Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sunday walk 3rd Dec 2012

The walk was organised by Malcolm and Susan.  From Glen Cluanie we
ascended Carn an Tuirc and Cairn of Claise

Carn an Tuirc  

A bit of a slog in deep snow

but it sparkled with frost crystals

and extensive views in crystal clear air

Victorian fenceposts and boulders transformed by ice

From the second summit heading down into the dwindling daylight

Susan was freezing in the van but heat, light, tea and cakes revived everyone

Monday, December 3, 2012

John’s Last Munro (again!)

The reasonable forecast for last weekend was enough to get John into action to go and bag the final Munro of his second round. The hill of choice was Sgurr Mor in Knoydart, a tricky little beast to get to at the best of times. Sadly it wasn’t the best of times and the walk-in to Kinbreak bothy on Friday night was a bit more epic than we had planned for. Despite the almost full moon the path was elusive, leaving us with the choice of bog or semi-frozen argo tracks, which have proliferated hugely in this area since our last visit. Wet, cold and fed up after 2½ hours we arrived to find the bothy in good condition. A swift dram and a cheesy oatcake were enough to see us into our pits.
Sgurr Mor (C) by moonlight

Not our latest DIY - Kinbreak bothy
Saturday dawned fine so off we set, surprised at just how much snow it looked like there was higher up. We had been expecting a healthy dusting but as we ascended the Corbett of Sgurr an Fhuarain we were soon ankle to knee deep, with deeper drifts. Luckily most of it was just powder, but the patches of soft slab were hard going. Elevenses on the summit were a welcome rest and for the first time we noticed that the weather, instead of getting better through the day as expected, was closing in a bit.

Ascending Sgurr an Fhuarain, Gairich behind

Sgurr Mor in sight

A quick but cold scoot down the west ridge got us to the base of Sgurr Mor with just one more climb left. Again this turned into a bit of a flouter through deep snow near the summit, which we made just before the weather really broke down and the showers became a couple of hours of continuous snow. Celebrations were limited to a quick lunch and a very wee dram huddled behind a rock, before heading off the way we had come to get down as fast as we could. Despite the rapid descent we didn’t make it back to the bothy until just before sunset, a result of the slow going on the tops.
Last few steps
Turned out nice again...

Kinbreak bothy
I would like to say that the party then raged until well into the following morning but with just two of us there, sub-zero temperatures and a defective fire log we turned in by 9, just as the snow outside really started falling.
Finally got the fire going
Expecting to wake up on Sunday to deep snow outside we were surprised to see just a dusting. It looked like it had melted for a while before freezing hard. We tromped up the glen for a bit before getting back to the car over the Corbett of Fraoch Bheinn. Being a bit lower than Saturday’s hills there wasn’t as much of an issue with deep snow and it all felt a bit easier in the fantastic conditions. A great way to end a fine and significant weekend away. What next?
Gairich on Sunday morning

Topping out on Fraoch Bheinn

Looking back to Sgurr Mor

Flouter time

The peaks of central Knoydart
Across to Ben Nevis
View east down a foggy Loch Arkaig

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Right Side of the Tracks

Seeing the same forecast as John, Juliette and I decided to head up towards lochnagar on Saturday, as I'd been out over to white bridge the weekend before.  Getting to
 Glenmuick car park  we were surprised by the lack of cars on such a fine looking day!  Walking up the landy track, we got our first glimpse of a wintery looking lochnagar

Lochnagar looking suspiciously white
After a brief snack at the meikle col, taking in the wonderful panoramic of the corrie in light winter garb

we headed up to the summit, racing a couple of boxer dogs intent of lightening our packs of the heavy weight of our lunch - fortunately we managed to get the sarnies eaten in time!  John and Ann did briefly send across a cloud so that we could sample the weather they had, but luckily it cleared as quickly as it arrived!

Heading down the Glas Alt Sheil, we were back at the car fine and early, and so decided to celebrate a glorious day out with a scone in the Bothy in Ballater, and by buying a a fine treat of Sausages from the local butchers!

Roll on more winter days like this one

Derry Cairngorm/Ben Macdui

The forecast of a fine Saturday and rubbish Sunday got Ann & John out early to enjoy the promise of fantastic views in the excellent visibility. This was looking good for most of the drive there but the Cairngorms themselves were shrouded in cloud. Early-morning clag no doubt so off we set for the grand circuit of Derry Cairngorm, Ben Macdui and Carn a Mhaim.
On the ascent it looked like it might indeed break up and we looked hopefully towards Lochnagar, bathed in sunshine. It was not to be and things just got worse. It was fairly think on the tops with a strong SW wind giving a good wind chill. To add to the suffering we had forgotten that the boulder fields of Derry Cairngorm are really best avoided unless bone dry or covered in deep snow. A thin cover of snow and ice is not recommended.
On the way up Derry Cairngorm

Slithering around on Derry Cairngorm

Nearest thing to a view from the tops - Loch Etchachan
After that it was heads down and bash on, stopping for a quick and interesting lunch (strawberry jam mistaken for chutney) in a sheltered hollow on Macdui. Carn a Mhaim got left for another day as we ducked down into Glen Luibeg for the walk-out.

Monday, October 29, 2012

By Eck it’s Grand Down South

By way of a change last weekend Ann & John found themselves taking the long drive south to Braithwaite, in the northern part of Albion’s Ponds (or the ELD for fans of the TLA). With a cracking forecast an early start was in order for the full circuit of the Grasmoor group of hills. This had the double advantage of getting us out before the inevitable crowds and also some really nice lighting conditions. It was a bit parky though.
We took the long eastern ridge of Grisedale Pike which soon had us up top, which was still quite white from the hard frost the night before. Following the ridge westwards we traversed Hopegill Head where we met the first person of the day, a shepherd out with 3 dogs. There then followed a bit of shameless Wainwright bagging as we carried on to the outlying top of Whiteside. Returning to Hopegill Head things were starting to get busy as by now all the tardy types had managed to haul themselves plus their Full English up to the tops.
The ascent of Grisedale Pike

West from a frosty Grisedale Pike towards Grasmoor

The ridge from Hopegill Head to Whiteside
We then had the biggest dip of the day to cross the pass of Coledale Hause before ascending Grasmoor. Despite lots of people on every other hill it was very quiet on the top, which was just as well as we tucked in to some sarnies filled with leftover garlic potato.
Grisedale Pike and Skiddaw from Grasmoor
Onwards took us next to Wandope, then Crag Hill and its subsidiary bump of Sail, before begingeg the long descent to Brathwaite. Just before we got there we decided to take in Barrow as the final top of the day and were very glad we did as the views were well worth it. Then it was down to the pub for Jennings and crisps as the cloud started to thicken in advance of the foul weather that moved in for Sunday. All very different from Torridon the previous weekend but good to have a tramp without always looking where to put your feet.
Derwentwater from Barrow

Monday, October 22, 2012

Torridon-tastic (October’s Kinlochewe meet)

A week before it was due to happen you would have been forgiven for thinking that going on the meet was crazy. The remnants of Hurricane Rafael were forecast to hit, bringing strong winds and torrential rain. As often happens, those that kept the faith were rewarded by two days of light winds and blue skies as the storm seemed to lose interest in the middle of the Atlantic.
The venue was the Kinlochewe Hotel bunkhouse, improved and much cleaner than our last visit there but still of fairly questionable value for the price. Four nice real ales at the hotel though.
Saturday saw the early birds of Kathryn, John, Ann & The Edge tackle the Horns-first traverse of Beinn Alligin. The early morning vapours evaporated during the ascent to leave a stunning day with crystal clear views. I had trouble convincing people that the things we could see really were the Outer Isles as they looked far too close.
Approach to the Horns

On the first Horn

Atmospheric conditions on the third Horn

Looking back at the Horns from the summit of Beinn Alligin
Approaching Tom na Gruagaich, northern Skye behind

View east to Beinn Dearg and Liathach
Malcolm and Susan, after a long lie in, set off for Slioch. Susan bailed out after the long walk in but Malcolm carried on at what must have been a blistering pace to get back not long after the rest of us. Meanwhile Denis had a solo ascent of the fine Graham of Beinn na-h-Eaglaise.
The forecast for Sunday was even better so the same four early birds were off in time to see the sunrise lighting up the summits as they drove back down the glen for the E-W traverse of the mighty Liathach. As always the steep ascent was brutal but we managed to make it a bit more interesting by using altimeters to maintain a constant Naismith rate of ascent from glen to ridge. Phew! By this time the cloud had unexpectedly thickened and the views were not as clear as the previous day, but couldn’t really complain for mid-October in the NW. The summit was a bit cold and windy so we carried on and ended up traversing to the end of the pinnacles before a well-earned first lunch in the much improved weather. On the final summit we were greeted by an eagle having an unusually close inspection of us before heading off north in the characteristic shallow power dive that made it a distant speck in no time. Our descent by the long tramp down the west ridge was considerably slower, but very pleasant in warm autumn sunshine. 

Looking west along the Liathach ridge

Approaching the pinnacles

Airy scrambling on the pinnacles

The summit and pinnacles behind us

Beinn Alligin and Beinn Dearg from the western top

Descending the west ridge

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Perthshire Perambulations

Despite being away lots recently the good forecast lured Ann & John to deepest Perthshire last weekend for a spot of Munro bagging. An early-ish departure from Aberdeen on Sat morning got us to the Ben Lawers Hotel and ready for the off at 9.30. The clear blue skies on the drive down had given way to cloudy showers, but we couldn’t not set off at this point so heads down and on with the slog up the track by the Lawers Burn. Lochan nan Cat was reached after a bit of a boggy flouter and given it was still in cloud we decided to give Ben Lawers a miss. The ascent to the bealach between it and An Stuc was fairly steep but much easier that our previous ascent when we had almost swam up in deep snow. From here on it got busy with folks appearing from all directions and we picked up the full force of the biting NW wind. 
Meall Garbh from An Stuc
First lunch on An Stuc fortified us for the only section of the Bew Lawers ridge we hadn’t done, north from there to Meall Garbh. I knew it had a bit of a reputation and in the slightly damp conditions it certainly lived up to it – steep, chossy and slippery. On the summit of Meall Garbh we set foot in our first snow of the season and admired the snowman built by a wee chap we had met on An Stuc. The route from there to the second Munro of the day, Meall Greigh was a straightforward tramp, as was the rapid descent to the hotel for celebratory crisps and beer outside in the sun. 
Ben Lawers, An Stuc and Meall Garbh from Meall Greigh
On the Sunday the weather was, as forecast, stunning so after scraping quite a thick layer of frost off the car we parked at the splendidly-named Edinchip for a round of the two Corbetts above Glen Kendrum. 
Glen Kendrum
A landy track got us part way up the glen before we struck off for the ridge to the north to gain height and views as soon as we could. Sure enough it was a stunning day with crystal clear views all around except far into the NW. The hills themselves were a pleasant enough wander with some short steep bits to add interest, and very nice views of an autumnal Perthshire. 
Ben Lawers group

Ben More and Stob Binnien