Haze: a slight obscuration of the lower atmosphere, typically caused by fine suspended particles... That's the wiki definition anyways!! It was certainly out yesterday perhaps due to the southerly wind direction - who knows. Anyway west was best according to the forecast so I headed to Moidart to get as far west as I could (with a reasonable car journey). I had already been up the magnificent Rois Beinn group so decided for Beinn Odar Beag (and Mhor) and Beinn Mhic Cedhir. I reached the layby (plenty of car parking room) next to the railway at around 0930 and was off walking by 0945. It was gusty with variable cloud cover. A grassy pull up the ridge saw me on the summit of Beinn Odhar Mor before 11.30. The snow was soft but the wind was gusty. I then headed across to the Corbett of Beag. Great views down Loch Sheil in both directions, shame it was so hazy! Then descended to the bealach and climbed up Corbett number two for the day - Beinn Mhic Cedidh. Descended via the north ridge then headed over the railway and along and onto the road to get back to the car. I really felt tired today!! Reckon it was nearly 1450m ascent which may explain this!!
Last week and I was also plagued by suspended particles but not the hazy sort - an impressive show of Spindrift awaited as I headed up Geal Charn. The blue skies and white peaks were grand and the sight of the spindrift was rather impressive. A wee video shows the conditions....
Some Moidart pictures below - for HD photos see :
Toubkal experience in the High Atlas with Ras and Timesguida thrown in.... Glorious weather and big mountains....
So finally getting round to writing the full report from our memorable trip to Morocco a month or two ago. Have posted a couple of vids but Toubkal was conquered as well as the second and their highest peaks in he Atlas - Ras and Timesguida. The weather we experienced in the High Atlas was perfect.. vide, and trip report below (photos at bottom)...
So the day had finally come. We had spent the winter battling the elements to get fit for this trip. The continuous bad weather and Atlantic lows hitting Britain had ensured we had been well weather beaten in preparation for this mountain trip!! All I wished for was some blue skies over the mountains of North Africa!!
Leaving home a little after 05.00 am on the Tuesday morning we headed for Manchester where we would catch the flight to Marrakech. All went well, and we got there in pliantly of time despite the weather being as it had been for the previous four months – wild, wet and windy!! Taking off from Manchester and we were given the weather conditions at Marrakech for our 20.00 arrival time – 18OC and light winds – hoorah!!!! In fact a last minute squint at the forecast for the High Atlas had been extremely encouraging with big blue skies and sunshine forecast…. I was really hoping this forecast would prove accurate!!!
Arriving in Morocco and we were met by the Taxi man from the Mouflon Refuge who set about getting us to the mountain village of Imlil – FAST!! In the dark it was hard to see the state of the road but smooth tarmac it was not !! Another interesting feature of the driving was the seemingly endless game of “chicken” the driver was having every time he overtook a moped or mule!! Certainly got the adrenaline pumping!! A few hours later and we were in a snowy Imlil. According to the driver there had been a big dump of snow a few days before. A little walk to the Mouflon Annex and we were shown to our room by Ali – the refuge keeper. The annex was relatively quiet but there were a couple of English climbers who were on their way back home. They informed us that there was a lot of snow and away from any trodden paths the snow was in “swimming condition!!”. After tea and conversation we went to the balcony where the stars and white peaks glistened to the South. A taste of what was to come.
A hearty tea and breakfast followed a sound night’s sleep and we were up negotiating a mule and porter by 0800am. The new chef for the Refuge , Aziz, was also trekking up with us today. It was a new job for him and he had never been up to the refuge before. He wore a pair of slacks and an old jacket with some light weight boots!! We soon ad crampons on as it was icy even at Imlil at this time in the morning. The walk up was great with blue skies and big mountain panoramas. A short break at the first tea hut saw us purchase a couple of SUshhhhhis (no idea of correct spelling!) and we looked like a proper couple of fan!!:@~ys ! However they did their job well and saved me from sunburn in the coming days!
Next up and we reached the Sidi Chamarouch mosque relatively quickly and without too much discomfort. The mules could go no further as the snow became more continuous here and a little more icy. Poor Aziz was struggling so I lent him my axe as I had my polEs and crampons which were more than sufficient at this pointJ The effects of altitude were slowly starting to tell and with the sun gaining height the heat seemed to be turned to maximum!! Although there was snow all around, the lack of wind and strength of the sun really sapped the strength. The last hour to the refuge was a killer!! We reached the Mouflon Refuge and collapsed for 10 minutes on the bench outside!! I reckon the walk had about 1400-1500m ascent…
The Refuge was cracking and we were served the first of what seemed like about a thousand cups of tea as we slowly recovered from the walk in!
We were also lucky in the fact that the Refuge was empty almost and we had a dorm entirely to ourselves for all but one night-no snoring J (well apart from my own!!)
At this point we were unsure about tackling Toubkal the next day as planned as we were tired following the walk in. We had planned to do circular via the North Cwn and down the south, however as warned when in Imlil we soon found that steeping off the beaten track resulted in wading through snow and there didn’t seem to have been anyone up the North Cwn!! We didn’t fancy breaking trail at 4000m on our first day!!! So after a massif tea we said we would head up the South cwm in the morning and see how we felt before deciding on whether to try for the summit.
A restless night’s sleep and we were up and ready to go before 07.00am. Slowly does it was the order of the day and we headed up the steep slopes into the south cwm. It was certainly much breezier than the previous day and the duvet jacket was soon on!! Spindrift at the Tizi made a spectacular sight almost producing a Glories effect as the hikers passed through. There were not too many people on the mountain as expected from the quiet Refuges. We passed an Eastern European party en route to the summit but as luck would have it, we had the summit to ourselves for a good half an hour before this party reached us. The weather was superb and the views were breath taking. The High Atlas spread out to the left and right and to the north and south the rest of Africa seemed to be laid before us!
Although “a walkers route” the covering of snow and terrain was a pleasant surprise and an interesting hike, not just a dull rounded peak! Certainly would not recommend without an axe and crampons as common sense would predict! Feeling tired but elated we headed off the summit leaving it for the Russians….. I must admit descending at altitude seems easier than ascending!!!!
Back at the Refuge the wood burner was roaring and a toasty lounge awaited along with more tea from Aziz! Once again a cracking dinner was served which recharged the batteries.
The next day, Day 4, and we decided to have a rest day before heading for Ras and Timesguida on Day 5! We slept well and had a leisurely start, with breakfast at nearly 10.00am!!! The rest of the day was spent reading and drinking more tea. The wind had died down completely now and when the sun reached the patio we headed out side and relaxed in the sun. The heat from the sun meant we were reading and drinking tea in our tea shirts!
Day 5 and we were headed for Ras and Timesguida n-Ouanoukrim early. The alarm had us up before 0500am and with no electric in the refuge at that time, we fumbled about with our head torches getting the kit ready. Another nice brekky and coffee and off we went in the dark. These two 4000m peaks had a much more remote feel about them and in fact we never saw another sole on the mountain until we returned to the refuge. We had these entirely to ourselves today, and what a day. As we headed through the flat valley floor before the rise to the Tizi, the dawn light lit up some high cirrus to a bright pink oil painting in the sky! – fantastic!. The wind was no where near as breezy as when we had gone up Toubkal , although it was noticeable on the East ridge. Having climbed up through a small gorge we headed directly up steep scree slopes and onto the East Ridge. The ridge was fantastic and a lot more hands on than expected. With a mixture of snow, ice and rock some scrambling on the rock was intermixed with ice and snow pitches. Much fun. However always in the back of the mind though was the fact that should anything happen, even a twisted ankle, then help is a long , long way away.!! However all was well and after some more scrambling we reached the top of the ridge. The weather was great, but we were aware should the clag come down then finding this spot would be essential. There were a few other ridges and a lot of steep ground around and finding the top of this ridge on the return was important.
A little while later and the rocky summit of Ras presented itself! A spectacular snow bridge with far flung views awaited as we approached Ras A final easy scramblesaw us reaching the top of the third highest peak in the AtlasJ
We hadn’t expected there to be any scrambling and for me this was a step above Toubkal in quality – great fun- an amazing summit. However more was to come. Ras is the third highest peak in the Atlas and now we had the second highest to contend with. Timesguida was a stones throw away, and reaching it was reminiscent of crossing the high Cairngorm plateaux. The wind swirled and changed direction between these peaks treating us to a “snow devil” show with dancing spindrift captivating us for minutes at a time. Following a phone break (we called home on the sat phone) we headed for Timesguida which was an easy pull from Ras. Once again far flung vistas and a great perspective of Toubkal – perhaps similar to the Bens North face from this side – but on steroids – no walkers route from this view it seemed!!
Although the weather was fine we were wary about finding the top of the East ridge for the correct descent whilst the skies were clear – realistically it would have taken a very rapid change in the weather for the clag to appear – but it can happen. We were also very wary that reaching the summit is only halfway and scrambling down is more taxing than scrambling up, especially above 4000m! However all was well and we eventually found ourselves back below the Tizi and through defile and on easy ground. What a day!! Fantastic. We headed back to the refuge and put our feet up for the rest of the day drinking more – yes you got it – tea!!!
Day 7 and it was time to head to Imlil where we had booked the annex for the night. A leisurely stroll down after a meeting with Mo the porter and the weather continued perfect. Additionally our timing was rather good too as it seemed the refuge huts would be busy given the number of guided parties we met heading up! In addition there were also what seemed like endless mule trains once we had passed the mosque! The scenery really is impressive and when we reached the Mouflon annex in Imlil we spent the rest of the day on the balcony taking in the surroundings in the day light – almost as impressive as our first visit to the balcony when the start and white mountains impressed us!!
Waking the next morning and the weather had turned with over night rain clearing – seemed we had the weather gods on our side too!!
Next up was a trip and overnight stay in the Old Town of Marrakech where we had booked a Riad. This seemed more scary than hiking in the mountains and indeed it turned out just that way. Although full of atmosphere I never felt 100% comfortable as we headed through the souks and to the Market square before returning to the Riad. Passing King Cobras, Falcons and lots of Monkeys (some wearing nappies!!) we decided that the second day would be spent relaxing in the Riad and on the terrace in the sun- much more comfortable!
All too soon and we were in a taxi headed for the airport. The adventure was heading for its conclusion! However as will such adventures there was a sting in the tail and one more adventure to be had!!
This occurred on the UK side and as we left Manchester airport for the 300 mile drive north the weather reminded us what winter is like in Scotland!! Leaving Manchester around 0100AM snow frequently drifted across both lanes and reduced the pace to a crawl!! Fighting sleep and caffeined up to the hilt – I stumbled into bed at around 0630 in the morning!!!
First outing for the Scupper pros this afternoon since last year. Decided on heading to Loch Ard for a paddle and arrived at the back of one. The conditions were blustery and the loch was a bit choppy!! We headed to the eastern end for a bit of shelter but it was a bit tasty when out in the open water!! Some good sized waves and the white horses were making an appearance too!! Some piccies from the calm end (to busy concentrating when in the open to tae photos!!)
A good hour and half spent in the kayaks and all set for some kayaking mountain adventures in the future...
Back in early November the signs were promising for a cracking winter ahead – high pressure, new snow, freezing temperatures and blues skies. Just the sort of conditions I was after for testing my SCARP tent on a winter wild camp!
“No need to rush in” I told myself – wait a while and the high pressure will return at some point……….. 5 months later and here it was!!!! Anyway off I headed and I arrived at Druimnavuic at the back of 3 in the afternoon. Just over three hours till sunset so I was keen to get going and get up to the top and pitch the tent in time to to enjoy the sun setting – I knew it may be tight!! The destination for the wild camp was for the summit of Creach Bheinn – a Corbett which was still on the tick list – and which also had fabulous sea views sitting west of Glencoe and Glen Etive.
The sun was shining and it was warm. So warm that I was in my tea shirt right all the way up through Coire Bhuide and onto the ridge. I reached the ridge around 16.40 and the shadows were already growing long! I carefully picked my way up the steep side of the 804m summit trying to avoid the deep snow drifts- the snow was not frozen here and I found myself thy deep at point so tried my best to stick to the grassy ridge!! The views back east and south towards Glencoe and Glen Etive were simply stunning. The peaks were white capped and against the blue sky looked amazing! I was looking forward to getting a good sunset (and I was not disappointed!!).
I decided to pitch the tent near the 804m summit as I would need to return hear to hear back down the north ridge in the morning anyways. I pitched as quickly as I could then literally ran to the summit to try and get some shots of the sun setting. The view was amazing – all I can say is see the video!! The red light from the lowering sun lit up the rock and I can easily see why so many hills are called Beinn Dearg!! I eventually pulled myself away from the summit and made my way back to the tent just before all light was lost. For a while the wind died completely but it soon picked up and I had a rather disturbed sleep with the wind waking me up at regular intervals through the night……….
I was glad when 05.30 came around and I made some coffee and headed to the summit for an amazing sunrise. The sun came up just west of Ben Starav and the beams of sun light shone through the haze. A memorable 30 minutes was spent taking it all in, however I needed to get back for family commitments so soon headed down the ridge and steeply back into Coire Bhuide – soon reaching the track I had taken on the way in. I was back at the car by the back of 09.00 and speaking to walkers heading off for the dayJ A great first outing for the Scarp and new sleeping bag and mat – was cosy even though there had been a substantial frost at all levels through the night J
Occasionally you hit the jackpot and can find yourself in the right place at the right time……
The day before, and the NW highlands were looking like the place to go according to the various online forecasts, so Torridon was chosen with a possible bash up An Ruadh Stac………. However……
The next morning and the alarm went early – too early!! First thing I did was to check MWIS – updated at 22.23pm the night before (after I went to bed for the early start)! Forecast had changed, now suggesting that the west coast mountains further south would be the place to be!! ;)
So a change of plan – Beinn Bheula. This hill has been on the tick list for a while and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to bag it. A quick printing of maps at 05.30 and I was away at 06.15 headed for Lochgoilhead – or so I thought!!
A quick de-ice of the car and off I headed. The sat nav wanted to take me via Tyndrum which I thought a little odd but then remembered about the landslides closing the road at the Rest and be Thankful! Glad the sat nav was intelligent and regularly upodated ;)
After about three hours I was closing in on Lochgoilhead – seemed to take ages. I was looking around and was surprised at the lack of big hills – a bit odd I thought!! Onwards in the sunshine and finally I arrived at the town – no big hills here – alarm bells !! Back to the sat nav – and a seriously DOH! moment - -…. And I had arrived at Lochgilphead –NOT Lochgoilhead!! Another 50miles later and I arrived at Lettermay!!! What should have been a 1.5hr journey had taken nearly four hours!!!
Anyway I set of from Lettermay (after finally finding a parking spot!!) at the back of ten. The sun was out and I moved quickly through the forest and up past the impressive waterfalls. The going was very boggy and soon I turned south and uphill towards Beinn Bhreac. The blue skies vanished and I was hit by a fast approaching squall. I could see it coming as the thick grey curtain blanked out the landscape as it drew closer!! Soon the snow started and visibility dropped. Out with map and compass!! As I reached Beinn Bhreacs top, the shower passed and I got a good view of Beinn Bheula. The part of the route which was to take me to the ridge looked very unstable with lots of wet soggy snow on steep ground. I decided against heading up this as it was not worth the risk. Looking round I could see a route through and up along a few ledges which looked safer so I headed up that way through the crags and directly onto the top of Creag Bhuic. It was only a short trip to the summit along some nice snow and I was soon stood on the top.
I decided to make a circuit of it and headed down the ridge past Creag Sgoilte and eventually made my way round (through more very boggy ground) to the outflow of Lochan nan Cnaimh. Here I followed the stream down – an interesting path to descent – care required!!). The route then headed through newly felled plantations and soon I was back at the car – it was now just after 15.00. So five hours well spent as it always is in the hills J nearly spent more time in the car getting there though! Lesson learnt – double check the sat nav no matter how early it is!!
Was up at a gathering of the clans in Dunkeld over the weekend and couldn't resist a quick blast up Ben Vrackie. Got lucky as was first on hill after a fresh dump of snow and got some cracking weather too. Posted some pictures below. Was back at he hotel for 0930 just in time for the family waking up and breakfast :) next blog will be full Morocco report hopefully:)
Some thoughts and reports from my outdoors activties...