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).

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.