Applecross – Highs and Lows?

Yesterday I was lucky to get a day out in the mountains with an old pal Dan Carrol and a keen young climber Ant who lives locally in my village at Burghead.   I had managed Ben Wyvis last week but felt very rough after it taking a few days to recover . We had planned to go to Applecross up on the West Coast and maybe climb the Classic Cioch Nose depending on how the weather was and how I felt. It is just under a month since my last operation  and I have still got a drain in so I would see how it went.  There must have been a party in the village as it was a bit noisy in the street and my sleep was broken for most of the night. The forecast for the  West was not bad and Dan and Ant arrived at 0730 it was a dreich morning as we left.

The descent gully from the start of the ridge!

The descent gully from the start of the ridge!

The weather improved though as we drove West and the drive up to Beleach Na Ba at Applecross is worth the journey alone. Ant is so keen to climb and is chasing lots of classic routes and was just back from Eagles Ridge on Lochnagar and so enthusiastic, we had a great chat about climbs, even Dan was speaking about routes. This road to Applecross is an incredible series of hairpin bends through wild scenery to me very reminiscent of Wales it also takes you up to over 600 metres with outstanding views. This is some place extremely isolated, Applecross was only accessible by boat until the early 20th century, and for many years after that the only road access was over one of Scotland’s most notoriously treacherous roads, the Beleach na Ba(‘Pass of the Cattle’), which crosses the peninsula and reaches a maximum height of 2053 ft (626 m), below the 774 m high  Sgurr a Chaorachain. The settlement is now connected via a winding coastal road which travels around the edge of the peninsula to Shieldag and Torridon. The road skirts the shore of the Inner Sound and Loch Torridon. The view from the car park at Beleach na Ba is one of the best of Skye and the Islands a place of great beauty!


Misty Applecross

Misty Applecross above the descent Gully

It was misty and cold when we parked at the top of the road what a great start and then followed the road to the transmitter at the top of the hill. This is a great viewpoint and has its own weather station so it gives you a great idea of what the actual weather is doing. It is a short walk to the summit and then the descent gully. We were still in a bit of mist and put on helmets for the steep descent as it is loose and a bit wet.  ” How often do we descend steep ground with helmets in our bag?” I had very light weight boots on and the wrong choice for me for the day and felt that I had little confidence in my feet  It is a steep descent about 1000 feet and I felt it very much my thighs were sore and I felt rough. The sun came out and we were in a wonderful Corrie a Chaorachain.

The ridge looking towards the Cioch

The ridge looking towards the Cioch at the end of the photo.

We wandered down the Corrie from the Gully  and tried to remember the best way up to the start ledge for the climb. We started to scramble up  to the ledge the ground was wet and very  slippy and I asked for rope but struggled on the slimy grassy and managed to get up to Dan but after more problems decided this was not for me today. Poor Ant thought that was it but I lowered off and left them to it. I felt terrible no energy and totally drained it was the right decision. The midges were so bad I kept walking and found the easier way to the start of the climb but still felt so weak. I wander back into the Corrie taking it all in and had a break in a breeze ate and drank a bit  and felt a bit better. I was so disappointed but my body has been through a lot recently so I was in a great place with wonderful views so I told myself to get a grip and enjoy!

Wonderful Corrie a' Chaorachain

Wonderful Corrie a’ Chaorachain

I decided to try to gain the ridge onto the main ridge onto Sgurr a’ Chaorachain, it is a wild corrie. I was a bit worried about my footwear on the steep ground but I had a bit of time and needed to get on the hill. I stopped at the Loch and saw an old Antler in the Loch. I left it there as it was pretty old!


Antler in the Loch

Antler in the Loch.

I had great views and took my time coming across two stags with their antlers covered in velvet.  They had a stare and wandered off. There was a bit of loose rock after the heavy rain but slowly I made the main ridge the views from  here are outstanding of the neigbouring Meall Gorm and its great cliffs and the sea and Skye in the distance.  Meal Gorm is a great hill and has a myriad of lochs that on a bright day shine in the light. Few venture onto this far end of the ridge and if you do you will not be disappointed.

Views of Meall Gorm and the sea

Views of Meall Gorm and the sea from the ridge!

From was the ridge it is a lovely walk and though chilly I was enjoying it walking slowly but drinking it all in. I was watching the Cioch Nose from my viewpoint and saw what I thought was two figures at the top and texted Dan on the mobile. They had completed the climb and were descending the gully by abseil and I continued to the main summit and even more views of Kishorn and the Torridon Hills.

A short but enjoyable walk.

A short but enjoyable walk.

It was a lovely walk and I could see Dan and Ant abseiling down the gully  as I enjoyed the ridge, I only met one other group and we had a chat. I was very slow but glad to be out and Dan and Ant had done their route and I had a wander along a great ridge.

So many climbs and easy access on these great cliffs?

So many climbs and easy access on these great cliffs?

How many others would love to be where I was?  They class this hill as one of the easiest Corbetts if you start from the high Beleach Na Ba but it is some hill for views and character.   I could follow Dan and Ant’s progress as I returned along the ridge and up the Gully and we met at the top. They had a fun day the route was dry and they climbed it well and in great time. I was very disappointed for some time but had managed a lovely walk and sorted out my head. I may have to leave climbing until I get sorted after my final operation and the body recovers completely that will take some time.

The incredible ridge onto the Cioch

The incredible ridge onto the Cioch – what a place to be.

A big thanks to Dan and Ant for their patience ! Enjoy and  treasure these great days Ant!

Young Ant "out there on the Cioch" - Photo Dan Carrol

Young Ant “out there on the Cioch” – Photo Dan Carrol




About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Corbetts, Enviroment, Flora, Friends, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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