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.

 

Storm Gertrude, An Teallach, Coire an t-Sneachda, The Fannichs and Stac Pollaidh

The last four days I’ve been based near Braemore Junction with Alex and Doug. The plan was for some classic winter ridge traverses and some ice climbing. Storm Gertrude certainly lived up to the last four letters of her name and we had to duck and dive a bit.

Doug on An Teallach

Doug on An Teallach

Originally Thursday looked like the best forecast for the area, although it wasn’t great with fairly high winds and snow/rain, so we decided to have a look at the traverse of An Teallach. Strong winds and driving spindrift on Sail Liath meant we nipped around the back and traversed before climbing a good Grade II gully to regain the ridge near the end of the pinnacles. We then carried on along the ridge over Sgurr Fiona and Bidein a Ghlas Thuill before taking the path from the col with Sron a’Coire to avoid any significant river crossings as the burns were in spate.

Alex and Doug on the An Teallach Traverse

Alex and Doug on the An Teallach Traverse

The winds were forecast very high on Friday, but with a distinct lull in the afternoon and better weather further East, so we decided on a post noon start in to Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms. The forecast lull never seemed to arrive and we ended up climbing The Slant and descending in pretty wild conditions, with gusts requiring us to get an ice axe in and lie down until they passed through.

Alex and Doug looking up a gully on Stac Pollaidh

Alex and Doug looking up a gully on Stac Pollaidh

The forecast had worsened for Saturday, with winds of 40 to 50mph predicted for sea level in Ullapool and fairly constant precipitation. We decided on a rest day and spent the morning in the gear shop and cafes in Ullapool, although I did venture out in to the Fannichs to check out a low crag in the afternoon.

Alex and Doug on the true western summit of Stac Pollaidh with The Summer Isles behind.

Alex and Doug on the true western summit of Stac Pollaidh with The Summer Isles behind.

Today the winds were finally down, precipitation was showers only and the freezing level was 300 to 400m. With one eye on Alex’s flight time from Inverness we needed a short day and opted for the East to West winter traverse of Stac Pollaidh. This gave an excellent day. Information is surprisingly sparse on this route. We followed the description from the Highland Scrambles North book, which is for summer scrambling. There was soft snow from 300m, the turf was well frozen and we took in two main cruxes. The first crux was leaving the notch just after the eastern summit and the second was the Difficult vertical tower before the true western summit, which I climbed by a rising rightwards turfy traverse and Alex and Doug climbed direct with gloves on snowy rock and a rope above them. We then returned to the col, abseiling around the vertical tower on the way, and descended to the north. For what it’s worth doing the traverse this way and in those conditions felt about Grade III. We had some snow showers and cloud, but also great views to the surrounding hills, the Summer Isles and the Western Isles.

Suilven and Loch Sionascaig from Stac Pollaidh.

Suilven, Canisp and Loch Sionascaig from Stac Pollaidh.

There was fresh snow down to road level for pretty much all the drive back as far as Perth, although tomorrow’s weather will change things considerably.

I’ll add some more photos to the Climbnow Facebook page tomorrow.