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.

Day Meet 9 August 2020, Glen Carron and Ben Avon

Our Covid-19 day meets continue. We are organising meets so that we have a number of small parties on different hills or doing different things to comply with meet up rules. Also, because we are not car sharing, we try to avoid a large number of cars turning up at the same car park.  One group of three went to Glen Carron, another group of four tackled Ben Avon from the north and two others also cycled up Glen Avon.

Robin, Anne and Brian had a good day on Sgurr na Feartaig, albeit slightly longer than anticipated.  The views all round were fantastic, taking in Beinn Eighe, Liathach and numerous other mountains, with the Cuillin ridge – pictured above – and the Sgurr of Eigg both visible from the top.  There was a good breeze on the ascent and along the top which kept them cool, but on reaching Coire Leiridh they lost the breeze and the temperature quickly climbed as they descended.  To keep spirits and energy levels up on what turned out to be a very hot and sweaty trek back out to Craig, Robin produced a packet of Jelly Babies from his rucksack which were thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Beinn a Bhuird from the summit tors of Ben Avon

The bike and hike crowd – Carol, Michael, Jim and Arthur – biked in along the good estate road from Tomintoul to just past Inchrory.  They took the stalkers path past Carn Fiaclach to East and West Meur Gorm Craigs and on to the summit (Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe) in fine weather with superb views. Jim wanted to visit all the original Munro tops and so took off on that mission, while Michael, Carol and Arthur retraced their steps back down the stalkers path.

Ewen and Catherine also biked in, with Ewen going further up Glen Avon on a reasonable track as far as Faindouran Lodge. Catherine indulged in a bit of wild swimming in the cooling waters of the Linn of Avon, and both met up later for a sociable cycle run back and a coffee in Tomintoul.

Tors near Clach Bhan, Ben Avon

Participants: Robin, Brian, Ewen, Catherine, Michael, Jim, Arthur with prospective members Anne and Carol.

Day meet, 26 July 2020

Like the last day meet – and possibly a good few in future – this meet was in fact a series of mini-meets to allow for the prescribed maximum group size and maximum number of households. Thanks to Dan, John and Catherine for setting it all up.

Wendell, Irene and Dan met at the car park West of Loch Laggan. Sceptical opinions were voiced about the day’s initial plan for a round of three Munros which were formed on the windy drive along the loch, and so a decision was made to aim for one or two. Irene and Dan had already experienced high wind and no views on Craig Pitridh with the club in February, and so it was left out. Bikes were taken to just beyond Lochan na h-Earba, then walking on an excellent path to the bealach between Geal Charn and Beinn a’Chlachair. From there it was decided to go for the closer Geal Charn. At this point visibility was still poor with heavy rain, and so there was an opportunity for navigation practice on the hill’s featureless North western side. The hope of views seemed lost, but then a miraculous clearance of clouds on arrival at the top gave fine views. Further squalls were visible to the West and so the group decided to cash in their chips and head home. The use of mountain bikes to lessen the plod in and out was a welcome addition, with the consensus being to use this method wherever possible in future.

Geal Charn, with Irene and a piratical Wendell

The second group comprising John, Robin and Brian, ably assisted by Monty the dog, had a change of mind. Plan A was the Beinn Dearg hills, but the weather looked as though it might be better further south and all had done all of the hills at least once, so John was decisive and suggested Carn a’Chuilinn. It turned out that this was a hill none had done, so was a better choice. The area has changed (a bit) since the Corbett guide was written, as a result of dam construction, so look at a modern map which has it as it now is! The forecast still had rain at 10 am, which duly arrived and they bravely set off in steady rain. The rain did stop, and some serious showers mainly missed the group. There’s now a cyclable track for a long way, before you turn onto the original stalkers track which gradually fades away in wet and rough ground. The obvious cairn that you can see from afar is nowhere near the summit, which does, however, have a very professionally built cairn too. From there you can admire the wind farms 😉. They dropped off the summit in a different direction, still on wet and rough ground, onto a new road and thence back to the start. A stalker’s track provided a possible slight short-cut, but the light glinting off the linear puddle persuaded them to stay on the nice dry road. If you are so minded, it is possible to cycle to 1.2 km from the summit.

Carn a’Chuilinn on a windy day

Catherine, Michael and Ewen decided to bike along the south side of Loch Laggan on the excellent estate road past Ardverikie Castle, and up the less good track to Lochan na h-Earba – which is actually two lochans – leaving the bikes between the two and ascending Binnein Shios in showery and very windy conditions. There were superb views all around, including Arverikie Wall, pictured top. It was great to get back to the bikes and coast downhill, then along the loch back to the cars; it would have been a long, hard walk.

Day Meet 12 July 2020

It is good to be back on the hills.  Our first outing after lockdown saw ten people in three parties head for three different locations, trying to keep parties small so we didn’t have too many cars going to the one place and following the rules about how many people can meet up.

Steve and Jim had a successful day in Perthshire Marilyn bagging.  They met up at the Road to the Isles car park and went up Sron Smeur, the Marilyn due south of the Corbett Beinn Pharlagain. They then drove the short distance to Bridge of Gaur and went up Meall Chomraidh; this little hill is an excellent viewpoint. On descent Steve’s ankle started playing up so they decided to close the innings and head for home, but Jim couldn’t resist another tick and continued on to do the neighbouring Leagag, Scotland’s tenth highest Marilyn.

Meall Gorm

The bike run up to Fannich Lodge, largely on a tarmac road, was much enjoyed by John, Catherine, Michael and Ewen; especially the latter two who had electric bikes! A good stalker’s track made the walk up Meall Gorm easy, but a very strong wind on top made them decide not to do the other Munro, An Coileachan, returning instead by another track having made use of the very comprehensive windbreak near the top of the hill.

Richard, Brian, Robin and Arthur wandered over Tom a’Choinich – pictured, top – and a couple of the Munro tops westwards along the ridge towards Carn Eige in fine weather. There were a surprising number of snow patches lingering high in the east facing corries. The view into the rough Coire Lochan below Beinn Fhionnlaidh was a great end to that section of the ridge, and at the aptly named Garbh Bealach we headed down to the loch of the same name to lounge about for a while. We then skirted the lip of Coire Mhic Fhearchair (a different one) down into the trackless Gleann nam Fiadh and then back to the welcome hydro track and forest path to the car park before Chisholm Bridge.  Despite tales of crowded hills and parking areas in other parts of the Highlands, we only saw four other parties on the hill throughout the day and a similar number of other cars in the car park.

Participants; Jim, Steve, John, Catherine, Michael, Ewen, Brian (and Monty), Richard, Robin and Arthur.

Winter sun in the Lakes

This is a tale by Jim Convery of a winter trip to the Bowder Stone Hut in the Lake District in the early 1990’s. The photo is of Pillar.

When I first came to Inverness in the late 1980’s and joined the IMC the possibility of a private enterprise trip to Lakes in November was discussed. Luckily at that time, we had a member of the Northumberland Mountaineering Club in our midst, Alison Robertson, who went on become our first female President.  The Northumberland Club leased from the National Trust the Bowderstone Hut and as it was little used during the weeks in winter, we were able to use it as our base. The YHA at Eskdale provided our weekend accommodation as the hut was full.

Armed with the hut key, a set of directions and instructions a small team comprising Ewen, Colin and myself set off down the A9 in November 1990 for our first winter sun trip to the Lakes.  The Bowder Stone is a big rock, six times the height of a person and balanced improbably on its edge. It sits in the jaws of Borrowdale and is an easy 15-minute walk from the National Trust Bowder Stone car park.

The Bowder Stone is a tourist attraction established by the eccentric Joseph Pocklington in 1798. He had a house built on Derwent Island and created the tradition of an armed invasion as part of the Annual Derwent Water Regatta. Furthermore, he built a cottage at the Bowder Stone where he installed an old woman whose duty was to lend atmosphere to his visitor attraction.  The old lady has long gone, with the cottage reverting to use as a mountaineering club hut.

Regrettably, the Northumberland Club had eventually to give up their lease due to structural issues with the roof sinking, resulting in pressure on the walls. The good news is that the cottage has been refurbished and is now a private hostel. It sleeps up to 12 people and its sole use can be secured for £100 a night. Just in case this article inspires a future club visit.

Our first morning in the Lakes saw us drive the short distance to Seathwaite to begin the long walk up to Esk Hause and over Great End and Ill Crag to England’s highest summit, Scafell Pike.  From there we descended via Styhead Tarn & Gill back to the car at Seathwaite.  A good day out with autumn colours on the hills and snow on the high tops.

Next morning heading for the car I noticed from a short distance that the driver’s door was slightly ajar. The local criminals from Maryport had had a night out in the Lakes and burgled all cars in the National Trust car park. Fortunately, they did not realise the value in mountaineering equipment; ice axes, crampons and a tent remained intact. However, they did get away with my bank cards stupidly left in the glove box of the car. This resulted in a wasted day contacting the Police, bank and credit card providers and finding an auto glazer to repair the broken quarter light through which they had accessed my vehicle.

The National Trust car park is a well-known place for car break ins and thefts, but I didn’t know that before this event. To prevent a re-occurrence on our future trips we parked at a small layby just off the road on a corner. It’s a shorter walk to the hut and less easy for an opportunistic car thief to break in.

For our last day in the Lakes we drove from YHA Eskdale to Wasdale Head. From there we walked up to the top of Black Sail Pass and did Pillar, Steeple and Red Pike. When we reached Dore Head a quick discussion was held as to whether to continue to Yewbarrow or descend quickly to the Wasdale Head Inn for a pint. There was a danger that the pub would close at 2:30 and at that time Scotland was a real ale desert. No choice then, it had to be the pub!

Rock and Ice transgressions

Thanks to Dougie Borthwick for this tale of two climbing styles. The photo is of the first ascent of the Great Prow of Blaven on Skye.

It was a good combination, the aspiring rock ape and the cool ice man.  Neither was completely comfortable in the other’s domain but both recognised the other’s flair for leading in his favoured discipline, thus creating a good partnership for indulging in some additional training outwith the normal sphere that each encountered in the pursuit of their preferred game. 

The rock ape had tried emulating the other’s confident use of the ice tools. Training included acquiring a Terrordactyl and the solo pursuit of some low hanging ice, a couple of hundred feet above the road. The gently sloping ice gully then progressed to a short vertical. Repeated thumps of the axe into an unflinching patch of ice resulted in the adze with its advertised ‘light metal steel as used on spacecraft’ slowly bending so that its tip was pointing backwards. With Glencoe’s carpark being entertained at the sound of profanities that each thump of the axe induced, the ape wondered on space-craft technology, with the ‘light metal steel’ being easily bent from the frantic thumps of attempted re-entry. The icy gully had then revealed an escape route, with a corner stalactite being approached. The bent adze now pointing 180 degrees out and back into the eyes of its holder found gainful employment in placings at the rear of the icicle. With the exit moves accomplished, the aspiring ape swore never again to transgress further than beyond the reach of his own solid dependable, stubby wee digits. The itch though soon returned and with it, a new Terrordactyl, crampons and head torch, delicately front-pointing, torquing and traversing the sandstone cliffs at Cummingston in preparation for winter’s call. The required winter training programme involved gruelling daily cold showers, only adding to the psychological impact that a dark, cold and gloomy winter tends to instil. 

The ice man’s affinity for enduring the deep freeze, in addition to showers from melting ice and torrents of spindrift,  was well known.  A strange affliction that the blue-toned flavours of 1000′ icicles was very much forefront in his dreams, yet would gently morph into retirement when winter once again absconded; the gentler hues, warm rock and fifty shades of lush green were not quite to his liking. With diverse playgrounds but similar aptitudes, each enjoyed a tolerance for entering the other’s domain, the transgressions preferably being done when the conditions were absolutely spot on.

‘Cheeky’ Sinclair on Cascade

Glen Brittle Farm and its hayloft had seen extended occupancy, with the ridge lost under a dark heavy deluge, the late autumn depriving both of their favoured grounds. That Saturday’s chasing of red partans skittering sideways amongst the rocks along the foreshore had brought small relief in addition to some tasty topped toasties. Next day’s wet and gloomy tops had the duo heading east to Blaven in the hope of something less dreich. Three hours of driving and walking revealed a rather damp Great Prow. Ice-man was simply not impressed, as admittedly the conditions seemed to be dire. Broadford’s chippy was foremost in the argument yet the pent up energies meant that a try could at least be entertained. PA’s were donned, useful kit re-racked and wishful thinking of warmer climes surrendered. Finely cut wee holds offset the damp walls and assisted in bridging the overhanging crack and the steep slabs. Ice man’s steadfast reluctance allowed the rock ape to lead on, with the offers of following through at each stance being politely turned down. Dank conditions prevailed but the gabbro’s qualities shone through, and the three stunning pitches finally succumbed. Compliments on nice leads were warmly and confidently given and with a Cheeky grin, a wry smile, then ‘It will soon be winter’ was cheerfully dropped.

A bitterly cold morning dawned in Aviemore, courtesy of the katabatic wind moving the dense cold air from up high, down the slopes to smother the surrounding valley.  The stunning early aurora lit up the hills whilst in the back of the Landie, gear was being sorted in a digit numbing, tear-jerking minus 27C. Loch Avon’s Stag Rocks were deemed worthy of a visit.  On arrival, Cascade, sat in the shade below the descending rays of the late dawn sun, was looking quite regal. A low shelf was attained and the start of the route protected by two hanging axes. The vertical wall of deep blue was slowly threaded with the hollow screws, making confident placements which fed the tendrils that kept the ice-man secure during his delicate steps upwards. A euphoria had set in with the near perfect conditions of multiple blues that halted progress whilst cold noses were unceremoniously wiped cleaned and some cheerful poses captured.  Seconding saw the progression from the lower wall’s shaded epithermal blues to a slightly more mushy and warmer white where the sun’s rays had done their work, effecting a reversal in the ape’s pleasure, his earlier delight at anything sun-kissed, now being tempered by the sun’s transformation of the wall above from solid dependable into something far more fearful, aka slush. The axe, having worked magically on vertical dry blue, was now having to be earnestly launched to enable its pick to gain any traction through the overhanging rapidly thickening slush. The  digits now slowly losing feeling from being contained in freezing wet dachsteins led to one last furious flaying, surmounting the overhanging ice prior to writhing from digits that were slain. Ice Man quickly removed the rock ape’s sodden layers and started rubbing furiously one frozen hand at a time, then simply popped the off-white digits into his mouth till feeling once again returned. ‘Oh heck, that was rather brutal’ assessed the aspiring ape.

A relaxed Ice man sat with legs splayed around an enormous icicle, and with a hearty, Cheeky grin,  laughed  ‘it will soon be summer’.

Dear Santa

This is a sad story about an incident near Cummingston the day after an IMC barbecue, when Ewen and two “friends” went for a nice easy bike ride along a railway embankment that, it turned out, had been eroded by the sea. As imagined by former member Pete Collin.

My First Bothy Trip

By Otis Lennox, a four-legged former member of the IMC. His first bothy was Strabeg, pictured above.

After a long journey in the boot, the car pulled up – at last. I was dying to get out and cock my leg -stretch my legs. However, the walk to the bothy was great with lots of soggy heather and puddles to jump in. The others were already at the bothy with a roaring fire going. It was great for warming your paws and was much needed as I didn’t even get offered a cup of tea.

Saturday started promisingly with a romp through more puddles and peat bogs, but deteriorated rapidly when I was left in the car while the occupants disappeared on a boat to an island called Handa. They were off birdwatching! What is the attraction in that? Looking back I’d have been better to go up Cranstackie with the other group. Saturday evening was better and saw the food and wine flowing freely, although not much flowed in my direction.

Sunday was a most peculiar day. After one person left to go back to work, my mistress and her close companion loaded their ‘sacks with gear, walked to the bottom of Creag Shomhairle, and then turned round and walked straight back to the bothy. It might have had something to do with the rain starting, but that meant more puddles to splash around in. Brilliant. I heard later in the pub (The Crask Inn) that the others had spent a far more constructive day on Ben Loyal. However, I did enjoy my first bothy trip and hope I can attend another one sometime.

PS. On Saturday night I was trying to keep warm beside my mistress. She had a sleeping bag. But once she was asleep I managed to roll her off her karrimat and stretch myself out properly for a very comfortable night’s sleep. I did get a bit of a row in the morning though, when she woke up…..

IMC Presidents list

50-51Donnie Cattanach85-86Peter Reynolds
51-52John Frew86-87John Burns
52-53John Frew87-88Ewen Macniven
53-54John Frew88-89Ewen Macniven
54-55Ian Forbes89-90Rob Atkinson
55-56Ian Forbes90-91Neil Robertson
56-57Bill Cooper91-92Neil Robertson
57-58Bill Cooper92-93Ian Douglas
58-59John Aird93-94Ian Douglas
59-60John Aird94-95Colin Simpson
60-61John Aird95-96Alison Robertson
61-62Gil Ward96-97Alison Robertson
62-63Gil Ward97-98Ian Meek
63-64Gil Ward98-99Colin Simpson
64-65Cam Macleay99-00Colin Simpson
65-66Willie Proudfoot00-01Colin Simpson
66-67Con Young01-02Alastair Kinghorn
67-68Con Young02-03Alastair Kinghorn
68-69Con Young03-04Peter Biggar
69-70Phil Larder04-05Jo Kinghorn
70-71Bill Webster05-06Jo Kinghorn
71-72Stef Brown06-07Andreas Heinzl
72-73Jim Teesdale07-08Robin Forrest
73-74Peter Christie08-09Robin Forrest
74-75Jim Teesdale09-10Robin Forrest
75-76Steve Carroll10-11Albert Higginbottom
76-77Peter Moffatt11-12Albert Higginbottom
77-78Les Creasey12-13Albert Higginbottom
78-79Alec Sutherland13-14Sherine Deakin
79-80Michael Garrett14-15Sherine Deakin
80-81Gerry Smith15-16Richard Hartland
81-82Peter Moffatt16-17Richard Hartland
82-83Peter Moffatt17-18Andreas Heinzl
83-84Nick Hamilton18-19Robin Forrest
84-85Peter Reynolds19-20Ewen Macniven

This list has been slightly amended from the version published in the 50th Anniversary Journal, which was wrong in some respects. Subsequent Presidents have been added on; there have been 38 in total over the 70 year life of the club to date. The picture was taken on the 60th Anniversary meet in April 2010, and includes four former Presidents; Robin Forrest, Nick Hamilton, Peter Moffatt and Michael Garrett.