Glen Cannich, Strathfarrar and Ben Wyvis, 3 January 2021

We held our first meet of the New Year on Sunday, 3 January. It was also our last for a wee while at least, as the latest Coronavirus lockdown prevents us having club meets for now. We had planned to have groups on the North Mullardoch Munros from the Mullardoch dam and also heading up Sgorr na Diollaid from west of Loch Carrie, approaching it over some intervening tops. A drive up Glen Cannich on the Saturday found an unpleasantly icy road after Muchrachd. So some quick reconsideration on Saturday evening saw a party head up Sgorr na Diollaid – panorama above – by the usual route from Muchrachd; another party made a circuit of Beinn a’ Bhàthaich Ard at the mouth of Strathfarrar; and the final party went up Ben Wyvis as originally planned.

Joanna, Irene and Catherine descending from Sgorr na Diollaid

Sgorr na Diollaid
The narrow, twisty road up Glen Cannich was icy, giving some early trepidation on a very cold morning. Members Catherine, Irene and Dan met with potential members Ross and Joanna at Muchrachd before starting on the steep initial ascent of Sgorr na Diollaid. The boggy ground was happily frozen but the snow unfortunately was not, with some deep pockets over the undulating slopes exasperating trail breaker Dan.

Joanna and Catherine descending from Sgorr na Doillaid summit watched by Ross

 The initial promise of enjoying the advertised great viewpoint faded into the heavy snow clouds. The strange yellow light breaking through whilst meandering through the snow covered rocky outcrops gave the walk an other-worldly atmosphere disconnected from the current Earth-based pandemic. There was brief jubilation on reaching what was thought to be the summit with no visible upward slope anywhere nearby. However a brief glimpse of something monstrous in the clouds above (and a check of the GPS) revealed more work to be done. The small scramble over icy rock to the top made the group feel like true mountaineers. The repeated falls onto bottoms on descending felt less grand.

Beinn a’ Bhàthaich Ard
Those not keen to drive up Glen Cannich gathered at the Strathfarrar gate car park for a circuit of Beinn a’ Bhàthaich Ard.  Arthur, Anne (welcome back), Brian, John, Paul L. and Paul S. walked up the glen road as far as the power station beyond Culligran, and then took the Hydro track up beside the Neaty Burn. Then the fun began with Brian breaking trail through soft snow with deep pockets to the summit.  We didn’t linger long, descending to seek some shelter from the wind at the bealach leading to Sgùrr a Phollain.  As Dan commented about Sgorr na Doillaid, the mist gave some strange light effects.

Brian, Paul L., Paul S. and Anne on Beinn a’ Bhàthaich Ard. Spot the Abominable Snowman; he’s second in the party.

 The falling in holes competition was keenly contested on the descent with John being the winner of the “falling in a deep hole and getting your snowshoe stuck” section. But the undoubted overall winner was Paul S. for his effort of falling full length into a ditch while laughing at John’s fall.  The uneven ground and soft snow lying on top of vegetation made the use of snow shoes (by John and Arthur) a qualified success at best.  Nevertheless it was altogether a very good day in excellent company despite initially unpromising weather conditions.

Ben Wyvis
We met at the Garbat parking place just in time; a lot of people had the idea of first-footing Wyvis! Including a lot of folk that were not used to winter conditions, and certainly not equipped for a 1000 metre mountain in full winter conditions. As usual, conditions were fine until past the traditional lunch stop at the big boulder; by the time we got up to the first top, An Cabar, we were exposed to the strong north-easterly, which had unfortunately not blown the snow off the plateau.

The descent from An Cabar – many folk had trodden the virgin snow by this time!

Hard going in the deep snow for half a mile caused us to pause at an intermediate cairn and reconsider; we decided to turn back rather than embarking on the 1.5 mile round trip to the main summit, taking a party of three lost souls with us. We suggested to a few other parties that it might be better to turn back; as we were in full winter gear including snow goggles and crampons, and they were not, they took the hint. The IMC team was Andreas, Michael, Richard, Robin, Ewen and Mairi; a special welcome to her, as she decided to join the club despite our temporary inability to organise any more meets! We’ll just need to sit tight and wait for the good times to roll again.

Christmas Day meet, 2020

A meet on Christmas Day is a first for the IMC, but desperate situations call for extraordinary measures. Andreas had the happy idea of running a meet for those who might otherwise be on their own at this strange time. The first question was where to have the meet; it had to be somewhere quiet, plenty of parking, and easily accessible from Inverness. The chosen location was north of Carrbridge on the Lochindorb road; a hill called Creag na h-Iolaire (the eagle’s crag).

The team of Andreas, Michael, John, Paul S and Ewen ascended from the highest point on the road to Carn na Leitire and Carn Allt Laoigh. Great views of the Cairngorms to the south, and a very strong, cold wind; we were glad to be no higher than 552m. Creag na h-Iolaire is a rocky, interesting hill, and everyone enjoyed their day out. We noticed a lot of abandoned farm buildings near the hill on what must have been very bleak, unproductive ground. On the way down we were pleased to find a track which was not on the map, served no obvious purpose, but took us back close to the cars without the long road walk which we had anticipated; and we didn’t see another soul all day!

Maol Chean-dearg and Glen Cluanie, 13 December 2020

The weather forecasters’ anticipation of singularly unpleasant and windy conditions on the hills did not materialise for the determined band who went on this meet. Nine people went to Maol Chean-dearg from Strathcarron – our ranks swelled by people switching from other walks in the hope of better weather and three prospective new members. Four people headed for Carn Ghlusaid in Glen Shiel; and the plan to have a third party go to Ben Enaiglair was abandoned.

Maol Chean-dearg
We squeezed our cars into the parking place after the road bridge west of Coulags and set off, suitably socially distanced, up the track beside the Fionn-abhainn.  Parts of the track have been upgraded for a hydro scheme as far as the old bridge over the river.  This seems to be the fate of most glens in the Highlands over the last few years, but this one was not too intrusive.  We passed by the old stalker’s cottage which is now Coire Fionnaraich bothy, but currently closed. The association with the mythical Gaelic warrior giant Fionn mac Cumhaill continued as we walked up the Glen passing Clach nan Con-fionn, the large boulder where it is said the giant tethered his dogs when he took a rest from hunting in the glen. The stalkers’ paths made for fast progress up to the Bealach a Choire Ghairbh.  The wind started to rise as we scrabbled up the eroding scree paths above the bealach, but as the slope eased, so did the wind. 
We had a brief sojourn at the summit to take in the views, with neighbouring Corbetts Beinn Damh and An Ruadh Stac showing proud profiles.  But where had the snow gone? We encountered no snow and it looked as if there was very little left on the Torridon hills. We made the scrabbly descent to the bealach and one party descended by the route of ascent – meeting up with Richard on a recuperation walk – while the others went over Meall nan Ceapairean before regaining the path at the bothy.  That is when the rain commenced for a final very wet three kilometres down the glen.

Group on Maol Chean-dearg

Carn Ghluasaid and Sgurr nan Conbhairean

Despite an appalling weather forecast a group of four assembled at the parking place at Lundie, half way along Loch Cluanie. An excellent stalkers’ path crosses the Wade road to Glen Shiel and continues up a ridge to Carn Ghluasaid, the first objective. This was attained quite comfortably as the wind was behind us, but there was no incentive to stop for a break at the top. The wind was increasing steadily and heavy rain was forecast for the afternoon, so Lorna, Michael and Ewen decided to call it a day at that and descend to the road; on reaching the cars, and right on cue, the rain started. Masoud, being made of sterner stuff, had decided to ascend Sgurr nan Conbhairean as well; he had a good day, but paid the price by being caught in the storm. But all in all, we enjoyed ourselves and made the most of the conditions.

The top of Carn Ghluasaid looking north

Torridon and the Cairngorms, Sunday 22nd November 2020

The chosen venues for this meet were Beinn Eighe, Beinn Damh and Glen Einich.

A party of nine IMC members arrived at the foot of Beinn Damh on Sunday 22 November in what might be described as indifferent weather – cold, windy and damp. Mindful of club policy on numbers, and with the Covid safety officer present to keep us right, we straggled up to the viewpoint above the waterfall and split into two parties from there. John, Karen and Ryan went up the glen on the east side of the Allt Coire Roill and ascended the hill by the steep SE shoulder/ridge which comes out neatly on the summit of Spidean Laoigh. They then descended along the main ridge, merging with the larger party of Arthur, Catherine, Daniel, Irene, Richard and Robin along the way. This second party  ascended and descended by the main ridge having decided it was too blowy and the rock and grass too greasy to descend down the SE route. It started hailing as we left the summit – pictured above – and with a very strong wind driving the hail horizontally it was deemed quite enough to just get off the hill in good order. Luckily the hail didn’t last although the wind did. A brief flirtation with the idea of adding Meall Gorm and Sgurr na Bana Mhoraire to the day was blown away somewhere along the ridge. The views in between the showers were great and despite the weather it was a most enjoyable day.

Dougie and Brian had an excellent day on the Beinn Eighe massif, approaching via Coire Mhic Fhearchair – above – then under the Triple Buttress and up the main stone shoot. With the first top being 1km north along the ridge gave the first exposure to a cold gusty wind, necessitating gloves! Ruadh Stac Mor gave intermittent views back east along the main ridge. Beinn Eighe’s middle peak of Coinneach Mhor could be traversed around at the 900m mark which meant a bit of kicking steps into snow covered track, but the wind assistance enabled the second top of Spidean Coire nan Clach to be reached quite quickly. Heading back into what was now quite a strong wind for 250m reached the Trig Point, then a descent into the coire and out of the wind. The worst of the weather did not seem to appear until the 2km walk back along the road; although very dreich and windy, it failed to dampen good spirits.

Michael, Andreas and Ewen chose the easterly option of a bike trip up Glen Einich from Coylumbridge. It was a good bike ride through the forest, but out on the open ground thoughts of a hill were quickly abandoned; it was windy enough at valley level, goodness knows what it was like on the tops. One side stream coming off the slopes of Braeriach was very deep and gave a few problems, but luckily Ewen did not have to rescue Michael after he fell in! Andreas had the good sense not to attempt it. They resolved to come back and climb Braeriach when the days were longer and the weather better, and retreated to Tiso’s cafe in Aviemore. The picture is of Sgoran Dubh Mor and Beag from Loch Einich.

Day Meet, 25 October 2020

The weather forecast promised gale force winds and rainy squalls from the south west.  And so it turned out.  We scattered to the north (Ben Klibreck) and east (Bynack More and Abernethy forest) to try to escape the worst of it.

After some initial communication mishaps seven souls eventually gathered at a parking area a little south of the Crask Inn bound for Ben Klibreck, pictured above. Unfortunately that meant that we took a longer route to the hill along the (very) wet footpath leading to Loch Choire before cutting off to climb up to Creag an Lochan. There were wide open views to Ben Hee, Ben Hope and Ben Loyal, and to the east, Morven, Scaraben and Bens Griam Mor and Beg stood proudly.  Our main focus was on staying upright, however,  particularly as we approach the summit cone of Meall nan Con and the wind intensified to gale force.  An inadvertent offering of a newly knitted hat to Aeolus – the God of Wind – by Catherine had no effect. A brief look at the shattered trig point sufficed and we retreated to the A’Chioch bealach to find some shelter and sustenance.  The muddy path along the west side of Creag an Lochan afforded some shelter from the wind and led to a singularly boggy bealach leading to Croc Sgriodain. The sight of the track to just north of Crask Inn seduced us into following a burn course through the blanket peat bog to the track. Suffice to say that the peat bog was drier than the track. 

The view from Bynack More

Richard, Wendell and new members Lorna and Paul decided to go for Bynack More, gathering at Glen More for the starting point. Setting off at a brisk pace we motored to the bridge at the start of the trail. A quick break and off we went, Lorna and Paul setting the pace. The weather was better than forecast until we gained elevation. Stopping at the crags for a quick lunch we headed up for the summit, which was covered with a sprinkle of welcoming snow but also a cold wind; we didn’t stick around too long. Only enough time to touch the summit and a quick photo, and off we went. Lorna and Paul decided to make a run for it descending at speed. Richard and Wendell briskly walked back to the meeting point with rain clouds chasing us on the way. All four of us sat in at the Glen More Visitor Centre, although paired at separate tables for some hot drinks and chatter. Great day! 

Lochan Uaine, on the way to Ryvoan and Bynack More

Michael and Ewen decided to go for a mountain bike ride in Abernethy forest, starting off near Forest Lodge. You can’t drive down the private road to the Lodge now, and parking on the public road is limited; Nethybridge might be a better starting point. A scenic ride through the forest and past Ryvoan to Glenmore, where we stopped at the same cafe that the Bynack More team used later, and sunbathed in a sheltered spot outside for a while. Then on up the well-made track to Badaguish and through the muddy Sluggan pass to join up briefly with the back road up Strathspey, taking a right across Tulloch moor to reach our starting point after an enjoyable day largely off the public roads.

Participants: Robin, Catherine, Brian, John, Arthur, Masoud, Lorna, Paul, Wendell, Richard, Ewen and Michael.  Welcome to new members Lorna and Paul.

Day meet, Sunday 8th November 2020

We followed the by now familiar routine of having three mini-meets on the same day to minimise the size of each party, and provide a choice of days out. This time it was An Teallach, Beinn Bhan in Applecross, and Glen Tromie in the Cairngorms.

A group of six – Arthur, Dougie, Masoud, Paul S, Lee and Ruaraidh – set off for the An Teallach Munros from the parking area next to Dundonnell MR base.  The ambitions of younger, fitter members of the party to go on to sample the delights of Lord Berkley’s Seat and the pinnacles were pooh-poohed by older, reputedly wiser heads who saw benightment descending the Corrag Bhuidhe as an inevitable consequence of such rash thoughts. Little did we think that we would be back at the cars with a good two hours of daylight left.  We only met two other pairs of walkers – buzzing with excitement – both of whom had camped on the tops overnight. However, our more modest achievement of the two Munros  – Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill  and Sgurr Fiona – provided superb views and a new approach to An Teallach from Dundonnell for all of us. The photo above is of Sgurr Fiona and the Pinnacles.

Brian, Catherine and John opted to ascend Beinn Bhan from sea level at Tornapress by way of the stalker’s path to Loch Gaineamhach, which they left before the loch to head up into Coire an Fhamair. They were joined by Monty the dog.  Fabulous views into the corries on the eastern flank of the hill, and the almost free-standing A’ Phoit (the Chamberpot).  A stiff climb up the headwall of the corrie was well worth it for the vista from the top.  The summit is just an amble away but all the time the drops on the left and the unstable looking edge made for plenty of interest.  Possibly the best of all was from south east of the summit where they chose to stay on the eastern edge rather than follow the path; see photo above. Apparently there’s a scramble up the ridge of A’Chioch which looks amazing.  Least said about the descent the better.  It was a quick trip at only five and a half hours; roughly 1100m of ascent and 13.5 kms distance.  A very satisfying day, despite a bit of drizzle for a couple of hours.

The bike and hike party to Glen Tromie split into two after cycling up to Bhran Cottage – above – with the “A” team of Michael and Wendell biking up to point 575m (Carn an Fheoir Bhuidhe), then on foot past Carn Thomais to Meall Chuaich (951m) in the clag, when Wendell’s routefinding skills came in handy.  Meanwhile Ewen, Andreas, Richard and Colin headed up Meallach Mhor, slightly impeded by the forecast shower of rain; otherwise the views were good.  All enjoyed their day, and most were able to stop off for a socially distanced coffee in Tiso’s at Aviemore.

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.