2013 - When shall we three meet again?

2013 - When shall we three meet again?

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 57.84188°N / 5.13506°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 13, 2013
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Spring

Day 1 - May 13th Where shall we go?

To quote the bard of Avon, the likelyhood of three old cronies meeting on the Scottish moors in “thunder, lightning and in rain” now seems vanishingly small. Colin, who’s idea it was to visit the highlands this year, had previously suffered a mishap whilst  walking on Moel Famau in North Wales. So he now has another damaged shoulder to match the other one that received “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” when he fell off a friend’s moped in Liverpool.

Thus it was just Ken and Johnnie that headed up north in Johnnies Ford B max to sample the delights of the Munros. Ken was quite impressed with the car’s tiny 3 cylinder turbo-charged 1000cc engine.

Ken who has many years of experience of the Glens of Nevis and Glencoe and the islands of Skye and Arran, had never made it as far north as An Teallach so that was our destination. Weather forecasts for the week chosen were dire and proved unfortunately accurate when we arrived at Dundonnell in driving rain at 6:45pm on Monday afternoon the 13th of May.
Pulling up at the Dundonnell Hotel car park, we scuttled across the road to the Hotel reception and were totally saturated by the rain in the ten seconds it took us to cross.

Bunkhouse accomodation
Ken gets settled into the hostel after a long drive north.

We had intended camping at The Northern Lights site at Badcaul just a few miles up the road from Dundonnell but there was no way we could have put the tent up in the high winds. 

Seeking alternative accommodation, we asked the kindly receptionist if there were any bunkhouses available locally. She promptly told us that there was a excellent hostel a couple of miles up the road and that the owner would be coming in to the hotel later that evening. Suitable encouraged by this good news we settled down with a beer and a tasty meal of soup of the day followed by steak & ale pie and veggies.

True to her word she pointed us out to Dave Neville who runs the Sail Mhor Croft Hostel at Camusnagaul near Dundonnell. Dave welcomed us with the news that space was available and we could occupy bedroom no 1. 

So after another beer we headed off to the hostel and settled in for the night on two lower sections of the two-tier bunks in the four person room No 1. 


Day 2 - May 14th - A quick tour of the neighbourhood.

Little Loch Broom
The Towering hump of Sail Mhor dominates the view of the loch
On our way north we had stopped in Inverness for food supplies so we didn’t need to go shopping on our first day. In view of lowering clouds we decided not to visit the tops. Instead we took a walk up the road towards Badcaul. It was dry but very gusty, so we felt a bit sorry for a ten strong gang of oilskin clad workers swarming over the framework of a Fish farm out on the white capped windswept waters of Little Loch Broom. 
We called in at the Northern Lights campsite but it was totally deserted and after checking the rates pinned to the door of the ablution block we started deliberating about the best plan for accommodation for the rest of the week. The weather forecasts were still unpleasant so there was not much incentive to move from the hostel providing space was available.

We continued up the road a while to a little shop to see what sort of supplies they sold. It was a typical village store with a post office and had a small selection of essential items, not that we really needed anything much. We soon headed back towards the hostel stopping only for a short stay at a handy bus shelter out of the wind. 

There we made a brew and took in the scenery over the Loch from a comfy bench outside the shelter once the wind slackened enough for Johnnie to test out his new bivvy stove. 

Cnoc a Bhaid rallaich - 544m.
A view of the hills north of Little Loch Broom from Badcaul.
We got back to the hostel around 1:30 pm, after the 13Km round trip and decided that as we had spare time to go and visit Ullapool which is not too far north of Little Loch Broom.

The local scenery of Dundonnell is somewhat bleak but as we headed further north past the Falls of Mesach the views greatly improved and passing the Braemore wood they became positively beautiful, an arborial delight!. As usual, Ken with his vast plant knowledge from his former career could identify all the tree varieties that we passed by.
Emerging alongside Loch Broom we drove on to the outskirts of Ullapool, admiring the many sailing craft moored up around the town’s jetties. Also in position was a vast cruise liner that had sailed in the night before.
On the way to Ullapool we had noted a road sign saying that it was only 130 miles to John o’Groats, the most northerly point on the Scottish mainland and the furthest north either of us had been in the UK.
After a brief stop at the local supermarket for petrol and at a cash machine to collect more funds, we hove to at the Seaforth Inn alongside the ferryport and had a quiet pint of ale whilst watching the other punters eating their huge lunches that seemed to consist mainly of Moby Dick sized fish portions on small mountains of chips .

Back at the hostel we used the comprehensive self-catering kitchen facilities to prepare our usual traditional “all in stew”. It was a real touch of luxury compared to our usual cooking system of midge dodging and trying to shelter the stoves from wind on a campsite. Later on we headed down to the Dundonnell Hotel to wash our dinner down with a couple of good local ales.
Our beers were served by a charming Spanish girl, so in spite of not visiting the Pyrenees this year we did at least get chance to practice our Spanish conversational skills.

Day 3 - May 15th - Our first hill day - An Teallach

On the stalker path

We arose promptly at 7 and the weather still looked a bit wild but we decided to head for An Teallach anyway as we considered that by using the Stalker path, the route would be more or less straight up and down with little navigation issues in the event of low cloud or even whiteout conditions. 

After breakfast we arrived at the trail alongside the Dundonnell Hotel at 8:40am and after Ken setting his GPS and Johnnie his Garmin watch, we headed up hill. Feral Goats watched us from the heather as they had been driven down to lower levels by the inclement weather. We also saw a few Red Deer on the higher slopes as we plodded along the trail.

Coir a' Mhuilinn
The snow filled gully leads Johnnie from a plateau marked at it's end by a small cairn on towards the summit of Bidean a' Glas Thuill, the highest point on An Teallach
Foto by Ken (taken on day 5)

The middle part of the ascent crosses some rather boggy ground which Ken was not too keen on (more of this later) but higher up we followed a deep gully system over fresh snow. The gully peters out on a sort of plateau which Johnnie remembered from his previous visit in 2009 with Colin. 
Glas Mheall Mor

A wee cairn at the top of the gulley marked the route but beyond this all was grey and white due to the low clouds and the fresh snow cover.
Plateau above Coir a' Mhuilinn
A cairn marks the descent route to the stalker path.The undulating ridge line of Glas Mheall Mor behind. 
Foto by Ken (taken on day 5)

The mountain forecast provided by Dave at the Hostel had indicated that there would be 20mph winds at the 900 metre level, but as we turned left and ascended several false summits along the ridge, it felt like double that and we found that our fingers were soon freezing up. 

We had to don our windproof overgloves before continuing. 

Ah! Scottish summer weather!  
Summit of Glas Mheall Mor
 Ken's first top of An Teallach

As Johnnie was repeating an earlier ascent, Ken was leading up the undulating ridge and he couldn’t quite believe he had reached the top rather than another false summit.  
Laughing off the weather

Clouds were down, wind was howling across the icy snow but we happily shook hands at the summit of Glas Mheall Mor 979 metres at 12:50pm. 
Mountain brewing
 Getting a brew on

It was Ken’s first top on the stunning An Teallach ridge. Unfortunately for Ken, visibility was down to 100 metres or so and he would have to wait another to day to see the glorious views.

We decided on discretion in view of the wild weather and retraced our steps back to the marker cairn and sat down for a rest and to eat our lunch. 

We set up the stove for a brew but then discovered that neither of us had brought the tea bags! So, we had to be content with water to wash down our cheese and salami sandwiches. 

Then it was off down the gulley and stalker path to the road. 

We arrived back at our car just before 4:00pm and thought that a cool pint would reward our efforts of climbing up nearly 1000 metres and covering over 10 steep kilometres but the hotel bar was closed. (We later found out that they didn’t open until 6:00pm – Que lastima.)

Day 4 - May 16th - An easy day - Stac Polly

Stac Polly 612 metres
This old red sandstone hill stands proudly up above the moors and is one of the oldest rock types in the UK.
The Gaelic spelling of Stac Pollaidh is less commonly used.

Talking to Dave and some of his other guests at the hostel the previous evening, we heard that they had been on a visit to Stac Polly (alt. Stac Pollaidh) with Dave acting as the guide and whilst we had been blasted by the elements on An Teallach, they had been sunning themselves on Stac Polly.

Get in there we thought, let’s have it, so off we drove in the same direction passing Ullapool and heading further north again. We glimpsed Stac Polly from the road and stopped to admire it’s proud prominence, thrusting steeply up out of the moors like some sort of prehistoric monster.

Leaving the main A 835 road we drove down a single track road with passing places until we reached a car park under the hill. This hill is obviously more of a tourist trap than the surrounding peaks due to it’s easy access and low height (612 metres). A notice board at the car park gave information about the geology and affects of erosion on the area.

refreshment time
Johnnie sips his juice at the bealach on Stac Polly.Foto by Ken

Stac Polly pinnacles
 Signs of erosion - a circular path avoids these trails

It also recommended a circular route devised to alleviate further erosion and this we took passing around the hill to the north side before ascending to it’s central bealach. 

We dropped our sacs there, stopped for a drink and headed up to the eastern summit admiring the views of Cul Beag and Cul Mor to the east and the even more impressive bulk of Suilven to the North.

Cul Mor - 849 metres
Cul Mor seen from Stac Polly
Cul Beag - 769 metres
The view of Cul Beag seen from Stac Polly.

Suilven - 731 metres
The isolated hill of Suilven needs a long walk in for an ascent and requires finding a route through the many lochans.
Seen here from the summit of Stac Polly.

Stac Polly - east summit
Ken and Johnnie enjoy the moment. Foto by Ken
Scrambling on Stac Polly
Ken enjoys the sandstone friction.

After the obligatory handshake and fotos we retraced our steps to the bealach and then traversed over several pinnacles to the western summit. This required the use of the hands and was quite exciting. The old red sandstone provided excellent friction and stirred memories of climbing on the gritstone edges in Derbyshire.

Stac Polly high point.
Fellow scramblers head for the western summit of Stac Polly.
After topping out at the high point we retraced our steps to collect the sacs and headed back down to the road. A somewhat longer diversion traversed rapidly enabled us to avoid following a 20 strong coach party of foreign tourists heading down to the return path.

On the way back we stopped in Ullapool for refreshments and tried another hostelry called The Ferry Boat Inn  directly on the promenade. They served a reasonable ale which we supped in a leisurely manner whilst admiring a sailing crew tacking across the Loch from the comfort of our leather armchairs.

Ferry Boat Inn - Ullapool
Johnnie samples the ale at the quayside inn.
Refreshments in Ullapool
Ken chills out with a pint of local ale.

Day 5 - May 17th - An Teallach again

Return to An Teallach
The impressive ridge of An Teallach seen across the moors from the A832 road south of Dundonnell

With the prospect of the best weather window of our week’s stay, we decided to head for An Teallach again. 
We were soon trudging along the familiar Stalker path heading up towards the plateau where we had been on May 15th. This time the weather was fine and we arrived at the marker cairn in good style Just before 11 am. 

The stalker path again
Ken heads up the trail to An Teallach
Some routefinding required
The stalker path becomes somewhat indistinct in an area of rocky slabs.

Ken enjoys the fresh snow
Ken checks his GPS at the marker cairn at the top of the approach gully.

Unlike our previous visit, our way was clear, so after a quick check on Johnnie's map and Ken's GPS we soon arrived at a bealach below the summit ridge. 

The bealach below Bidean a' Glas Thuille
Ken admires the view across An Teallach.The ridge and summit of his first top Glas Mheall Mor from a previous days ascent is over to his left side.

The way to the summit
150 metres above lies the summit of Bidean a' Ghlas Thuill.

Ahead the final one hundred and fifty metres rose steeply and were covered by a good layer of fresh snow.  

Heading to Bidean
Ken kicks steps up the crispy snow towards the summit.
We decided against donning crampons although we were carrying them as well as our axes. The snow conditions were good so Ken led the way, kicking steps where necessary or hopping from boulder to boulder. 

We were ascending along the edge of the ridge and soon saw the inspiring sight of the An Teallach ridge extending from Sgurr Fiona to Sail Liath. 

View from the edge
The impressive ridge of An Teallach 
seen from the slopes of Bidean a' Ghlas Thuill

Here and there we did discover icy sections but these proved to be no problem for vibram soles.
We had almost reached the summit of Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill when an eagle suddenly soared up only about twenty feet above Ken’s head. I stopped in amazement uttering a shout of wow!! 

Soaring Eagles
Ken disturbs a pair of Golden Eagles as he heads for the summit of Bidean.

Instead of whipping out my camera I just stared at the awe inspiring majesty of the huge bird

The Eagle vanished from sight briefly but soon returned with it’s mate and by the time I was ready for a picture they had soured high above us. Within what seemed like seconds they were half a mile away. 

(we checked Dave’s bird book later back at the hostel and confirmed our suspicions that they were actually Golden Eagles.) 

Nearly there
The last few metres to the top of Bidean

We were then just a few metres from the top.

Bidien a' Ghlas Thuill - 1062 metres
Ken reaches the top of An Teallach

Ken soon after reached the trig station on the summit and so got his amazing views due to the clear skies above us. 

As we stood admiring the views, we saw clouds descending and also boiling up from behind the ridge ahead.

So reluctantly we decided to descend before our view was ended. 

Down below near the bealach we came across a couple ascending and exchanged a few words with them. By this time the summit was shrouded in cloud, definitely a case of the early birds getting their worms.

Happiness is summit shaped
Ken and Johnnie celebrate a fine climb on top of Bidean a' Ghlas Thuill
Cloud inversions begin
Clouds boil up behind the ridge of An Teallach - time to go down

On the way back down. Ken suggested a diversion to attempt to avoid the boggy section that he had taken aversion to previously. So at the bottom of the snowy gully section we headed out to the west looking for the end of the stalker path. 

This involved a fair bit of heather bashing and hopping over small streams but we gradually lost height without really locating an alternative path. I did spot a wee froggy on the way down and we had managed to circle around a small herd of red deer who were grazing off the trail.

Red Deer
The deer caught our scent and prepared to flee.

They eventually caught wind of us but seemed quite reluctant to leave their grazing spot.

West coast view
One of the beautiful bays along the coastal route from Badcaul towards Gairloch.

We hit the road at 3:00pm and decided to have a drive up the coast road towards Gairloch admiring the many deserted bays on the way.  

Eventually we had pangs of hunger and decided to head back to the hostel to prepare a vast meal of pasta which took all evening to digest.
Music session
Ken was invited to Join the local music session in the Dundonnell Hotel and he took part with gusto.

In the Dundonnell Hotel bar later we were pleasantly surprised to find that they had another real ale on tap, Red Cuillin from the Isle of Skye micro brewery. This helped a bit to wash down the pasta.
Whilst supping our first pint we noticed a gathering of local musicians that included our host Dave. I suggested to Ken that we move over to their corner of the bar as it would be more conducive to listen to their music rather that the raucous conversation of a table full of Glaswegians sitting closer to us.

We managed to find a small table with free seats and noticed a rack with two guitars at the side of it. 

I suggested to Ken (a keen guitarist) that these must be for guests so he should select one and join in the session. In the mean time Dave had spotted us and encouraged us to join them.

Ken soon gave them a rendering of one of his currently favourite tunes. 

I looked through their song book that they had placed a few copies of around their corner of the bar.
After collecting more beers to lubricate the tonsils, I tried to sing along whilst Ken played the guitar. It was a really great session and we thought that Colin would be green with envy knowing he had missed it.

Ken’s playing was well received but I’m not sure about my singing as I did belt out the verses of “Whiskey in the Jar” at a fair volume although it was much more like “dinna lissen ye” rather than “thin lizzy”.

Another beer saw us to the end of the session and we went back to the hostel well pleased with the evening. Next day, Ken was amazed that we had downed four pints as we are not really in serious training these days.

Day 6 - May 18th - Our last day

Bothy route
Ken heads for Loch na Sealga and the Shenevall bothy.

Sadly we had arrived at the end of our week in Scotland, apart from our return day. 

The balmy (ha ha!) weather of the previous day was replaced by the more usual heavy clouds and threatening rain. 

We decided on a long walk at low level across the shoulders of Sail Liath and onwards to the shores of Loch na Sealga, about a 17km round trip. Although the rain held off, clouds were still low and views of the hills non existent.

 However, the walk was pleasant, a mixture of rocky track and boggy grass. We did have a wee debate about the distance covered and the position we had arrived at. Ken informed me that I shouldn’t question the veracity of his GPS when solely basing my location estimates on instinct. However we didn’t come to blows about it and the whole week was as usual marked by our non-combatative companionship.
Descending to the Bothy
Ken heads down to the isolated bothy of Shenavall

Around halfway on the outward leg, we met a young chap walking solo and discovered that he was doing the Cape Wrath Trail, a trek of almost 200 miles from Fort William to Cape Wrath on the top of the Scottish mainland. 

After chatting for a few minutes we wished him well on his three week odyssy and continued on our way.

We left the moor via a rocky gully that lead down to a plain bordering the Loch and here the trail seemed to peter out. 

Bothy entrance
The bothy is very remotely located but convenient for those crossing the moors on the long distance Cape wrath trail.

We spotted a cottage below and descended to it. This proved to be the bothy of Shenavall  so we decided to stop there and after a brief look inside moved outside to the shelter of the bothy wall, made a brew and ate the sandwiches we had prepared at breakfast.
Red Deer 2
These deer seemed unafraid so may not have experienced the shooting season.

A few Red Deer were grazing near the bothy but they seemed unperturbed by our presence. 

Luckily the rain held off and we returned to Dundonnell still dry.

Almost at the road we met a heavily loaded Scottish guy who proceeded to explain that he was looking for his mates who were hoping to use the bothy. Although his brogue was inexplicable to Ken I managed to fathom out that he was bringing a tent in case the bothy was full. I told him that we had only seen a three or four people so he should be sleeping in doors tonight. We arrived back at the car park at 5:00pm and drove back to the Hostel to cook our dinner.

Day 7 - May 19th - Going home

After a nourishing breakfast, we packed the car and said cheerio to Dave, telling him that we had really enjoyed his and Lynda’s hospitality.

The day was dreary but we had a pleasant drive back to Inverness where we topped up on petrol. Heading around the Cairngorm and passing Aviemore we stopped again at Pitlochry for coffee and scones before continuing on to the motorway junctions outside Glasgow. Here we passed a particularly splendid piece of public art  at the side of the motorway.

We had no more adventures and crossed the Lake District without incident, finally arriving back in Liverpool at 6:00 pm. Ken’s wife Jen had prepared a slap-up dinner for us and they had kindly agreed to put me up overnight.

The next day I left early at 5:50 am, heading back down south and arrived home at 11:30 am. Checking my mileage on the car saw that I had covered 1630 miles on the trip. As usual it was a great week if unfortunaltely far too short.


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Viewing: 1-2 of 2

markhallam - Jun 27, 2013 12:26 am - Voted 10/10

A fine Yomp!

Thanks - you have reminded me that I really must get up there again before too long - nearly did this year in April, but couldn't track down dog friendly accommodation in time - and had a splendid week exploring Ardnamurchan instead.
My last and only visit to far north was late 1980's - and I loved the area - did mostly same mountains as you, including Stac Polly. I think it was also in June - but there wasn't any snow on An Teallagh! (bad year for midges though... )
best wishes, Mark


DrJonnie - Jun 29, 2013 6:09 am - Hasn't voted

Re: A fine Yomp!

Hi Mark,
It's a magic area with a great range of hills. We were lucky with the midges this year as it was quite windy and that stopped them rising. Our other target was Suilven which we didn't have time for apart from a fine view of it from Stac Polly. We will definitely get there one day.
The last time we were in Scotland at the same time of year we had new snow on the tops too.
cheers Johnnie

Viewing: 1-2 of 2



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