Lindsay Boyd's Trip Reports

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Section 16 - Coigach to Pentland Firth

Ben More Assynt
Ben More Assynt
Suilven
Suilven
Stac Pollaidh
Stac Pollaidh
Foinaven
Foinaven

This section refers to the hills and mountains from Coigach to the Pentland Firth and includes the Far North and North-West. It covers the Corbetts, Grahams and Munros that I have climbed in this area since 2003 and includes trips to Sandwood Bay and the Eas a'Chual Aluinn waterfall. The Sub 2000 Marilyns climbed in this section can be viewed here with the Humps here.


Section 16 - Index

Corbetts Grahams Munros
Arkle Beinn an Eoin Ben Hope
Beinn Leoid Beinn Dhorain Ben Klibreck
Beinn Spionnaidh Beinn Direach Ben More Assynt
Ben Hee Ben Armine Conival
Ben Loyal Ben More Coigach  
Breabag Ben Stack  
Canisp Carn an Tionail  
Cranstackie Creag Mhor  
Cul Beag Meal an Fheur Loch  
Cul Mor Meallan a'Chual  
Foinaven Morven  
Glas Bheinn Sabhal Beag  
Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill Scaraben  
Meall Horn Sgurr an Fhidhleir  
Sail Gharbh Stac Pollaidh  
Sail Gorm Suilven  
Spidean Coinich    


Section 16 - Trip Reports

Ben Hope

18 August 2015

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Map - OS Landranger 9. Time taken - 5.25 hours. Distance - 12.75 kilometres. Ascent - 955 metres.

On the previous day’s drive north along the A836 I noticed at the start of the Altnaharra to Hope Road a ‘Road Closed’ sign. Enquiries later revealed that it was closed as a result of two bridges being washed away in a storm in July. There was a difference of opinion as to how to access the car park at the foot of Ben Hope so I decided to approach from the Alnaharra side.

The next morning on my drive along the Hope Road I was advised that it wasn’t possible to reach the car park but I decided to continue north to see for myself where the problem was. On approaching the farm at Alltnacaillich I came to another road closed sign and on rounding a bend the bridge over the Allt na Caillich was missing. Having recently passed a sign saying the Ben Hope car park was a further two miles I opted to walk the extra distance. I attempted to park beside the farm but the owner wasn’t happy and suggested leaving my car further along the road although he was helpful enough when asked about accessing Ben Hope.

I parked in an extended passing place north of the Dun Dornaigil Broch then walked back along the road to the farm then through some rough vegetation beside the boundary fence to reach a recently upgraded vehicle track on the south side Allt na Caillich. I passed a waterfall and a new dam as I entered the mist and the last of any views until I returned to this point. An old vehicle track then a path led to the crossing of this stream. Nearby was a memorial plaque to a 17 year old who died on Ben Hope in 1978. There were some massive boulders in the stream which I presumed had been moved around in the storm that washed away the bridge.

It started to drizzle and this was to last for the rest of the day. Beyond the stream a path ran above the cliffs of Leitir Mhuiseil for around three kilometres. It would probably be an interesting route if there had been any views. The boggy path that came up from the car park was joined and after some height gain the bog was later replaced by a rocky and eroded path, possibly more damage caused by the storm. There were several small cairns marking the line of the path before the gradient eased and I made my way to Ben Hope’s summit cairn and trig point.

Here I found some shelter for a break before returning by the upward route. On reaching my car I met a chap who had earlier climbed Ben Klibreck and was setting out for Ben Hope.

previous ascent

Ben Hope Munro sixth ascent 927 metres

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Ben Klibreck

17 August 2015

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Map - OS Landranger 16. Time taken - 6.5 hours. Distance - 16.25 kilometres. Ascent - 1140 metres.

It was a lovely sunny morning when I left Inverness but beyond Bonar Bridge the area was affected by low cloud. On the single track A836 north of Lairg it was a challenging drive not being able to see if a vehicle was heading towards me. Fortunately on approaching the Crask Inn it was back to the sunny conditions and on reaching Strath Vagastie I parked at the edge of the passing place just south of the bridge over the Allt a’Chraisg. It was a bit chilly so I wasn’t expecting the midges that quickly appeared but thankfully I had a midge net handy.

A wet and boggy track on the opposite side of the road was the starting point for the ascent of Ben Klibreck. The underfoot conditions didn’t improve as I crossed the moorland passing through a stock gate en-route. Later the gradient increased but the path didn’t improve until I was higher up and onto the short heather of Cnoc Sgriodain. On reaching the summit of this hill there were two cairns but it was obvious that the second one was higher.

The descent north-east led to an area of bog and peat hags then I headed east towards Creag an Lochain. There were some sheep around but they appeared to be used to walkers and didn’t move far. Beside a rock I spotted a ewe stuck on its back struggling to get up so I went over and assisted her back onto her feet before continuing towards Creag an Lochain. I was looking for somewhere to stop for a second breakfast but the midges put this on hold.

On reaching the col with Creag an Lochain and its South Top I made a detour to the latter where I had a view of Meall nan Con, the highest point on Ben Klibreck, as well as Loch Choire and Ben Armine to the east. With no breeze to keep the midges at bay I returned to the col and climbed Creag an Lochain before descending north then heading along the path to A’Chioch.

The final climb was initially through some rocks then a stony path zigzagged towards the top with another area of boulders to cross. A shelter containing two shattered trig points was reached although a nearby rock was slightly higher. At times there was a very slight breeze so I managed brunch taking in the surrounding fantastic scenery including a large herd of deer feeding and resting in Na Glas-coire. The wind strengthened enough to keep the midges away so I remained at the summit for some time.

The return was by the ascent route although I took the by-pass path to the west of Creag an Lochain where I met a couple heading towards Meall nan Con.

previous ascent

Ben Klibreck Munro sixth ascent 962.1 metres

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Glas Bheinn

2 June 2014

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Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 8.5 hours. Distance - 23 kilometres. Ascent - 1140 metres.

It was back to Inchnadamph this time to re-ascend the Corbett, Glas Bheinn, via some Graham Tops. I left my car in the car park, walked the short distance along the A837 then followed the vehicle track passed Inchnadamph Lodge and its houses. Just beyond the track leading to the new mansion a cairn marked the point where I left the vehicle track.

Good progress was made along the path as I gained a bit of height but some of this was lost as I descended to and crossed the Allt Poll an Droighinn before commencing the ascent of Meall nan Caorach as the cloud lowered and I encountered the first rain of the day. This ascent involved working my way round some rocks then into a grassy corrie before the final ascent to the rocky summit of this Graham Top.

Here the cloud lifted slightly giving brief views before closing in again. I descended to Loch Meall nan Caorach then headed for the Graham Top, Beinn Uidhe South Top, but in the mist, despite a few attempts I was unable to locate a safe route through the rocks. I therefore made a slight detour by descending to Loch nan Caorach then following the south bank west which was rocky and made for awkward walking. It may have been easier taking the longer route round the east side of the loch. On reaching the west end of Loch nan Caorach it was then simply a climb to the Graham Top.

I then descended east to Loch nan Cuaran expecting to meet a chap I had seen walking south-east but he had disappeared. I then climbed to the Bealach a’Mhadaidh and commenced the ascent of Beinn Uidhe where the underfoot conditions, stones and rocks, made for difficult walking. The summit cairn was eventually reached where I had planned to stop for lunch but it was raining heavily so I descended across more rocks and stones to reach the Bealach na h-Uidhe.

A rough path was then climbed to reach the Glas Bheinn plateau where the walking was easy in the low cloud. I disturbed a female ptarmigan and her chicks and spotted one trying to bury itself under a rock. The summit cairn was reached and I stopped here for a late lunch. The cloud later began to break up to give me some views.

After lunch I returned to the Bealach na h-Uidhe, then followed the path, which at times was difficult to locate, to Loch Fleodach Coire. Here the path was wet and boggy but it soon improved as it gained a bit of height to clear the corrie and gradually descended to the point where I had left it earlier that day. All that was now left was to follow the morning’s route back to the start.

previous ascent

Glas Bheinn Corbett third ascent 776 metres

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Ben More Assynt and Conival

1 June 2014

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Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 10 hours. Distance - 26.25 kilometres. Ascent - 1775 metres.

On my arrival in the car park at Inchnadamph, located just off the hotel access road, I was surprised to discover it empty but maybe in the North-West Highlands I was too early on this Sunday morning.

I set off along the A837 then the road passed Inchnadamph Lodge, where there was some activity probably from the geology students that use this accommodation, and the nearby houses. Further east a barred vehicle track led to a new mansion, partially concealed in a dip, which looked like a miniature castle. Once beyond the rented property at Glenbain the vehicle track changed to an undulating path as it headed up Gleann Dubh on the north side of the River Traligill where several birds were darting about.

Higher up the path swung round to the north-east then later north as I crossed lots of peat and white stone making for slow progress despite the peat being drier than expected. The col below Conival’s North Ridge was reached but firstly I wanted to ascend the Corbett Top, Na Tuadhan to the north. The terrain was a bit rocky as I crossed to the south side of a small lochan and commenced the ascent. It was pretty tedious across lots of loose rock and boulders but eventually I reached the highest point, an area of rock.

After taking in the views I made the easier descent to the north side of the lochan where deer were grazing before returning to the col and following the stony and at times worn path to the summit of Conival. From there I headed across to Ben More Assynt although I didn’t recall how rocky it was. I met a chap going in the opposite direction and others were seated near Ben More’s summit cairn.

I crossed to another cairn then followed the South Ridge which narrowed to a bad step, well I thought there were a couple of difficult points, before climbing to the cairn marking the summit of the South Top, a Munro Top. After a short break for some food I continued south along the ridge and came to a few tricky sections before climbing the Corbett Top, Carn nan Conbhairean. I was of the opinion that the unmarked top was higher than the cairned top. It was then a fairly long descent on grassy vegetation to reach the wide col with Meall an Aonaich before climbing to the trig point marking the summit of this Graham Top and Hump, also known as Eagle Rock.

It was now a long walk back to the start so I aimed for the small ‘v’ of Am Bealach, below Conival’s South-East Ridge. I returned to the col with Carn nan Conbhairean then worked my way over its west shoulder before descending to Dubh Loch Mor. A bit of height gain was required to reach Am Bealach before following this narrow gap to Bealach Traligill. Then there was an intermittent path with areas of wet and boggy ground to cross to gain the path on the north side of the River Traligill which was retraced back to the car park.

previous ascent

Conival Munro sixth ascent 987 metres
Ben More Assynt Munro sixth ascent 998 metres

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Cul Mor

8 May 2014

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Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 6 hours. Distance - 15.5 kilometres. Ascent - 975 metres.

I left Ullapool in low cloud and drizzle but during the drive north on the A835 conditions improved, it was drier and the cloud base was around the summit tops. I arrived in the parking area on the north side of the road just beyond the Knockan Visitor Centre followed a few minutes later by a car containing a couple of chaps also planning an ascent of the Corbett, Cul Mor.

They set off just before me and we followed a good path north before it swung west where sections were wet and peaty. The path then disappeared amongst stony and rocky terrain as the cloud base lowered and where some folks had spent time building several cairns. In thickening cloud I made my way to the summit of Meallan Diomhain, marked by a cairn.

The cloud base lifted slightly as I made a short descent and here the two chaps were spotted just to my left. I followed them to the small lochan north-west of Cul Mor then along the walker’s path on its north-west ridge and back into the cloud. Higher up there was an awkward boulder field to cross before the summit trig point was reached.

I again spoke to the two chaps who were planning to return by the ascent route. With no views I descended on a gentle slope west across some red sandstone and as I approached the point where I required to change direction the cloud lifted and I saw my next hill. The easy descent now continued north-west and was followed by a simple climb to the summit of the Graham Top, Bod a’Mhadail, marked by a few stones on top of a rock. Despite the low cloud I remained at the summit for a while as there were some interesting views.

Afterwards I returned to and crossed Cul Mor’s west ridge then descended to below Creag nan Calman. A steep sandy path led to the summit of this Corbett Top where the ground had several small cracks in it and stones appeared to have been displaced which I thought may have been caused by a lightning strike. It was then a fairly steep descent south-east then south over rocky ground as I looked for a route to my final hill of the day, the Hump, An Laogh.

The drop into the corrie didn’t appeal to me so I ended up walking north-east to below Meallan Diomhain crossing the Allt Lochan Dearg a’Chuill Mhoir near the top end of the gully then following its east side to the col with An Laogh. It was then a fairly straight forward climb to the summit of this Hump, marked by a small cairn, where I spent time taking in the views.

The descent was by An Laogh’s East Ridge crossing some rough vegetation, peat hags and boggy ground to reach the path used earlier that day which was followed back to my car.

previous ascent

Cul Mor Corbett third ascent 849 metres

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Cul Beag

5 May 2014

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Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 4.25 hours. Distance - 6.25 kilometres. Ascent - 825 metres.

The plan was to climb Cul Beag from the unclassified Achiltibuie Road starting near the south-east end of Loch Lurgainn as I wished to include the Graham Top, Meall Dearg. Off road parking was rather limited on this section of the single track road but eventually with a bit of manoeuvring I managed to get all four car wheels off the tarred passing place.

I crossed the road and commenced my ascent over mixed vegetation which was still fairly short as this year’s growth had just started. I followed the west bank of a small stream and came across a couple of stags who weren’t that perturbed by my presence and only slowly moved away. A small waterfall was passed and I was now heading north still following this wee burn. The corie narrowed before I reached the col south of the 471 knoll, which was easily ascended.

It was a fine viewpoint so I sat here for a while before descending to and crossing the Allt Leathad Doire Ruaidhe where the surrounding ground was rather wet and consisted of some peat hags. A mountain hare appeared and ran off. I then commenced the ascent of Meall Dearg, which was a bit steeper and entailed avoiding some rocky outcrops. The summit cairn was reached and nearby there were a couple of ptarmigan. More stunning views were had before descending to the north end of Lochan Uaine as three walkers, spotted earlier on the north-east side of the 471 knoll, approached from the south.

The climb onto Cul Beag was also fairly steep but it didn’t take me long to reach the summit cairn as it threatened to rain. I sat at the top for a while but as the spots of rain became a bit more frequent I headed off down the south ridge later turning south-east before descending into the corrie west of the 471 knoll and returning to my car by the upward route.

previous ascent

Cul Beag Corbett third ascent 769 metres

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Beinn Dhorain

21 August 2012

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Map - OS Landranger 17. Time taken - 5.25 hours. Distance - 10.5 kilometres. Ascent 705 metres.

My one and only visit to Glen Loth was in 2009 when I planned to climb Beinn Dhorain from the east. However the road through the glen was impossible due to snow and ice so I had to walk from the A9 to ensure a Graham completion on that Christmas Day.

On this occasion I drove along Glen Loth’s narrow single track road to opposite a stile over the deer fence just below the east face of Beinn Dhorain, around 1.5 kilometres from the summit pass. On the opposite side of the road there was ample parking for several vehicles.

We used this stile to access the hillside where initially the ground was a bit boggy. This was short lived as the gradient soon increased and we climbed through heather and used grassy rakes keeping slightly to the north to avoid crags. The deer in the corrie below Beinn Uarie soon disappeared but as this was a Sunday there were no stalking problems. The summit area of Beinn Dhorain was soon reached and we visited the cairn on the south-east ridge before a short easy stroll took us to a second cairn which marked the hill’s highest point.

The next challenge was the Graham Top, Ben Urie, to the north which didn’t involve much effort. An easy descent then re-ascent took us to the circular cairn containing the trig point. This was a better viewpoint than Beinn Dhorain. An early lunch was taken looking across to Ben Armine, Creag Mhor, Ben Loyal, Morven and Scaraben.

Heavy prolonged showers with thunder was the forecast, but earlier low cloud had lifted off the summits and we encountered sunny periods for most of the day, although it did look a bit dark out to the west. I had decided if the weather was reasonable to add on the Marilyn, Beinn Mhealaich on this trip as the journey north from Inverness didn’t really justify such a short hill day.

To avoid crags we descended north before swinging round and crossing some long heather and tussocky ground to reach the deer fence near A’Chasg, the high point on the Glen Loth road. Once over the fence and across the road an ATV track, which was a bit muddy in places, was followed to the 377 metres knoll. A short descent led to a wide area of wet and boggy ground before we made the ascent of Beinn Mhealaich searching for the easiest route through a mixture of vegetation.

The summit cairn was reached with views across the Moray Firth to the Aberdeenshire coastline and the Dornoch Firth to Tarbat Ness. Here we took another break before descending more or less westwards to where I had parked my car. Again the terrain was very mixed with boggy areas and tussoky ground to cross but despite the awkward terrain it had been a good day, with some grand hill and sea views. It was also a bonus that the forecasted showers never materialised.

previous ascent

Beinn Dhorain Graham second ascent 628 metres

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Canisp

15 April 2012

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Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 6.25 hours. Distance - 11.5 kilometres. Ascent - 710 metres.

I was staying at Inchnadamph Lodge with a group of friends. The previous day we climbed Carn Ban, Frances’ final Corbett. This day, not having my own transport, the choice of walks was the Graham, Beinn an Eoin, or the Corbett, Canisp. Having climbed both twice I opted to join Edith and Sue on an ascent of Canisp.

Overnight snow was lying to sea level as I was driven the short distance to the parking area on the A837 just north of Loch Awe. Another vehicle was already there, the occupants heading towards Canisp. A walker’s path was followed and this led to the River Loanan which was crossed with the aid of slippery stepping stones. There was then a marshy area to walk across before the stream, Allt Mhic Mhurchaidh Gheir, was reached but its water level was low.

We then climbed onto the south-east ridge of Canisp which consisted of a mixture of rock and small areas of vegetation along with a thin covering of snow. The views looking back were of the Munros, Conival, Ben More Assynt and the Corbett, Breabag. A ptarmigan was spotted but he was quite difficult to photograph as he blended in well with the surrounding rock and snow.

As height was gained the Corbett, Cul Mor came into view and later the Graham, Suilven with snow lying on its ledges. A short dip then led to the final climb to Canisp’s summit cairn and shelter. There were good views in all directions, from Lochinver in the west round to Inchnadamph in the east and from Quinag in the north to Stac Pollaidh in the south. Lunch was taken within the shelter.

A short time later the couple we had seen earlier arrived at the summit having come up the side of the stream. They opted to follow us down the hill as we returned by our ascent route. Most of the overnight snow had now melted. Sue and Edith located the bridge over the River Loanan so we used it rather than the slippery stepping stones.

previous ascent

Canisp Corbett third ascent 846 metres

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Breabag

6 August 2011

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 6 hours. Distance - 14.5 kilometres. Ascent - 835 metres.

Earlier in the day we had climbed Stac Pollaidh so on our return to Inchnadamph Lodge, where we were staying, we stopped off to climb Breabag. The starting point was the car park for the Bone Caves, just off the A837, south of Inchnadamph.

As for the start of Stac Pollaidh the midges were out so we were soon on the move passing the now defunct salmon hatchery and walking along the path on the north side of the Allt nan Uamh. This route took us passed a small waterfall and the Fuaran Allt nan Uamh, where the burn bubbled up from below ground. The dry river bed beyond was followed before we climbed to the Bone Caves, which we visited before taking a lunch break.

After lunch we joined the path along the side of the south tributary of the Allt nan Uamh, but the path soon deteriorated in boggy ground so we climbed the embankment and worked out way across rough ground to a break in the craggy west face. Once through the crags a grassy area was crossed before more stony ground was reached as we headed for and gained the summit cairn. Here we met a family group who had taken a different route from the stream to avoid the crags. There were good views out west stretching from Loch Broom round to the Quinag.

I was interested in including the Graham Top located to the north of the Corbett, Breabag while my friends had considered descending to our accommodation rather than returning by the ascent route. However they said they were happy to include the Graham Top before heading for Inchnadamph.

We descended the north ridge avoiding the rocks by using grassy gullies. On this descent we spotted a herd of deer hinds and although they were aware of our presence they initially didn’t run off which enabled me to capture them on camera. The Bealach an t-Sionnaich was reached and the ground became rocky as we headed for the summit of Breabag’s North Top. Here we had more good views including the nearby Munros, Conival and Ben More Assynt.

After a short break at the cairn we continued north for a short distance before descending a gully onto a lower ledge. This process continued in a similar vein as we searched out routes through or round rocky ground to the Allt a’Bhealaich. This stream was then followed to Gleann Dubh and along the path to Inchnadamph as we encountered the first rain of the day.

previous ascent

Breabag Corbett fourth ascent 815 metres

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Stac Pollaidh

6 August 2011

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 3.25 hours. Distance - 4,5 kilometres. Ascent - 540 metres

I had been invited to join a group staying at the Inchnadamph Lodge and on the evening prior to this outing various walks were discussed. Possibly due to the scramble involved and the fact that there are so many great mountains to climb in the North-West Highlands of Scotland, there were few takers for an ascent of Stac Pollaidh.

It was a pleasant morning as we headed for and along the Achiltibuie road to the car park located to the south of Stac Pollaidh. While gearing up the midges appeared as there was little or no wind to keep them at bay.

We ascended the main path and as we approached Stac Pollaidh’s eastern shoulder we passed through a cloud of midges, so the pace increased to gain the shoulder to catch any available breeze. Thereafter the path swung round towards the north face and climbed steeply to the col.

At the col we were joined by a couple of members of the Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team whom I presumed were on a training day when I saw their vehicle arrive in the car park. However we learned they were there to scatter a chap’s ashes on the summit. They didn’t know George, who came from Oban, but his request was for his ashes to be scattered on Stac Pollaidh. The arrangements were made through a solicitor with a donation to the Mountain Rescue Team. I now know how to get my ashes scattered at the location of my choice. I just don’t have a date as yet!

I led my two friends along the path on the south side of Stac Pollaidh expecting the MRT members to go over the top but they followed us, with a slight diversion, to a wide stony gully. Once we ascended this gully we headed along the ridge until it narrowed and was blocked by a large boulder. A polished slab on the north side of this boulder was crossed aided by a few hand holds. By this time the MRT members were preparing to climb the pinnacle, which wasn’t in my itinerary. We descended slightly a steep gully before shimmying underneath the south side of the pinnacle and climbing onto the path followed by a short walk to the summit cairn. A couple of Swiss chaps, who had been watching from the false top, followed this route.

We spent some time on the summit speaking to these Swiss lads and the MRT members before George’s ashes were scattered.

The return was by the ascent route. Near the col we spoke to four members of Scottish Hills, who were on a weekend meeting based at Ullapool.

previous ascent

Stac Pollaidh Graham 612 metres third ascent

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Suilven

4 May 2011

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 8.5 hours. Distance - 20.5 kilometres. Ascent - 1050 metres.

We drove north from Achiltibuie towards Lochinver on a narrow single track road through areas of burnt moorland where small pockets of fire were still smouldering. Fortunately the car park on the north side of the River Kirkaig, near Inverkirkaig, hadn’t been affected by the fire.

Once geared up we set off through a wicket gate, on the north side of the River Kirkaig, and along a short section of tarred road to a second gate and a sign saying private. Here we accessed a path and headed east towards the Fionn Loch. It was a pleasant stroll although on the opposite side of the river the damage caused to the vegetation by the fire was very evident. I made a short diversion to visit the Falls of Kirkaig but the water level was low so the falls weren’t impressive.

Although there was a short cut across the hillside we continued to the Fionn Loch, an idyllic location for a coffee break. Afterwards we followed the south shore of the loch to its west end before resuming our easterly approach to Suilven.

Initially we were off-path but this wasn’t a problem as the ground was relatively dry. On rejoining the path we followed it to beyond Coire Mor to a point where it started to descend back to the lochside. Here a small cairn marked the start of a path which climbed through some rocks and onto more open ground. Thereafter it was a walk of around two kilometres, on fairly dry ground, to reach the ascent route to Suilven. I would suggest that in normal conditions this stretch would be boggy but we were fortunate to be there on the final day of a dry spell of weather.

The ascent to the Bealach Mor was steep on an eroded path with lots of loose stone. It was warm work and harder than the ascent route from the north which I had used on two previous occasions. Eventually we reached the bealach, where there was a nice cooling breeze, and where our hard work was rewarded with good views to the north and south.

From the bealach we headed west through a gap in an old stone dyke which crossed the ridge. We then clambered over some rocks where we met four chaps on their descent. They had come in from Elphin using a hired boat. After a brief chat we continued along the path which narrowed as it approached a col before the final steeper ascent to the summit cairn of Caisteal Liath, the highest point on Suilven.

It was now time for a late lunch so we moved further west where there were better views of the coast and out over The Minch. During our break we saw the fire flare up near Inverkirkaig where my car was parked so that was a bit worrying. After lunch we returned by the approach route although we cut over the hill between the west end of the Fionn Loch to rejoin the path just east of the Falls of Kirkaig.

On our return to the car park I found my car to be intact. I later heard on the radio that a helicopter had been called to water bomb the fire at Inverkirkaig. Further south, on the return journey towards Achiltibuie, we saw that the hillside beside the houses at Rhegreanoch was on fire The fire brigade were behind us but their progress was slow due to the narrowness of the road and is unsuitability for large vehicles.

previous ascent

Suilven Graham third ascent 731 metres

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Stac Pollaidh

3 May 2011

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 4 hours. Distance - 4.5 kilometres. Ascent - 540 metres.

The drive along the north side of Loch Lurgainn, on the single track road leading to Achilitibuie, was through smoke from the moorland fires to the north. At this time we weren’t aware of the extent of the fire so were unsure if an ascent of Stac Pollaidh was possible. We failed on a previous attempt in 2010 due to snow.

On arrival at the car park at the foot of Stac Pollaidh we could see the hill as the smoke was thinner here. We crossed the road, passed through a wicket gate, and climbed the fairly steep man made path which headed round the east side of the hill. There was an obvious smell of smoke and pieces of ash were floating about. It was difficult to know where the fire was burning as there were no views north or east.

Once on the north side of the hill we climbed the path onto Stac Pollaidh’s col keeping a lookout for any evidence of fire, Here we met a couple of ladies on their descent, the only folks we saw on this normally popular hill.

The ridge was rocky and worn with lots of loose stones with several paths to choose. From previous knowledge we walked below the west ridge on the south side clambering over a few rocks before making a gully ascent onto the ridge. A short walk along this ridge took us to our first main obstacle, a small pinnacle. On studying the options we elected to side step along a worn boulder above a steep drop to the north. There were a few hand holds available.

Having successfully completed this section of the ridge we now had a decision to make, whether to climb over a second pinnacle, or work round it. We opted for the latter so descended a gully to the south before scrambling up a rock with a slight over hang which gave additional support. A chimney then led to an obvious path that ran round to the summit cairn.

Unfortunately there were only limited views due to the smoke so after a few minutes we returned by the ascent route stopping for a coffee break once we had passed the scrambling section, as we had left our rucksacks there. On our return along the ridge the wind picked up and the smoke dispersed somewhat so we could now see the fires burning on the west and south side of Cul Mor.

previous ascent

Stac Pollaidh Graham second ascent 612 metres

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Ben Hope

24 October 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 9. Time taken - 4.75 hours. Distance - 8.5 kilometres. Ascent - 940 metres.

My plan was to climb the Munro, Ben More, by its North Face. However on driving south on the Hope to Altnaharra Road, which was single track, I could see there was quite a bit of snow high up on the mountain. This was a bit of a concern, as above 800 metres there was a ‘bad step’ to contend with which involved a bit of exposure, although there was a gully nearby which could be used to bypass this obstacle. However I surmised that it may be full of soft snow and rather awkward so I opted for the normal approach route, starting from a parking area around two kilometres north of Alltnacaillich.

The parking area was empty when I arrived and once geared up I set off up the wet and muddy path on the south side of the Allt a’Mhuiseil listening to the roar of the nearby stags. There was no improvement in the quality of the path as I gained height and in fact some stretches were like a small stream. Higher up and from a grassy knoll I had good views of Strath More and along the west face of Ben Hope to Loch Hope.

I continued to ascend Ben Hope’s South Ridge following a cairned path and around 550 metres reached the snow line. Initially a bit wet the snow conditions soon improved with a couple of pockets of knee deep snow. Nearer the summit the snow was quite firm with an icy crust. I realised then that I had made the correct decision in avoiding the North Face.

The summit trig point was reached and here I took a break and was later joined at the summit by a chap from Huddersfield. After a chat I descended Ben Hope’s South-West Ridge and climbed its East Top with views across Loch na Seilg and Loch a’Ghobha-Dhuibh to the Kyle of Tongue and Ben Loyal.

After a few minutes at this top I descended in a south-westerly direction over the snow covered terrain. Below the snow line I rejoined the path used on the upward route. This was probably the toughest part of the walk as the wet and muddy conditions made for a slippery return to the parking area.

previous ascent

Ben Hope Munro fifth ascent 927 metres.

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Ben Klibreck

17 July 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 16. Time taken - 5.25 hours. Distance - 16 kilometres. Ascent - 1140 metres.

The weather on the drive north from Inverness was reasonable with some bright spells. However as I approached the Crask Inn, on the A836, the cloud lowered and there were spots of rain on my windscreen. I had hoped that the rain would be confined further west as one of the forecasts predicted.

I parked my car just south of Vagastie Bridge where there was space for around three vehicles. A tent was pitched beside the Allt a’Chraisg but there was no sign of the occupant or a car. Once I donned my waterproof gear I crossed the single track road and walked east along a wet and boggy path which led to a gate. Beyond this gate there was evidence of cattle but all I saw was a herd of deer which soon disappeared.

The path became drier as I climbed onto the south ridge of Cnoc Sgriodain where a grouse and her young took flight. I reached the top of this hill, which was in cloud, before setting off down its north-east ridge. Here the cloud began to break up and as it was reasonably dry at this point I stopped for a coffee break with views of Lochs Bad an Loch, na Glas-choille and nan Uan as well as towards Altnahara and Loch Naver. Golden Plovers were making a noise as was the case at various locations on the ascent and descent.

During my break the cloud descended again and there were no more views until my return to this area. I climbed the Corbett Top, Creag an Lochain, crossing a mixture of vegetation including heather and mosses as well as areas of peat hags. From this summit it was a gradual descent of Creag an Lochain’s grassy north ridge where sheep were resting but they quickly ran off into the cloud.

The next short climb was to A’Chioch, followed by a few metres of descent to the col with Meall nan Con. The gradient increased as I headed towards this summit following a path, which on occasions disappeared amongst the rocks. A chap, who was obviously moving faster than me, appeared out of the cloud just as I spotted a ptarmigan and it’s young. Unfortunately his collie dog caused the ptarmigan and its chicks to take off before I could photograph them.

It was windy with driving rain on this part of the ascent making the walking rather uncomfortable. Just before I reached the summit of Meall nan Con, the highest point on Ben Klibreck, the chap and his dog passed me again as they returned downhill. On reaching the summit I noted there were two trig points. One was broken and lying on its side while another had been constructed in its place. The trig points were surrounded by stones in the form of a shelter but it was too windy and wet to be of any advantage to me on this occasion. I therefore about turned and retraced my steps back to my car.

previous ascent

Ben Klibreck Munro fifth ascent 961 metres

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Stac Pollaidh

11 February 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 3.75 hours Distance - 4.5 kilometres. Ascent - 560 metres.

There is a designated car park to the south of Stac Pollaidh, accessed from the unclassified Drumrunie to Achiltibuie Road, and just above Loch Lurgainn. We were the only car there when we set off across the road, through a gate and onto a good quality path. Higher we came to a joining of paths and took the right branch, went through another gate, and after half an hour or so were below the east ridge of Stac Pollaidh.

The path now headed round to the north side of the hill where there was some lying snow on the ascent route. At this point it also started to snow. The path led onto Stac Pollaidh's ridge just west of the east top. We headed west on the south side of the ridge as the snow eased but it left the rocks wet and slippery. We made a couple of attempts to get onto the ridge but without success and therefore continued further west crossing some old snow on rocky ledges before reaching a wide gully which took us up onto the ridge.

We now made some progress along the ridge and were hopeful of reaching the highest point, which we could now see. However we were thwarted on the north side by a steep gully where we needed to step over onto a sloping rock. This rock was either icy or covered in wet snow and it was a risk too far to take. On the south side there was another gully which was full of snow and didn't look terribly inviting. After lots of thought and looking for an alternative route we unfortunately abandoned our attempt to reach the summit.

My walking partner fancied returning along what appeared to be a path on the north side of the ridge but it came to an end in a bank of snow so we retraced this route and returned by the earlier approach route. At the col before the east pinnacle we stopped for a break and met a couple of climbers. After a short conversation they headed off to climb onto the ridge.

Instead of returning by the upward route we followed the path round the west side of the hill and across the Leathad an Staca. This path later joined the one used earlier in the day which we followed back to the car park. No doubt we will return to try again, but when there isn’t any snow or ice on the ridge.

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Meall an Fheur Loch

10 February 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 15 & 16 Time taken - 3.25 hours. Distance - 6 kilometres. Ascent - 500 metres.

The plan was to have an easy day so we selected this Graham which could be combined with the Corbett Beinn Leoid and another Graham Meallan a’Chuail but this makes for a longish day. The starting point is the same, the A838 Lairg to Laxford Bridge Road west of Loch Merkland at grid reference NC3571233361. Just east of this location there is parking for at least a couple of vehicles.

It was a lovely sunny morning with some patches of cloud on the higher summits as we descended slightly from the main road to a footbridge and once across it followed a well engineered stalker’s path uphill through a wide gap in the forest. Higher up we encountered snow on the path where a few days earlier a walker had obviously found it hard going as there were lots of deep holes in the snow caused by their bootprints. At least the snow was now a bit firmer.

I was surprised to find so much snow on this low hill and as the path levelled out we left it and commenced the ascent of the north-west ridge of Meall an Fheur Loch. However the snow was now firmer and icy in places so it was time to fit the crampons. We walked across the frozen snow and with the sun shinning it made for some wonderful walking. On reaching the summit cairn we had views of Loch Shin, Meallan a’Chuail, Arkle, Foinaven and the cloud covered tops of Ben More Assynt and Conival to mention a few.

In these sublime conditions we regretted deciding upon a short day but after spending a while in and around the summit taking in the views and some photographs we returned to the car by the ascent route.

previous ascent

Meall an Fheur Loch Graham second ascent 613 metres

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Beinn an Eoin

9 February 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 6 hours. Distance - 10 kilometres. Ascent - 760 metres.

The start for the ascent of Sgorr Tuath and Beinn an Eoin was the single track unclassified Drumrunie to Achiltibuie Road at the east end of Loch Lurgainn. Parking is very limited here so it was the case of trying to get my vehicle off the road at a passing place. The next problem was getting through the gorse bushes on the south-west side of the road before descending to the wicket gate in the deer fence and crossing a small stream. A rough path was then followed to the south side of Feur-loch, where a number of swans were feeding.

We later left this path and headed over rough ground including some tussocky grass trying to avoid the holes that had been created for tree planting. This route took us below the rocks of Cioch Beinn an Eoin and into the corrie between Sgorr Tuath and Beinn an Eoin. From here we made a gradual ascent over red sandstone to the summit of Sgorr Tuath, a deleted Marilyn, where we had terrific views of Stac Pollaidh, Suilven, Cul Mor, Cul Beag and out to the Summer Isles.

After lingering here for a while we walked towards Sgorr Tuath’s West Top with views of pinnacles and weathered sandstone. Near the West Top there was a fissure containing some snow, which could be quite dangerous for the unwary. The descent was over heather, snow and rocks to the Bealach Beinn an Eoin with its frozen hanging lochan. The North-West Top of Beinn an Eoin was climbed and we found shelter from a chilly wind to eat lunch. This spot gave us views of Ben More Coigach and Sgurr an Fhidhleir, which we had climbed a few days earlier.

There were some flurries of snow during lunch and afterwards we made a short descent south-east before the final climb over some hard packed snow and ice to Sgorr Deas, the highest point on Beinn an Eoin. From here we continued south-east then east spotting a few snow buntings. Once at a suitable point we descended over some rough ground to the Allt Claonaidh which we crossed and joined the path that can be used to access Ben More Coigach. We followed this path back to the start.

previous ascent

Beinn an Eoin Graham second ascent 619 metres

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Ben Stack

8 February 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 9. Time taken - 4.5 hours. Distance - 7.5 kilometres. Ascent - 750 metres.

I had climbed this Graham in 2008 by the north-west ridge so on this occasion planned to ascend it by its south-east ridge, which meant parking on the A838 Lairg to Laxford Bridge Road at the access road to Lone. There is plenty parking here as this is also the same starting point for the Corbetts, Arkle, Foinaven and Meall Horn.

We crossed the A838 and then some boggy ground where deer were feeding but they moved away on our approach. An All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) track came in from the south but it was a bit wet and boggy so we mainly avoided it. We cleared this boggy ground when the gradient increased and here there were some rocky outcrops.

The Leathad na Stioma ridge was climbed and we saw a couple descending Ben Stack but they headed off north before we reached them. As height was gained patches of snow appeared and they soon increased as we reached a small knoll. A slight descent took us towards a narrower and steeper section of the ridge. We managed to avoid some of the snow as we ascended this ridge using the frozen grass but this changed as it became more icy and therefore we donned our crampons.

The summit was reached and firstly we saw the communications tower where a wheel barrow was concealed in the concrete shelter below the mast. Nearby was a cement mixer which was partially hidden in the snow. A short walk, passing this communications tower, took us to the summit cairn where we had good views including that of Arkle and Foinaven. We then moved across a fissure to the summit trig point and from here we saw Ben More Assynt, Canisp and the Quinag.

After spending some time taking photographs we returned by the ascent route.

previous ascent

Ben Stack Graham second ascent 721 metres

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Ben More Coigach and Sgurr an Fhidhleir

7 February 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 5.75 hours. Distance - 9.5 kilometres. Ascent - 810 metres.

I drove south from Achiltibuie to the end of the single track road at Culnacraig, where parking is limited as the area is required for vehicles turning. However I managed to find a space at the side of the road.

We set off up the south side of the Allt a’Choire Reidh and after gaining a bit of height found a path that headed towards the west ridge of Ben More Coigach. This ridge is narrow and steep but the top was covered in cloud, although we did get a brief view which showed that there was quite a lot of snow lying in the gullies. As it was also rather windy we decided to abandon this approach route and instead make our way along the north side of Allt nan Coisiche before crossing this burn higher up.

The snow level was reached but there was also some boggy ground which we managed to avoid as we walked towards the foot of the north-west ridge of Ben More Coigach, which was now to be our ascent route. It was then a steady climb but with some patches clear of snow and ice we utilised them until around 100 metres below the top. Here boulders were covered in verglas and it wasn't possible to continue without crampons. Once these were fitted we completed the ascent although it took a bit of effort in a strong wind. There were no views from the summit cairn as we had been in the cloud from around half way up this ridge.

A direct route to the col with Sgurr an Fhidhleir wasn’t possible due to the amount of snow on the summit and the visibility so we did a couple of dog legs which took us to the col where visibility was slightly improved with a break in the cloud which gave us a glimpse of our next hill. At the col a couple of ptarmigan took flight.

The ascent of Sgurr an Fhidhleir commenced and the gradient increased as height was gained. Visibility was again poor but just before reaching the top we saw a couple ahead of us. On reaching the summit cairn we learned that they had started at the same location as ourselves but had just come up the south-west ridge and were going to return by the same route. We then found some shelter behind snow covered rocks for lunch.

Later we also made the descent of the south-west ridge and once out of the cloud had views of the Summer Isles and across Loch Broom to the Scoraig peninsula. We found the path we had used earlier that day which took us back to the turning area.

previous ascent

Ben More Coigach Graham second ascent 743 metres
Sgurr an Fhidhleir Graham second ascent 705 metres

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Beinn Dhorain

25 December 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 17. Time taken - 5.5 hours. Distance - 14.5 kilometres. Ascent - 660 metres.

This walk had been planned for a few months as I approached the completion of the Grahams. I selected this hill as it was a very short day of around 2 hours and was close enough to my accommodation in Inverness. I had completed my penultimate Graham, Stob Mhic Bheathain, back in November, so it was all systems go. However during the week leading up to this hike wintry weather arrived in Scotland and instead of warming up after a few days, which is the norm, it got colder with more snow.

I had been searching the internet for any information relative to the road through Glen Loth which I was aware wasn’t gritted or ploughed during the winter months so access by car was going to be a problem. On the internet I read an article that the last wolf of Sutherland was apparently killed in Glen Loth.

Accompanied by my brother we left Inverness and headed north on the A9. The road in the vicinity of the city was snow covered but further north had obviously escaped the overnight snow showers and the road conditions were reasonable. Just before reaching Lothbeg, on the A9, which is located between Brora and Helmsdale, I saw the signpost for Glen Loth on the opposite side of the road. I took a left turn into the Glen Loth road but didn’t get far as I realised the road conditions were rather hazardous. It took several moments to slide back onto the A9. On returning to the main road I parked on the grass verge on its east side.

We set off on foot up the Glen Loth road where walking was difficult in places due to ice. There were boot prints in the snow so someone else had been up the Glen in previous days. There were lots of deer in and around the Glen but they headed for higher ground when they spotted us. It was a lovely clear, cold morning and the sun was out. As we approached the forest on the east side of the road we had out first view of Beinn Dhorain, which was a pink colour as the sun shone on the snow covered top. Further on we came to a Broch and then the bridge over the River Sletdale, where piles of snow indicated that a vehicle had had a problem in the snow. On the other side of the bridge there were a couple of standing stones and just beyond the stones we came to a locked deer gate. I had already decided to leave the road at this point as I was concerned about the volume of snow on the east face of Beinn Dhorain.

We climbed over the deer gate and followed a snow filled track which went up Glen Sletdale but after a few hundred metres left it and headed up Druim Dearg, possibly following an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) track which was covered with snow. However as the snow became deeper we lost this ATV track. The cloud was gathering to the east and Beinn Dhorain was soon engulfed in cloud and later it started to snow, although it was relatively light. It was also colder as there was now a breeze. It was pretty tough going as the snow hadn’t consolidated so we were sinking into the white stuff although as I was leading I had most of the hard work to do. We didn’t bother with the summit of Druim Dearg as we could see the line of the stream that ran east between it and Beinn Dhorain. However on closer inspection there appeared to be drifting snow in the vicinity of the stream and higher up some peat hags were buried by the snow. We headed for the highest point on the col and managed to avoid these hazards.

From the col it was a steady climb trying to find the easiest route through the soft snow but probably failing. Soon we entered the cloud but eventually reached a few rocks which marked the summit of Beinn Dhorain, my final Graham. It was cold and windy with no views or shelter so I used my 'storm shelter' for our lunch stop. I've only used these 'storm shelters' on a couple of occasions but they do make a difference as it protects you from the wind and is quite cosy once settled inside.

Once lunch was over we emerged from the 'storm shelter' but there were still no views. We returned to the A9 by the upward route. As expected there was no one else on the hill that day nor in Glen Loth, just deer and some grouse.

The hill can apparently be ascended in around an hour from the high point in the road through Glen Loth. Our route took over 3 hours with the round trip taking 5.5 hours but at least it made for a quality mountain day for my final Graham.

Beinn Dhorain Graham first ascent 628 metres

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Creag Mhor and Ben Armine

18 October 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 17. Time taken - 7.25 hours
(includes 40mins cycle)
Distance - 27.5 kilometres
(includes 9.5 kilometres cycle)
Ascent - 1030 metres
(includes 70 metres cycle)

Creag Mhor and Ben Armine are located in the north-east corner of Sutherland with Creag Mhor probably the remotest of the 224 Grahams. I calculated that reaching Creag Mhor involved a distance in excess of 20 kilometres although half of that could be cycled. However I wasn’t a cyclist and I didn’t think I could make it that far on a bike and still be able to walk. I learned that it was possible to drive along the estate road although on further investigation I was told the estate was discouraging this practice.

I left Inverness early in the morning and drove north on the A9. Around Golspie the sky over the Moray Firth was a fantastic red colour before becoming more orange as sunrise approached. At Helmsdale I took the A897 which ran through the Strath of Kildonnan. Here there were loads of deer and I stopped to take a few photographs but unfortunately at this time it was still too dark. I even watched a stag cross the River Helmsdale (photo 02). At the small hamlet of Kinbrace, where there is a railway station suitable for those travelling to these hills by public transport, I turned onto the B871 Bettyhill Road. After a few kilometres drive along this road I reached Badanloch Lodge and from here drove onto the estate road passing more deer but again the photos didn't come out well due to the poor lighting.

I parked my car in a small quarry where it was concealed from general view and continued along the estate track on my mountain bike into a head wind. At NC6864731011 a small cairn marked the track that ran south east round the south side of Meall nan Aighean and Ben Armine. Here I left my bike although it would be possible to cycle further but I had planned a circular route.

The rain commenced and the wind became stronger as I walked up this track with the roar of the stags above me. The cloud lowered for a while but on my approach to Gorm-loch Beag it appeared to be brighter ahead and the forecast had indicated only a couple of hours of rain, so I was hopeful of an improvement before I reached the top of Creag Mhor. Beyond Gorm-loch Beag I came to a junction and took the west bound track to the bealach between Creag Mhor and Ben Armine.

At the high point on the track I left it and headed for Creag Mhor. There were lots of peat hags and bog to avoid as I descended slightly to just above Coire an Eas. More peat hags were then crossed before longer and drier vegetation was reached as the cloud lifted clear of Creag Mhor. A couple of ptarmigan were spotted and photographed (photo 09) before they flew off. Higher up the area was covered in mosses and it was now an easy and pleasant walk to the summit trig point. There was still lots of cloud floating about but I really felt the isolation here. I was surrounded by wild and desolate country and it was a long way from any human habitation or activity.

I returned to the bealach with Ben Armine and commenced the ascent of this hill. Initially there were some peat hags but the walking was mainly on short vegetation and stony ground making for an easy ascent. I reached what I thought was the summit, named on the map as Creag a’Choire Ghlais, and marked by a few stones. However further on I came across three other small cairns close together giving me the impression that fellow walkers had a similar problem deciding where the highest point was. The cloud had lifted a bit more and I had views of Ben Klibreck, Morven and Scaraben, the latter two I had climbed a few months earlier.

The descent was to the col above Coire na Saidhe-Duibhe but on leaving the summit of Craeg a’Choire Ghlais I encountered a heavy rain shower with a cold wind stinging my face. So much for thinking the weather had improved. The cloud lowered but this was only short lived as was the rain and thankfully they cleared before I reached the col which was a mass of peat hags. Once the peat hags were negotiated I started to climb Meall nan Aighean before cutting over its east ridge spotting another couple of ptarmigan or were they the same ones I had seen earlier? I'll never know. I descended into a corrie where deer spotted me and ran off. The going was a bit rough at times but improved when I reached some wet and boggy ATV tracks and followed them to the track I had used earlier that day. It was then a short walk to my mountain bike with views of Ben Hope and Ben Loyal ahead.

It was now a very pleasant and sunny afternoon as I cycled back to my car and as it was slightly downhill I made good progress. I then drove back along the estate road to find the barrier at the end of the road still open. During my walk I had been concerned that it would be closed and locked.

Creag Mhor Graham first ascent 713 metres
Ben Armine Graham first ascent 705 metres

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Morven and Scaraben

22 August 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 17. Time taken - 7 hours. Distance - 20 kilometres. Ascent - 1230 metres.

This was my first venture into the mountains of Caithness, which are all below 2,500 feet, and contain five Grahams. On this visit I decided to climb the Grahams, Morven and Scaraben. An early start saw me headed north up the A9 from Inverness to Dunbeath arriving there around ninety minutes later. From Dunbeath a single track road led west for around eight kilometres to the end of the public road at the bridge over the Berriedale Water where there was a red telephone box and a small parking area.

I set off from my car, crossed the road bridge, and walked along the private road by-passing Braemore House. I had views of the rocky Maiden Pap and the cloud covered hills beyond. On reaching Braeval a sign requested that between August and October enquires be made with the stalker before accessing the hills. I spoke with the stalker and fortunately there was no shooting taking place so I continued west along the vehicle track passed a couple of forested areas before I descended towards the private bothy at Corrichoich.

The cloud was beginning to lift clear of the tops and the area reminded me of the rolling hills of Aberdeenshire and the rocky tops endorsed that view comparing them with the Corbetts, Morrone and Morven in Deeside. A large herd of deer were feeding in the col to the west of Maiden Pap.

The vehicle track ended beside the bothy so I followed animal tracks along the south side of the Berriedale Water to a small knoll with several standing stones. This area is marked on the map as ‘Homestead’ but it appears to be an old wheelhouse, a prehistoric structure from the Iron Age found in the Western Isles, Caithness and Sutherland.

From the wheelhouse I crossed a mixture of heather, some bog and tussoky grass but managed to find a few animal trails which made walking a bit easier. I reached the foot of the east side of Morven and commenced its ascent through some long and thick heather with the occasional rocky area. I also came across traces of paths but they soon seemed to disappear. I was now sheltered from the earlier breeze which meant the midges were out and with my pace slowing due to the steepness of the ground they were a nuisance. High on the hillside I came across lots of loose boulders which looked like Readymix concrete, but at least I was back into the wind and away from the midges.

I came out onto a rocky crag where I stopped to look at the views of Maiden Pap, Scaraben and the route I had taken from Braemore. A short and easy climb took me to the summit cairn of Morven. Here it was rather cool with a fair breeze and rain showers were drifting passed to the north so unfortunately there was only a limited view of the Flow Country and no sign of the Orkney Isles. I took a coffee break, sheltering from the wind, looking east to Berriedale and the Moray Firth.

Once my break was over I descended the east side of Morven keeping more to the south where there were less rocks. Lower down I met a father and son and their two dogs. At the col I headed east then south-east to Smean and its rocky tors. It was difficult from the foot of the tors to decide which was the highest and after one aborted scramble I found the highest point.

From Smean I descended to the watershed of the Allt Aoil where there were a couple of large herds of deer, one lot resting the others feeding. I did manage to stay unobserved for a while but they soon spotted me and the herds ran off in opposite directions.

Beyond the watershed I had just started my ascent of Sron Gharbh when I observed some movement in the grass near my feet and saw an adder slide away. I watched it slither through the grass and thought of the consequences of an adder attack while on my own in such remote country. Well that gave me something to consider as I climbed Sron Gharrbh with its stony summit. A short descent followed by an easy climb on quartzite and grass took me to the summit trig point of Scaraben, which is surrounded by a stone shelter. The sun was out so I had lunch with views east and south over the Moray Firth to the coastline of Moray and Aberdeenshire.

The descent was initially down Scarben’s east ridge then turning north to cross mainly heather until lower down where it was a mixture of bog, reeds, tussocky grass and heather. This slowed my progress but eventually I came to a deer fence with a gate. Once beyond this gate I was able to follow sheep tracks to a derelict farm and then head west along the vehicle track on the south side of the Berriedale Water. I was surprised to see that most, if not all, the buildings along this stretch of the river were derelict. On approaching the bridge at the end of my walk I met an Aussie who was cycling from Thurso through to Berriedale and was hoping that I could tell him if the track went as far as Berriedale but unfortunately I was unable to assist him.

This walk took me to the grand total of 200 Grahams climbed, with 24 still to bag, so a successful day all round.

Morven Graham first ascent 706 metres
Scaraben Graham first ascent 626 metres

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Sandwood Bay

20 March 2009

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 9. Time Taken – 6.25 hours. Distance - 17.8 kilometres. Ascent - 470 metres.

Having climbed all the hills we planned for the week, we set our sights on Sandwood Bay, a place I have wanted to visit, and part of most folks itinerary who walk the Cape Wrath Trail.

We drove north from the small fishing village of Kinlochbervie, through crofting communities, to Blairmore, where there was a car park on the south side of the road which we utilised. We crossed the road, passed through a gate, and walked along the track on the west side of Loch Aisir to Loch na Gainimh. Looking back we could see the outline of Quinag and Suilven. As we headed towards the next Loch, Loch a’Mhuillin, we saw a pair of buzzards and a wheater. Further along this section of the track we met two chaps approaching from the opposite direction, the first folks we had seen all week.

At Loch a’Mhuillin we took a break on the sandy shore enjoying the sun and clear blue skies although there was still a coolish breeze. Beyond this loch the track became more of a path which was badly worn in sections. After passing another couple of lochs, the old house at Sandwood came into view. We walked to the small knoll north of this ruin, over a grassy area with sheep feeding, passed old sheep pens and took in the view of Sandwood Bay and Loch. It was an awesome location and the feeling of seclusion, tranquillity and the views can’t be put into words. You’ll have to look at my photos to get an idea but better still visit Sandwood Bay yourself.

We walked down onto the empty beach where there were lots of prints in the soft sand indicating human and bird activity. Here we climbed onto a rocky area and watched the Atlantic waves crash onto the rocks before walking to the north end of the beach. I crossed the outflow from Sandwood Loch and climbed to another knoll to take a few more photos.

The return was along the length of the empty beach with a view of the sea stack Am Buachaille, which was first climbed in 1968 by Dr Tom Patey with Ian Cloughby. Rather than take the outward route back to Blairmore we decided to try and stick to the rocky coast. At the south end of the sands we followed a path to the top of the rock face overlooking Am Buachille and out to the small island Am Baig. There were more fantastic views north to Cape Wrath and the rocky coastline to the south. We worked our way south following a path made by the sheep and a few walkers I suspect. However the path ceased to follow the coast near the stream flowing from Lochain nan Sac so we continued south until we reached another small stream and headed inland. This took us to the track that skirted the north and east sides of Cnoc Poll a’Mhurain and eventually to the crofting community of Sheigra. From here it was a short climb along the road to Blairmore.

We were very fortunate with the weather, wall to wall sunshine and not a cloud to be seen. The beach to ourselves except for a few birds and the scenery was out of this world. Had Sandwood Bay been dumped in Spain there wouldn’t have been space to move far less walk.

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Carn an Tionail and Beinn Direach

19 March 2009

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 16. Time taken – 5.25 hours. Distance - 15 kilometres. Ascent - 927 metres.

I was on my own today for the climb of these two Grahams as my mountaineering partner for the week was off to bag the Corbett, Meall Horn.

The starting point was the same as that forBen Hee, which I had climbed a few days earlier, West Merkland on the A838 Lairg to Laxford Bridge Road. There was a lot of cloud around but on the drive to the start it appeared to be clearing, as per the weather forecast, so I was hopeful of a fine day out.

I set off up the vehicle track on the north side of the Allt nan Albannach and spotted a couple of frogs copulating on the track, oblivious to the danger of being squashed in action if a vehicle came along.

I passed the Allt Coir a’Chruiteir, which was my turn off point for the ascent of Ben Hee, and 400 metres beyond this stream, on the west side, I came across a new track. This led to a newly constructed bridge across the Allt nan Albannach, an obvious advantage when the stream is in spate. On the opposite side of the stream it was rather boggy and I followed some All Terrain Vehicle tracks before leaving them and climbing the south ridge of A’Ghlaise.

The cloud was breaking up, although the top of Ben Hee was still covered in blankets of cloud. The going was relatively easy and the higher I got the better the views. I came to a stony section of the ridge, which I avoided, and here I saw a number of snow buntings and slightly further on some grouse. I could now see across to Meall a’Chleirich and Beinn Direach, although my first Graham of the day, Carn an Tionail, was concealed behind A’Ghlaise.

It was now an ideal day for walking. The ridge had narrowed with the remnants of cornices on my right. A cool wind kept me from overheating. The cloud floated around the summit of A’Ghlaise and Golden Plovers were calling out a warning. I reached the summit of A’Ghlaise with views west to the Meallan Liath Beag ridge which I used on the ascent of Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill a few days ago, and its west summit Carn Dearg.

A short gradual descent followed to a wide stony col before an easy climb to the summit cairn of Carn an Tionail. In addition to the mountains already mentioned I now had views of Arkle, Foinaven and Ben Hope. What a superb location and walk so far!

I walked along the north-east ridge of Carn an Tionail and gradually swung round to the east as I avoided the steep east side of this Graham. A rather rocky col, with patches of snow, was reached before a short ascent to the summit of Beinn Direach, my second Graham of the day. From here I descended the south ridge, spotting a couple of ptarmigan and at the col with Meall a’Chleirich I disturbed three stags.

I traversed around the west side of Meall a’Chleirich and descended towards the track from the Bealach nam Meirleach, which apparently is called the Robber’s Path. Underfoot it wasn’t too bad although rather boggy with peat hags just before joining the track. I then followed the track back to West Merkland, with frogs disappearing into nearby ponds.

The weather did clear as predicted so it was great Graham Bagging day in the Far North West Highlands.

Carn an Tionail Graham first ascent 759 metres
Beinn Direach Graham first ascent 688 metres

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Foinaven

18 March 2009

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 9. Time taken – 8 hours. Distance - 21 kilometres. Ascent - 1030 metres.

The previous day had been glorious and sunny when we climbed Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh but unfortunately the weather had changed to low cloud and some light rain. However we decided to go ahead with the plan to climb Foinaven despite the fact that we were unlikely to have any views. I had already ascended Foinaven twice, the last time only last year, but my climbing partner was keen to get this one bagged.

We parked just north of Gualin House on the A838 Rhiconich to Durness Road and followed the signposted route round the north side of the House before descending by a vehicle track to the River Dionard. This track was followed eastwards along the south bank of the river and ninety minutes and six and a half kilometres later we reached the stream flowing from Coire Duail. Unfortunately we were now sixty metres lower than when we set off. The only wild life around appeared to be a few grouse.

At the stream we left the vehicle track and walked up the north side of the stream, through some boggy ground, to the lochan in Coire Duail. Here we took a short break with views of the lower sections of the rock face of Ganu Mor, the highest point on Foinaven. After the break we climbed south following the stream west of Cnoc Duail, spotting a few deer as we made this ascent.

Once high enough to avoid the rocks we headed up the east ridge of Ganu Mor but the cloud quickly lowered and engulfed us. We worked our way up what appeared to be a wide ridge trying to avoid the snowfields but encountered lots of rocks and scree. We heard ptarmigan but couldn't see them for the cloud. Eventually we came to a narrow section of the ridge where there appeared to be traces of a path. On nearing the summit of Ganu Mor we were met by what appeared to be a rather large amount of snow. The cloud and snow made for very poor visibility so without knowing what was in front of us it was time to put away the walking poles and get the axes out. The snow was reasonably soft so there was no requirement for the crampons as we made the final ascent into the abyss.

The snow climb only lasted a few minutes and just beyond it was the summit cairn. However we continued along the ridge to the second cairn to ensure that we had reached the highest point. Even in a clear day it isn't possible to say which is the highest point although all references indicate the easterly cairn.

The return was by the ascent route although it appeared that we encountered more scree on the descent. The cloud was also lower and the long walk back along the River Dionard was in rain and mist.

previous ascent

Foinaven (Ganu Mor) Corbett third ascent 914 metres

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Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh

17 March 2009

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 9. Time taken – 7 hours. Distance - 12.2 kilometres. Ascent - 1119 metres.

The start for the ascent of the Corbetts, Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh was opposite the house at Carbreck, on the A838 Rhiconich to Durness Road. There is some limited parking north of this house.

It was a sunny and bright morning as we crossed the A838 and headed down the private road towards the bridge over the River Dionard and on towards Rhigolter. A couple of old cars had been abandoned in a quarry making the area rather unsightly and a crow trap, containing three crows, was positioned before the river crossing. The collie at Rhigolter did a lot of barking but thankfully kept its distance.

We passed through a small gate at the east side of Rhigolter and accessed the hillside which was wet and boggy. As height was gained the hillside was covered in reeds which were still wet from the previous day’s rain but we managed to follow sheep tracks to avoid getting our trousers wet. A helicopter was transferring equipment from the nearby Gualin House to behind Farrmheall so the peace and tranquillity of the area was regularly broken.

Beyond these reeds the vegetation consisted of a bit more in the way of grass and the sheep were either feeding or resting in the sun. We entered Calbhach Coire, where there were a few peat hags, and headed to the foot of a gully. The going was a bit slow now due to the gradient and the numerous rocks, but we eventually arrived at a rather wet and boggy col.

The climb of Cranstackie’s north ridge was initially over grassy vegetation as we avoided some rocks before the ridge narrowed and we reached the boulder field. Some of the boulders were concealed by snow, but by keeping slightly to the right we avoided the white stuff. Some of the boulders had a covering of verglas ice obviously due to the overnight temperature dipping below freezing and the fact they were sheltered from the sun. This meant some extra care as we made our way towards the summit cairn which was in the sun. From the summit of Cranstackie we had good views especially of Foinaven to the south and Bens Hope and Loyal to the east.

The descent was back over the boulder field and down the north ridge. A large bird, which I was told was an eagle, landed on rocks lower down. I was a bit suspicious about it being an eagle, as my walking partner often shouts 'eagle' and is proved wrong. I had seen a couple of ravens on our ascent so I presumed it was a raven. However on this occasion I was proved wrong as the bird later took off and headed west and at speeds only an eagle could reach.

Once back at the col we commenced the ascent of the south ridge of Beinn Spionnaidh over relatively grassy slopes until higher up when we came across more boulders, which again slowed our progress. I had calculated that it would take less than an hour between the two summits but due to the bouldery terrain on both mountains I was way out. The summit of Beinn Spionnaidh was reached with views north to the village of Durness, the waters of the Kyle of Durness and out towards Cape Wrath and the Atlantic Ocean. We had lunch at the summit with a few deer and sheep feeding below us.

After lunch we returned along the south ridge of Beinn Spionnaidh for a short distance before descending what I can only describe as a horrendous boulder field before grassy slopes were reached and then the col with Cioch Mor. We traversed round the south side of this hill before descending to Rhigolter and followed the track back to the start. The sun was still out and it had made for a very enjoyable hill day, despite the boulders, with some fantastic views, albeit a bit hazy in the east.

previous ascent

Cranstackie Corbett second ascent 801 metres
Beinn Spionnaidh Corbett second ascent 773 metres

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Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill

16 March 2009

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 15 &16 Time taken – 6.5 hours. Distance - 15.8 kilometres. Ascent - 1018 metres.

Overnight heavy rain in the North West Highlands of Scotland, according to the BBC Radio’s Mountain Forecast, was supposed to clear by midday and for brighter weather in the afternoon so we decided on a slightly later start so that when up on the ridge we would get some decent views.

We parked at the side of the A838 Lairg to Laxford Bridge Road, just south of the hamlet of Kinloch, as parking at the entrance to the private road leading to Aultanrynie wasn’t possible and at Kinloch quite limited.

It was still raining when we set off along the road but at least it was calm. We followed the private road along the head of Loch More, past an old burial ground, and onto the house at Aultanrynie. Just before this property a vehicle track headed uphill and we followed it as it zig zagged and then passed to the south and then east of the 490 knoll where it came to an end. There was a cairn and someone had built a small stone dyke for shelter. A few deer were spotted during this ascent some of whom ran off.

We were now in the low cloud that covered the mountains and as well as the rain which hadn't started to clear yet, it was now windy. It was necessary to climb to the 490 knoll as it was obvious that bearings, prepared the previous evening, would be required to navigate our way along the undulating and twisting ridge over Meallan Liath Beag. We located the 513 knoll and continued to Meallan Liath Beag at 527 metres. The vegetation was rather sparse with some pools of water and rocks and we spotted a couple of Golden Plover.

A slight descent followed and the next point we were aiming for was a small lochan. Another Golden Plover was spotted, this time on its own. Beyond the lochan the ridge steepened and narrowed with snow on its east edge. More birds were seen here, a couple of snow buntings and a lone ptarmigan. The cloud appeared to be about to break up as we had a glimpse down to Loch Ulbhach, but it was short lived and became even thicker as heavy rain fell, blowing in the wind.

We eventfully reached the ridge above Coire Loch and descended to a col before a slight climb to a more flattish area. It was a pity about the lack of views as the forecasted clearance was now nearly two hours late. It was at this point we made another change in direction and headed for the final short climb, over some stony ground towards the summit of Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill. Here I took a tumble smashing my face on some rocks causing injuries to my nose, head and eye as well as my right knee and arm and left hand. It took me a few minutes to recover before we could continue to the summit trig point of Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill through some knee deep wet snow. At the summit we spotted more ptarmigan as the rain turned to snow for a short time.

After a short break in the stone shelter surrounding the cairn the cloud briefly broke to allow us to see Loch Coire Mhic Dhughaill and the west side of Tiatha nam Beann. We then set off down the south ridge of Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill and although still cloudy the rain had at least ceased. We soon emerged from the cloud and could now see the wet, boggy and peat hagged area around the Allt an Reinidh which we required to cross. On reaching this stream the going became rather torturous as we worked our way round and over the peat and boggy areas spotting and disturbing some more deer. Despite the stream being quite high due to the rain and snow melt we made it across relatively dried shod before more peat hags and bog had to be crossed.

The sun was know trying to break out as we descended to the zig zag path used earlier that day and we had a good view of Ben Stack now in the late afternoon sun. The track was followed back to the start and the end of a rather eventful day. We even managed to get close to lots of stags in the vicinity of the house at Aultanrynie.

previous ascent

Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill Corbett second ascent 801 metres

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Ben Hee

15 March 2009

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 16. Time taken – 4.75 hours Distance - 10.5 kilometres. Ascent - 756 metres.

On 2 January 2005 we attempted to climb Ben Hee from the Hope Road, west of Altnahara but failed to get across the Meadie Burn so this was our second attempt, although I had climbed it in 2004.

This ascent commenced at West Merkland on the A838 Lairg to Laxford Bridge Road. We parked at the side of the garage at The Old Stables cottage, and walked up the vehicle track on the east side of the Allt nan Albannach. After around 1.5 kilometres we reached the Allt Coir a’Chruiteir and it was obvious that some serious erosion had taken place here in the last few years. Lots of boulders were lying around and the track over the Allt Coir a’Chruiteir had been repaired and the banking reinforced in places. Vehicle tracks were initially followed up the south side of the Allt Coir a’Chruiteir until the stalker’s path was found. The path was a bit wet and boggy and in several places it had been washed away in landslips. Some of this erosion appeared to be as recent as this winter.

The path improved with height gain but then came to an end in some boggy ground. Here we climbed up to the col between Meallan Liath Mor and Ben Hee. It had been a bit clouded on the ascent and on reaching the col rather breezy. We climbed Ben Hee but as we reached the summit trig point the cloud came down so our views were rather limited.

We descended towards Sail Garbh before dropping to the Allt Coire a’Chruiteir and following the path and track used on the upward route back to the start.

previous ascent

Ben Hee Corbett second ascent 873 metres

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Ben Stack

4 July 2008

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 9. Time taken – 2.75 hours. Distance - 6 kilometres. Ascent - 680 metres.

I had viewed the Graham, Ben Stack, frequently on my visits to the far North-West of Scotland as it is a prominent hill seen from the surrounding Corbetts and on the drive north from Lairg. It was also the hill where the MP Robin Cook unfortunately died a few years ago.

My plan was to climb Ben Stack from the west as it was shorter, steeper and more of a challenge then the easterly approach, although if transport was available a full traverse of the mountain would be best.

The starting point was the A838 Lairg to Laxford Bridge Road just west of the access road to Lochstack Lodge. Parking was available beside a stone building and as I prepared to set off several vehicles left the Lodge obviously with paying guests off for a day's fishing. A short walk along the road took me to a stalker’s path which I followed to a point above Loch na Seilge. Here a walker’s path followed an old fence towards Cnoc na Saile, although the fence shouldn’t be followed for too long as it later heads off south.

The walking was fairly gentle at this time with reasonable underfoot conditions and weather. Once over Cnoc na Saile the ground steepened as I followed the path as it worked its way round rocks, and with no real difficulties I quickly gained height. Higher up the ridge narrowed but an easier grassy route could be taken if desired. A small cairn was reached then unexpectedly a radio mast, obviously for communication within the Estate. Beyond this was the summit cairn and slightly beyond that and the trig point. Here a found some shelter for a snack looking across to the previous days hills, Sabhal Beag, Meal Horn, Arkle and Foinaven.

I could have stayed longer but I needed to be back in Inverness that afternoon so it was a quick descent by the upward route.

Ben Stack Graham first ascent 721 metres

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Foinaven

3 July 2008

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 9. Time taken – 10.75 hours. Distance - 26.5 kilometres. Ascent - 1450 metres.

The ascent of Foinaven was planned for the previous day but due to strong winds and a more favourable weather forecast for this day the walks were swapped round. The start was the same as that for Arkle but once we had climbed above Lone we continued along the vehicle track that followed the west side of the Allt Horn.

The weather forecast was in fact correct with light winds and some sun. The only downside was the first appearance this year of the cleg, which were a real nuisance until we got higher. Also one member of the group wasn’t feeling terribly well at this point, which was a concern as it was a long day on a remote Corbett. Despite this we made good progress to the Bealach Horn where we left the track.

The next section of the walk was over grass and rocks as we made our way to the Corbett Top, An t-Sail Mhor, which is not named on my Ordnance Survey Map nor does it show an exact height. As we made our way towards this summit we saw a herd of deer bathing in a lochan. On summiting An t-Sail Mhor we could see the challenge ahead as well as views of Meall Horn, Arkle, Ben Hope, Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh, the most northerly Corbett.

A slight descent, where a hind and its young had been feeding but quickly disappeared, was followed by a relatively easy climb to the next Corbett Top at 808 metres, which appears to be called Stob Cadha na Beucaich. As we ascended we had views of an impressive area of rock, known as Lord Reay's seat.

Once at the top of Stob Cadha na Beucaich the challenge of Foinaven’s ridge began. Probably the hardest section was the descent from Stob Cadha na Beucaich down rock, some of which was loose, and scree. It was very time consuming and we needed to remain on the crest to avoid other difficulties. This took us to the bealach, Cadha na Beucaich, then a steady climb over Lord Reay's Seat to the Corbett Top at the west end of A'Ch'eir Ghorm, passing a walker going in the opposite direction. The ladies elected to have a late lunch at this Top as we had lost a bit of time on the ridge, not that we were in a rush.

Lunch over we descended to another col and then commenced the final ascent to Ganu Mor, the highest point on Foinaven, passing a second walker going in the other direction. It was easy going compared to what we had already completed and we soon arrived at the top which consisted of two cairns. It wasn't obvious which was the highest but in any case we visited both.

After looking around at the fine views and taking more photographs we headed out to the final Corbett Top of the day, Ceann Garbh. From here we had better views of Sandwood Loch, Sandwood Bay and Cape Wrath. A surprisingly grassy descent followed using a walker’s path which wound its way round rocks. This gave us a false impression as lower down we had to clamber over or work our way round numerous large boulders before reaching the bealach with Cnoc a’Mhadaidh. We traversed round the south side of this hill and descended into Coire Duail. Although pathless here what would normally be boggy conditions, were relatively dry so good progress was made.

Eventually we reached the vehicle track at a bridge in Srath Dionard where the ladies decided to bathe their feet before we had another snack. While there the first walker we had met on the ridge passed us although according to one of the ladies he had to make himself decent as he disappeared for a few minutes after being initially spotted by her walking towards us.

It was around a seven kilometre walk along the track in Srath Dionard, initially along the side of the River Dionard, before it climbed towards the main road to Durness, the A838, at Gualin House where we had left a car. The final section was more like a speed walk as a member of the party kept trying to pass me, but age won in the end.

We arrived at the car just as the first rain of the day started and it was rather heavy, so a successful and dry day was had. All that was left was to collect the other vehicle from near Loch Stack and return to Durness for a well earned meal and rest.

previous ascent

Foinaven (Ganu Mor) Corbett second ascent 914 metres

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Arkle

2 July 2008

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 9. Time taken – 6.25 hours. Distance - 16.5 kilometres. Ascent - 990 metres.

The starting point for the ascent of Arkle was the same as the previous day when we climbed Sabhal Beag and Meall Horn. We again walked along the track to Lone where we crossed the Abhainn an Loin and the Allt Horn by bridges. Beyond the Allt Horn and before entering the small pine forest, Frances spotted an adder which was sunning itself at the side of the path. I had just passed it so I was lucky that I hadn’t struck it with my walking pole.

Once through the forest it was a steep climb on the north side of the Allt Horn to a small cairn at the side of the track. Here we left the track and followed a walker’s path which worked its way up hill between the rocky terrain. We found a sheltered area, from the fairly strong wind, for a coffee break before continuing to the dried up stream and to the corrie edge where we had views into An Garbh-choire, and Am Bathaich and to Loch an Easain Uaine and Foinaven.

We reached Arkle’s south summit where it was rather exposed to the strong wind but with the wonderful views and the sun shinning we couldn't complain. It was then a steep descent down a rather rocky curving ridge to the bealach before the climb towards the actual summit of Arkle. However before it was reached the ridge narrowed which required some careful footwork as the wind was gusting here and it was a bit off putting. Once beyond this section a short walk took us to the summit cairn with some fantastic views out to sea, the sea lochs to the west and Foinaven.

It was too windy at the summit for lunch so we returned along the ridge before finding a grassy area to stop where a warm breeze was blowing. Thereafter we returned to the start of the day’s walk but bypassed the south summit. Lower down we saw a couple of small birds chase off a couple of ravens but we were too far away to identify them.

previous ascent

Arkle Corbett third ascent 787 metres

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Sabhal Beag and Meall Horn

1 July 2008

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 9. Time taken – 8 hours. Distance - 23 kilometres. Ascent - 1100 metres.

The starting point for this walk, and for the following two days, was the south end of Loch Stack on the A838 Lairg to Laxford Bridge Road just north of the hamlet of Achfary. Here an estate road goes east, crosses the Allt Achadh Fairidh, and then goes north to the house at Airdachuilinn. Just before the bridge over the Allt Achadh Fairidh there are parking spaces for several vehicles. A sign beside the bridge indicated that there was no stalking taking place that day on either Arkle, Meall Horn or Foinaven which are the three mountains usually climbed from this point.

We set off along the tarred road to Airdachuilinn watched by a stag on the rise to our right. Once beyond the house the track became stony and we passed areas where peat had been cut and fishermen were headed towards Loch Stack. At Lone a couple of Land Rovers were parked.

The bridge over the Abhainn an Loin was crossed and we followed the track that climbed up through a gap towards Srath Luib na Seilich. Ahead of us were a couple of ponies lead by a gillie. They stopped higher up where a client and gamekeeper were waiting. As it was the first of July and the start of the stag stalking season, I was aware they were there to shoot stags. A very amicable and friendly conversation took place with the gamekeeper and he was happy for us to continue on our planned route as due the fairly strong wind and its direction there was a possibly that we would send any deer down towards them.

We continued up the track, which became rather rough, to the Bealach na Feithe and then steeply to the summit cairn of the Graham, Sabhal Beag. Here it was rather windy but we had views to Meall Horn and Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill. The north-west ridge of Sabhail Beag was followed until we could descend to the rocky col below Sabhal Mor. Prior to reaching the col we found a suitable sheltered spot for lunch. Afterwards we crossed the col and headed up the fairly steep east side of Sabhal Mor over some rock and grass.

The summit of Sabhal Mor did not have a cairn so we went to the highest point before descending slightly to the bealach with Meall Horn where we came across two pairs of ptarmigan. It was then an easy climb to the summit of Meall Horn with good views including that of Arkle and Foinaven.

The descent was towards the bealach with Creagan Meall Horn and below its south side where we disturbed a dottrel. Lower down the descent was a bit rocky and a hind headed off towards the Bealach Horn. A stream was crossed and a ringed ouzel rose from the bank and flew off. The track on the west side of Allt Horn was reached and we followed it back to Lone arriving there at the same time as the shooting party we had met earlier. A dead stag was being carried on the back of one of the ponies. Apparently it was an old stag with some of its teeth missing. We spoke with the shooting party and took a few photographs before departing and walking back to the start by the outward route.

It had been a fine and enjoyable day and especially interesting meeting the shooting party and seeing the old fashioned method of removing a stag from the mountain.

previous ascent of Meall Horn

Sabhal Beag Graham first ascent 732 metres
Meall Horn Corbett second ascent 777 metres

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Beinn an Eoin

8 June 2008

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 15. Time taken - 4.25 hours. Distance - 9.5 kilometres. Ascent - 760 metres.

I found a parking spot on the unclassified road that runs from Drumrunie to Achiltibuie at the south-east end of Loch Lurgainn, where parking on this single track road was at a premium. Drumrunie is on the A835 Ledmore Junction to Ullapool Road.

I selected this Graham as I read that there was lots of bog to cross so as it had been relatively dry recently I thought this was a good time to climb it. On leaving my car I heard the obligatory cuckoo. They seem to have been on all my walks recently. At the east side of the road bridge just before the loch, I dropped down to a deer fence where there was a wicket gate. I then crossed a rather dry stream before following a walker’s path up the side of the Allt Claonaidh. This is one of the routes to Ben More Coigach.

I remained on this path for as long as possible, in fact a little longer than planned as the stream went through a gully and I couldn't get across. Once on the other side of the stream I headed directly for the summit of Cioch Beinn an Eoin. Initially the vegetation was rather long due to the exclusion of deer, and it would normally be boggy. Some tree planting had taken place here as well. This was followed by a steep climb, avoiding lots of rocks, to the summit, where there were some fantastic views over the lochs out west and to Stac Pollaidh, Suilven, Cul Mor and Cul Beag.

A short descent was followed by a steady climb to the rather rock strewn summit of Beinn an Eoin, another good viewpoint. This was actually the target for the day but I had planned to take in an adjoining top especially as the weather was fine, although it was rather windy high up. From the summit cairn of Sgorr Deas, the highest point on Beinn an Eoin, I walked over to its North-West Top again with views of the lochs out west and the Achiltibuie peninsula.

It was then a steep descent to the ‘hanging lochan’ located between Sgorr Deas and Sgorr Tuath, the northern top of Beinn an Eoin. Beyond the lochan the gradient wasn't any easier as I climbed to the west top of Sgorr Tuath avoiding some weathered rocks. There was a rather narrow cleft here, partly concealed by vegetation, which could cause a problem to the unwary.

I walked over to the actual summit of Sgorr Tuath passing some more sculptured rock caused by the weather. Thereafter steeply down towards the outflow of the hanging lochan where I spotted a mountain hare running off. Lower down the terrain was rather awkward to cross due to the length of vegetation but again the bog was relatively dry. As I made my way round the foot of Cioch Beinn an Eoin I came across some more new trees so this route could become a bit difficult once they mature.

Eventually after lots of rough walking I joined the path used on the upward route and used it to return to the Achilibuie road.

Beinn an Eoin Graham first ascent 619 metres

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Suilven

7 June 2008

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 15. Time taken – 9.75 hours. Distance - 23.5 kilometres. Ascent - 1225 metres.

This walk was a surprise 40th birthday present for Rick Brown arranged by his wife Cath. They were joined by Mac and his girlfriend Kerry.

The start of the walk was reached from the village of Lochinver taking the single track road marked Glen Canisp. On reaching Loch Druim Suardalain there was some limited parking with a request to leave vehicles at this location rather than further east.

Initially the walk was along a tarred road to Glencanisp Lodge and then by a marked route round this house. Once beyond the Lodge the track continued east. It is shown on the map as a path but is in fact a track used by the Estate. Reasonable progress was made along this track in fine sunny weather. We left the track to visit the bothy at Suileag where we took a break. There was a seat outside the bothy from where we were able to view our intended destination, Suilven.

We resumed our trek east passing Lochan Buidhe and thereafter crossed a stream by a wooden bridge. Not long after this we left the track and headed across peat and heather using a walker’s path to Loch a’Choire Dhuibh. The path was exceptionally dry compared to the normal conditions experienced in this area.

It had clouded over a bit which was ideal as we climbed steeply up a rough gorge, with loose earth and stones, arriving at Bealach Mor as the sun reappeared. It was at this point we met some other walkers who had come up from the opposite side. Another short break was taken with views south to Fionn Loch, Lochs Veyatie and Sionascaig and the mountains Cul Mor and Stac Pollaidh. Thereafter the ascent of Caisteal Liath, the highest point on Suilven, commenced. It was easier than the gully but did involve a few awkward steps. A number of walkers passed us as they headed back to the Bealach Mor.

The summit cairn was reached and just beyond was an ideal spot to partake of lunch looking down to Lochinver and out over the north-west coast. After nearly an hour enjoying the views and the sun we set off back to Bealach Mor passing lots of walker’s heading for the summit.

The descent from Bealach Mor required care due to the loose stones and dry earth. From there we re-joined the track and headed east as the plan was to walk out to Elphin on the A835 Ledmore Junction to Ullapool road. The track took us along the north shore of Loch na Gainimh where it eventually became a path. At the end of the loch a few of the group had a paddle in the water to cool down before we climbed through a gully to Lochan Fhada. Here we took the path on the north side of the loch but it soon almost disappeared and at the east end of the loch a short section of rough ground was crossed before we joined the south path. The path was thereafter cairned for a short section before descending to Cam Loch where it was just a mark in the vegetation. Lower down it became intermittent and near the main road it disappeared again. However we did reach the main road beside the stream Na Luirgean where I had parked my car earlier that day. The path in fact may start/finish around 100 metres further east now as there was a signpost for Lochinver there but approaching from the west the route towards the road is not obvious due to the vegetation in particular the high bracken.

The group appeared to enjoy the day despite the long walk out. Cath will now have to think up something different for Rick’s 41st birthday.

previous ascent

Suilven Graham second ascent 731 metres

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Breabag

15 April 2007

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 3.5 hours. Distance - 9 kilometres. Ascent - 690 metres.

The start of this walk was the A837, 5 kilometres north of Ledmore Junction, where there is a small parking area on the east side of the road. (Grid Ref. NC253179) A path was followed east passed a now defunct salmon hatchery and up the side of the Allt nan Uamh passing the spring where the stream appeared out of the limestone rock. There was a profusion of wildflowers in the area as we followed the path beside the dry bed of the Allt nan Uamh and below the ‘bone caves’.

Once beyond the caves we left the path and climbed steeply up an embankment and headed for a gap in the rocks over some heathery and boggy terrain. Fortunately it was drier than normal as a result of a rainless period of weather. Once across this pathless terrain we climbed through the gap disturbing a couple of ptarmigan.

The walking became a bit easier as we crossed a grassy corrie and over some boulders to the summit of Breabag. It had been very mild down in the glen but there was a cold breeze at the summit cairn so after a few minutes rest we headed back by our ascent route as some low cloud engulfed the summit. Visibility had been a bit restrictive due to a thick haze.

On the descent the ptarmigan were still at the same location. Not a very good site for nesting being on the route to Breabag so they will no doubt be disturbed over the next few months. Hopefully they and their young will survive.

Once beyond the heathery and boggy terrain we climbed up to and looked in the bone caves before descending to the Allt nan Uamh and the short walk back to the start.

previous ascent

Breabag Corbett third ascent 815 metres

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Quinag

14 April 2007

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 7 hours. Distance - 13 kilometres. Ascent - 1120 metres.

It was very hazy as we drove the short distance north from Inchnadamph Lodge to the car park located on the A894, three kilometres north of its junction with the turn off to Lochinver (A837). This car park, located at Grid Ref NC232273, is on the east side of the road and appears to have been an old quarry.

We left the vehicle, crossed the A894 and used the footbridge to cross the Allt Sgiathaig. Thereafter we commenced the climb of the east ridge of Spidean Coinich, initially over some boggy ground but higher up it was dry and rocky. It was windy and the early haze hadn’t cleared. Higher up we came to a slight dip in the ridge before a short steeper ascent to the summit of Spidean Coinich.

Unfortunately it was still very hazy so the views weren't very clear but good enough for my client to see our route of descent along Spidean Coinich’s north ridge and its steep and narrow appearance. This caused her some concern and she needed some reassurance that there were no real problems on the ridge. We therefore headed steeply downhill, over Point 713, down to Beallach a’Chornaidh and a steeper ascent of Point 745. Although the ridge was narrow and a bit steep in places there were no real problem and my client accepted that her initial trepidation was unfounded. During the descent we were fortunate to spot a pair of ptarmigan.

From Point 745 we descended to another bealach before a steady climb to the summit of the second Corbett of the day, Sail Ghorm. Here we found some shelter from the cool wind for lunch, looking across to Sail Gharb.

We set off back along Sail Ghorm’s south ridge, bypassed the 745 Point and headed out to the third Corbett, Sail Gharb. Thereafter we returned back along the ridge descended towards Lochan Bealach Cornaidh and picked up the stalker’s path which led us back to the start.

The haze cleared slightly later in the day and it was ideal conditions to sit outside the lodge and recuperate especially as it was pre-midge season. We even had our evening meal outside watching the sun go behind Canisp.

previous ascent

Spidean Coinich Corbett third ascent 764 metres
Sail Ghorm Corbett third ascent 776 metres
Sail Gharbh Corbett third acent 808 metres.

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Conival and Ben More Assynt

13 April 2007

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 8 hours. Distance - 16.5 kilometres. Ascent - 1150 metres.

It was a pleasant sunny morning on the drive north from Inverness to Inchnadamph on the A837 north of Ledmore Junction. We were staying the weekend at theInchnadamph Lodge so were able to park in their car park before heading east up Gleann Dubh following the path on the north side of the River Traligill.

The path later turned to the north-east and became steeper as it crossed some boggy ground before climbing through a short rocky section. Just after that we again changed direction before we climbed through some rocky ground, on a path, to the summit of Conival. It was still sunny although a bit hazy and a pleasant breeze kept the temperature down.

We descended the rocky east ridge of Conival where we saw or met several other walkers. There were probably around twenty people out on this Friday in April enjoying this exceptionally fine weather.

The ridge remained rocky and we soon reached the summit of Ben More Assynt where we stopped for lunch. In fact the weather was so fine my client remained there enjoying the sun and views for well over an hour.

Reluctantly she later relented to leave the summit of Ben More Assynt and we returned to Conival and to Inchnadamph Lodge after an exceptionally fine day in the North West Highlands.

previous ascent

Conival Munro fifth ascent 987 metres
Ben More Assynt Munro fifth ascent 998 metres

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Eas a'Chual Aluinn Waterfall

14 March 2007

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 5.75 hours. Distance - 10 kilometres. Ascent - 500 metres.

The plan had been to climb the three Corbetts of Quinag but the weather forecast was for strong winds, rain and low cloud so this idea was abandoned. Instead I suggested to Steve, my client for the day, that a walk to the Eas a'Chual Aluinn, the highest waterfall in Britain, might be a suitable alternative. Steve had been doing a bit of research on the area, including on this waterfall, so he was happy with the change of plan.

The starting point for the walk was the A894 about 4 kilometres south of Unapool opposite the south end of Loch na Gainmhich. There is a metal post here which may identify the exact spot, where there is some limited verge parking.

We set off in the wind and rain and followed a wet and boggy path to Loch Gainmhich where the southern shore was part of the route. This was followed by a climb up the side of the Allt Loch Bealach a'Bhuirich to Loch a'Bealach a'Bhuirich and onto Bealach a'Bhuirich where it was very windy but at least the rain was now off.

Once over the bealach the path descended through some wild and rocky terrain, passed a few small lochans until the path became extremely wet and boggy. This latter section took a while to traverse over and round but we eventually reached the top of the Eas a'Chual Aluinn Waterfall. Due to the strong wind we had to be very careful in case we were blown over but with the stream fairly high the top section of the waterfall was fairly impressive.

It appeared that better views could be obtained from the south side of the waterfall so we found a suitable crossing point and here were able to descent slightly to get finer views of the top section of the waterfall as the wind blew some of the water upwards into a spray. We also had views of Loch Glencoul and the waterfall on the opposite side of the glen, Eas-an-t-Strutha. This waterfall we had spotted from Bealach a'Bhuirich and it appeared to be higher than the Eas a'Chual Aluinn but the height is probably determined by the length of the drop. The top section of this waterfall was constantly being blown backwards.

After taking numerous photos we set off back to the start. The wind was even stronger at the bealach and it brought us to a halt on a few occasions. Water from Loch a'Bealach a'Bhuirich was being blown out of the Loch and into a spray as it shot across the Loch.

Below the Loch we spotted a few deer and later it started to rain. The Quinag, on the opposite side of the road, was still covered in cloud so we had probably made the correct decision in avoiding going too high.

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Suilven

13 March 2007

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 8 hours. Distance - 19 kilometres. Ascent - 760 metres.

Suilven holds a prominent position in the North West Highlands of Scotland east of Lochinver. There are several starting points but on this occasion, as Steve, my client for the day, was staying north of Lochinver, I settled for the Glencanisp Lodge approach. It is possible to drive from the south end of Lochinver east along a single track road to the west end of Loch Druim Suardalain. There is a notice just beyond the parking area advising walkers that there are no suitable parking spaces beyond this point, which is accurate.

We set off from the car park, walked along the tarred road to Glencanisp Lodge and followed the directional sign round the Lodge. Beyond the Lodge the route became a rough track that undulated along the north side of the Abhainn Bad na h-Achlaise through some wild, rough and rocky terrain. En-route we spoke to a couple of estate employees who were carrying out repairs to the track and doing some drainage work.

We followed this track, which led to Elphin, for around 90 minutes to just west of Loch na Gainimh. A small cairn marked the spot where we left the track and followed a rather wet and boggy path to the foot of the gully leading to the Bealach Mor. The ascent of the gully commenced and became rather steep. On looking back we could see numerous lochans below us. Higher up it was windy and the walker’s path was rather eroded.

On arriving at the Bealach Mor is was very windy, as expected from studying the weather forecast before setting out. It was also a bit cloudy but we had glimpses of Loch Sionascaig and the Inverpolly Forest. From the bealach we headed north-west through a well constructed wall and into the cloud. There was some easy scrambling involved and the ridge narrowed in places where care was required as it was particularly gusty at these spots.

The summit cairn of Caisteal Liath, the highest point on Suilven’s ridge, was reached but it was cloudy and very windy. With the possibility of the cloud breaking we sought some shelter on the lee side of the hill for lunch. While seated there we briefly saw a broken spectre, a first for Steve. We did have a few short breaks in the cloud giving us views down into the glen we had walked along a few hours earlier. We then had a five minute spell of horizontal hail before we left our lunch spot and headed back to the summit cairn.

At this point the cloud cleared and we had some brief sunny spells which gave us views in all directions. It is said that in Scotland you can savour all four seasons in a day. Well on Suilven it was in 20 minutes.

The return was by the route of ascent. On reaching the Lochinver to Elphin track a note written in mud had been left for me. This was from a teacher from Hamburg in Germany who was walking from Elphin to Lochinver and whom I had offered a lift back to our accommodation at Inchnadamph Lodge.

The walk back to the car park near Glencanisp Lodge was into the wind but the sun was out and we had occasional views out to sea so although it was a lengthy walk out it was quite pleasant. The teacher had passed that way an hour earlier and had managed to thumb a lift back to the Lodge.

Suilven Graham first ascent 731 metres

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Breabag

18 July 2006

photos taken on walk

We parked at the Salmon Hatchery on the east side of the A837, 3.5 kilometres south of our overnight accommodation at Inchnadamph Outdoor Centre. The midges, flies and clegs were upon us immediately we alighted from the car and my client, Janice, was ready in record time and shot off up the Glen. Fortunately I had my midge net but it was an unpleasant start to the walk.

We walked along the path on the north side of the Allt nan Uamh but it was very humid and the bracken and long grass at the edge of the path was still very wet from the previous day's rain. The cloud was still covering the hill tops but the forecast said it should clear.

We stopped and looked at the Spring where the water appears from underground while the river bed above is dry. We continued on the lower path below the bone caves where it is alleged that bones of extinct animals were found. At the junction of the stream beds, which were still dry, we climbed onto the open hillside which was quite rough and boggy and aimed for a gap in the rock face.

On climbing through this gap into a grassy area we disturbed a large herd of hinds. some with calves. The cloud tended to lift slightly but then lowered as we headed for the summit of Breabag, disturbing a lone ptarmigan.

The summit cairn was reached and we had a snack as the cloud began to break up with views of Canisp, Suilven, Loch Assynt, Quinag and the previous day's mountain Glas Bheinn, which we had climbed in poor visibility. While seated at the cairn a deer arrived at a boggy area just below us and started to wallow in the mud forcing another deer to get up. Two more deer followed a few minutes apart and they also began to wallow in the bog.

After some time at the summit, watching the antics of the hinds and also hoping that the cloud would clear completely from the surrounding hills which it didn't, we returned to the bone caves and visited a couple of them where I took a few photographs.

We then descended from the caves and walked back to the start but the insects were still around in the car park.

previous ascent

Breabag Corbett second ascent 815 metres

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Glas Bheinn

17 July 2006

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 6 hours. Distance - 14 kilometres. Ascent - 792 metres.

The rest of Scotland was basking in a heat wave but the North-West of Scotland was shrouded in low cloud with frequent rain showers.

The plan had been to climb the remote Corbett Foinaven but due to the poor weather this was abandoned. It was decided that Glas Bheinn would be better as it was an easier and a shorter day. However as we were staying at the Inchnadamph Outdoor Centre we decided to climb this mountain from there rather than drive to its west side.

We departed from the Outdoor Centre and headed towards Gleann Dubh but soon left this Glen and took the stalker's path that went up the side of the Allt Poll an Droighinn. Despite the low cloud and light rain it was very warm, especially wearing waterproofs. However higher up we got a bit of a breeze.

Visibility was poor and we navigated passed some small lochans to Loch Fleodach Coire where the bridge over the outflow had collapsed but crossing it wasn't a problem as the water level was low.

We had a break here watching the fish jumping out of the water. When we arrived we could see the other side of the Loch but by the time we were ready to leave it was impossible to see very far.

The next section of the path was difficult to follow at times as it disappeared in the terrain but eventually we reached the windy Glas Bheinn/Beinn Uidhe bealach. From the bealach we climbed the east ridge of Glas Bheinn, initially over some scree, before the walking became a bit easier. We reached the summit plateau but in the thick mist it wasn't obvious where the summit cairn was so we had to navigate to it.

Once on the summit we about turned and retraced our steps to Loch Fleodach Coire where we had lunch but we were unable to see to the other side of the Loch. The fish were still jumping to catch the flies that had been blown out over the Loch.

After lunch the descent continued and around 350 metres the cloud began to break up and we could see more than a few metres. It was the first time we had any views for over 5 hours. It was then just a short walk back to our accommodation at Inchnadamph.

previous ascent

Glas Bheinn Corbett second ascent 776 metres

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Beinn Leoid , Meallan a'Chuail & Meall an Fheur Loch

16 July 2006

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 7 hours. Distance - 14.8 kilometres. Ascent - 1177 metres.

The starting point for this walk was the A838 between Lochs More and Merkland where a small footbridge crossed the Allt Ceann Locha. From here it was a steady climb up through a gap in the forest. It was warm with a hazy sun but the main problem was clegs.

Once higher up there was a bit of a breeze and it gave us some respite from these biting insects.

The path wound its way round peat bogs ending at a bealach where we took a break looking at the surrounding mountains. From the bealach we dropped down over some rough ground to the stalkers path beside the Allt Srath nan Aisinnin. The path wasn't in such good condition as the earlier path but we followed it to the bealach between Beinn Leoid and Meallan a'Chuail followed by an easy ascent to the summit trig point of Beinn Leoid.

It was quite windy but warm on the summit so we had lunch, once again taking in the views, before returning to the Beinn Leoid/Meallan a'Chuail bealach. From here we climbed the Graham, Meallan a'Chuail with its steep drop to Lochan Meallan a'Chuail and its view down the length of Loch Shin, almost to Lairg.

The initial descent from Meallan a'Chuail was a bit rocky before continuing down to Loch Cul a'Mhill before the ascent of the second Graham of the day, Meall an Fheur Loch. From there it was an easy descent to the first path we used that morning and followed it back to the main road.

previous ascent Beinn Leoid and Meallan a'Chuail

Beinn Leoid Corbett second ascent 792 metres
Meallan a'Chuail Graham second ascent 750 metres
Meall an Fheur Loch Graham first ascent 613 metres

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Corbett Bagging in The Far North

18 - 21 September 2005

photos taken on walk

The next few days I was guiding in The Far North of Scotland working out of the Assynt Field Centre at Inchnadamph Lodge, which also offers bunkhouse accommodation.

I collected one of my regular clients in Inverness and a new client, a Chinese lady in Ullapool. This lady came from Shanghai and was studying International Travel at Cardiff University. She was my first Asian client.

We left Ullapool and headed north on the A835 to just south of Knockan Crag near Elphin, where there is a small car park at the start of a good path over some wet ground. This path was followed north in very windy conditions and near its far end it turned westwards where the maintained path ceased and deteriorated into a wet and boggy trail up towards Meallan Diomhain.

To the north of this point we sought shelter from the strong wind behind some rocks to little avail as coffee was being blowing out of my regular client's flask top.

Once our break was over we headed onto Cul Mor's north-east ridge where the wind wasn't as strong but it started to rain and we were engulfed in low cloud. Higher up the ground became more rocky until just before the summit plateau.

On reaching the plateau we only had about twenty metres to walk to the summit cairn of Cul Mor but this section was tough into the strong wind. There was no view due to the low cloud so after a quick summit photo we headed back down Cul Mor's north-east ridge. The Chinese lady found the section back through the boulders very difficult. The wind never really eased although we eventually emerged out of the cloud. It was a slow walk back to the car as the Chinese lady was feeling tired and she did not like the roar of the wind.

The following day the Chinese lady opted to stay at the Lodge and have a day off. We headed for Canisp after heavy overnight rain. The wind wasn't very strong at this time but the forecast was for gale force winds and rain.

The start of the walk was from the north end of Loch Awe on the A837 a few miles south of Inchnadamph Lodge. We set off across a wet and boggy area to the outflow from Loch Awe but the stream was in spate so we headed towards the Loch where a small footbridge afforded us a crossing.

Once on the other side of the stream we crossed some rough ground, which was very wet and boggy in places to a tributary of the Allt Mhic Mhurchaidh Gheir. We followed this stream as the wind picked up and it started to rain. There were large slabs of rock to walk on which made walking easier but by this time we were engulfed in low cloud.

We eventually reached the south-east ridge of Canisp with its twists and turns and a few short descents and re-ascemts. It was very windy on this exposed area and it was difficult to stay upright at times and on several occasions we were brought to a halt by the wind.

The final section was a bit steeper and it was a tough slog to the large shelter which was the summit of Canisp. Here we took a break within the shelter before venturing back out into the wind. We returned along the ridge but after a while, due to the wind, we decided to descend slightly where it was a bit more sheltered. Lower down the cloud broke and we were able to see our descent route.

The final hour or so of this walk involved crossing some rocky and boggy terrain before reaching the bridge over the outflow of Loch Awe and the short journey to the car.

Later that evening I spoke with the Head Stalker of the Reay Forest Estate to make enquiry about walking on Arkle the following day. He was very appreciative of the phone call and advised me that there would be no stalking.

My previous visit to Arkle was one of the wettest days in the North West Highlands when we were also battered by strong winds. This day we decided on a late start as the wind was very strong through the night and it rained heavily. The forecast indicated they would both ease later in the day.

The start of the walk was the bridge on the south side of Loch Stack just off the A838 where there is a small parking area. The Estate have also constructed a board which gives daily advice on where stalking is taking place. As predicted by the Head Stalker the No Stalking Today sign was displayed.

We set off in strong wind and in a rain shower and walked along the tarred road to Airdachuilinn and then by a track to Lone. Beyond Lone we climbed steeply up the path on the north side of the Allt Horn to a set of streams on its north side. We climbed up between these streams and round the west side of Meall Aonghais to a bealach were we tried to find some shelter from the wind. Fortunately the rain had ceased and the cloud was clearing. An interesting feature here is Lochan na Faoileige and its other small lochans which are fed mainly by rain as there is only a ten metre rise around these lochans and nothing else to feed them.

After lunch we headed up towards the 758 point taking in magnificent views across to Foinaven and down into the corrie. On arriving at the 758 point we had views of the summit ridge and of the rocky terraces down to Am Bathaich.

On approaching this ridge the wind was very strong so we had to descend below the ridge and traverse across to the bealach.Once on the other side of the bealach the wind was less strong and we were able to regain the ridge before it narrowed significantly and was fairly rocky. Extreme care was required due to the strong gusts of wind and we successfully traversed this narrow section before the final walk out to the summit cairn where we had good views of the surrounding mountains and out to the Atlantic Ocean.

A number of photographs were taken before we returned along the ridge to the bealach where we took a rising traverse avoiding the edge of the corrie. We then descended to the Allt Horn staying closer to the westerly cliffs of Arkle. On the descent we disturbed a hare.

On reaching the path beside the Allt Horn we returned to Lone where we saw a rabbit using the overhanging riverbank as a hiding spot from predators. It was then the case of following the track back to the start but unfortunately we were caught in the rain again before reaching the car.

The final day in the Far North we decided to climb Cul Beag from the Achiltibuie Road, so in dry but cloudy conditions we drove to east of Linneraineach where we parked the car and headed up a path that lead through a small plantation towards Loch an Doire Dhuibh.

On reaching Lochan Fhionnlaidh we headed up the side of a burn towards the bealach north of Cul Beag following traces of a path while being watched for some time by a deer hind. We took a break at the bealach while being attacked by midges but shortly later the cloud lowered and it started to rain.

We set off from the bealach and it was a fairly steep climb to the summit cairn of Cul Beag as the rain got heavier and we entered the cloud base. There was no view from the summit so we set off down the south ridge. On reaching a set of cliffs the rain ceased and the cloud started to break up and we had good views of Stac Pollaidh and out over Achiltibuie towards the Summer isles.

The descent to the Achilitibuie Road was fairly steep avoiding rocky outcrops before the walk back along the tarred road to the start.

On each of the four days we were out it rained and we had to wear waterproofs every day. It had also been very windy. However despite the weather we managed to get some good views particularly on the day out to Arkle.

previous ascent Canisp and Arkle

previous ascent Cul Beag

Cul Mor Corbett second ascent 849 metres
Canisp Corbett second ascent 846 metres
Arkle Corbett second ascent 787 metres
Cul Beag Corbett second ascent 769 metres

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Coigach

10 September 2005

photos taken on walk

Today's request was to take my clients to the mountains of Coigach, north of Ullapool, which was an area I hadn't walked in before. However I was interested in this impressive mountain range which is well seen from the south. These mountains are classed as Grahams, being between 2,000 and 2,500 feet in height, but appear a lot higher as they are close to the sea.

We set off from the unclassified road leading to Achiltibuie just south-east of Loch Lurgainn. A wet and boggy path up the south side of the Allt Claonaidh took us to Lochan Tuath, where we took a break. From here we could see climbers attempting the steep rocky east ridge of Sgurr an Fhidhleir.

The route then took us to below the climbers and to the foot of a steep gully. This was followed by a stiff climb up the gully with the midges attacking us. It was therefore inappropriate to stop so we had to keep going. Some of my clients did in fact stop to apply midge spray and when they arrived at the top of the gully their faces looked like they were covered in black spots, when in fact they were dead midges.

We took a short break at the top of the gully before climbing to the summit of Sgurr an Fhidhleir where three sides of this Graham are protected by rock climbs. Awesome views in all directions were had in particularly looking out to sea and the Summer Isles. It was sunny which made the day all the better.

After several photographs from the summit we headed back to the top of the gully and climbed onto the east ridge of Ben More Coigach and to its summit where we had lunch.

A debate thereafter commenced as to what the return route would be as some of my clients wanted to include the rocky west ridge of Ben More Coigach. The eventual outcome was that two of the party would return to the cars and drive them to the Summer Isles Hotel in Achiltibuie, a couple would make the easier descent round the north side of Ben More Coigach and head for Culnacraig at the road end south of Achiltibuie and the rest of the party would walk out the west ridge.

The west ridge route was fantastic. A path, initially along the north side, avoided some scrambling before the easiest route was to walk along the top of the ridge. The views were tremendous especially the steep drop to the south and the views of Ardmair Bay and Ullapool. From here I was also able to observe the two clients who had taken the more northerly descent.

At the west end of the ridge we had more awesome views out over the sea before commencing a steep descent to the Allt nan Coisiche and picking up a path that took us down to the public road about three miles south of Achiltibuie.

The final part of the walk was along this single track road to the Summer Isles Hotel in Achiltibuie which was the end of a splendid day on the hills. I am also glad to say that my clients seemed to enjoy the walk and scenery as much as I did.

Sgurr an Fhidhleir Graham first ascent 703 metres
Ben More Coigach Graham first ascent 743 metres

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Ben Hope

8 July 2005

photos taken on walk

It was a lovely, sunny and calm morning when we set off from Durness for Strath More. Loch Hope was very still as a few holidaymakers headed for their boats to do a spot of fishing. On the drive south, on what is called the Hope Road, we stopped to look at some hinds and their young feeding in a nearby field. The hinds and fawns were able to hurdle the fence except for one of the fawns. The mother returned and we watched her and her fawn for a few moments before continuing to the starting point of this hill walk.

The chosen route commenced from near sea level and started to climb immediately so there was no warm up. Anyway it was warm enough in the morning sun. The path climbed up the south side of the Allt a'Mhuiseil and through a gap in the cliff face before the gradient eased. It was tough going in the heat but at this time of day we were on our own.

The gradient increased again and any trace of a breeze was welcomed. The summit was subsequently reached but the views of the Orkney Isles were obscured by cloud lying over the Pentland Firth. The views to the east were a bit hazy however the views of Arkle, Foinaven and the other western mountains, including the Quinag, were magnificent.

We sat at the summit cairn having something to eat looking towards Durness and Cape Wrath when we were interrupted by a hare running over the summit. I'm not sure if it even noticed us sitting there.

A fellow hill walker arrived at the summit and we spoke to him for a few moments before returning to Strath More by our route of ascent. We met several walkers struggling uphill in the heat, some of whom didn't look particularly healthy, especially in these warm conditions. One was stopping every hundred metres or so and wasn't even a quarter of the way to the top. I doubted if they would all see the summit trig point.

On reaching the car we drove to Ullapool where we were residing overnight.

Ben Hope Munro fourth ascent 927 metres

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Ben Klibreck

7 July 2005

photos taken on walk

I set off early to drive to Inverness to collect my client before continuing north to Strath Vagastie on the A836 Lairg to Tongue road with the intention of climbing the Munro, Ben Klibreck.

I had planned to start the walk at the footbridge just north of Vagastie and climb the Munro from there. However the River Vagastie was very low so we decided to take the slightly shorter route to the summit.

I parked my car about a kilometre north of the footbridge and we crossed the river with ease before heading across what would normally be boggy ground towards the south side of Loch na Glas-choille. The ground was in fact reasonably dry so progress across this section of moor wasn't a problem. There were traces of a path at times but they disappeared in what would have been bog.

On reaching the shore of Loch na Glas-choille we took a short break looking over the loch with Ben Loyal as a backdrop.

Once fed and watered we continued this time along the side of a fence to the north side of Loch nan Uan and then round to its east side. It was warm with a thin veil of cloud but Arkle and Foinaven to the west were becoming shrouded in cloud as were other mountains. Unfortunately the forecast was for a low to spread into the north-west.

From the east end of Loch nan Uan we climbed fairly steeply to the easy angled and moss covered A'Chrioch ridge. Finally a steeper ascent took us to the summit trig point of Meall nan Con, the actual summit of Ben Klibreck. The old trig point has been replaced so this is obviously one of the trig points Ordnance Survey intend to maintain.

The summit allowed us views over the Pentland Firth to the Orkney Isles, to nearby Ben Loyal and Ben Hope and across the Moray Firth to the Aberdeenshire and Moray coasts.

After another bite to eat we commenced our descent returning to Strath Vagastie by our route of ascent. As we approached the Lochs the summit of Ben Klibreck was in cloud so we obviously had the best of the day.

On returning to the car we then had a fairly long but scenic drive to our overnight accommodation in Durness.

Ben Klibreck Munro fourth ascent 961 metres

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Assynt Munros

24 May 2005

The start of this walk was at Inchnadamph, on the A837 road north of the Ledmore Junction, where there is a parking area near the entrance to the Hotel.

We crossed the road bridge over the River Traligill and walked passed the Inchnadamph Centre and a few cottages, disturbing around eight young stags sitting resting. Their velvet was very prominent as they only moved a few metres towards the river so we got fairly close to them.

We headed up Gleann Dubh on a reasonable path on the north side of River Traligill. Here I spotted a mountain blackbird (Ring Ouzel). The summit of Conival was covered in cloud at this time.

After an hour or so the path changed direction and became fairly boggy as we progressed uphill.

It was very calm and the cloud appeared to be lifting as we scrambled through a rocky outcrop towards the bealach. From here traces of a path led us up the north ridge initially on a steeper section before the path levelled out a bit and we reached the summit cairn of Conival. The cloud was definitely breaking up and we had views of Breabag and Glas Bheinn.

From Conival we descended its east rocky ridge as the last of the cloud dispersed and the sun came out. The ridge although narrowing in parts is easy to follow with a couple of knolls to go over before the final climb to the northern cairn of Ben More Assynt. Here we had lunch in the sun picking out various mountains.

Once lunch was finished we went over to the south cairn, although it is reported that the northern cairn is higher, before returning along the ridge to Conival. En-route we met a number of walkers heading towards Ben More Assynt.

The return route from Conival was by the ascent route and was uneventful other than to say that the afternoon warmed up nicely and the walk down Gleann Dubh was pleasant.

Conival Munro fourth ascent 987 metres
Ben More Assynt Munro fourth ascent 998 metres

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Quinag Corbetts

22 May 2005

We set off from Inverness and drove north through Ullapool to the A894 north of the Lochinver junction. There is a large lay-by on the east side of the road but on our arrival two mini-buses were parked there with in excess of 20 people commencing the ascent of the Corbett Spidean Coinich.

This was also my planned route so in consultation with my client it was decided to amend it so as to avoid this large group of walkers. Normally I find Corbetts very quiet especially this far north, but I later ascertained that the group were staying at the nearby Inchnadamph Centre.

We set off up the stalker's path that leads towards Lochan Bealach Cornaidh. The map shows the path stopping midway towards the Lochan but it in fact continues at least as far as the Lochan.

Once beyond the Lochan we climbed steeply up the south side of Sail Gharbh as the sun disappeared and was replaced by cloud. On approaching the trig point it started to rain so we didn't stay long there as it was cold and windy.

We walked along the ridge towards the 745 Point, bypassed it on its north-east side and headed out the south ridge of Sail Ghorm. The rain had ceased and it was now rather warm as we climbed to the summit cairn of Sail Ghorm. Here we ate lunch in the sun taking in the surrounding views, including Foinaven.

After lunch we returned along the south ridge this time going over the 745 Point to the Bealach a'Chornaidh. At this time the large group we had seen earlier were coming off Sail Gharbh and heading towards our Bealach. They were obviously not taking in the third Corbett and we had been fortunate to miss them on our route plan.

From the Bealach a'Chornaidh we climbed over the Point 713 before a narrower ascent to the summit of our third Corbett, Spidean Coinich. It was very dark and cloudy to the east with thunder and a flash of lightening. It however was very quiet on the actual summit with good views west to the Hebrides, Skye and the Summer Isles.

We descended the east ridge as rain threatened and lower down I disturbed a bird sitting on four eggs, which I was unable to identify. It started to rain as we crossed the lower section of the ridge which was a bit boggy.

Once back at the car we headed to our accommodation in Ullapool in heavy rain.

previous ascent

Sail Gharbh Corbett second ascent 808 metres
Sail Gorm Corbett second ascent 776 metres
Spidean Coinich Corbett second ascent 764 metres

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New Year Adventure

1 - 2 January 2005

We all met up at the Crask Inn near Altnaharra on the Friday evening to spend the weekend Corbett Bagging in the far north of Scotland. Well at least that was the plan, but as is the case in the winter months you don't always succeed.

There were no late night celebrations to bring in the New Year as breakfast was ordered for 8am so we were all in bed before 1am.

After breakfast we set off for the village of Tongue on the north coast and thereafter drove the couple of miles inland to the farm road end at Ribigill.

It was wet and windy as we set off along the farm road where we met the farmer feeding his stock. He made a comment about picking the wrong day for climbing the hills. Beyond the farm the track was muddy and as we crossed open ground the wind was very strong with driving rain. However the streams were easily crossed before we reached the derelict croft at Cunside.

This was to be the only shelter available on this walk so despite the building being used by sheep we decided to have something to eat and drink before we started to climb the hill.

Once we ventured outside again it was less windy and the rain had ceased. We joined a path up the side of a stream before climbing the east side of Ben Loyal. At one point the cloud cleared sufficiently to allow us to see the southern outline of the Orkney Isles. On this ascent Phil and Joyce showed how fit they were as they led the way. However it started to snow and as visibility was reduced, they had to stop on several occasions to wait for Janice and myself.

Once onto the ridge the snow became more of a nuisance as it was now heavier and blowing into our faces, as the wind increased. We reached the rocky section just below the summit of An Caisteal, the highest point on Ben Loyal, and searched for the easiest ascent route. The rock was by this time covered in snow with some icy patches so it was with care that we climbed to the summit trig point. There were no views but we had to wait while the ladies made use of their digital cameras.

The descent was uneventful and once lower down the snow stopped and we headed back to Cunside for a late lunch but this time it was rather cold in the building.

Once lunch was over we headed back along the track to the car arriving there as it was getting dark. Despite the weather it was a good day out on the hills.

The following morning was rather different. The wind was howling round the Crask Inn and it had been like this all night. Snow had also fallen and although it made the Inn picturesque it caused some drifting with difficult driving conditions.

Joyce made the decision to do a low level walk with relatives while Janice, Phil and myself drove to the Hope Road beside Altnaharra. With some difficulty we reached our destination and set off through a forest heading for Ben Hee. However on reaching the Meadie Burn we found that it was fairly wide and deep and made a decision not to attempt a crossing and returned to the car.

We decided instead to tackle Ben Klibreck, a Munro, so we drove to the footbridge north of Vagastie Farm in Strath Vagastie. Once across the River Vagastie we followed traces of what appeared to be a snow covered path that headed east from the river. It was still windy as we walked eastwards and we were confronted with frequent short snow showers. During a break in the showers we stopped to eat as it would be virtually impossible higher up in the wind and snow.

We walked up through the snow covered hillside to the bealach north of Cnoc Sgriodain. The wind was on our backs on this climb so it was just a plod through the snow but all changed as we approached the bealach. The wind was very strong blowing the snow around as we searched for the easiest route round the peat hags.

Suddenly an orange glow of the low sun appeared through the blowing snow and it was like a picture from the North Pole. Janice and Phil were just silhouettes in the horizontal driving snow. It was too wild to attempt to take a photograph so we will just have the memory. A high point on a difficult day in the mountains.

Once round the peat hags we climbed up towards Carn an Fheididh keeping to its west side due to the strong wind and cornices that were forming. We were getting buffeted about and progress was very slow along the side of the hill. After a while battling against these conditions, which weren't improving, we decided that the probability of reaching the summit in this weather and before light faded was very slim and turned about and headed back to the bealach.

The conditions around the bealach were worse by this time with very limited visibility as we negotiated the peat hags. Once we overcame this problem we descended by the route of ascent and around 3.45pm found some shelter for a very late lunch at the side of a burn. The last section of the walk was following the side of the burn back to the main road and the short drive to our accommodation at the Crask Inn.

Despite the terrible conditions both Janice and Phil claim they enjoyed this adventure, however I have yet to be convinced.

Our appreciation goes to Janice for organising this weekend in the wilds of Scotland, a pity she couldn't have organised better weather. Where to next Hogmanay Janice?

previous ascent of Ben Loyal

Ben Loyal Corbett second ascent 765 metres

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Trip to Far North

18 - 22 August 2004

I met Donald at the Assynt Centre at Inchnadamph where we were staying for a few days to bag some of the Far North Corbetts. The journey north was through some very heavy rain but on our arrival it was still dry. However this did not last as the rain started before we set off for the short drive to the start of the afternoon's stroll.

The starting point was at the north end of Loch Awe where a footbridge crosses the River Loanan. It was then a long ascent of the south-east ridge of Canisp where higher up it was fairly windy. On reaching the summit in cloudy wet and windy conditions we just took a bearing, turned around and walked off the hill down the ascent route.

The next morning we drove round to Achfary and visited the Reay Forest Estate Office to check out the stalking restrictions on our planned route.

On receiving the all clear we drove to the south end of Loch Stack and donned our waterproofs before setting off along the track to Lone. The rain was heavy at times with a strong wind. The level of the water in the streams was very high after heavy overnight rain. We then took the track up the side of the Allt Horn, which was spectacular in spate, before branching off and following a burn north. Conditions were difficult with a strong head wind and driving rain and conversation was impossible.

The burn took us close to the 758 point and on locating the cairn we commenced a traverse of the ridge. This traverse became impossible as we were unable to move due to the strong wind blowing up out of the corrie. A slight descent to the west allowed us to traverse along the ridge and a climb to the summit of Arkle. The return was by the ascent route but there was no improvement in the weather.

The following day we planned to climb Foinaven but due to the forecast of strong winds we decided to avoid the approach from the south with its narrow ridge.

We set off from the A838 at Gualin House having checked out the previous evening that no stalking was taking place. We headed up Srath Dionard and had only been walking for about ten minutes when the occupants of a Landrover pick-up stopped and spoke to us. The driver was part owner of the Estate and together with his wife and gamekeeper were heading up the the glen to do some fishing. We were offered a lift which we accepted and during the journey the gamekeeper explained that he had worked this Estate for 16 years and that the river levels the previous day were the highest he had ever seen.

We were dropped off near the stream coming out of Coire Duail and followed this stream up into the Coire and onto Coire Leacaich before climbing up onto Foinaven's ridge. It was just a short walk along the ridge to the summit known as Ganu Mor. Here it was cold, wet, windy and covered in cloud so we headed off over Ceann Garbh, round Cnoc a'Mhadaidh and picked up the track and walked back to the start.

On the Saturday, Douglas, who had come north the previous day, and I set off for Beinn Leoid. The starting point was the A838 south of Kinloch where a good stalker's path took us up onto the bealach. From here we climbed some rough and rocky ground onto the summit of Meallan a'Chuail where we took a break amongst some spectacular views and for a change we had some sun.

The descent was by the west ridge before a steady climb onto Beinn Leoid. It was cooler here and was obvious that we would get wet shortly as a shower of rain was heading our way. We headed back to the bealach as a hail shower passed and we traversed below Meallan a'Chuail in rain showers. This traverse isn't as easy as it appears on the map and was fairly time consuming. However once we reached the stalker's path we made good progress back to the car once again in the sun.

At tea time that day I set off from the Salmon Hatchery on the A837 south of Inchnadamph up a good path to below the caves. Unfortunately it was very still here and the midges were attacking me at every opportunity. Once beyond the caves I headed up onto Breabag but it was cloud covered by the time I reached the summit. I returned to the track beside the caves and back to the Salmon Hatchery.

The final Corbett for the weekend was Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill. The start was on the A838 at Kinloch and a private road to Aultanrynie. From here I followed a stalker's path up onto the Meallan Liath Beag ridge which undulates before climbing onto the east ridge. I firstly walked out to Carn Dearg to take in some views on the best day of the trip. It had been mainly sunny with no rain. I returned along the ridge and finally climbed to the summit trig point of Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill. Here I rested in the sun, although when the wind dropped the midges swarmed round me.

The return was down the south ridge, over some peat bogs to the Allt an Reinidh. The underfoot conditions were a bit tricky but once across this stream I joined the stalker's path used in the morning and followed it and the private road back to the start and the end of the trip to the Far North.

Canisp Corbett first ascent 847 metres
Arkle Corbett first ascent 787 metres
Foinaven (Ganu Mor) Corbett first ascent 914 metres
Meallan a'Chual Graham first ascent 750 metres
Beinn Leoid Corbett first ascent 792 metres
Breabag Corbett first ascent 815 metres
Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill Corbett first ascent 801 metres

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North-West Corbetts

30 April - 3 May 2004

After an overnight stop in Inverness a couple of friends and I set off for the North-West of Scotland in rain and strong winds, hoping that the conditions would improve.

The weather conditions did improve and a couple of hours later we reached the starting point for the day's walk, which was the south end of Loch Stack. We walked along the track to Lone and up the side of the Allt Horn. The cloud base was rising and this allowed us to view the rocky southern approach to Arkle which was one of the day's options had the weather been better. Arkle and the adjoining Foinaven are best climbed on a clear day to appreciate their ridges and views.

Once higher up we headed onto Creagan Meall Horn before ascending Meall Horn as the clouds lifted from the tops to allow us some views. The wind was rather strong and cold so after a short break we headed down Creachan Thormaid and back to the start. We stopped occasionally to view Foinaven's narrow south ridge as the cloud that shrouded it lifted.

The accommodation for the next few nights was the quaint Durness Youth Hostel where the warden, Cameron, makes you welcome. However there is no heating in the dormitories so ensure you have sufficient warm clothing. When not looking after his hostellers Cameron can be found trying to transform waste ground into a garden. It was interesting watching him trying to plant potatoes with a pick-axe.

On the Saturday a group of us set off to climb Ben Loyal. From Ribigill Farm, south of Tongue, we walked along the track, which later became a path, to Cunside followed by a climb up onto Sgurr Chaonasaid. The final section was a short scramble to the rocky summit where good views were had of the surrounding sea and mountains. A short walk took us to the true summit of Ben Loyal, An Caisteal. The morning sun was disappearing behind the clouds as we returned to our vehicles at Ribigill.

The next day it was cloudy with showers as we set off from Carbreck along the track to Rhigolter with the intention of climbing the two most northerly Corbetts, Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh.

Once beyond Rhigolter we climbed up the side of a stream to the bealach between these two Corbetts before heading, in low cloud, first for Cranstackie. The final ascent to this hill is rather rocky and it was very windy on the summit so there was no point in hanging about. We returned to the bealach and climbed Beinn Spionnaidh, which also has a rocky summit. The return was down the west ridge and back to the main road at Carbreck.

The final day in the north-west saw me climbing Ben Hee. The start was at a house called West Merkland and in rain I headed off up the track to the Allt Coir' a' Chruiteir. I followed the stalker's path up the side of this stream as the rain became sleet and then snow. However after about an hour in these conditions the snow stopped and the cloud began to break up to reveal snow clad summits, and it was May. An easy ascent, made difficult by the snow, took me to the summit of Ben Hee and occasional views of the surrounding scenery including Ben Hope and Ben Loyal.

The return was by the ascent route and by the time I returned to my car my waterproof clothing had begun to dry out.

Meall Horn Corbett first ascent 731 metres
Ben Loyal Corbett first ascent 765 metres
Cranstackie Corbett first ascent 800 metres
Beinn Spionnaidh Corbett first ascent 772 metres
Ben Hee Corbett first ascent 873 metres

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Assynt

20 - 21 September 2003

The weather forecast looked good for the weekend so I headed up to the north-west of Scotland where some of the most scenic Corbetts are located. This is probably due to their rugged appearance and their proximity to the sea.

The first day I went to Quinag which has three Corbetts. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t as good as the forecasters predicted with some early rain. The first summit was approached in low cloud which cleared as I reached the summit cairn to give me good views especially out towards Lochinver. A long walk out to Sail Gorm, the most northerly of the three Corbetts took me over a variety of terrain. Unfortunately it also took me back into the clouds but these cleared later. A return back along the ridge and a walk out to the trig point took me to the third Corbett of the day. A descent down to Lochan Bealach Cornaidh and an easy descent down a path took me back to the day’s starting point.

An overnight camp at the side of the road and an early start allowed me to bag the Corbett Glas Bheinn before coffee time. This involved a steep climb at the start watched by a herd of deer. Due to the strong wind I got surprisingly close to them before they ran off. Once higher up the walking was a lot easier although I had to fight against the wind, so had the ptarmigan that I disturbed.

The morning was still young so I drove down to the Achiltibuie road and walked up the path to Lochan Fhionnlaidh before climbing steeply up onto the summit of Cul Beag. The wind was still very strong so I didn’t stay long on the summit and dropped down to the road and back to the car for the homeward journey.

This was an interesting venture into the Assynt Corbetts but I was surprised by the number of fellow walkers, including a family and some youngsters that I saw on the Quinag. Quinag on a good clear day must have some spectacular views.

Spidean Coinich Corbett first ascent 764 metres
Sail Gorm Corbett first ascent 776 metres
Sail Gharbh Corbett first ascent 808 metres
Glas Bheinn Corbett first ascent 776 metres
Cul Beag Corbett first ascent 769 metres

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