Saturday, June 15, 2019

Naismith Hut Meet (Elphin) 7-8 June

An ever-changing forecast for the June meet didn’t discourage 7 AMC members from travelling to the SMC Naismith Mountaineering Hut located in Elphin in the far flung corners of North West Scotland.  The hut is impressive, tidy and well-equipped, with superb views out to Cul Mor and over Loch Veyatie. 

Late arrivals by most meant a short evening together on Friday discussing plans and adventures for the following day.  Over a glass of whisky Ewan, Ed and Simon plotted an early start to tackle the iconic Old Man of Stoer, the 60m high Torridonian sandstone sea stack near Stoer Head Lighthouse.  With conditions looking favourable, but low tide at 5.30am, limited shut-eye was on the cards. 

As alarm clocks rang at 3.30am the party sneaked out quietly from the hut and made their way towards Stoer, North of Lochinver. 

The Old Man of Stoer
Supposedly the Old Man can be reached by a walk or a jump at the lowest of low tides.  On arriving and discovering a large swell, a dry route across could not be spotted, but happily someone had left a brand new static rope across the water channel for a Tyrolean traverse.   

Tyrolean traverse
The incredibly slimy first pitch was not the easiest introduction to the day’s climbing. Ewan at first backed off from the committing move but soon returned, soaking wet after getting hit by a wave from trying the walk round, emboldened by the inevitability.   

Ed on the first pitch
The next pitches were very nice climbing and the weather very sunny, the penultimate pitch was a traverse and so was very enjoyable for both the leader and seconds.    The last pitch was a chimney which made a nice classical end to the climbing.

Views from the top

Views from the top

Relaxed once at the top
Ewan tested the abseil to see if 50m ropes could really reach the bottom in one go. They did, with 30cm to spare! The rope for the Tyrolean traverse slipped off on the return journey with the shoogling of the prussicking (the technical term!), but the backup the team had placed held, so no-one did any swimming that day. 

The early start had not been in vane since there was plenty of time left for a visit to the famous pie shop in Lochinver. 

Suitably later Derek, Hazel & Scuz set off to Glencanisp Lodge near Lochinver to start their traverse of Suilven in sunshine.

Suilven this way
 A pleasant walk down into Glencanisp Forest from the lodge using first a landrover track then a well-maintained walkers path made for easy work to cover the distance to the turn off up on to Suilven 

Suilven in the distance from the track at Glencanisp Lodge

This (newish) path continued up onto Bealach Mor between the two tops of Suilven.   

Scuz approaching the bealach
With a through-walk in mind the group tackled Caisteal Liath to the West first, an easy walk to the summit, then heading Eastwards, taking in the grade 2 sections up and over the spine and bobtail to the summit of Meall Mheadhonach.   

Hazel and Scuz at the summit of Caisteal Liath
The hump ahead, Meall Mheadhonach

Scuz on a trickier section of the scrambling
Hazel negotiating one of the scrambling sections
From here a steep descent to the East of Loch na Gainimh then back to the continue on the path Eastwards all the way back to Elphin.  It was exceptionally warm and dry weather throughout the day with just enough wind to keep the midge away.         

Denis walked to Knockan Crag to explore the fascinating geology and plant variety on offer.

As usual an enjoyable AMC supper was had, thanks to volunteer chefs Simon, Ed and Hazel.  We had a lovely visit from Robert who had travelled the short distance from Ullapool after dinner too.  

Sunday’s forecast was for continued good weather so plans were made to tackle Cul Mor from two different approaches;  EdScuz, Hazel & Derek from Knockan via the mod/grade 3 scramble up Pinnacle Ridge on the North of Sron Gharbh and Simon and Ewan from near Loch Lurgainn.  After tidying up the hut, everyone set off.   

The first team followed the walkers path from Knockan which was enjoyable then had a distance covering rough and wet ground to reach the start of the route.   

Derek, Scuz & Ed on the approach track
Views over to Suilven

In Coire Gorm
The pinnacles were easily identifiable being prominent half way up the slopes of Sron Gharbh.  The scramble was discontinuous but provided plenty of interest and some more challenging individual moves.  There was plenty of loose rock and questionable flakes so care was taken when moving together.   

Scuz donning climbing gear ready for the scramble
Scuz on one of the pinnacles with Derek keeping at a safe distance
Meanwhile, Ewan and Simon started their route to Cul Mor from Loch Lurgainn.  Denis had promised the best view in Scotland and he would know.

Denis had also told about a dune landscape at the lochan, Lochan Dearg a Cuil Mhoir, and there was indeed a lot of sand there.  The view from Creag nan Calman was indeed stunning, a beautiful vista over Loch Sionasgaig and of Stac Pollaidh.   
The best view in Scotland
On reaching the summit, with the other climbing party still some halfway up Pinnacle Ridge, they descended using the walkers path to Knockan where a short while later they hitched back to the starting point and the car, another classic finish to the day.    

As always, a fun weekend of mountaineering and socialising with the Aberdeen Mountaineering Club.