Durness camping meet, 6-7 July

No less than eleven club members braved the North Coast 500 roads to get to the aptly named (on this occasion) Sango Sands Oasis campsite in Durness.  And it was indeed very dry; excellent weather on Friday evening, and a good meal in the restaurant attached to the campsite.

Most folk opted to ascend Foinaven on Saturday.  A car was left near Achfary, at the south end of the massif (below)  and the whole team walked down Strath Dionard – accompanied by a swarm of clegs – and up Coire Duail on the north-east side of the hill.  A steep ascent onto Ceann Garbh, the northernmost top, gave stunning views over the sea to Orkney and most of Sutherland.

Here the party split, with Arthur, Kirsty R and Kevin opting to do the full traverse – a mammoth 28km, one of the classic Scottish mountain days.  Helen, Michael and Ewen called it a day at that, heading back to Gualin House over a very dry moor; lucky for Ewen, as he had forgotten his boots and did the walk in trekking shoes.

Alan and Gina conquered Ben Hope on Saturday and swam in a loch on the way back down.  Catherine and Rob joined us after a night in Kearvaig bothy near Cape Wrath, and Robin managed a quick trip up Quinag in the afternoon on his way north.

The weather broke on Sunday, with mist and drizzle deterring most from anything more adventurous than a trip to the new improved coffee shop at Balnakeil.  But some helped Catherine and Rob to take the dogs for a walk at Balnakeil Bay, and all agreed that it had been a good sociable meet.

 

Ben More Coigach day meet, 24 June 2018

A strong team of nine plus a dog set off from Blughasary, south east of the mountain, on a beautiful if windy day.  We headed for the east ridge of Speicein Coinnich, a rocky wee ridge (below) which added some interest to a very pleasant ascent and gave some great views over Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Stac Pollaidh, Suilven…..

Our hopes of good views to the west were not disappointed, especially when we reached the main top of Ben More Coigach and the outlier Garbh Choireachan, as rough as its name suggests.  The Summer Isles looked at their best, and the rocky Sutherland hills rose up impressively out of a landscape of moor and loch.

Despite the good conditions, we didn’t see another soul on the hill all day.  The roads on the way back were a different story.  There had been an accident near Garve which blocked the road, making the journey back home more exciting than expected.  But nothing stops the IMC!

Harris Weekend meet, 8-10 June 2018

There is always a sense of anticipation on the ferry going to the Western Isles.  Leaving Loch Broom, the swell of the sea makes itself felt and the mountains of Wester Ross and Sutherland get smaller on the horizon.  In what seems like no time at all, the hills of Harris rise up from the Long Island and the Loch Seaforth is nosing its way into Cala Steornabhaigh.  The fumes, noise and bustle of the ferry traffic in Stornoway are quickly dissipated as we drive through the lochs of Lewis into the surprisingly mountainous road through the North Harris hills.
Ten club members made it to Drinishader for a long weekend meet.  The chance to be in the Western Isles in good weather was not to be missed, so some came early and some stayed on to the following week.  One intrepid soul –  Jim – took his bike on the ferry to Tarbert and cycled through Harris before joining us for some hill walking.
And so to the hills.   An Cliseum made a nice short Friday evening walk after settling into the Cottage Hostel at Drinishader for Douglas, Michael, Nell and Arthur, leaving the round of the Mullach and the Mulla Bhos for a future trip.  Jim and Sarah took a more measured approach, leaving An Cliseum until the next day.

 

The fine weather took six of us up Tiorga Mor  with a dubious sighting of a hazy Hirta from the summit.  We wandered over Toirga Beag to gawp at the impressive crag of Sron Uladail – above.  Jim, Ewen, Nell and Michael made their various ways down to Gleann Chliostair, while Douglas and Arthur went on to summit Oireabhal.  The soft drinks and ice cream from the honesty shop next to the big house at Abhainn Suidhe were sublime.
Uisgnabhal Mor was the target for Michael, Douglas, Nell and Arthur the next day.  Jim and Ewen took the old postal path from Urgha Beag to Reinigeadal and back to the Harris Hotel, from whence they were recovered happily sipping pints of beer.  Jim and Sarah had to head back home, but still had time for a local coastal walk with Alan and Gina who were staying next door.  Alan and Gina’s beach wanderings and ascent of Ceapabhal delivered some stunning photos which Alan has posted on the IMC Facebook Group page.
Our final day saw Jim take his bike back on the Tarbert ferry via the Harris Gin Distillery.  Douglas and Michael visited Callanais standing stones (below) just early enough to miss the tourist buses.  And Ewen, Nell and Arthur visited the beautiful Eagle’s Nest bothy on the cliffs at Mangerstadh.

Do check out the IMC Facebook page and Facebook Group page for lots of pictures.

Glenfinnan Weekend Meet, 11-12 May

We had booked the sleeping car at the Glenfinnan Station Museum for our meet; a vintage railway carriage has been converted into a 10 berth bunkhouse complete with kitchen and bathroom.
Kevin, Douglas, Kirsty, Steve, Andreas and Masoud, accompanied by Skye, had a hot and thirsty but enjoyable day on the Corryhully horseshoe, below.  Arthur, Robin, Nell and newcomer Anne, went for a more modest round of the two Corbetts west of Loch Shiel, Beinn Odhar Bheag and Beinn Mhic Cedidh (top photo) also in super conditions.  Peter and Marion joined them for Beinn Odhar Bheag and then descended by Coire Buidhe.

Sunday saw Steve and Andreas taking to the water, kayaking into the beach at Peanmeanach bothy.  Masoud hired a bike and cycled the 55km down Loch Shiel and back.  Kevin, Douglas and Nell headed for Gulvain, continuing Skye’s Munro bagging excursions.  Kirsty shot up Sgurr An Utha and then found the energy to go mountain biking. Marion and Peter also ascended Sgurr An Utha, but possibly at a more moderate pace.  Meanwhile Arthur, Robin and Anne continued their assault on the area’s Corbetts by tackling Streap, below.
Altogether it was an enjoyable, productive and varied weekend.

Strathfarrar day meet, 29 April 2018

A crowd of 16 members and guests gathered at Inchmore at the entrance to Glen Strathfarrar, awaiting the appointed time for the gate to open.  At the stroke of nine we scattered in different directions.
 
Douglas, Toni, John and Helen – who really didn’t need to go through the gate at all – headed off for a very pleasant circuit of Beinn a’ Bhathaich Ard, the Corbett which marks the easternmost reaches of the glen.
Ewen, Marion, Peter, Andreas and Robin followed a little used path – above – from the bridge across the River Farrar to the east of the Loch Beanhacharan dam, and struck uphill to the Graham, Carn Gorm.  Thence they stravaiged over Carn a Mhuilt and Carn Moraig to explore the old lead mine workings on the descent path to Struy over Blar Mor.
 
The rest of the group – Richard, Nell, Michael, Arthur, Kirsty, Miha and Masoud – drove to the power station at the end of the glen and set off for An Riabhachan, below,  encountering a surprising amount of snow on the northern slopes.  Misplaced ambitions to include Sgurr na Lapaich were quietly dropped, and a brisk drive back down the glen saw them at the gate a few minutes before the six o’clock closing time.
 
The group repaired to The Cnoc for much needed refreshments after interesting and thirsty days out.

Chris’s birthday and the Ling gas lift

Not an offical IMC meet, but a good story just the same.  Saturday 21st April saw IMC members Ian Douglas, Chris Monckton, Andrew James and Robin Forrest (along with Robin Chalmers of the SMC) head west to Torridon having been press-ganged by Andrew, in his capacity as SMC Huts Supremo, to lend assistance with the bi-annual helicopter gas lift to the Ling Hut, a favourite IMC weekend venue for many years.

It would have been a good day for the hill, but there was work to be done, so the quintet of fine (young?) mountaineers quickly got down to the business of attaching an entire lorry load of unwieldy propane cylinders to lifting strops, so that the Eurocopter AS350 – for the aircraft anoraks – whirlybird could hoist them the half-kilometre across the lochan to the hut.

The hard work was over quicker than expected, but there was a wee surprise in store for Chris.  Having been tipped off by a little bird (an Erithacus Rubecula for the ornithologists) that it happened to be Chris’s birthday that day, the pilot invited the Birthday Boy into the passenger seat, and flew him off for a short but stunning eagle’s-eye-view trip along the length of Liathach’s spectacularly serrated summit ridge.  Having served, in his (even) younger days, as a naval officer aboard an aircraft carrier – HMS Eagle appropriately enough – it wasn’t Chris’s first experience of travel by helicopter, but he did confess never to have flown in one quite so small, and certainly not over Liathach.  Happy Birthday!

Strawberry Cottage meet, 13-14 April ’18

The omens for the Strawberry Cottage meet in Glen Affric were propitious; a good weather forecast, plenty of snow on the hill, and a lift up the track for all ten of us plus gear to a hundred metres from the hut.  The Slaters Arms in Cannich, our meeting point, provided an excellent bar meal too.

The reality did not disappoint; the weather was even better than expected, and everyone had a big day out on the Saturday.  Several groups went up Mam Sodhail (1181m), with Kirsty and Cerian heading out separately to Beinn Fhionnlaidh, but returning together.  Top-baggers Arthur, Steve and Nell visited An Tudair and Creag Coire nan Each on the way back to the hut, while Michael and Ewen made do with the latter.

Kevin and Dougie went for a long walk to Mullach na Dheiragain, returning via An Socach, with Dougie adding in Sgurr nan Ceathramhnain – just to stretch his legs a bit.

The weather on Sunday was good too, but no-one felt like another big day.  Arthur, Kirsty, Kevin, Cerian and Dougie walked out via the Corbetts to the south of Loch Affric, which turned out to be harder going than expected.  The rest of the team made their way out to the public car park at the east end of the loch; Steve and Ewen also visited Beinn a’ Mheadhoin – above the loch of the same name – which gave superb views back up Glen Affric.

The weekend was rounded off for most by a return visit to the Slaters Arms to agree what a good weekend it had been.

The Loch Lochy hills, 1 April 2018

April Fool’s Day saw five members – Nell, Kevin, Arthur, Douglas and Robin – one guest, Mihaela, and one canine – Skye the irrepressible Hungarian Vizla – head south down the Great Glen on what turned out to be the very opposite of a fool’s errand.  Conditions were well nigh as perfect as they can be in Scotland in spring, with saltire blue skies, sunshine, superb snow and soaring summits.  The day’s objectives, in deference to Kevin’s Munro bagging campaign, were 918m Meall na Teanga and neighbouring 937m Sron a’ Choire Ghairbh, overlooking the deep blue black waters of Loch Lochy.

It proved a long and perspiration inducing pull up to the 2000ft bealach between the two, from where the decision was taken to tackle Meall na Teanga first.  Once the shoulder of the subsidiary top of Meall Dubh was rounded, crampons were donned for a surprisingly steep traverse on excellent neve to ascend the equally steep summit ridge from the north, a more direct assault being ruled out thanks to the presence of a beautiful but fragile cornice.

Our reward for all this effort was a stupendous view of snowy peaks stretched out in all directions, with the Ben to the south lording it over all, and the long ridge of sharp summits that are the Grey Corries doing a credible impersonation of the Alps.  There followed an entertaining game of “Name That Hill” before we relinquished the summit cairn to a party from Aberdeen’s Grampian Club who had been following in our footsteps.

Back at the bealach, the zigzag stalking path up the opposite side helped make relatively short if tiring work of the 300M ascent up to the broad summit of Sron a’ Choire Gairbh for yet more inspiring panoramic views.  Kevin and Skye the Incredible Hillrunning Hound elected to descend via the way we had come; wisely so, given the latter’s predilection for admiring the view while perched on the edge of the cornice – some way to go with his winter skills yet.  The rest of the party tackled the pleasingly narrow ridge out to the minor summit of Sean Mheall (887m) before making a direct descent to Kilfinnan and the road to Fort Augustus, where a much anticipated rehydration stop was enjoyed by all; never has a pint of lager shandy tasted so good.

It was universally agreed that the real April Fools were those who hadn’t been out and up high in the hills on such a day.

Blackrock Cottage, Glencoe, 23-24 March 2018

Blackrock Cottage offers the unexpected novelty of a modern shower room in the coalshed.  I should mention that the coal is now stored elsewhere.  As well as this novelty, the cottage has an ambiance and sense of history which makes staying there a great pleasure.

We had a very enjoyable weekend meet to the Cottage in Glencoe with parties tackling Ben Starav, Meall a’ Bhuiridh, Beinn a’ Chrulaiste and further south, Beinn Udlaidh and Beinn Bhreac-Liath, all in their winter finery.

Kevin and Skye (aka the Hound) made an early start for Meall a’ Bhuiridh and Creise.  He set off so early that he was cramponing up as the ski centre workers were just arriving; poor visibility meant that day was cut short at the summit of Meall a’ Bhuiridh.  He had the benefit of missing on his ascent, the very large numbers of skiers who arrived later in the morning.  But on the descent, Skye found many new playmates with the hapless skiers and boarders he encountered.

Michael and Douglas followed in Kevin’s footsteps the next day, climbing Meall a’ Bhuiridh via its south east ridge.  On the Saturday they tackled Ben Starav in really blustery winter conditions with poor visibility, ascending the normal route via the north ridge and descending via the south ridge.  Icy conditions and poor visibility made for a pretty long day.

Meanwhile a larger group headed for the lesser ranges of Glen Orchy for a spot of Corbett bagging.  Arthur, Kirsty R, Richard, Steve, Nell, Shona and Robin climbed Beinn Udlaidh and Beinn Bhreac-Liath, missing most of the weather that the other two parties encountered.

On Sunday, Kirsty and Shona went off for some extremely serious navigation practice; one preparing for her ML assessment, the other aiming not to get misplaced on the Cape Wrath Trail.  The remainder of the Corbett bagging party, joined by Kevin, had a short but pleasant day on Beinn a’ Chrulaiste.  It was marred only by the views across to Buachaille Etive Mor being obscured by cloud as they reached the summit.

 

Day meet 4 March – Achnashellach hills

The Beast from the East never fully made it to the west coast.  But it did force us to change our plans from the Beinn Dearg group because of persistent showers sweeping in from the east and dumping snow in a band stretching from Dornoch to Ullapool.  There was no sign of that at Achnashellach – just perfect neve, ice on the paths and another dozen walkers from our sister club, Highland Hillwalking Club, heading the same way as we were.

Michael, Dougie and new potential member David, had stopped at the parking area near to Loch Sgamhain to head for Moruisg – pictured above – by its northern ridge.  Challenging conditions required the full panoply of compass, map and GPS for the detailed navigation to reach the final steep pull up Sgurr nan Ceannaichean’s ridge.  In deteriorating weather the trio retraced their route, descending the North ridge with a wee sigh of relief as they exited the cloud. David’s first winter excursion was deemed challenging and enjoyable in Ledgowan Lodge afterwards.

Ewen, Toni, Peter, Marion and Nell headed east from Achnashellach station and enjoyed a gentle climb up the hillside to the Coulin Pass.  After elevenses, Marion and Peter headed west up Carn Odhar.  Ewen, Toni and Nell carried on round to the Teahouse bothy at Easan Dorcha.  It was a very pleasant walk with frequent stops to enjoy the views and take photos.  Frozen waterfalls seemed to be the outstanding feature of the day.

The rest of the group – Robin, Masoud, Kirsty, Shona, John and Arthur – loitered for a bit in the forestry car park at Craig to allow the Highland Hillwalkers to get a head start, before walking up the track to the stalkers path up Sgurr na Feartaig.  It was good neve all the way, and after the summit the cloud cleared to give the group clear views of where they were heading along the ridge, although there was still a chill wind.   A steep descent down towards Carn Mor took them to the stalkers path  – below – and the long march back to Craig.  En route, a pair of climbers who were also descending reported stonking conditions on the waterfall climbs in Coire na h-Eilde.