Fuar Tholl, 3 February 2019

Ominous was the weather on the Achnashellach road, and we passed three snowploughs; lots of loose snow on the hill too. There were mutterings in the car-park as sleet mixed with rain, and the surrounding hills were invisible. Despite that, we all marched onward through the gloom, heading up Coire Earba. If we could at least make the confluence of the paths above the waterfall, then perhaps we could swing north-east and meet up with Toni, who was doing a low-level walk towards the Tea-House Bothy.

As it was the weather Gods smiled. A little. This set everyone up for aiming higher towards Loch Coire Lair; and the snow on the trail just got deeper. Thankfully in the IMC’s arsenal was Young Arthur, our own personal snowplough! After a weary and late lunch stop – above – we spotted a traverse in under Creag Mainnrichean; three of the party – and two dogs – elected to turn back at that stage.

The remaining brave souls were able to top out quite high on the main ridge, as per the GPS screenshot above, with only 50 metres to go. At this point the weather Gods did a mini storm dance. The top was do-able, but the risk in descending would have been high; finding the descent gully access point (wee cornices) and then finding the return via the trail in, would have been a complete nightmare if the wee storm had persisted and covered the tracks.

The Gods smiled again though, once sufficient height had been lost. It was a very taxing day but there was a wonderful feeling of accomplishment; 50 metres short of the summit was a good result in very difficult conditions, and turning back before the windslab got the better of us was definitely the right decision.

Burns Supper, 18-19 January 2019

We had an almost full house of 18 for our Burns Supper at the ever-popular Elphin caving club hut, north of Ullapool. Dougie and Michael made an early start to the weekend, heading for Quinag – above – on Friday but being repulsed by loose snow and steep ground at the rock band on the centre peak. With darkness and a strong wind picking up, they retreated via lochan Bealach Cornaidh.

Success on Conival

The weather gods smiled on Saturday; Kirsty, Shona Ellie and Dan went for an early start, and planned a big day on Conival and Ben More Assynt. There was so much snow – and the days are so short – that they wisely called it a day after Conival – above – getting back in time to enjoy the festivities. They met up with Arthur, who was visiting for the day and had been up to the aircraft crash site near Beinn an Fhurain. It’s so remote that the casualties were buried onsite; one of the few crash sites that is also a grave, now with a substantial memorial flown in by the RAF.

Group on Canisp

Dougie headed for Glas Bheinn, having fun on the loose blocks and powdery snow. The rest of the party – including visitor Jo Dytch from Mountaineering Scotland, her partner Michael and dog Jess – made a mass ascent of Canisp. The visibilty was superb – below – and the views were enhanced by a temperature inversion, with mist drifting into the valleys from the east as the day progressed.

Cul Mor and Stac Pollaidh from Canisp

Now to the social event; the Burns Supper. With a choice of four starters, four desserts and of course various sorts of haggis, no-one went away hungry. Many thanks to all who provided the food, prepared it, did the washing-up and other tasks. Special mention goes to our musicians – Andrew on guitar, moothie and vocals, and Ian on fiddle. Thanks also to Robin who did his idiosyncratic address to the haggis.

The weather on Sunday was not good, so after a visit to a coffee shop in Ullapool most opted to head home. There are rumours of folk going up Ullapool hill, but they haven’t been seen since.

Monadhliaths Meet, 6 January 2019

Only Dougie saw blue sky on our trip to the Monadhliaths and he has a photograph to prove it. The rest of the group saw nary a sight of blue sky, or much else for that matter.

Our first meet after the New Year took us to Glen Banchor to the west of Newtonmore, where we parked at the road end and discarded our crampons and winter boots. The temperature driving down the A9 had been well above freezing and that was to continue on the hill.

Blue sky sighting

Dougie, in Corbett bagging mode, shot off to Carn an Fhreiceadain via the Munros of A’Chailleach and Carn Sgulain. Following the blue sky sighting, above, he described the rest of the day as “very cold, dreich and clagged in, necessitating a wee bit of navigation.” He was later found, at the end of the day, ensconced in a bar in front of a roaring fire in Newtonmore.

Three dogs set off along Glen Banchor to check out the hut marked on the OS map at Loch Dubh in Gleann Lochain. They were accompanied by Ewen, Rob and Fiona who duly reported back that the hut was no more, its remains scattered in the peat hags near the Loch.  They returned over Carn Macoul, and were interested by the features described below.

The team on Carn Ballach

The rest of the group also headed along Glen Banchor to Carn Dearg by Carn Macoul. Narrow, rocky sided meltwater channels from the ice sheet of the late Devensian period breach the ridge, south and north of Carn Macoul. The mist limited any views, with only the remnants of cornices fleetingly glimpsed en route to Carn Dearg. The group descended via Glen Fionnndrigh in the gloaming, joining up with the rest of the party in the aforementioned bar in Newtonmore.

Despite the weather, it was a very enjoyable and social outing.  Participants: Shona, Nell, Michael, John, Daniel, Arthur, Ewen, Kirsty R., Dougie, Wendell, Rob (members). Tanya and Fiona (potential members).

Christmas Dinner, Kintail, December 2018

Storm Diana made her presence felt on Saturday. She forced one party to retreat from A’ Ghlas-bhienn and then reduced us to a crawl in Coire an Sgairne on Beinn Fhada before hastening us back to the warmth and shelter of the Kintail Outdoor Centre. It had seemed like a plan to sneak up sheltered lee slopes, but Diana whipped over every ridge and swirled round every corrie making for very unpleasant walking. However, Robin and Masoud were made of sterner stuff and managed to summit the Corbett Sgurr an Airgid, getting above the storm, a little further west on the north side of Loch Duich. They did not spend much time exploring its fine summit area before heading down into Diana’s blast.

Approaching the Bealach an Sgairne

Our Saturday hill excursions were really only a preamble to the main event of the weekend – the club Christmas Dinner. So, there was some consternation when the power went out just as our minds were turning to preparing the feast. The NTS ranger kindly turned up with a couple of gas stoves and we started to heat pots on the wood burning stove. Some scaling back of the menu would be required. Then the lights came back on.

The menu went something like this – potato & leek soup, lentil soup, pate, oatcakes, garlic bread, sag aloo, vegetable bake, venison stew, Iranian spiced chicken & rice, apple strudel, raspberry trifle, cheesecake and cheeses. A fine evening was rounded off by a very convivial evening by the wood burner. Unaccountably, there was singing of songs, recitations, games and quizzes. My calvinist (or just grumpy) view of Christmas was clearly not shared by many in the group.

Diana had blown through overnight and left a light covering of snow above 600m. Most people chose to head home or opt for low level walks. However, Daniel and Michael followed in Robin and Masoud’s footsteps and summited Sgurr an Airgid. Sgurr Mhic Bharraich – pictured top – another Corbett to the south of the head of Loch Duich, was the target for Shona, Ellie, Robin and Arthur. Both hills were just on the edge of an area of lowering cloud and rain coming from the east.


Cairn, Sgurr Mhic Bharraich

One interesting feature was that freezing rain had covered Sgurr Mhic Bharraich’s cairn in sheets of ice. This is quite an unusual phenomenon and Dougie reported that as a consequence of this freezing rain on Saturday, rescue helicopter flights were grounded over much of Scotland.  It was a fine weekend despite Diana’s worst efforts.

Participants: Daniel, Kirsty R., Robin, Shona, Richard, Ewen, Michael, Masoud, Andreas, Peter M., Marion, Jim, Arthur, Caroline, Ellie, Peter B., Wendell.

Welcome to Ellie, who has joined the club, even after this weekend.

Ben Wyvis meet, 2 December 2018

Despite gloomy forecasts, Sunday turned out to be a great day for the hill; sunny, very little wind and no rain until after dark.  Nine members answered the call and set out from Eileanach Lodge at the head of Glen Glass, to the north of the Ben – as it’s known locally.

We followed a new hydro road up the east side of the massif; Peter and Marion climbed Meall na Drochaide and returned via Loch Glass.  Michael, Robin and Ewen followed the rough track to the Leacann Bhreac ridge and Glas Leathad Beag to the east.

Arthur and Shona did something similar but starting from the Loch Glass side, with the addition of Tom a’Choinnich, the top to the west.  They met with the other three on the ridge, and had a sociable lunch while admiring the amazing views out to the Caithness, Sutherland, Ross-shire, Inverness-shire and Morayshire hills; Wyvis is the only big hill on the east coast of Scotland, and is pretty much in the middle of the Highlands.

The prize for effort goes to Masoud and Dougie, who did all of the above and the main top of Ben Wyvis as well, covering a total of 31km and getting back to the cars well after dark.

We all marvelled at the fantastical pink palace near the end of Loch Glass; finally wind and watertight after decades uncompleted, but still a void inside.  The day was finished off by a visit to the Novar Arms in Evanton for a drink and an exchange of big hill stories.

Torridon Meet,16-18 November 2018

We had a full house at the weekend meet to Torridon, with glorious weather. Ten people stayed in the small but very nice Mol Mor bunkhouse at the head of Loch Torridon.  Four more members came as day visitors (Miha was enthusiastic enough to come both days); and a couple of people stayed in their vans.

Parties from the club ranged over Beinn Alligin, Beinn Damh, Beinn Dearg, Slioch, Sgurr Dubh, Liathach and Glas Bheinn at Lochcarron in fine, clear weather. I suppose it would be churlish to suggest that a little snow on the tops would have made the photographers supremely happy. As it was, we had to make do with crisp, clear light with a wonderful red glow on the hills as the sun went down.  On both nights there were strong winds which died down during the day to give very pleasant walking. This is the classic photo of Beinn Eighe from Loch Clair above.

Saturday saw Steve and Shona heading off to Slioch; while Kirsty, Michael and Arthur took in the Ben Alligin Munros.  Miha, Daniel, Nell and Dougie scrambled over Beinn Dearg – a rocky Corbett usually neglected in favour of its more famous neighbours. Richard, Catherine, Marion and Peter headed to the south of the glen for a fine walk on Ben Damh.

The young(er) team of Kirsty, Daniel, Miha and Shona had a great day on Sunday scrambling over the Liathach pinnacles. A more sedate outing on Sgurr Dubh from Loch Clair – inexplicably neglected in guides to the hill – gave Arthur, Dougie, Michael, Nell and Catherine a very enjoyable day.  Marion and Peter went for a delightful low-level walk.

Day visitors Robin, Ewen and Masoud met up with Steve and Richard for an ascent of Glas Bheinn, just NE of Lochcarron; they were entranced by the superb visibility over to the Small Isles and Skye, and the amazing shadows cast on the rugged terrain by the low sun.  It must have been a good weekend because Daniel was motivated to join the IMC; welcome to him.

Cairngorms day meet, 11 November 2018

Am Fear Liath Mòr made an appearance on Sunday.  More precisely, there were several  grey forms of both genders, appearing wraith like in the mist on Ben Macdhui on the club meet to the Cairngorms.

The group set off with four destinations in mind: Michael to walk round the rims of the Northern Corries; Dougie to bag Creag Mhor via Fords of Avon; Rob and Ewen to visit Carn Etchachan and the largest party to set out for Ben Macdhui and return via Loch Etchachan and the Shelter Stone.  Each party set off for their destinations from a largely deserted ski centre car park and ascended into the cloud. Only Michael, on Cairngorm, saw the sun thereafter.

The first signs of winter were apparent; remnants from earlier snow falls in the gullies, verglas on rocks and fresh snow falling above 1000m.  From Macdhui a little bit of navigation practice took us past the Sapper’s Bothy, down to Loch Etchachan and thence to the Clach Dhion (or more prosaically, the Shelter Stone).  In  The Statistical Account of 1794 it was reputed to hold ‘eighteen armed men”.  We thought our party of six was about right.  One entry in the log book is reputed to read “it moved”. With a  weight of around 1300 tons, that does gives pause for thought. But it was a welcome shelter from the rain and wind for our party to do some route finding, top photo.

After a fairly interesting river crossing in increasingly heavy rain, we headed up the much improved path by the Allt Coire Domhain beside Hell’s Lum Crag, heading for Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais.  The rain turned to snow as we ascended and as the light faded we reached point 1141. Point 1141  was also Dougie’s objective on the long trek back from Creag Mhor via the Fords of Avon refuge, pictured above, and the Saddle. He was a bit earlier than us and was sitting snugly in the Old Bridge Inn with the rest of the party as we soggily made our entrance.

Participants: Dougie, Michael, Rob, Ewen, Toni, Kirsty R, Shona, Ian, Fiona, Robin, Daniel, Masoud, Anne and Arthur.

Lake District Meet, Patterdale 26-28 October 2018

The long drive to the Lake District was amply rewarded by some excellent hill walking in cold, sunny weather, albeit with some strong biting winds.  The picture above is of Fairfield and Grisedale Tarn.

Seven members and Steve’s guest Terence, ensconced themselves in the smaller room at the George Starkey Hut in Patterdale. The hut is manged jointly by the Alpine club and the ABMSAC (for the curious, that is the acronym for the Association of British Members of the Swiss Alpine Club). A few Alpine Club members occupied the members room and there was also a gang from the Derwent Climbing Club; so, it was a busy hut. 
 
One of the delights of the hut’s location is being able to walk out of the door onto the hills.  Place Fell, Angletarn Pikes, St Sunday Crag, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Helvellyn, Dollywaggon Pike and Hartsop above How were all climbed directly from the hut. The photo above is Striding Edge from Helvellyn. Marion and Peter made a determined attack on the Dodds round; successfully so at the second attempt after being thwarted by lingering low cloud.

 Lest you think that serious bagging was neglected in favour of enjoyable walking, it can be reported that your esteemed President completed his last UK Furth with the ascent of Scafell from Eskdale; the photo below is Goat Crag from Eskdale. Your reporter and driver that day thought that the road trip over Hardknott Pass – occasioned by road closures – was a much more significant challenge. Other Furths – Scafell Pike, Broad Crag, Ill Crag and Helvellyn were also ascended. The summit of the last presented a bizarre spectacle of mountain bikers doing wheelies on the summit, whilst our party found it difficult to stand up because of the wind.

 

On the Sunday Ewen and his visitor, Ian walked along High Street from Hartsop; while on Monday Masoud, Robin and Arthur walked along the High Street in Keswick.
 
Participants: Steve, Ewen, Peter, Marion, Robin, Masoud, Arthur (members); Terence, Ian and Nigel (guests)

Glen Feshie, 14 October 2018

We decided to take a less trodden approach to Sgor Gaoith, via Creag Follais, Clach Choutsaich
and Sgoran Dubh Beag and Mor. Easy walking, with forest tracks and paths lower down and
surprisingly dry ground on the hill after the amount of rain over the previous few days, made for a
very sociable and chatty outing.

We numbered 10 people and 3 dogs, with “weel kent” faces and a couple of newer ones: Anne,
for whom this was her second outing with us and Laura, for whom this was her first. Richard and
dog confined themselves to forest tracks, the former still nursing a knee injury after falling into a
badger sett whilst walking and reading a book at the same time. There is a lesson there.

There was a fair bit of travel talk. Anne was heading off to Nepal for the first time and Rob had
been there earlier this year, so there was a good exchange of helpful information. Wendell had
been in the Canadian Rockies in the summer, so it was good to hear about his adventures there.
Sollifluction, Saharan solar power as a source of global energy and the ethics of vegans eating
mushrooms were other overheard conversations.

Sgor Gaoith finds itself in much reduced circumstances. Prior to the 1981 revision of Munros
Tables, four of its six summits were Munros. Now only Sgor Gaoith itself has Munro status. We
descended over Geal Charn, one of the demoted Munros, and picked up a rough stalkers path
which neatly channelled us between the converging burns of Allt nan Cuileach and Allt a
Mharcaidh. That is when we discovered where all the water of the previous few days rainfall had
gone – into the burns. After casting about for a while we found an easy crossing point and
finished off with a bit of a route march back to the cars so Laura could get back to start work in
Inverness.

The day was rounded off by relaxing at the Loch Insh Watersports centre watching the sunset
over the loch. We covered 21km in distance and 1050m of ascent. Photos by Michael Garrett.

Participants: Michael, Nell,  Arthur, Laura, Ann, Miha, Richard, Robin, Rob and Wendell.

Kinloch Rannoch meet, 28 September 2018

The squally autumnal weather did not deter the thirteen club members on the Kinloch Rannoch meet. A healthy number of Munros, Corbetts, Grahams and a Marilyn or two were climbed over the weekend. A fairly determined fight against the elements saw Masoud’s barbeque deliver delicious Iranian spiced chicken for dinner. Evidence of Maskelyne’s 18th Century pendulum deflection experiment on Schiehallion was sought and a rather fine example of a cup marked slab from an earlier period visited. The cyclists amongst us avoided the long walks in to remote Corbetts; one less scrupulous member being aided by Hosea Libby’s inventiveness.  Tea and cakes were taken.
Friday afternoon saw the most of party arrive at Kinloch Rannoch Outdoor Centre at the same time from different directions, taking advantage of decent weather to take in a hill or two en route to the meet. Dougie, it has to be said, had an extended journey having started at the head of Glen Lyon and worked his way through the hills between there and Kinloch Rannoch over the preceding week.
Because stalking was in full swing, the Lawers munros and Tarmachan saw several parties on Friday and Saturday, leaving the Glen Lyon munros until Sunday, when no stalking was planned. The three Corbetts to the North of Loch Rannoch saw visits from several parties over the weekend and though stalking was taking place no problems were encountered (although Dougie had a longer walk than expected to Beinn Mholach following the advice of friendly stalkers).
Ewen, Masoud, Marion and Peter sought out the sites of Maskelyne’s Pendulum Deflection experiment to calculate the mass of the earth by measuring the gravitational pull  of a mountain on a pendulum. Schiehallion was chosen because of its isolation from other mountains and symmetrical shape. Two observatories and a bothy were built to conduct the experiment which calculated the mass of the earth to within 20% of what it is believed to be today.  
More significantly for hillwalkers and mountaineers, it was during this experiment that the idea of contour lines to link up points of the same height was hit upon. Where would we be without that idea?
Meet participants: Michael, Kevin, Nell, Steve, Peter, Marion, Dougie, Cerian, Masoud, Ewen, Albert, Lizzie and Arthur.