Day Meet to Glen Affric, Sunday 11 October 2020

We followed the by now familiar routine of having a number of mini-meets on the same day to minimise the size of each group. This time the chosen hills were Mam Sodhail, Tom a’ Choinich and Toll Creagach.

Catherine, Karen, Helen and Arthur had a fine day in Glen Affric making a circuit of the An Tudair and Sgurr na Lapaich ridges leading to and from Mam Sodhail.  We had intended to approach Mam Sodhail via Creag Coire nan Each, but a revolt in the party about losing height from the end of the old stalkers’ path down to the Sputan Ban waterfalls saw us climbing the steep slopes of An Tudair Beag instead, pictured above.  And we got our first taste of the winter’s snow, kicking a few steps in soft wet gooey stuff.  The cloud came and went, but it stayed mainly dry.

Looking back to Mam Sodhail from the Sgurr na Lapaich ridge

We had a look at the old Ordnance Survey shelter below Mam Sodhail summit.  It is part of the remains of one of the Colby Camps from the first half of the 19th Century used in the first  triangulation of Scotland.  The theodolite that they used was about 3 feet in diameter and weighed 300 pounds. The OS sappers would have stayed in the camp for weeks at a time in all weathers while making the survey.

The limits of our geomorphological knowledge were tested by the stratifications on the west flank of Tom a’Choinich on the other side of the glen (frost heave, water erosion, something else) and was it a landslip or a fault running along the ridge to Sgurr na Lapaich summit?  We did, however, recognise the bog we had to cross to regain the track after the rough descent off the nose of Sgurr na Lapaich.

Dan, Paul, Irene and John on Toll Creagach

Dan, Irene, John and prospective member Paul headed up the hill from the new car park just short of Chisholme Bridge in Glen Affric. It’s a really good (and cyclable) track for a while to the intake of a new hydro scheme, before becoming ‘rather  liquid’. The stalkers’ track mapped as going up the Allt Toll Easa morphs into a good path to the top of Tom a’Choinnich, with some fine views to the south and west. First snow of the season on the summit, with the clag arriving just in time to spoil the view.

Without the need of discussion, we found ourselves descending the ridge east towards Toll Creagach, a very rounded hill after the craggy Tom. There’s a cairn and a trig point, but I’m not convinced that either is at the highest point of the hill! From there a long and increasingly boggy slope down to the bottom of the glen and back to the cars. We may not have had any sun, but the absence of wind and rain was good.

Participants: Catherine, Karen, Helen, Arthur, Dan, Irene, John and prospective member Paul.

Day Meet, Sunday 20 September 2020

Fourteen club members and prospective members ranged far and wide on this meet.  A group of five headed to the Easains west of Loch Treig; half a dozen of us cycled down Loch Ericht, four visiting the tops and two going to the (closed) Culra Bothy; and three folk ventured north to the remoteness of the Reay Forest Grahams.

Brian and Arthur with three prospective members – Ross, Paul and Tom – had a grand day on the Easains; Stob a Choire Mheadhain and Stob Coire Easain. The fine weather and the relative isolation of these hills gave us great panoramas all round. On Stob a Choire Mheadhoin summit we met Phoebe, who – at 10 months – was on her third Munro. She did  have mum and dad to thank for a wee bit of help, though.   Rather than retrace our steps and try to avoid the boggy old tramway on the lower reaches of Coire Laire, we followed a walkers path along the steep side of Coire Làire on the 500m contour back to Creag Fhiaclach. It is probably a moot point which is the muddier route.

Geal-Charn from Carn Dearg

A team of six biked down the excellent Loch Ericht road, enjoying great views much improved by recent tree felling. Past the bizarre fairytale castles, mostly of recent construction, and up to Loch Pattack. Across the ford, and the hill team ascended Carn Dearg; Michael and Wendell called it a day at that, while Lorna and John continued up Geal-Charn. Meanwhile Catherine and Ewen cycled up to Culra enjoying the sunshine, and stopped off at Loch Ericht on the way back for a swim (Catherine) and a paddle (Ewen). A coffee at Dalwhinnie rounded off the day.

Ben Hope from Carn an Tionail

The weather gods were initially in the mood for toying with Helen, Richard and Robin as they set off for Sutherland Grahams Carn an Tionail (759m) and its smaller neighbour Beinn Direach (688m), threatening a day of unremitting clag. Luckily salvation was at hand, as the higher they climbed the cloud base rose too, and by the time the first summit was attained the trio were rewarded with a stupendous view across Scotland’s “Empty Quarter”, from the triple peaks of Quinag in the west to faraway Morven and Maiden Pap 40 miles to the east. The drop to the Bealach nan Rath and the 150m re-ascent to Ben Direach proved easier than anticipated, after which came the sting in the tail – a tiresome slog of almost 3km of peat hags, tussocky grass and bog pools – before thankfully regaining the estate track for an easy stroll back to the road at West Merkland. It was unanimously agreed that it had not been a good day, but a very good day.

Participants: Brian, Arthur, Wendell, Michael, Catherine, Ewen, John, Helen, Robin, Richard and prospective new members Tom, Ross, Paul and Lorna.

Day Meet, Sunday 6 September 2020

As usual in these changed times, our meets are organised with small groups heading to different hills and with people travelling independently.  People seem to be enjoying being in smaller groups and being able to choose from a range of activities.  This week we had ten people – six club members and four prospective members – in three groups on three hills; Slioch, An Riabhachan and Carn Dearg Mor.

Catherine, Kate and Arthur had a super day on Slioch. There were lots of people on the hill  – including a group of 10 hill runners!  But the hill was big enough for all of us  and there were never too many people close by.  Midgies were kept at bay by a breeze and sunshine except in the shelter of the trees in the Incheril car park, where they lurked waiting for a hint of exposed flesh. As ever, Slioch provided good value with superb views all round and fine situations on the summit and ridge to Sgurr an Tuill Bhàin.   Like many before her, Catherine commented “the walk in was fine, the walk out seemed interminable”.

Cycling up Glen Feshie en route for Carn Dearg Mor

Dan, Irene and potential member Jo, chose the sedate option for the day with a good cycle down Glen Feshie to ascend the Corbett Carn Dearg Mor. Autumn was in the air with some bright sunshine but a chilly breeze. It was a lovely, refreshing morning out.

Paul, John, Michael and Philip. Slopes of Sgurr na Lapaich behind

Shona, John, Michael and prospective members Philip and Paul, had a good day on An Riabhachan. The joys of the gate at Glen Strathfarrar made for an interesting start. From the power station at Gleann Innis an Loichel the group made for the stalkers path heading up to Loch Mor below the Creagan Toll an Lochan-Sgurr na Lapaich bealach and then on to An Riabhachan.  Shona comments “Great weather, lovely company and beautiful views. It’s good to be out with the club again.”

Participants: Catherine, Arthur, Dan Irene, Shona, John, Michael and prospective new members Kate, Jo, Philip and Paul.

Meet to Loch Cuaich and Kintail, 23 August 2020

As with the last few day meets, we’re having a series of mini-meets to keep the numbers in each group down to comply with the Government’s guidance.

The Munro-baggers team saw Daniel, Tom, Brian, pooch Monty and Dougie all congregate at Loch Cuaich on the Knoydart road. A direct ascent of Spidean Mialach from the radio mast, located 2km further past the dam, was quickly achieved and then the second hill, Gleouraich, also ascended. Tremendous views all around with some light coverings of cloud on some of the highest tops. The South Cluanie ridge could be seen along most of its length apart from the final western summit, The Saddle, which remained covered in cloud for the duration. The temperatures were lower than recently, but an extra layer of clothes was sufficient to ward off the cold.

Catherine, Richard and Ewen went up Sgurr Mhic Bharraich from Shiel Bridge in very warm conditions; shown below in winter on another club meet. The well-made stalker’s track soon led them up to the bealach, and they were rewarded with excellent views from the top. A descent by the north-east ridge went well to begin with, but culminated in very rough ground before the Glenelg road was reached. The day was rounded off with a trip to the Kintail Lodge hotel for refreshments.

Day Meet 9 August 2020, Glen Carron and Ben Avon

Our Covid-19 day meets continue. We are organising meets so that we have a number of small parties on different hills or doing different things to comply with meet up rules. Also, because we are not car sharing, we try to avoid a large number of cars turning up at the same car park.  One group of three went to Glen Carron, another group of four tackled Ben Avon from the north and two others also cycled up Glen Avon.

Robin, Anne and Brian had a good day on Sgurr na Feartaig, albeit slightly longer than anticipated.  The views all round were fantastic, taking in Beinn Eighe, Liathach and numerous other mountains, with the Cuillin ridge – pictured above – and the Sgurr of Eigg both visible from the top.  There was a good breeze on the ascent and along the top which kept them cool, but on reaching Coire Leiridh they lost the breeze and the temperature quickly climbed as they descended.  To keep spirits and energy levels up on what turned out to be a very hot and sweaty trek back out to Craig, Robin produced a packet of Jelly Babies from his rucksack which were thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Beinn a Bhuird from the summit tors of Ben Avon

The bike and hike crowd – Carol, Michael, Jim and Arthur – biked in along the good estate road from Tomintoul to just past Inchrory.  They took the stalkers path past Carn Fiaclach to East and West Meur Gorm Craigs and on to the summit (Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe) in fine weather with superb views. Jim wanted to visit all the original Munro tops and so took off on that mission, while Michael, Carol and Arthur retraced their steps back down the stalkers path.

Ewen and Catherine also biked in, with Ewen going further up Glen Avon on a reasonable track as far as Faindouran Lodge. Catherine indulged in a bit of wild swimming in the cooling waters of the Linn of Avon, and both met up later for a sociable cycle run back and a coffee in Tomintoul.

Tors near Clach Bhan, Ben Avon

Participants: Robin, Brian, Ewen, Catherine, Michael, Jim, Arthur with prospective members Anne and Carol.

Day meet, 26 July 2020

Like the last day meet – and possibly a good few in future – this meet was in fact a series of mini-meets to allow for the prescribed maximum group size and maximum number of households. Thanks to Dan, John and Catherine for setting it all up.

Wendell, Irene and Dan met at the car park West of Loch Laggan. Sceptical opinions were voiced about the day’s initial plan for a round of three Munros which were formed on the windy drive along the loch, and so a decision was made to aim for one or two. Irene and Dan had already experienced high wind and no views on Craig Pitridh with the club in February, and so it was left out. Bikes were taken to just beyond Lochan na h-Earba, then walking on an excellent path to the bealach between Geal Charn and Beinn a’Chlachair. From there it was decided to go for the closer Geal Charn. At this point visibility was still poor with heavy rain, and so there was an opportunity for navigation practice on the hill’s featureless North western side. The hope of views seemed lost, but then a miraculous clearance of clouds on arrival at the top gave fine views. Further squalls were visible to the West and so the group decided to cash in their chips and head home. The use of mountain bikes to lessen the plod in and out was a welcome addition, with the consensus being to use this method wherever possible in future.

Geal Charn, with Irene and a piratical Wendell

The second group comprising John, Robin and Brian, ably assisted by Monty the dog, had a change of mind. Plan A was the Beinn Dearg hills, but the weather looked as though it might be better further south and all had done all of the hills at least once, so John was decisive and suggested Carn a’Chuilinn. It turned out that this was a hill none had done, so was a better choice. The area has changed (a bit) since the Corbett guide was written, as a result of dam construction, so look at a modern map which has it as it now is! The forecast still had rain at 10 am, which duly arrived and they bravely set off in steady rain. The rain did stop, and some serious showers mainly missed the group. There’s now a cyclable track for a long way, before you turn onto the original stalkers track which gradually fades away in wet and rough ground. The obvious cairn that you can see from afar is nowhere near the summit, which does, however, have a very professionally built cairn too. From there you can admire the wind farms 😉. They dropped off the summit in a different direction, still on wet and rough ground, onto a new road and thence back to the start. A stalker’s track provided a possible slight short-cut, but the light glinting off the linear puddle persuaded them to stay on the nice dry road. If you are so minded, it is possible to cycle to 1.2 km from the summit.

Carn a’Chuilinn on a windy day

Catherine, Michael and Ewen decided to bike along the south side of Loch Laggan on the excellent estate road past Ardverikie Castle, and up the less good track to Lochan na h-Earba – which is actually two lochans – leaving the bikes between the two and ascending Binnein Shios in showery and very windy conditions. There were superb views all around, including Arverikie Wall, pictured top. It was great to get back to the bikes and coast downhill, then along the loch back to the cars; it would have been a long, hard walk.

Day Meet 12 July 2020

It is good to be back on the hills.  Our first outing after lockdown saw ten people in three parties head for three different locations, trying to keep parties small so we didn’t have too many cars going to the one place and following the rules about how many people can meet up.

Steve and Jim had a successful day in Perthshire Marilyn bagging.  They met up at the Road to the Isles car park and went up Sron Smeur, the Marilyn due south of the Corbett Beinn Pharlagain. They then drove the short distance to Bridge of Gaur and went up Meall Chomraidh; this little hill is an excellent viewpoint. On descent Steve’s ankle started playing up so they decided to close the innings and head for home, but Jim couldn’t resist another tick and continued on to do the neighbouring Leagag, Scotland’s tenth highest Marilyn.

Meall Gorm

The bike run up to Fannich Lodge, largely on a tarmac road, was much enjoyed by John, Catherine, Michael and Ewen; especially the latter two who had electric bikes! A good stalker’s track made the walk up Meall Gorm easy, but a very strong wind on top made them decide not to do the other Munro, An Coileachan, returning instead by another track having made use of the very comprehensive windbreak near the top of the hill.

Richard, Brian, Robin and Arthur wandered over Tom a’Choinich – pictured, top – and a couple of the Munro tops westwards along the ridge towards Carn Eige in fine weather. There were a surprising number of snow patches lingering high in the east facing corries. The view into the rough Coire Lochan below Beinn Fhionnlaidh was a great end to that section of the ridge, and at the aptly named Garbh Bealach we headed down to the loch of the same name to lounge about for a while. We then skirted the lip of Coire Mhic Fhearchair (a different one) down into the trackless Gleann nam Fiadh and then back to the welcome hydro track and forest path to the car park before Chisholm Bridge.  Despite tales of crowded hills and parking areas in other parts of the Highlands, we only saw four other parties on the hill throughout the day and a similar number of other cars in the car park.

Participants; Jim, Steve, John, Catherine, Michael, Ewen, Brian (and Monty), Richard, Robin and Arthur.

Roybridge meet, 22-23 February 2020

The forecast for the weekend was not good – strong winds, snow, avalanches – and when we gathered at Aite Cruinnichidh hostel on Friday night there was much discussion about what hills would “go”.  The hostel is very comfortable and well situated for the Laggan, Glen Spean and Nevis hills. Also handy for the pub as the Glenspean Lodge hotel is just across the road, but unfortunately it hadn’t opened for the season yet.

Saturday dawned with heavy snow showers being blown in by a strong southerly wind, so a team of Steve, Masoud, Dan and Irene opted to climb local Marilyn Beinn a’Mhonicag (567m), otherwise known as Bohuntine hill; funky photo above courtesy of Masoud.  The attraction was that the ascent was largely sheltered from the wind; a wise choice, as only the last part was exposed to the appalling weather.

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Creag Pitridh

Others opted for different activities; going for a park run, visiting the climbing wall, and finally a trip to the swimming pool to warm up (Shona and Kirsty R); a demanding cycle ride through the Leanachan forest to the Aonach Mor coffee shop, again to warm up (Kirsty G and Michael); and a circular walk from Roybridge up to a modest 270m and back by the river (Peter, Marion and Ewen).  All adjourned to the Stronlossit hotel in Roybridge for a bar meal afterwards.

Kirsty on Creag Pitridh

We had great hopes for Sunday, when the weather was due to improve – it didn’t, but that did not deter the team of Dan, Irene, Kirsty G and Shona from the ascent of Creag Pitridh, the Munro south of Loch Laggan; they get the prize for the highest hill ascended.  After sitting in the Creag Meagaidh car park for half an hour in heavy snow, Steve decided to head south in search of better weather. He ended up ascending the mighty Marilyns of Creag na Criche at Little Glenshee, and Torlum at Crieff, on the way home.

Kirsty R attained a respectable height on Ben Tee to the north of Loch Laggan at 901m, while Peter, Marion and Robin visited the Pictish fort of Dun da Lamh west of Laggan.  Michael and Ewen contented themselves with a wander up Glen Nevis to see the Steall waterfall, and of course a visit to the café at Nevisport.

Strathconon meet, 2 February 2020

Thirteen people assembled at the walkers car park in Strathconon.  This was a bit of a relief, because at one stage over 20 people had expressed interest in coming on this meet and I had nightmare images of crocodiles in a Scottish glen.

The “A” team headed for the round of Meallan nan Uan and Sgurr a Mhuilinn – pictured above – starting at Strathanmore.  The steep climb of over 600 metres straight from the car park to Creag Ruadh is always a shock to the system, but once you are up there is a pleasant ridge walk to the summit of Meallan nan Uan.  We just made that summit as the snow came on and decided to carry on down to the bealach for lunch.  We also managed a bit of ice axe and crampon practice on patches of neve and ice at the bealach.   That was a bit of a novelty for our newcomers, and for this winter, the older hands too. 

Tea break on Creag Ruadh

 It was a straightforward pull up to the summit of Sgurr a Mhuilinn in thickening snow and poor visibility; a bit of navigation practice to the South East ridge, then we were back in the peat hags that flank the Allt an t-Srathain Mhoir on the descent to the car park.

Caroline, Cerian, Ewen, Robin, Dougie and Michael decided to head over towards Luipmaldrig bothy from Inverchoran; Cerian opted to go part way along the path and returned to the car by another route.  The path was well iced up, but all made it across the burn and over to the bothy unscathed.  The bothy is maintained by the estate rather than the MBA, and is a substantial building which is kept in very good condition; it made a comfortable lunch stop. The journey back, initially up the River Orrin, was accompanied by snow showers.

Luipmaldrig bothy

Both parties got off the hill at the same time, and rounded off the day with a visit to the welcoming Priory Hotel in Beauly.  Participants: Richard, John, Brian (and Monty the dog), Anne, Arthur, Caroline, Cerian, Ewen, Robin, Dougie, Michael, and prospective members Katie and Karen.

Burns Supper, 18 January 2020

We had a good weekend at Elphin with better weather than forecast both days, though quite wild on the tops on Saturday.  Dougie, Shona, Brian, Masoud and guest Terry get the prize for effort; they had a cracking day on Quinag – panorama above – despite Shona leaving a piping hot flask of coffee and her lunch in the hut, and Terry thinking he’d lost his van keys on the hill only to find them in the van door!

Quinag looking south to Canisp and Suilven

Marion, Peter,  Louise and Jim were one of two low-level parties starting from Lochinver who followed a WalkHighlands route up the River Inver and over the hill to Glencanisp Lodge and back by the road.  Ewen, Anne, Fay and Catherine, having decided against an original plan for a through route from Little Assynt to Lochinver via Suileag bothy because of concerns about burn crossings, did more or less the same route in the reverse direction.  Both parties arrived back at the same time, and joined forces for coffee in the Pie Shop.  

Robin addressing the haggis

In the evening an enjoyable Burns supper emerged from the apparent chaos of the preparations, with everyone contributing to the feast by making something, peeling neeps and tatties or washing up.  As much as anyone could eat and more, all for £5 a head!

 On Sunday a reduced party of mountaineers,  Brian, Dougie and Shona, had a boggy walk into Canisp, were nearly blown off their feet on several occasions but were rewarded with stunning views of Suliven and the surrounding area.  Andrew, Louise and Fay walked from Blughasary road end along the Achiltibuie postman’s path to Dun Canna, with Marion and Peter opting for the fishing track along the river and up to two hill lochans.  Cloudy at first but bright later. 

On Canisp

Ewen and Jim ascended the mighty Beinn Eilideach, a Marilyn behind Ullapool Hill, starting from the radio mast at Braes.  Superb views of An Teallach, the Beinn Dearg group and the Summer Isles; maximum result for minimum effort, as they were on the hill for under three hours.  A chat with some locals they encountered on the hill explained the well defined path up the rather obscure hill, which was made by an Ullapool resident and his dog who ran up there most days!    A visit to the Frigate on Ullapool seafront resulted in a sociable meeting with the aforementioned low level walkers.

An Teallach from Beinn Eilideach