Ah, back to Scotland again for the last week in May. Unfortunately the weather wasn't as good as the previous year! On the other hand this week beat all records from previous holidays...
- 14 Munros
- 8 Corbetts (hills between 2,500 and 2,999 feet)
- 20 other smaller summits
- Over 65,000 ft of ascent
- Approx 180 miles of hiking
Yet again May was a huge month- with over 400 miles covered, and a tally of 100,000 feet of ascent! I remember 2003 when hitting that level in a year was a real achievement. I wonder what the target next year will be...?
23 May - Meall Chuaich
The forecast for the week wasn't good - terrible in fact - so I was braced for the worst. I started off as usual before 6am and headed north. Approaching the Cairngorms the weather wasn't bad.
I stopped to climb Meall Chuaich for a short hike. It was sunny at first but soon became overcast, with rain and a howling gail on the summit.
After a brief stop in Inverness I headed north towards Ullapool. Unfortunately the road was reported as shut due to an accident. I decided to be masochistic and do another climb, heading up Beinn Liath Mhor a'Ghiubhais Li (try saying that ten times fast!) It rained, rained, rained and oh yes it rained!
24 May - Quinag
The following day the forecast was good for the morning, bad for the afternoon. I decided to head out at the crack of dawn to climb Quinag - pronounced "Koonyak". It is the most northernly of the peaks made of Torridonian Sandstone. These are characterised by huge towers surrounded be deep quarries due to the erosion of surrounding material.
Canisp and Suilven
Once I got back to the car the heavens opened. But it was only midday. I headed up Glas Bheinn nearby for a quick up and down. No point wasting the day, even if you do get soaked to your skin...
25 May - Seana Bhraigh
Seana Bhraigh is one of the most isolated mountains in Scotland. I decided to head in from the west and was pleasantly surprised to find a good car park where a few years earlier I had to tuck my car into a tiny spot on the side of the road.
The day was drizzly and overcast, but the cloud never dropped down too low, nor did the rain ever get particularly bad. There was quite a bit of cross country and a far amount of ascent and descent. The way back was really hard work, but I decided to include Eilidh nan Clach Gela as I didn't get the view the first time round!
Gleann a'Chadha Dheirg
26 May - The Central Fannaichs
The following day there was quite a lot of cloud, but a far amount of blue sky too. One hail shower mid morning made it interesting!
Sgurr nan Each
The Western Fannaichs
27 May - Beinn Eighe
It was raining hard in the morning but the forecast was for a day of two halves. I parked up above Kinlochewe and waited. After an hour or twos sleep I read a while and waited more. About 12 the rain turned to drizzle and the cloud began to lift - now was the time!
I parked up and headed for Beinn Eighe, the last of the three great Torridonian mountains sitting on the north side of Glen Torridon. I took the long approach around the back of the mountain to give the cloud a chance to lift. It didn't and it began to rain. The best view I got was down into the Coire from the ridge to Ruadh Stac Mor.
Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair
I headed round to the other summit, and around 4:30 everything changed - the cloud lifted, the sun came out and the views were spectacular.
Beinn Eighe Panorama 1
Beinn Eighe Panorama 2
Beinn Eighe Panorama 3
Beinn Eighe Panorama 4
The cloude still came and went but there were great views back to Liathach and of the eastern end of the Beinn Eighe ridge.
Liathach from Beinn Eighe
The eastern end of Beinn Eighe
It was nearly 7pm by the time I got down. However I had a message on my phone - I'd had an offer accepted on a house! Purchase is still going through at time of writing so hopefully I haven't jinxed anything!
On the way back I got a shot of the other two Torridonian mountains - Beinn Alligin and Liathach. Three classic mountains. Three classic days on the hills.
Beinn Alligin and Liathach
28 May - Maol Chean-dearg
Oh dear. There is always one nasty day and this was it. It rained from dawn till dusk and I can't say much for the walk. One munro, a corbett and a top. No views. Lots of wet gear.
29 May - Lurg Mhor
After six days of on off rain I deserved some good weather and boy did I get it. The forecast was for wall to wall sunshine so I decided to head for another of Scotlands great isolated peaks - Lurg Mhor. This peak is a good 11 miles in from the road, but to add insult to injury it not only involves 5,000 feet of ascent on the way in it also involves best part of 2,000 feet on the way back. This makes for a very committed walk - getting into trouble would be a real problem.
Me on Beinn Tharsuinn
The views were crystal clear - minimal haze and no clouds in the sky. Plus a nice col breeze.
Bidein a'Choire Sheasgaich
On the way back I decided I hadn't had enough, so rather than take the long track back I did the steep 1,000 ft ascent up another Corbett. And why not! I also had the fun of trying to arrange a survey for a house whilst sat on the summit cairn. From up there I got spectacular views north to the mountains I had climbed in the previous days...
Coulin and Torridon
The final view of the day was back down Loch Carron. Now knowing that all the Munros in this area of Scotland are now complete. Satisfaction!
The hardest day I've ever had in the Scottish hills was complete.
30 May - The Cuillin
The forecast was again good - cloud in the morning breaking to fantastic sunshine afterwards. It was time to return to the Cuillin I had last visited a year previous. I had three Munros left and headed to Glen Brittle to climb the first two. For those who don't know - the Black Cuillin are the most fantastic mountains the Britain. Sharp rock ridges and aretes abound...
The cloud was well down in the morning and still clung to the summits as I reached An Dorus - "The Door". It was only a few hundred metres to each summit, but each involved one pitch of Grade 3 scrambling - anything worse is classed as a rock climb. At An Dorus I also met the first of the ridge walkers - those attempting to traverse the entire length of the ridge, having bivvied overnight half way along.
Loch Coruisk from An Dorus
First was the lower Sgurr a'Mhadaidh. After the first hard pitch it was up to you how difficult you wanted it, easy below the ridge, hard directly on it. I stayed on the ridge. I got my picture taken up at the top and got some great views of the ridge to the north and of the summit crest itself.
Me on Sgurr a'Mhadaidh
North from Sgurr a'Mhadaidh Sgurr a'Mhadaidh
After this I headed back to An Dorus and headed up the lengthier route to Sgurr a'Ghreadidh. As it cleared I got great views over to the only Black Cuillin mountain not on the ridge. Blaven.
Now here was a choice. Starting at 7am I had completed the mountains I had intended by 11am. I could relax in the sun. No, I had to go on. I considered heading along the ridge but decided I had to try my last summit - Am Basteir.
I dashed down to the car and drove round to Sligachan. It was just after noon and the heat was beating down. I poured water over my head and started off. You head up into Coire a' Bhasteir below the peak and from their get great views up to the Pinnacle Ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean.
The scree was murderous but eventually you reach the base of Am Basteir. The translation isn't clear, but usually as "The Executioner". The climb up the ridge eventually hits a steep drop that is very difficult to descend, however I simply nipped down to the left on some easy ledges (climbing that drop on the way back.) I was there. My final Munro on the ridge. It was liberating. The views were breathtaking.
Sgurr nan Gillean
After a conversation with my family (you get great mobile reception) I headed over to visit Bruach na Frithe - which I had visited five years earlier as my first trip on the ridge. From there you get a great view back to Am Basteir.
After that was the hard, hot, tiring descent back to the car. Walking with another hiker we kept turning back to look at the mountains. This was the last trip I needed to do on the ridge, but I would be back. There is nothing like those mountains in the UK. Nothing.
Back to the Northern Cuillin
31 May - The Forcan Ridge
Another good day awaited and I decided to head off early. I was heading up the Saddle at six thirty. Best to get up before the heat. The views back down Glen Shiel was beautiful.
The reason the Saddle is so popular is because of the route. You can head round the back and up an easy path but the best way is the Grade 3 Forcan Ridge. It is over an hour of complex scrambling with extremely large drops and spectacular views.
The Forcan Ridge
Sgurr na Forcan and Glen Shiel
After completing this walk I was a broken man. I have never felt that tired in all my life. My feet hurt terribly, cuts and bruises all over. Those not as fanatical as me wouldn't understand - but it felt good. Very good.
I'll be back... The target - completing the Munros in 2010.
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