of the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui !! lol..
Anyway, we were lucky as the clouds had cleared and the sky was filled with stars. No moon that we could see and we spent a good hour snapping away at the starry sky. My daughter was gob smacked as this was the first time she had really had the chance to star gaze out with the town and hence an area without light pollution. Needless to say I think she may accompanying me again at some point!
As we were here I thought I would take a chance and see if we could catch the Aurora. We trekked for a further 30 mins through the woods until we reached a small road that led up a small hill above the forest. Although a little cloudy, we got lucky and caught the aurora – what a great night. Near 11 pm I only took a couple of snaps as it was windy and we were both tired!
The forecast wasn’t great for our 4 days so I took advantage of the good spell and rose early on the Saturday with the aim of heading to Loch Eanaich on the bike taking in the Rothiemurchus Forest en route! The weather played ball and I enjoyed a grand sun rise through a break in the forest. However the higher I got I noticed the gales whistling through the trees. It was mild but the wind was ferocious from the south. Heading straight into it, by the time I reached Glen Eanaich, there was no shelter from the trees and I was pushed over a couple of times!! Eventually I reached the Loch where white horses were in abundance. A wild rugged (and exposed spot) I watched the clouds scud by and eventually decided I needed to head back.
After the struggle of the head wind on the way up, the return journey was superb – downhill with a gale force southerly at my back ! It was quick and the scenery was amazing. A few more snaps and I was back home by 11am. Landmark was next!! Lol
A cracking cycle and I can thoroughly recommend cycling through the Rothiemurchus Forest in Autumn- the views are fine and the choices for landscape photography are plentiful!! A superb place to visit…
Some thoughts and reports from my outdoors activties...