Another very cold night but in the morning the skies were more hazy, a thin veneer of cirrus cloud giving the day a less bold and bright feel. It was almost disappointing after the glory of the previous day but we had to tell ourselves that by Scottish standards it was still a cracker. It was dry and the tops were clear and the sun was still out. Time for another day on these fine and rocky mountains
After another fine fry-up it was time for the off. Our route for today were the twin summits of Sgurr a’ Chaorainn and Beinn na-h-Uamha, the latter the high point, just, and the Corbett that GM was after.
The start was a long trudge up the valley of Gleann Mhic Phail. There was a pretty good stalkers path and we made good time to the first of the rocky gorges that characterise the glen and where the path abruptly stops.
Another short spell of foot repair and we decided that the left bank was a better option, crossing while we could and avoiding the spots higher up where the slopes directly above the gorge became steep
It was tough going with peat hags and small side streams to traverse and everything watery (which as we know is everything in the highlands) frozen solid. As the heather changed to grass the going became easier and we traversed upwards to try and reach the west ridge of Sgurr a’ Chaorainn.
We stopped partway up for lunch figuring it would be windy on the ridge. It was a cold rocky spot so I pulled out my trusty sit mat, or I would have done if I hadn’t left it on a rock where we’d sat by the gorge earlier. Being a middle aged forgetful (and clumsy) git can be a real pain sometimes. We pressed on up the steep slopes to the ridge, picking out the scrambling sections at will.
When we hit the ridge we were in the lee of the summit and it was calm. We were surprised to be already at the snowline and very close to the summit so another stop was in order. I checked my messages and received one from James saying he’d found an awesome high level camp site and wouldn’t be joining us in the evening as planned. Having seen his photos it was a good call as he had a tremendous spot. Kind of thing I should be doing really, a bit more than this slack-packing I seem to drift into.
The snow slopes were still hard packed and made for more great winter snow walking to the easy summit. As with the day before most was easy angled with no difficulties but it was great just seeking out the little climbs and interesting micro-situations
The views from the top were again sensational. We didn’t linger as were back in the cold wind and we’d already had our stops for lunch. The route onwards was down easy snow slopes and interesting rocky outcrops.
There were even some moderately steep slopes to attempt some ice braking practice!
The route to Beinn na h-Uamha was over a mix of steep little rocky outcrops and snow slopes. There was no need for crampons but I stuck them on and sought out what steep slopes I could – great fun and pretty much kept on snow all the way to the summit. Cresting the final rise it was a surprise to find a distinctive little summit outcrop.
More spectacular views were in order on this marvellous peak. As per the previous couple of days and despite the quality of the mountains and cracking weather we hadn’t seen a soul.
On the way down I had some more (impromptu) ice axe practice 🙂
The snow slopes on Sgurr Dhomhnuill really caught the eye with their distinctive pattern
As we headed down the northern cliffs of the mountain came into view. They are hidden from Glen Scaddle and were surprisingly rocky and holding plenty of snow. There were lots of intriguing ascent lines up the snow-filled gullies. Another day
GM left me to my own pace again to sprint down and get my post walk brew ready
With the thin cloud still in place we were treated to some cracking light shows from the sun, playing light onto the mountains, river and the tent
As befits two grown men who should know better we messed about chucking stones about and taking childish pictures before a hearty chilli for tea (extra bag of chilli needed next time)
Post-chilli the light was just spectacular as the temperature started to plummet again.
Time for the real business of the evening. Plenty of dead wood about so we managed to get a decent fire going. Primarily this was to burn the rubbish down to a more manageable size and weight to carry out but such was the fuel supply we got a decent blaze going for a couple of hours
Sitting around on the banks of the river with a brew watching the setting sun play with the surroundings and tending to the fire was perfection
What is it with blokes and fire? Must be some kind of elemental hunter/gatherer/provider thing. Whatever it is, all my mates love messing with fires and out here it gives a real sense of the wilderness. Everything was tinder dry so we were cautious, using the bare stone and gravel of the river bed as a base and putting out the embers with water before we retired. With a proper wood fire we completely incinerated the rubbish, absolutely nothing left but ash which we buried
Like the previous couple of nights as darkness fell the frost started to form on the tents and we were forced into tent and bag. The pink sky bid us goodnight as we turned in
Another stupendous day on these magnificent mountains.