Coigach, Assynt and Sutherland

I got back late yesterday from four days based at Elphin in North-West Scotland with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors walking and mountaineering team of John, Craig, Gillian, Gillian, Linda, Neil, Olesya and Ruby. It was billed as a winter trip, but there are currently only small amounts of snow in the area mostly on north and east facing aspects above 800m in significant collection features and around coire rims.

Linda and Ruby on the traverse of Stac Pollaidh with Cul Beag behind.

We had generally dry conditions with moderate to strong warm south-east to south-west winds. This meant dry rock away from major seepage lines and we made the most of the distinctly summer conditions.

The climbing team, minus John, at the end of a good day at Reiff. Photo credit: Gillian Millar.

On Thursday a combined group did the classic east to west scramble traverse of Stac Pollaidh to the true west top after driving up from Falkirk. On Friday the mountaineers climbed Lurgainn Edge on Cul Beag including the avoidable Difficult crux at the top, whilst the walkers traversed Cul Beag and Cul Mor covering some rough and remote country and a lot of ascent. On a windy Saturday we headed further north with the mountaineers climbing Dionard Rib on Cranstackie, which gave a very good ascent on excellent rough gneiss, and the walkers visiting Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh (the most northerly Corbett). On Sunday a team had a half day at the Reiff sea cliffs climbing routes on The Pinnacle and Pinnacle Walls area and Craig and Ruby completed an excellent round of Beinn an Eoin. All in all a great trip in good company to an incredibly beautiful area.

Assynt and Coigach

The last three days I’ve been in the North-West Highlands with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors High Tops team of Billy, Linda, Rebekah and Wilson. We were based at the Inchnadamph Lodge Hostel and after travelling up on Monday we walked from the hostel to ascend Conival and Ben More Assynt returning over Conival.

Rebekah, Billy and Wilson on Conival with Foinavon in the far background.

On Tuesday we traversed Cul Mor and Cul Beag starting and finishing from near Knockan Crag. We ascended the East Ridge of Cul Mor over Meall Diomhain and descended the East Ridge of Cul Beag over Meall Dearg. This isn’t a huge day in terms of distance, but covers a lot of pathless rough ground between Cul Mor and Cul Beag, requires accurate navigation and has a couple of river crossings that might be difficult if the rivers were in spate. As a reference point if you’re thinking about this route we took 9 hours 40 minutes road to road at a good steady walking pace in wet conditions.

On Wednesday we drove around through Achiltibuie and climbed Sgurr an Fhidhleir and Ben More Coigach. With a forecast of relatively high winds and heavy showers we chose to do head up and down between the Allt a’Choire Reidh and the Allt nan Coisiche rather than ascend over the West Top of Ben More Coigach. This worked well on the day and the cloud even lifted on our descent to give views to Loch Broom and out to The Summer Isles.

The team in cloud on the summit of Sgurr an Fhidhleir.

Monday was dry, but there were heavy and sometimes prolonged showers on Tuesday and Wednesday. The ground and crags in the area are currently wet and any crags that suffer from seepage will take a few days to dry.

A good trip to a beautiful area, in great company taking in two Munros on Monday, two Corbetts on Tuesday and two Grahams on Wednesday, which has a pleasing sort of symmetry. I’ll put more photos on the ClimbNow Facebook page.

 

Fannichs and Assynt

Jen and I are back from a few days up North. After staying with friends in Inverness on Thursday we headed to Achnasheen on Friday and walked up Fionn Bheinn, returning via the coire rims of Toll Mor and Toll Beag. There was steady rain for the early part of the day and cloud coming and going.

Old snow on the coire rim of Toll Mor, Fionn Bheinn.

Old snow on the coire rim of Toll Mor, Fionn Bheinn.

We then stayed in the excellent Kylesku Hotel before heading up Quinag on Saturday and taking in Spidean Coinich, Sail Gorm and Sail Gharbh. The weather was unfortunately worse than forecast, with cloud for most of the day. However, we had a good walk on an excellent hill with the occasional glimpse of the stunning views.

Jen enjoying a short scrambling section on Quinag.

Jen enjoying a short scrambling section on Quinag.

On Sunday we took in Cul Mor on the way back South. This time the weather was better than originally forecast with just the odd heavy rain and hail shower, but lots of sunshine. After taking in the summit we wandered around to Creag nan Calman, which gave great views, before descending it’s East ridge and across the coire to regain the outward route on Meallan Diomhain. Three great days in beautiful countryside with excellent hospitality.

Stac Pollaidh and Loch Scionascaig from Creag nan Calman.

Stac Pollaidh and Loch Sionascaig from Creag nan Calman.

Summer Isles Sea Kayaking

The last week Jen and I have been based up at Reiff with Jim and Jules and Ruaraidh from Norwest Sea Kayaking. On the way up Jen and I broke the journey with a stop at Strathpeffer and a quick walk up Cnoc Mor and along the Cat’s Back ridge. This little hill gives great views to the surrounding hills and coast.

Beinn nan Caorach and Ben Mor Coigach

Beinn nan Caorach and Ben Mor Coigach

On the Monday there was a fairly strong wind, which seemed to constantly shift to be in to our faces. However, after setting off from Badenscallie we visited the islands of Meall nan Gabhar, Horse Island, Carn nan Sgeir, Eilean Dubh and Tanera Mor before returning to our starting point.

The kayaks in a bay on Tanera Beg

The kayaks in a bay on Tanera Beg

Tuesday saw us leaving Old Dornie and heading South down the coast before crossing to Tanera Mor and stopping in to have a look at the old herring processing buildings. We then headed north around the island and out via Eilean Fada Beag and Mor before stopping for lunch and a walk up to the high point of Tanera Beg. After lunch we kayaked back up through Caolas a’Mhill Ghaibh and had a chat with the some of the guys on a Bear Grylls survival course before returning to Old Dornie. On Tuesday evening I went for a run up Meall an Fheadain. This small hill, which sits east of the Altandhu to Polbain road, gives stunning views of the area and has a small slabby crag on the west side of the summit, which gave some delightful easy climbing.

The view from a cave on Rubha Coigeach

The view from a cave on Rubha Coigeach

Wednesday was a beautiful sunny day and we used it to kayak around the Rubha Coigeach peninsula from Achnahaird Bay to Reiff. This was an excellent way of seeing the main climbing areas of Reiff and we were lucky enough to get an excellent view of a sea eagle along the coast.

On Thursday we set off from Old Dornie again, but this time visited Isle Ristol, Eilean Mullargach, Glas-leac Mor and Sgeir Dhubh before heading back to a sandy bay on Isle Ristol to try some rolling practice. Pete who’d been staying with us, but not coming out in the kayaks, had made use of the good weather and spent the week walking up Ben Mor Coigach, Sgurr an Fhidleir and Ben nan Caorach; walking around the Rubha Coigeach peninsula; walking up Cul Beag and cycling to Lochinver.

Jules, Jen, Jim and Ruaraidh with Cul Mor, Stac Pollaidh and Cul Beag behind.

Jules, Jen, Jim and Ruaraidh with Cul Mor, Stac Pollaidh and Cul Beag behind.

Jim and Pete headed off early on Friday and Jen, Ruaraidh and I made for Ardmair. From there we kayaked north and then west along the coast underneath the Postman’s Path before cutting back south to Isle Martin and around its west coast in beautiful sunshine. After a last lunch stop on Isle Martin we paddled back to Ardmair.

An excellent week in a stunning area with good company and some very kind weather.

North-West Sea Stacks, Cragging and Walking

The last three days I’ve been away with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors trip to the North-West of Scotland. After meeting up with the rest of the group in Aviemore on Monday morning we headed up to our base for the trip at the excellent Inchnadamph Hostel. A quick turnaround at the hostel and we dropped the walking group of Craig, Anne, Cath, Isobel, Lorn and Wilson off to do a traverse of Breabag. The climbers then headed to the Point of Stoer and the target for the day of the classic sandstone sea stack of the Old Man of Stoer.

The Old Man of Stoer

The Old Man of Stoer

There were several parties on the stack, so we asked permission to use their Tyrolean to get John across and then set up our own to the Southern side of the stack. Once across Gayle and Iona climbed with John, whilst Graeme and Tam climbed with myself with both teams climbing The Original Route.

Iona and Gayle just below the top of the Old Man of Stoer

Iona and Gayle just below the top of the Old Man of Stoer

On Tuesday we dropped the walkers off to complete an unusual full traverse of Quinag, which several described afterwards as their best day walking in the hills. The climbers headed North and walked in towards the beautiful Sandwood Bay. We cut off before the bay itself and descended steeply to the base of the cliffs near Am Buachaille.

Am Buachaille from near the base of our descent

Am Buachaille from near the base of our descent

After a change it to wet suits, a slippy boulder traverse and a short swim we climbed the second classic sandstone sea stack of the trip, Am Buachaille. We climbed this via The Original Route.

John, Graeme and Tam crossing the channel to Am Buachaille

John, Graeme and Tam crossing the channel to Am Buachaille

The rock is more friable than on The Old Man of Stoer, the climbing is bolder and there’s more loose rock on ledges, so care is definitely required.

John leading the first pitch on Am Buachaille

John leading the first pitch on Am Buachaille

A good look at tide tables and a fairly quick ascent is also needed to avoid a long swim. However, on the day we had plenty of time and the swim with the tides we had was no more than 8m.

Graeme and Tam on the second belay ledge on Am Buachaille

Graeme and Tam on the second belay ledge on Am Buachaille

On Wednesday I got up to drop the walkers off for a traverse of Cul Mor and then the climbers had a more relaxed day at Reiff, where we climbed a range of routes, mostly on bottom ropes, up to E3 5c.

Graeme bottom roping Pop-out at Reiff

Graeme bottom roping Pop-out at Reiff

We had sunshine and dry weather throughout although it was windy and cool on the tops at times.