Glencoe, 30-31 August 2019

The SMC hut at Lagangarbh – photo above – was the venue for this meet; we had most of the twenty available bunks. We were joined by a group of four who took up the SMC places, but even this young and fit group thought twice about tackling one of the easier ridges of Buachaille Etive Mor; it just wasn’t sensible in the conditions, which on Saturday were appalling.

Dan on the Glenorchy hills

Undeterred, Dan and Dougie went to Glen Orchy to climb the Corbetts of Beinn Udlaidh and Beinn Bhreac-liath. They claim that the weather was not too bad, with the tops clearing on descent of Beinn Udlaidh offering views to the Tyndrum peaks. Michael walked from Lagangarbh over the Devil’s Staircase and down to Kinlochleven, returning the same way. An enjoyable but wet walk!

Buachaille Etive Beag

Sunday dawned with better weather; Irene, Michael and Dan had a good walk up Buachaille Etive Beag. Mostly clear tops, brief squalls and fine views, and importantly given the amount of water on the hills, no river crossings. The sunglasses even had to be deployed intermittently. John had a good day on Creise in the Blackmount – below. The way from Meall a’ Bhuiridh looked very challenging from afar, but proved to be straightforward with a clear path, and one climb of about 2m.  Only a few showers until after he was ensconced in the cafe.  Nearly a clear summit, and the day finished with a rainbow.

The Blackmount

Meanwhile Jim, accompanied by Ewen on the first hill, indulged in a Marilyn-bagging expedition to Meall Mor and Glas Bheinn to the south of Loch Ba. The hills may only have been 500m high and a mile on either side of the A82, but gave superb views of the Blackmount, Orchy hills, Rannoch Moor, Glencoe ……… Other participants in the meet were Steve, Terence and Andreas.

Strathfarrar, 4 August 2019

There was a queue at the Strathfarrar gate as we rolled up for the appointed opening time of 9am. Admittedly, the queue was only two vehicles, both of which set off on the stroke of nine. Our party had a more leisured approach in deciding what hills were to be climbed, where to park and what cars to take before setting off up the glen. In the event we all started from the parking area for the Allt Toll a’ Mhuic path leading to Sgurr na Fearstaig, having judiciously left a car at the Allt Coire Mhuillidh parking area for those who just might intend to complete all four Munros.

Peter, Marion and Ewen made a leisurely ascent of Beinn na Muice from the north in reasonably good weather, bearing in mind the appalling forecast. All they had to suffer was a few drops of rain and a bit of mist on the top which soon cleared.  The joy of doing Grahams!  There were great views up Loch Monar on the descent; the loch was very low in view of all the rain we’ve had recently.  Arthur followed a similar route but in less leisured fashion, keen to have a short day.

Dan heading into the clag

Michael ended up going via Loch Toll a Mhuic – top photo – to Sgurr na Fearstaig, Sgurr Fhuar-thuill, navigating off Creag Ghorm a’ Bhealaich to return in very poor visibility.  Dan and Dougie headed off on the same route intending to add in only Sgurr a Choire Ghlais, mindful of a forecast for thunder at 3pm.  However, good progress and a keenness to acquire all four Munros took them onto the remaining Munros of Carn nan Gobhar and Sgurr na Ruaidhe. The prospects of that incoming thunder saw them keeping a watchful eye on the lightningmap app with its detailed recording of storm activity. The pairs’ compasses which were already being used extensively for navigation purposes in zero visibity, also provided very effective back-up lightning indicators.  The sporadic whirring of the compass needle was quite enough to unsettle an already spooked frame of mind! It did, however, make for a fairly rapid traverse of the range.

Dougie on a summit in typical visibility

The party adjourned to the Cnoc for well earned cakes and coffee. Participants: Michael, Dougie, Dan, Peter, Marion, Ewen and Arthur

Beinn Airigh Charr, 21 July 2019

The unsettled weather altered our plan to wild camp on the Letterewe Hills and traverse the Corbetts of Beinn Airigh Charr and Ben Lair. We decided instead to have a day meet biking in to the end of the track, and walking in on the well made path to Beinn Airigh Charr.  This was not met with complete approval by the purist elements in the party, who felt that wind, rain and midgies enhanced the enjoyment of wild camping. This viewpoint was dealt with fairly summarily.

So six people and bikes rolled up to the car park at Poolewe.  Two others, Richard and potential new member Eilidh, had set off earlier on foot aiming to meet up with us on the track beyond Kernsary. However, one recalcitrant bike refused to be parted from its roof rack, so we had an additional pedestrian.  A clue to his identity is that he arrived at the summit before the cyclists.

Beinn Airigh Charr

The rest of the party set off in a leisured fashion, following the bike in front. Your correspondent was well on the way to Ardlair, before he realised that to meet up with Richard and Eilidh, he should have turned off at Kernsary. No-one else volunteered to go back with him.  In no small measure, one suspects, because he had the only e-bike in the party and had not yet broken sweat on the ascents.  Sure enough, Richard and Eilidh had waited at the appointed place and the three of us bog hopped through the forest before reaching the path heading past Fionn Loch to Carnmore. Eilidh and Arthur struck off south to pick up the path into Coire nan Dearcag with the intention of meeting up with the rump of the main party  who were heading that way from the west.

We did meet up – at the summit of Beinn Airigh Charr.  The views of the Fisherfield forest, Slioch and Loch Maree came and went as the brisk wind funnelled squalls along Loch Maree and Fionn Loch.  We didn’t linger too long on the summit. The mysterious skid marks in the soft mossy turf on our approach to, and descent from, the summit were explained when we spotted the estate garrons, which had been turned loose until they were needed for the stalking season and had been roaming freely on the hill.


View over the Fionn Loch from Beinn Airigh Charr

The main party headed to the Ardlair track to pick up their bikes.  Arthur and Eilidh went back to Kernsary for Arthur to pick up his bike which was secured to a substantial gate post. Suffice to say that if you forget the padlock key, your Swiss army knife is of little use in these circumstances.   Fortunately, the estate house was not far away and armed with the very kind loan of bolt cutters, a hacksaw and a hammer your hapless correspondent soon parted the bike from the gate post.

We adjourned to the Poolewe Hotel for a welcome refreshment. Participants: Dougie, John, Arthur, Richard, Irene, Sharan, Michael and Eilidh (potential new member). 

Strawberry Cottage, Glen Affric, 5-7 July 2019

Chrysanthemum Hill, as our non Gaelic speaking members christened Sgurr nan Ceathramhnan, saw a fair bit of activity on our Strawberry Cottage weekend. Six different parties ranged over the various ridges and tops of Ceathramhnan and its neighbouring Munros and Corbetts on Saturday. The day started well as most folk popped into Alltbeithe YH for a chat and some high octane coffee which powered us up the hill.  The cosy atmosphere and chance to meet some interesting people provided a very pleasant interlude.


Strawberry Cottage is also a wonderful haven. Although it is only eight kilometres from the road end, staying there provides a great sense of timelessness and remoteness. Fortunately, our two SUV’s were parked out of sight and the mountain bikes were tucked away in the shed so they didn’t spoil the illusion. Apart from Sgurr nan Ceathramhnan – above – and its tops, parties were to be found on Sgurr Gaorsaic, Mullach na Dheiragain, An Socach, and Carn a Choire Ghairbh.  Robin and Arthur came across two stone “art installations” on the west top of Sgur nan Ceathreamhnan and lower down the west ridge, but could uncover no explanation of what they represented or who constructed them.

Richard had MRT training on Sunday so departed on Saturday to be replaced by Daniel,  who was keen to stretch his legs over Mam Sodhail, Carn Eighe and Beinn Fhionnlaidh with Kirsty on Sunday. The rest of the group had more modest excursions, with Dougie on Aonach Shasuinn, Michael, Sharan and Arthur on Tom a’ Choinnich (pictured above), and Robin, Peter and Marion on Beinn a’ Mheadhoin. All of which hills provide wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding hills from Ben Nevis to Skye. Participants were Ellie, Dougie, Arthur, Sharan, Peter M., Marion, Michael, Kirsty G., Andreas, Robin, Richard and Daniel.

Midsummer Solstice wild camping meet, Seana Bhraigh, 21 June 2019

The plan was to meet at the summit of Seana Bhraigh at 10 pm on Midsummer’s Eve.  There were seven of us in four parties, walking in by three different routes at different times on Friday afternoon and evening.  What could possibly go wrong with that plan?

Robin was the solitary individual who made it to the summit at the allotted time and bivvied in the summit shelter.  He even set his alarm to toast the sunrise.  He was spotted striding purposefully up the North ridge just before 10 pm by Anne and Arthur; they had walked in from Inverlael and traversed over the summit a little earlier in the evening, dropping down to the little lochan on the North ridge to try to find a camp site with a bit of shelter from a biting westerly wind.

The lochan campsite

The sun set behind the Wester Ross and Sutherland hills – top photo – silhouetting Ben More Coigach, Stac Polly, Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven and Canisp as the light got lower and lower on the horizon. It never really became dark, and the red glow of the sunrise soon started only a few degrees east of North.

Robin met up with Anne and Arthur on his descent back down the North ridge, as they were striking camp in the morning to retrace their steps over Seana Bhraigh and back to Inverlael. Not far behind he encountered Michael and Kirsty G. close to the lochan campsite; they had walked in along the track from the walkers car park at Corriemulzie lodge, choosing to overnight at Magoos bothy as time was getting on. Though the views of sunset weren’t as good as from higher up, they enjoyed a comfortable nights’ sleep in the bothy. They summitted at 10 am – just in time to see Arthur and Ann disappear into the distance.

Glen Beg bothy

Dougie and Kirsty R. took a long route in from Black Bridge via the Strathvaich hills. They encountered some pretty wet and cold weather, and dropped down from Cona Mheall to Glen Beg Bothy to spend the night. Kirsty walked out to Black Bridge in the morning while Dougie persevered with ascents of Carn Ban and Beinn a Chaisteil before heading home for a hot shower and a caffeine fix.

Participants: Robin, Anne, Arthur, Kirsty G., Michael, Dougie and Kirsty R.

Torrin bunkhouse weekend meet on Skye, 10-12 May 2019

Scrambling, epic walks and a bunch of Grahams is the short story of our Skye weekend.
We had organised a day’s scrambling instruction by Ian Stewart, Mountaineering Scotland’s Mountain Safety Adviser for a team of four members to coincide with our Torrin meet. The day was held under the aegis of Mountaineering Scotland’s excellent clubs programme. Blabheinn and Garbh Bheinn provided a superb arena for the team and other folk to hone their skills and test the efficacy of their sphincter muscles. That was followed by another excellent day on Bruach na Frithe  
When the weather on Skye is fine, there are few places that can surpass it.  We had a little pause for thought on Thursday when Daniel and Dougie reported full on winter conditions in Glen Shiel.  There were only skiffs of snow on the summit ridges on Skye overnight, but the higher peaks on the west mainland remained in full winter garb.  Light winds, sun, little cloud and only a couple of unconfirmed reports of midges on Glamaig gave us superb conditions.  

It may have been the lightheadedness occasioned by such conditions that led Barry and Peter B. to set off from Glenbrittle into Coire Ghrunnda, over Sgurr Dubh Mor, down to Loch Coruisk, over the bad step to Camasunery and thence to the Torrin-Elgol road.    Jim was similarly enthused, taking a superb, long coastal walk on the North West of Skye from Ramasaig to Orbost, thought by many to be the most dramatic cliff-top walk in Britain. Caves, natural arches, goes, stacks and MacLeod’s Maidens, as well as a couple of potentially difficult burn crossings, add a measure of interest to the day.  Not to be outdone, Kirsty R. headed for the Trotternish ridge with a full sack of bottles of water. This was probably quite prudent as the ridge was bone dry.
Rather more modest, but extremely pleasant outings were had on the Grahams of the Red Cuilin and South Skye. The purgatorial screes of Glamaig were experienced by Dougie and Daniel and – having paid no heed to their words – by Robin and Arthur the following day. It is reported that in 1899 a Gurkha soldier ran barefoot from Sligachan to the summit and back in 55 minutes. We took rather longer.
Participants were: Daniel, Dougie, Robin, Michael, Barry, Peter B., Jim, Arthur, Miha, Kirsty R. and Shona

The Loch Lochy hills, Sunday 5 May 2019

Six hardy souls braved an uncertain weather forecast to ascend the hills north of Loch Lochy. They were rewarded by a good day out, with occasional snow showers, a biting wind, and excellent visibility.

Sron a’Choire Ghairbh

They strolled along the forestry track and up to the col via the Allt Glas Dhoire, thence up the excellent stalkers’ track to Sron a’Choire Ghairbh with suitable pauses to admire the view.

The descent was by way of Seann Mheall and Meall nan Dearcaig. We had a look into the corrie where the pumped storage hydro scheme is planned, before it disappears forever. But such is progress, and we like our electricity to be on tap, reliable and ideally green.

Descent, with the Great Glen in the background

Participants were old stagers Robin, Arthur, Michael and Ewen, accompanied by prospective new members Irene and Will. They were sufficiently impressed to join the club later; a big welcome to them! The day was rounded off with a visit to the ever-welcoming Bothy Bar in Fort Augustus.

Isle of Rum, 12-15 April 2019

There is always a sense of anticipation as the ferry approaches your island destination. Journeying to the Small Isles, and this trip to the Isle of Rum, especially so. The Loch Nevis ro-ro door clanked onto the slipway, and one vehicle was followed by a stream of walkers and cyclists who spilled onto the island. Most of the IMC party were staying at the modern, comfortable Community Trust bunkhouse at Kinloch. Fay and David, who had been there for a week, were camping nearby, as was Catherine.


Askival and Ainshival

Anne set off to spend the night in Guirdil bothy, and Michael set off on a similar trip over Barkeval, Ard Nev and Orval to Guirdil early the following morning. The rest of the party were more leisurely in their departure, with Marion and Peter heading for Barkeval and a group deciding to shelter from the strong South Easterly wind by approaching Askival and Ainshival via Atlantic Corrie rather than the Cuillin ridge. Surprisingly, the west ridge of Askival remained sheltered and the summit was calm while the wind roared below us. Only Cerian, who had a date with a Corbett in Knoydart the following day, made it on to Ainshval, again reporting calmer conditions the higher she progressed. The remaining two pairs made their way over to Harris to inspect the singularly incongruous Bullough Mausoleum. Steve and Terence even manged to get a lift back to Kinloch in a local crofter’s Land Rover. Drat!

Blue skies and sunshine continued the next day, but the wind strength was forecast to increase with Calmac announcing possible ferry cancellations. Several folk decided to head back to Mallaig. The rest of us had unfinished business on the island.


Ainshval

Ainshval was the unfinished business for a few of us, and Dougie, who had arrived on the Saturday ferry also had Askival in his sights. Again, our sheltered route through Atlantic Corrie to Bealach an Oir saw a straightforward ascent of Ainshval, and a we took a leisurely lunch back in the corrie while Dougie shot up and down Askival.  Meanwhile, Terence and Kirsty took another look at Harris, descending from the Bealach an Fhuarain this time before making the long walk back across the island. Peter and Marion had a windswept day walking to Kilmory, coming back via Mullach Mor to the north of Loch Scresort. Michael returned from his perambulations on the west of the island.

The community on Rum is moving forward. The local community is progressively taking on ownership of the land and assets in and around Kinloch from SNH – who continue to own and manage the remainder of the island – and the development of the bunkhouse and pods on the campsite are first results.  And Marine Harvest (now MOWI) are building accommodation in Kinloch to serve the 12 job offshore fish farm recently approved off the north of Rum.

Ainshval and Trollabhall

Our long weekend barely scratched the surface of the hills, walks and exploration on Rum; an early return meet seems on the cards. Participants were Cerian, Kirsty R., Peter M., Marion, Steve, Terence, Michael, Dougie, Arthur, Anne, Catherine, Fay and David.

The Carn Deargs in Glen Roy, 7 April 2019

Three parties  of club members, totalling 9 people, meandered around the various Carn Deargs at the head of Glen Roy in thick mist, hence the limited opportunities for photos!

Cerian, Daniel, Kirsty R. and John made a round of the two northerly Carn Deargs from Turret Bridge at the head of the glen; photo below. One of the party demonstrated conclusively that proximity to mobile phones can reverse the polarity of one’s compass: the proof being demonstrated by walking round in circles in peat hags.

One of the many Carn Deargs in the mist

Michael, Ewen and Masoud had a pleasant wander over the central Carn Dearg and Carn Dearg Beag – top photo. The locals showed little imagination in naming the hills; there are three Carn Deargs and two Leana Mhors in Glen Roy. The only party reporting any views were Robin and Arthur who ascended the most easterly of the Carn Deargs from Annat in the north.  They then went onto the most easterly of the two Leana Mhor Grahams where these elusive views were obtained.

Masoud and Ewen contemplating life in a long-gone house

The age of the parallel roads in the glen and the mechanism to produce the different shorelines was mused upon. We quickly dismissed the idea that they might be the hunting paths of the mythical figure Fingal and went for the more conventional explanation that they were the product of the dams of ice. These dams blocked off Glen Gloy, Glen Spean and Glen Roy as glaciers spread from the south west during the Loch Lomond Stadial period around 12,900 years ago. The different levels of the shorelines (roads) at 260m, 325m and 350m were caused by the glacier’s advance. The ice dams finally melted about 11,500 years ago. (scottishgeology.com)

Brunachan bothy at the foot of the north east ridge of Leana Mhor on the east side of the glen is now sadly closed, with dangerous building notices pinned to its door.   The day was rounded off by a visit to a pub on the way home; the Stronlossit Hotel in Roy Bridge and the Bothy bar in Fort Augustus were visited by different parties.

Munro Centenary Wake, 17 March 2019

Tuesday 19th March saw the 100th anniversary of the death of Sir Hugh Munro, the first person to accurately survey Scotland’s highest mountains, the results of which were published in  the first edition of his Tables of Heights over 3000ft in 1891.

Up until that point, it was widely believed that only around 30 of Scotland’s hills attained or exceeded 3000ft in height, but Munro’s work showed there to be no less than 283 separate mountains and a further 256 subsidiary summits reaching the significant height. Sir Hugh had, albeit unintentionally, just invented the uniquely Scottish sport of “Munro bagging”.

The Wyvis car park in reasonably good conditions

To celebrate Munro’s achievement, on Sunday 17 March a party of 12 hillgoers from the Inverness Mountaineering Club set off to mark the momentous occasion with celebratory ascent of Ben Wyvis, before meeting up with other members and guests in the evening at the Inchbae Lodge Hotel at the foot of the hill for a Sir Hugh Munro “Anniversary Wake” followed by an excellent bar supper.

We chose Ben Wyvis as the hill is held in great affection by all those who live in the Easter Ross, Black Isle and Inverness areas, being the dominant feature of the Inner Moray Firth landscape for many miles around. The Ben is unique among Munros as being the only high mountain that stands on the east coast, and though not, as was once thought, the highest  mountain in Ross-shire, is still impressive in scale, with no less than four 3000ft tops spread out along the length of its five mile long summit ridge.

The boulder on An Cabar, our highest point

Unfortunately the weather proved uncooperative on the day, with high winds gusting to 40mph+, sending clouds of spindrift racing over the flanks of the hill, and forcing the party to turn back before reaching the summit. Not to be outdone, most then elected to summit Little Wyvis, the Corbett, by way of compensation.

A special guest on the day was Dingwall resident and Munro completist Dave Broadhead of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC), who for eleven years up until the end of 2018 was the SMC’s Clerk of the Munro List, maintaining the official record of all those who have climbed all the Munro summits. At the end of Dave’s tenure the number of complete Munroists had reached 6464 in number.

Interestingly, there is some doubt as to whether the first person said to have climbed all the Munros, the Rev. A E. Robertson in 1901, did actually manage to summit Ben Wyvis. His hill diary for 1892 records that he turned back due to bad weather before reaching Glas Leathad Mor, the principal summit of Wyvis, and there is no record among his papers of him ever having returned.