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.











Inverardran Cottage, Crianlarich, 22-23 March 2019

The Crianlarich meet was justifiably popular, with eighteen folk making the trip south to an area where there are more Munros, Corbetts, Grahams and other lumps and bumps than you could possibly hope to encounter in a weekend elsewhere.  I should confess at this point that I am just a little biased, since this was my old stomping ground before heading North to Inverness.

As if to make my point the weekend was rather extended, with one pair arriving at Inverardran on Thursday, eight people staying on until Monday and one committed soul staying on for the rest of the following week.  Objectives over the weekend ranged from the Bridge of Orchy Munros, which saw a massed assault of eight people on Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh; forays into the Arrochar Alps by Peter B and Barry; sundry Corbett bagging efforts involving Meall an Fhudair, Beinn Chuirn, Beinn Mhic Mhonaidh, Creag Mac Ranaich, Meall an t-Seallaidh, Beinn nan Imirean and Beinn Vrackie; and a couple of Grahams – Meall Buidhe to the east of Glen Ogle and Meall Odhar; as well as the wet weather option of walking a couple of stretches of the West Highland Way.

It is fair to say that weather gods over the weekend were a bit fickle, presenting us with a full – and random – menu of weather: wind, rain, sleet, snow, hail and sunshine.  Ben Vrackie was decided on in a coffee shop in Aberfeldy as one damp party headed homewards. Then the sun came out and we thought we really should go up a hill. It was only slightly embarrassing to be be walking up the Beinn Vrackie path in our full hill kit along with the tourists, dog walkers and toddlers. 

There is still a lot of unfinished business for some club members in this area, so I suspect that we may see it on the meet list again sometime soon.
Participants: Cerian, Kirsty R, Peter M, Marion, John, Sharan, Daniel, Kirsty G, Michael, Dougie, Robin, Shona, Ellie, Peter B, Arthur, Caroline, Ewen and Barry.
Welcome to Sharan who joined the IMC after the meet, and welcome back to former member Barry who rejoined while on the meet. 

Mountain biking meet, 3 March 2019

It was a brave team of five (Michael, Catherine, Shona, Becky and Kirsty) who headed off on a mountain biking circuit up to the Slochd, down to Sluggan Bridge, round to Boat of Garden and back over the hill to Carrbridge. It was an inauspicious start standing around in the drizzle and wind in the Carrbridge carpark.

Disaster struck in the first 2.5 km, when in the muddiest section of track imaginable Michael’s chain broke. Thankfully this was easily sorted with a quicklink, and the track and weather both improved, in fact we had quite a bit of blue sky over the day. The only other excitement was a river crossing on General Wade’s road on the hill above Carrbridge which was not as bad as it at first seemed.

We were definitely lucky with the weather (it looked miserable in the Cairngorms proper) and all had a good time – hopefully we have encouraged Becky to come along to one of our more usual meets later in the year.

Fannichs day meet, 24 February 2019

The sage of Inverness MC, who also happens to be our esteemed President, tells me that the views from Sgurr Mor on our club meet to the Fannichs on Sunday spanned from Ben Rinnes 69 miles to the east, to Harris 65 miles to the west – a distance of 134 miles – and from Morven in Caithness 62 miles to the north, to Ben Nevis also 62 miles to the south – a distance of 124 miles.

The weather in the preceding week had not been promising. The unseasonally fine weather for most of February had been replaced with strong winds, low clouds, rain and yo-yoing temperatures; the last stripping the hills of most of the remaining snow. However, Sunday dawned fine, with a bit of a chill wind and the fine views described above.

Looking east along the Fannichs – Michael G

We parked at the west end of Loch Droma and Kirsty shot off to pick up the easterly Fannich Munros.  The rest of us strolled up the hydro track to the Allt a Mhadaidh and on to Loch a Mhadaidh.   There we met Shona who had been camping overnight, testing her new tent for her upcoming long distance trip to the Pacific Crest Trail. 

Our rather more modest outing continued by picking up the unmarked stalkers path which follows the ridge from Creag Raineach Mor and skirts round the east side of Meall a Chrasgaidh to the bealach. This is a more pleasant route than flogging up the headwall and gives fine views into the corrie. At the lip of the corrie we encountered a lonely band of snow, over which we cut a staircase of steps – because we could.

Venerable gentlemen taking in the view – Shona M

Catherine set off for Sgurr nan Clach Geala, while the rest of us wandered over Carn na Criche to Sgurr Mor and Beinn Liath Mor Fannaich, meeting up with Kirsty as we descended off Sgurr Mor. A fairly steep descent off the nose of Beinn Liath Mor Fannaich brought us to a hillwalkers path (again unmarked on the map ) and back to the hydro track.

Participants: Shona, Dan, Miha, Robin, Kirsty R., Catherine, Michael, Rob, Arthur, Sharan, Anne and Masoud.

Mar Lodge bunkhouse, 8-9 February 2019

The Gairnshiel Bridge was closed for repair so our journeys from Inverness to Mar Lodge were extended somewhat, either to the north by Strathdon or to the south via Kirkmichael. The consensus was that the detour to the north was faster.

The storm force winds forecast for Saturday (>80mph) scattered us to the four points of the compass with most people sticking to lower hills, seeking shelter in glens or travelling further east to try to escape the blast.  One group, however, did attempt Culardoch, only to be thwarted by the wind about 50 metres from the trig point. To add to the indignity, the rest of us refused to acknowledge this as a proper ascent. 

Other parties found themselves on various Marilyns and other bumps – Creag Ghuibhhais, the Coyles of Muick, Meall Alvie, Bennachie, Tap o’ Noth and Meall an t-Slugain.  The last being incidental to an enjoyable day seeking out the Slugain Howff and exploring the fairy glen.

The wind brought a rise in temperature which did not seem to augur well for the next day. But as the evening wore on the wind abated and the temperature dropped. Next day the snow pack was topped by a fairly good crust and the paths sported runnels of ice.  Parties set off for Culardoch (again), Carn na Drochaide, Creag Bhalg, Conachcraig and Lochnagar, the majority of folk heading for the last two.  Two parties went on to spend a super winter day on Lochnagar – below – only returning to the Loch Muick car park well after dark. One enthusiastic ticker of lists – who shall remain nameless – reported his Sunday tally as “a hump, two Corbett tops and a second round Munro”. 

Yet again, Mar Lodge bunkhouse provided comfortable and relaxed accommodation for a great weekend. Participants: Steve, Dan, Ewen, John, Douglas, Michael, Richard, Catherine, Shona, Jim, Robin, Ellie, Arthur, Peter and Sharan (potential member).