Petestack Blog

28 July 2013

Back of beyond

Filed under: Cycling,Running — admin @ 11:58 am

Mullach na Dheiragain’s not the sort of hill you climb by accident. Being a long way from anywhere, you have to really want it, and I did!

Having made a complete traverse of the Carn Eige range from Toll Creagach to the twin tops of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan one big winter weekend in 2008, I was left wanting this single awkward Munro and the remaining Tops of Gleann Sithidh till it finally dawned on me that they were appropriately accessible from the west by cycling into Iron Lodge. So that’s what I did yesterday, with just two points of real note to report:

  1. When leaving the main road at Ardelve (opposite side of Loch Long from Dornie), don’t do as I did and drive as far as you can to Camas-luinie because that puts some tortuously overgrown single-track with multiple gates between you and the main track up Glen Elchaig. Far better to go in by the Inverinate Estate sign for Killilan a mile-and-a-half earlier (good track all the way), which is how I came back out again!
  2. Not even in ‘The Year of the Cleg’ 2013 have I experienced continuous cleg torture to match the Iron Lodge afternoon shift, with 10% action to 90% swatting and attempted evasion probably a generous estimate of my usable time as I struggled to pack my camera, throw on my helmet and cycle off without even stopping to dig out my gloves!

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24 July 2013

The lost Top of Aonach Beag?

Filed under: Running — admin @ 9:56 pm

Looking for a ‘quick’ local objective today with the (as yet unfulfilled) threat of thundery showers later, I chose a run over the Aonachs with three main aims in mind:

  1. Do Aonach Mor’s subsidiary eastern ridge for its Tops that have been irking me for years as my only unticked Munro Tops for many miles around.
  2. Revisit Sgurr a’ Bhuic as ‘insurance’ against having it ticked for umpteen years with no recollection of when I actually did it.
  3. Visit the supposed new Top of Aonach Beag recorded by Andy Nisbet and Dave McGimpsey on their route Munro’s Last Ridge in February 2003.

So here’s how it panned out:

  1. That eastern ridge is probably the ‘best’ way up Aonach Mor, opening up fine prospects of the East Face cliffs before narrowing for Stob an Cul Choire and finally landing you close to the summit cairn.
  2. Think I probably have done Sgurr a’ Bhuic before, but 100% sure now and it’s a good wee Top!
  3. Afraid that new Top’s the sort of thing that’s getting deleted rather than listed these days. While it’s reasonably, if somewhat wishfully, described in SMCJ 2003 (see quote below), I’d say it’s just too close to the parent peak for the minimal (max. 10m?) reascent and, if that’s a Top, so (to give some appropriate local comparisons) are the Great Tower on the Ben and final pinnacle of Carn Dearg Meadhonach’s eastern ridge. For the interested, however, I descended pretty well direct to it (described as ‘walking’ in the FA description, but chossy/slippery enough in summer conditions to require considerable care in trail shoes!) before crossing a snowfield (yes, on 24 July!) to access a nice grassy rake leading back up to the easy top part of the North-East Ridge, which would retrospectively also have been an easier way down. Might add that, with the ‘large rounded summit’ (at c.1,035m) also being visible from the top of Aonach Beag and over by Stob Coire Bhealaich (which I’d also have to rate a dubious Top!), it’s surely obvious enough to have been considered and rejected before?

So that’s all for now, having enjoyed a good ‘wee’ expedition (longer than you might think at over 11 miles!) with an exploratory edge, but IMHO no lost Munro Top. To quote Simon Richardson in SMCJ 2003, however:

The vast east face of Aonach Beag saw one of the most interesting ascents of the season when Andy Nisbet and Dave McGimpsey climbed a long Grade II ridge-line to the left of the classic North-East Ridge. Remarkably, this led to an unrecorded Munro Top. Andy Nisbet explained later that the “face is so huge that the easier upper section of the ridge contained a large rounded summit with as much of a drop as some of the smaller Tops. Now named Munro’s Last Ridge, it might see lots of ascents from folk updating their Tops. We’ll have to get it in the next edition of Munro’s Tables!”

Who said exploratory mountaineering in Scotland is dead?

Might also admit (‘exploratory mountaineering’?) to starting my run from the top of the gondola, but offer the simple defence that I’ve done the Aonachs often enough without that helping hand to need no defending there! ;-)


21 July 2013


Filed under: Running,Walking — admin @ 3:31 pm

Two days on from my wet day on Sgurr Mor, pretty well next door (but even ‘wester’) in Knoydart and how hot and dry can it get?

While I’m posting this under ‘Running’ (no ‘Walking’ category, see?), it was never going to be a running trip with much rough ground to cover in sweltering conditions and an overnight pack, but perhaps I did just break into a bit of a jog on the return from Barrisdale to Kinloch Hourn yesterday with escape from the oven in mind…

So, 22 years after my only previous ascent of Ladhar Bheinn (following the lowly ‘new route’ of Strider’s Gully in February 1991), I was back to finish the Knoydart Munros and Tops. Which, to summarise a big two-day outing from Kinloch Hourn, took me into Barrisdale and round the rim of Coire Dhorrcail (not forgetting the slight dogleg of Ladhar Bheinn’s summit ridge!) from Druim a’ Choire Odhair to Stob a’ Chearcaill before crossing Mam Barrisdale to Luinne Bheinn, where I camped at c.800m before leaving most of the gear in the tent for the long, early morning (but still oppressively hot) out-and-back to Meall Buidhe and picking it up again to bag the fine, big Corbett of Sgurr a’ Choire-bheithe on my return. Hard to pick highlights (or lowlights) from all that, but Knoydart cairns seem to attract ravens, I’m not sure I’ve ever sweated and drunk so much (literally gallons!) on the hill, so-called ‘tick-proofing’ with long trousers tucked into socks simply encourages a tick or ten to sneak down and hitch a ride home on your ankles, the temperature inversion over Lochan nam Breac and Loch Quoich yesterday morning was quite spellbinding and I really didn’t expect to meet another walker (who’d camped even higher than me) coming across from Meall Buidhe at 6:15 am! Beyond that, just what can I say? It was hot, it was dry and (despite all the drinking) I’m still 1.9kg down on Friday morning today, but just look at the photos… it was great!

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17 July 2013


Filed under: Running — admin @ 10:07 pm

Into the lonely country between Loch Arkaig and Loch Quoich today for Munro Sgurr Mor and its Corbett partner Sgurr an Fhuarain, with waterproofs worn all day and the camera never leaving its drybag. So perhaps I misjudged the weather (‘cloudy’ forecast but sunny when I left home) and certainly regretted wearing specs instead of contacts, but just had to get on with it (quite enjoyed it really) when there’s no way I was returning empty-handed from driving the queasy Loch Arkaig single-track rollercoaster! Saw neither peaks (which never cleared despite the brightening afternoon) nor other walkers, though I did pass a bike stashed just above the road on my return. So overall a good (wet) day even if the van reeked of (dogless) ‘wet dog’ on the way home!

13 July 2013

Sweat, clegs and northern Munros

Filed under: Running — admin @ 1:28 pm

So they keep telling us on the radio what lovely weather it is, but who’d say that while not just caught somewhere between frying and boiling on the hills but fighting off wave after wave of cleg attack?

Arriving at Inchnadamph at c.1:45pm (?) on Wednesday, I sweated my way up Conival, Ben More Assynt and the latter’s south top before retracing my steps over Ben More and contouring Conival (probably no quicker than reascending, but divertingly different!) to run back the same way.

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On Thursday I almost got a head start on the sun by starting up Ben Hope not long after 7:00am (?), but was still cooking soon enough. And, while the ‘narrow northern ridge’ recommended by Irvine Butterfield as ‘by far the best way up’ might initially have seemed underwhelmingly broad and unexciting, there was no mistaking the ’30ft section of steep rock [which] gives spectacular scrambling’ when it finally arrived. For sure it’s avoidable by a gully (just left of centre in the ‘hope2’ photo) for those phased by the prospect of (allegedly) V Diff above a huge drop, but you simply can’t have your cake and eat it by dodging the exposure on the actual step. So the path peters out rightwards above the void (bigger/steeper than anything you can see in the ‘hope4’ photo taken from just above the nose) and a fall from the starting moves would surely kill you, but working back up and slightly leftwards from that dizzy stance (where the ‘direct’ route referenced elsewhere might or might not take the hideous right wall?) quickly brings a series of smaller steps and ledges at maybe (don’t take my word for it!) Mod or Diff…

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So that was Ben Hope and, having descended past an increasing stream of walkers missing its (to me, unexpected) grandeur by toiling up the normal ‘tourist’ route, the obvious analogy that springs to mind is Ben Nevis north face vs. pony track. But, with the sun up and Ben Klibreck still in my sights for the same day, I was quickly heading back up the road to collect my van and move on.

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Not really got much to say about Ben Klibreck except to endorse Butterfield’s assessment as ‘a bland hill’, though one redeemed (as so often with otherwise duller hills) by much runnable terrain and, being as isolated as any northern peak, another splendid viewpoint. And I met just two others (one of whom took my trig-point photo) on this madly hot afternoon (NB long trousers and sleeves for insect/sun protection, though I did take off the hat to run down!).

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And so to Am Faochagach yesterday morning, which was now (spot the theme to this trip/blog post?) my last unclimbed Munro/Top north of the Ullapool road… and thank goodness I’ll never have to do Am Faochagach again! Dull as ditchwater and a long way from the Glascarnoch Dam (which route still looked a better ‘run’ than the shorter, potentially more awkward alternative from the west end of the loch), though perhaps partially redeemed by splendid views of the ‘Deargs’, Seana Bhraigh, Ben Wyvis, Fannichs and An Teallach, it’s surely never going to be anyone’s favourite and I was surprised to pass one walker on his way up over Tom Ban Mor as I ran down to complete the 14+ mile traipse by c.10:15am. So who wants to climb Am Faochagach at all, let alone on a day like this? Apparently not just me… though at least I got it out of the way quickly (5:50am start) and almost cheated the sun this time!

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8 July 2013

Celtman support and Beinn Eighe

Filed under: Running — admin @ 6:00 pm

Quite a tough weekend in Torridon, supporting Robin Deroeck on the closing run of the very tough Celtman! Extreme Scottish Triathlon on Saturday and making a complete traverse of Beinn Eighe yesterday…

With Saturday starting seriously windy even at sea level (causing problems enough for the swimming and cycling legs!) and deteriorating with the arrival of forecast rain to ‘survival’ conditions on the mountain, the race organisers took the sensible decision to close the ‘high level’ course over Beinn Eighe with just 11 of 125 (?) starters through and divert everyone else to the ‘low level’ alternative round the back of Liathach. But this was still ‘character-building’ enough with the heavy rain arriving just as we made the Torridon road after a pleasant run on easy track/trail from Achnashellach via the Coulin Pass and Lochs Coulin and Clair, and Robin did well to hang on through atrocious conditions on quite ‘un-Belgian’ technical trail for an excellent 21st place.

Now, what a difference a day makes… and what better way to follow up a tough trail marathon than the traverse of Beinn Eighe (sole member of the Torridon ‘big three’ I’d never done) in conditions as good as the previous day’s were bad? So, after attending Sunday morning’s prizegiving to see my runner and his support-crew family (father, mother and wife) with whom I’d spent most of Saturday driving round the 202 km cycle route, I left my van near the T2A race checkpoint and made an unrecommendable beeline for the summit of Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe (dodging much of the scree via heather tongues till it became purgatorially continuous towards the top) before heading out over the Black Carls to the deleted Munro Top of Creag Dhubh and back to traverse the ridge all the way to Sail Mhor, back to the reigning peak of Ruadh-stac Mor (also taking the bad step of Ceum Grannda in both directions when it might have been better to reverse the peak order here) and down by the stupendous Coire Mhic Fhearchair, where I could hear but not see climbers somewhere on the Triple Buttresses. And that was that, with tired legs and feet tempting me home for a break from ‘van’ living when my original plan had involved staying for a repeat traverse of Liathach to mop up the tricky and rarely-done Top of Meall Dearg. But not to worry when it’s been there for thousands of years and should still be there for me ‘next time’ with Torridon not really so very far up the road! ;-)

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[Sorry no photos from Saturday’s rain!]

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