Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category
The weather forecast had been changing by the hour through the previous evening but it all seemed to point towards a less wet day, possibly with some sun, maybe some rain, likely cloudy. Not too bad for Scotland. We all decided on a group walk and after much debate and a fight to death with Beinn Challuim, Beinn DubhChraig won. It ticked all the boxes, easy walk, not too far, easy navigation, plentiful parking at Dalrigh. It wasn’t a bad morning in truth and we set off in high spirits
The walk up through the forest was grand, another of those old natural pine forests that used to cloak Scotland, now sadly overtaken by regimented conifer plantations
The party divided as we trudged a particularly boggy trod through the trees, I struck out solo and decided to cross the river to the path. This gave me an opportunity to test how slippery the rocks were and clean my boots and gaiters!
I did at least arrive clear of the forest a good 20 minutes before the rest of the gang who stayed in the boggy forest. From there the day became a bit of trudge. The cloud came down, the snow underfoot was wet and heavy and then some fresh stuff fell from the sky. The promise of a brighter afternoon seemed a long way off. We stopped for a snack and there was an image of the sun.
I’ve been through this cruel deception in Scotland before. The sun appears as a ghostly image, then promptly buggers off to be replaced by rain. As we approached the ridge it did look genuinely blue directly above us and hope was rekindled. EWO loves his phrase “blueing up” and this time, perhaps…….
As the rest arrived we started to see wisps of distant mountains and proper watery sunshine. It was magical.
The photos don’t really do it justice but the mix of deep blue sky directly overhead and thin sunshine on the fresh snow was wonderful. As impressive as the clear blue skies of two days back, possibly more so. We climbed Beinn Dubhchraig several years ago on a previous trip and had exactly the same experience. A dreary, damp climb in the cloud and a sudden and dramatic weather clearance. My luckiest mountain?
The big problem with walking in a big group in poor conditions is it tends to lead to errors. Most people set off 180 degrees in the wrong direction, essentially back down the ridge we’d just come up. We’d strayed too far west while nattering leading to this major piece of navigational incompetence. I called them back when I saw the summit looming above us through the mist in the opposite direction!
From the summit the views were changing by the second, crystal clear one moment, back into cloud the next. It was cold and windy so we looked for spot for a leisurely lunch
I enjoy these big group gatherings, this one all the better for the ever improving weather. The good humour and frivolity was enlivened by TBF letting her sandwich box slide off down the hill. Being the kind soul I am, I tried to knock it further down the slope by throwing snowballs at it. OFS stepped in to retrieve it giving me an additional and much larger target that I promptly hit square on the head. Result!
The walk down the NE ridge was just superb. The skies were clearing further, revealing superb views across the Southern Highlands and Loch Lomond
There were a couple of steep sections that would have been interesting in icy conditions but easy to plunge down in very deep snow
There was one spot on the end of one of the small buttresses that was bathed in sunlight with majestic views all around. We took it all in and snapped many photos
Ben More and Sob Binnein looked especially wintry
This is Old Grandfather Sheffield. He had a “Cardiac Event” (to give it it’s modern re-branding) a few years ago which gave him a stark lifestyle reality check. All good now but there was a while when he thought climbing summits might be beyond him. He joins us every year and whilst he’s not quite as fast as he once was he’s pretty much back to his best and really seems to relish these weekends almost more than the rest of us.
The light just got better and better as we came down. Even though the snow was horrid and wet and the ground boggy it didn’t matter. Why should it with views like these
Rather than return the same way and cut the corner off through the boggy forest, we took the much longer forestry track. Having already done two longish days my knees weren’t happy to bash down a hard track. I was just starting to think that the shortcut would have been better when I (on my own as everyone else had left me behind) emerged from the forest to this view of Beinn Dorain and Beinn Odhar
It was superb and as the shortcut comes out much lower I’d have missed the scene and the light as I’d been down much earlier. From there, the walk down the through the natural forest was breathtaking
At every bend there was a better view than the last
Beinn Challuim stood proud catching the last of the sunlight and framed often by the Scots Pines
It was after six when we reached the car with everyone waiting for me and TBF. An absolutely cracking finish and well worth the lost sleep from arriving back home at 2am
So our winter gathering over for another year. A new home found and another couple of superb days to live long in the memory all the better shared with loyal friends of long standing.
Normal service resumed. The promised bad weather had arrived and was happily splashing everything with a soaking rain when we roused ourselves for breakfast. Plenty of time for a leisurely feast and long discussions about how best to use a wet and grey day in the middle of nowhere that is the Southern Highlands. The forecast had been evolving and it seemed to promise a ramp-down in the rain in the afternoon. In fact by the time we had re-assembled in the car park to continue the discussion in a colder and less hospitable environment the rain had pretty much stopped. While others went to bag munros and dreary corbetts, a select band chose an altogether more unprepossessing route
A horseshoe around the hills behind the hotel, taking in Ben Inverveigh and Meall Tairbh. We hoped their modest height would keep us out of the cloud and although that didn’t quite work out, it was in the end a pretty enjoyable day – of sorts – and challenging in its own way
The lower slopes, so often a real grind in these parts was overcome by the West Highland Way and a decent path that took us most of the way to the top. The views weren’t all that bad and we took comfort from the fact it was nowhere near as bad as the forecast from the previous day
We reached the snowline and wandered across the wide ridge taking in small outcrops and cairns as we went. When the mist came down we amused ourselves with baiting each other with the political and social issues of the day.
After a brief rest below the first summit we pressed on over a col that on the 1:50k map had no contours over a quite wide area – never a good sign in Scotland. In fact it was drier than expected (for that read, extremely boggy rather than a lake disguised as dry land) and interesting in its own way.
I found a small and very soggy, wet stream to enliven the climb to the second summit and celebrated its ascent with a fruit pie from Tebay services in the snow (they are well worth a stop on the M6 to stock up for a weekend I can tell you).
The summit of Meall Tairbh was bagged in a white out followed by a long plod down a very boggy ridge and back to Inveroran on the shores of Loch Tulla. I have great memories of this spot. You can park up and pitch on the grass where the road crosses the Allt Tolaghan and we did so many times for winter mountain bagging, retreating to the pub a short walk away to eat and drink. They were happy days. Who am I kidding they were cold days and I much prefer a warm B&B to a cold tent and frozen milk on cornflakes for breakfast. I was kidding they were memorable and fun weekends with a huge number of stories from the archive
It was a day that vindicated making the effort. Little in the way of views but good company and a fine walking challenge. I would have drawn you a map to show how far we went but Bing seem to have removed that functionality. Looks like I’ll have to pay for some maps. The cheek of it!
Winter in the mountains this year has been wildy unpredictable. I’ve been skiing at over 2000m in the Alps over rocks and bare patches of grass while my mate UF has just been suffering from no skiing due to too much snow just a month later. Ahead of our annual trip top the Southern Highlands the conditions changed from full winter, to no snow, back to loads of snow, followed by another thaw, all in a period of less than two weeks. I had no idea whether to pack skis, crampons, axes or shorts for this years trip!
Our home for the past few years has been the Suie Lodge Hotel. Sadly the wonderful owners who looked after us so well have sold up and the place was in transition to new owners so we needed a new home. This year we gave the Bridge of Orchy Hotel a go, more upmarket and pricey but after some negotiation by your truly we got a decent rate. It has a location to die for and the place is rather nice. The bar was out of action for a refurbishment but the rooms were great and the staff superb. Food was also top drawer so the place comes highly recommended
The weather forecast looked promising but drawing back the curtains on the Friday revealed a stunner. Cloudless blue sky and wisps of mist over the summits and valleys. One of the huge benefits of the hotel is the possibility of munros from the door so we chose a route over Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Achaladair leaving a car at the far end so we could make a circuit
It was a magnificent day, far better than the forecast had led us to believe.
As we ascended Coire an Dothaidh the views just got better and better
We hit the snowline at 700m and it the transformation was dramatic. From odd patches to complete deep cover in a mater of minutes. It was primarily deep unconsolidated snow on very wet ground so no need for metalwork and it was hard going. Luckily we had fit people in the party happy to break trail for me! 🙂
At the col we were in a winter wonderland. There was much exchange of smug grins and talk of people still at work
We pressed on towards the first summit of Beinn an Dothaidh. The snow was in places surprisingly extensive and deep considering there had been a major thaw less than a week ago
This range is one of the best in Scotland on a clear day. They stand proud above the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor giving a reals sense of air and space with a huge spread of mountains to the south and west
This is the next mountain on the route, Beinn Achaladair
We hit the edge somewhere between the the three tops and took a wander back to one of the lower tops on a whim, seeing as it was such a nice day.
It was an inspired idea. Not only were the views majestic but there was a perfect lunch spot tucked under the rocks, out of the wind and with the best of the views
Ben Cruachan looked particularly superb
Nothing better than a blue sky day, winter conditions and a chance to savour it with good friends of long standing
Onwards across the edge to the very shapely north top before plunging down to the col for another climb
The ridge to Beinn Achaladair is a long one, although not steep but you barely notice such things on a perfect day
Lochaber and its vast collection of summits was laid out in front of us
Even Ben Nevis was clear of cloud
As the day progressed it became a view of two halves. Supremely clear to the north and west but with cloud building from the south. The advance of bad weather that was forecast for the rest of the weekend. The cloud created some mesmeric lighting effects that my camera didn’t do justice to
The walk along the last part of of the summit ridge was a delight
It was one of those days that you just don’t want to end. Tired legs and fading light dictated otherwise
The party divided. Some chose the easy and longer option of a return to the col. The rest of us plunged down a quite outrageously steep grassy slope on a more direct route to the car.
The setting sun provided a fitting finale to a memorable day.
I thought we’d used up all our Scottish good weather luck last year but it was still holding
After the exertions of the previous two days skiing and in a effort to be more sociable with the rest of the party we opted for a day walk this time. A chance for me to add another missing munro on my quest to take the longest elapsed time to complete the list. Meall Glas was our target plus possibly Sgiath Chuil if we had time (or could be bothered in my case)
It was yet another stunning blue sky day as we started the climb up the track from Auchessan. Ben More, our ski mountain from yesterday looming large
A nice contrast between the brown heathery lower slopes and the snowy summits. Sgiath Chuil in the distance
On such gorgeous day with a large group, the pace is slow and stops are many. Sometimes idly chatting and stopping to admire the majesty of the surroundings is more important
We were soon above the snow line and the going was hard with the snow deep and largely soft. Who cares when the views are this good.
After another lengthy stop for food, brews and dialogue we pressed on towards the summit. There were a couple of pretty steep slopes to ascend requiring crampons and axes to be on standby but nothing too tricky
The final summit slopes suddenly felt tiring after 3 straight days in the mountains. Still, the views and the conditions always spur you on
It was pretty chilly on the top so we pressed on towards the lower top of Beinn Cheathaich with Sgiath Chuil still a target. The walk across the summit was magnificent. The snow cover was complete and the surroundings fabulous. It was these images that gave the blogs posts their title. It was a Winter Wonderland. Mountain walking just does not get better than this
We paused on the summit so everyone could catch up. Again all shaking our heads in wonder at how amazing the weather was and how lucky we’d been this weekend
On the way down towards the Lairig a Churain between Meall Glas and Sgiath Chuil I suddenly felt extremely weary. I decided that very long and very steep climb of 1,000 feet back up to Sgiath Chuil was too much and along with TBF and THO decided an easy stroll back from the col was in order. We waved at the others as they set of for the summit and alas didn’t see them again as we left before they got back to the cars
There had been a gathering haze of cirrus cloud through the day (heralding the fact the weather was to break the next day). Whilst not quite as clear blue it added an even greater atmosphere as the sun began to go down. We stopped for another snack in the middle of this vast expanse of bog now completely filled with snow
It was a long walk down from the col with much deep snow and several deep gullies to cross. The low light and shadows were just breathtaking. We watched from time to time to see the progress of the others. The slope that MM had chosen looked especially steep (he confirmed later that it had him concerned from time to time
We were not back at the car till 6pm. We’d been out 8 hours and only climbed one summit and done around 6 miles. That’s what happens when you are forced to stop every few hundred yards, look at the view and share the experience with old friends. I didn’t get home till after 1am but it was worth very tired minute at work the next week. What a truly magnificent weekend. Wonder how long I’ll have to wait for the same combination of circumstances
Another day and another superb clear blue sky morning. Hopes were high that the sun would stay with us all day and deliver a classic. More Ski Mountaineering was on the cards so we ramped things up a notch and decided to tackle Ben More, the highest of the Southern Highlands at over 3,800 feet and a “serious” ski route according the guidebook.
Downside was a low start that involved a long trudge up the forestry tracks to reach the snow in Coire Chaorach. The heavy packs (carrying skis) and heavy ski boots on the feet makes for hard work but the views and awesome weather kept us going
When we finally reached the open corrie and the snow we were indeed walking – or rather – skiing in a winter wonderland. Ben More beside us and Stob Binnein ahead
Skis on and it was a sheer delight to slide effortlessly – well not effortlessly but you get the idea – over the perfect snow under a deep blue sky in blazing sunshine
The perfect winter day with many stops to take in the views across the Southern Highlands, Lochaber and the Cairngorms glinting in the distance
We reached the ridge and the views were just immense. Distant mountains and the light making waves on the sculpted frozen snow.
It was full winter conditions, hard packed frozen snow dominating. The NE ridge of Ben More has a couple of steep rocky steps, far too steep for skis so we switched to crampons. You can see one of the steps in the photo below
I found this especially tough. Steep snow in very heavy boots with an awkward and heavy sack and I was left way behind. As I trudged, wearily up the easier slopes you can imagine my “disappointment” as most of the group started off again just as I reached them rather than let me catch my breath. I was bloody furious. Luckily MM, who is a very kindly soul, waited for me to recover (and have a serious rant) and then walked with me to the point where we could put skis back on and I’d calmed down a bit. Once back on skis I realised pretty quickly that it wasn’t a day for temper tantrums and I was soon back in the groove and “at one” with the mountains again
The views were still sensational and the final slopes to this high summit were a delight
As we celebrated the summit with some of our other friends who attained the summit the old fashioned way on foot, it looked like the weather might be selling us down the river again. Clouds gathered and for a while we had some rather moody views
It was short lived though and almost as soon as the cloud appeared it seemed to vanish, We left the summit to a group camping there for the night (must have been a chilly night!) and started our ski route down
It was tricky descent, steep, with a serious drop off to the left and mix of ice and rocky slopes. A couple of the group tried to head straight down and ended up having to remove skis and climb down. Me and JC headed right and found a decent route down (scarring my skis on the bare rocks) and down to the col.
The plan had been to go over Stob Binnein as well but I announced that my climbing for the day was done and I intended to chill in the warm sunny col and top up my tan before what looked like a magnificent cruise down Coire Chaorach. Reports from other walkers seemed to indicate the slope to the summit was hard and icy making a ski ascent very difficult. GM decided to join me a more leisurely way down. In fact the others only managed to ski up a few meters before the rock hard icy slopes forced them to revert to boots and crampons and climb to the top on foot
As an aside, I’ve always referred to GM as, well, GM (Geordie Munro). ED has pointed out that he is neither a Geordie or Scottish and as this is self appointed moniker we felt he needs a new one. ED provided several suggestions but seeing as GM is now growing an appallingly daft looking beard and has a appetite for plain boring oat based biscuits then The Hairy Oatcake seems more appropriate and will remain his identity on the blog until I come up with something funnier or more annoying, or hopefully both
So, after an extended scoff of goodies me and THO headed down. The corrie wasn’t steep but it was completely plastered in snow and was a truly magnificent easy cruise down on perfect untouched snow. The earlier descent almost meant we were in the sun the whole way down.
I reset the exposure on my camera to a more average setting, hence the much brighter shots from hereon. I think I prefer the lower exposure ones from the first part of the day
You even get the added delight of some photos of yours truly looking like the hard mountain enthusiast he is
The skiing brought many shouts of delight as we cruised down without a care. One of the finest hours I’ve ever had in the Scottish mountains. Wonderful skiing, blue skies and bright sunshine
I like this photo for the rather bizarre fork-like shadow that THO seems to have created
One of the fun parts of Ski Mountaineering is picking a route as the snow starts to thin out. We had a great time weaving in and out of snow filled peat hags on ever patchier snow, desperately trying to find the last possible spot to take off the skis. Eventually you end up on slopes more grass than snow with patches only a foot or so wide in places.
All the while the views and the situation were unrivalled in recent memory
When at last we decided skiing on boggy grass would be rather foolish we reluctantly took off the skis, fixed them to the pack and set off for the long trudge back to the car. Despite the weight and the distance to go we were all beaming smiles and feeling pretty damn good. Could we finish the day off to make it even more perfect? Hell yes:
- We managed to hitch a lift all the way down the forestry track with one of the guys working on the Hydro Scheme in the valley.
- We were back early, decided on a cheeky beer before we went back to the room to change and ended up staying a couple of hours (and several beers later) chatting with a group of very friendly locals in the bar
- When everyone else was back we enjoyed a fine evening of great food, more beers and tales old and new with friends and friendships going back 30 years
That was a great day!
Our winter trip to the Southern Highlands has been a fixture now for 10 years. In that time we’ve had a few days of sunshine and a couple of days of proper winter conditions. We’ve never had both together and the weather has always been mixed although the weather has never been a complete washout.
This year, our 11th, the forecast looked promising with high pressure and cold weather following a snowy spell giving much hope for a great conditions. Drawing back the curtains on the Friday morning gave substance to that hope.
Lots of deep fresh snow equals a chance for some ski touring. I abandoned TBF to the tender mercies of the Sheffield Boys while we headed to Lochan na Larige for a high start. We had park below the reservoir as the road was blocked by snow and ice.
Spoilt for choice with the mountains plastered in snow above 500m, and after much debate we settled on Meall Nan Tarmachan.
The weather and views were just breathtaking. How often is it you’re glad you remembered sunglasses on a day out in Scotland. We ploughed our trail up towards the ridge that carries the baggers path to the summit
Alas the Scottish weather nipped at our heels as a bank of grey cloud drifted in and started to cloak the higher summits. We were even treated to the almost unheard of sight of MM struggling with tiredness (he had just flown back from a business trip to Brazil!)
By the time we reached the summit it had reached us as well so it was the briefest of stops, tinged with a little disappointment that the fine start to the day had petered out.
Luckily skiing downhill is great fun even in the cloud. This descent enlivened by my attempt to ski an extremely steep gully badly broken by deep footprints and with boots not adjusted properly. Ratio between ski and fall about 20:80! 🙂
We skied down to the track and then back up to the ridge for another descent back to the car. The fickle Scottish weather turned again and the sun came out
Not sure what I did with the camera settings but they came out rather dark and broody looking but still capture the essence of what was a cracking ski descent
The snow was a little heavy but fluffy enough for some wonderful easy turns as we picked a superb route through the crags and gullies
I seem to have lost the ability to keep a camera aligned to the horizon as I’ve got older. However this particular shot seems to be best yet. Pretty sure Loch Tay would empty rather quickly at that sort of angle. 🙂
The patches of blue and the sunlight on the mountains, backed by dark clouds was just magnificent
This shot of GM in action is my favourite from the day
The descent went on all the way down to the dam and the massive water pipe that pops out from the base
For most of us climbing under the pipe was the only time we took skis off all day. MM made a very brave effort at trying to limbo underneath without taking them off. A then made it look easy!
Blue skies, a ski munro, two cracking descents, and ski to/from the car on excellent snow with great company. Does a day get better than this? Watch this blog to find out.
We’d had our big day in the sun and after 4 days in the mountains it was time to head home. There are only 3 or 4 trains a day from Corrour so we were up early to make sure we didn’t miss the lunchtime one and have to wait another 6 hours for the evening train. Entertainment is somewhat limited at Corrour. We had some grand ideas about walking out over the Loch Treig hills but we had a long journey home and work the next day – and the packs were still heavy enough even having eaten most of the food. Time to pack up and haul the packs onto tired bodies and off to catch a train
It was an uneventful walk, returning firstly, again back along the riverside path to Loch Treig
From there it’s a bit of long grind along the track by the lake-shore and back to the station. The cloud was down on the summits but the air was still and the reflections of the mountains in the calm waters of Loch Treig enchanting
As we made progress along the track the cloud made progress away from the summits and all became clearer
It was turning into a pretty fine day for our walk out.
The power or water company are doing some kind of work on the Allt a Chamabhreac for the Loch Ossian Estate and there is now a well made road heading up to the station. It climbs much higher and was much steeper than I’d thought and I found it a bit of grind under the heavy pack with my big mountain boots on. TJS now seemed to be more at ease with the pack and was keeping pace with GM, no mean feat, while I dragged my heels at the back.
As we climbed the views improved and as the road cuts under the railway line and heads away into the estate we were able to pick up a more foot friendly path to the station
We stopped for a bite and took a look at Leum Uilleam, our summit from 4 days ago. The transformation was dramatic. I think these two photos taken 4 days apart told the story
The walk to the station was really rather enjoyable. The streams and rivers gave a soundtrack and there were numerous places to camp. With hindsight, I’d have just walked down here from the train and pitched up for a night, claiming Leum Uilleam without the packs or the cross-country bog trotting of the first day. Still, having had a superb 5 days I wasn’t about to pick apart what we’d done and chose to celebrate in my mind a tremendous trip full of great experiences and great walking.
All that remained was the last mile or so to Corrour, approaching from the north really gives a sense of how remote and bleak a place it is for a train station and the sign reminds you of the altitude
We arrived with an hour to spare and spent a lazy time massaging sore feet and reflecting on our adventures. As the train rolled in, Stob Coire Easain, our Munro from the previous day, finally emerged from the cloud to bid us farewell
It had been an amazing and at times pretty tough adventure but so rewarding especially for TJS. I think we have a new regular for the Easter trip 🙂