I was up in Assynt staying at the Assynt Inchnadampth Hostel with the Moray Mountaineering Club, they had a bit of a wild night. I left them at 0100 and the fiddle and guitar were in full flow so it was a noisy night. We managed away about 0930 there were 6 0f us planning the Breabeg traverse from Inchnadampth over Braebeg (little back) to the caves and the salmon fishery, where I had dropped of my car. It is a fair day about 6 hours and a Corbett at 815 metres ( that is so neglected as it is not one of the well known classic mountains in the area. It was not a bad forecast with wind the weather coming in later on in the day and it gets dark early. I had done this walk before the other way and had enjoyed it on a glorious summers day with a pal Gail we had enjoyed a scramble up some slabs onto the summit ridge they views of the wild Corries and the views of remote Assynt are from this hill incredible.
It was a long walk in past the Caves a very popular place to visit and so unique for Scotland.
From Walk Scotland. “This is a beautiful and popular walk in a limestone valley to the dramatic bone caves. These cave openings part way up a steep side of the valley are where the remains have been found of species such as lynx, reindeer and polar bear which once roamed here.
Straight foward walk on a clear path which is narrow and steep at times near the caves. The insides of the caves themselves can be wet and slippery.”
It is a good path all the way to the caves and we had a look but time was not on our side with darkness coming at 1630. The route follows the main path to the popular Munros Conival and Ben More Assynt and then branches off to the beleach Breabeg Tarsuinn and then the long ridge to Breabeg.
It was very warm to begin with and soon it was time to take off some gear. This is a marvellous walk but a bit off wild country after you leave the main path aud follow the deer trails for about 2 kilometres. There are plenty of hidden sink holes about and you need to take care, how easy would it be to fall into one in bad weather or in the dark? In the end you head out for the ridge by the hidden burn that is underground to the beleach and once on the ridge that few walk it has great views of the Conival Ridge and its big hidden face. This is another area well worth visiting and further up we could see Dubh Loch Mor below the ridge a wonderful place.
I have spoken before about the need to navigate carefully in this area as a mistake here could be costly and involved a big walk out or worse. Today’s Tip – It is well worth before you take a compass bearing to check what direction you should be walking in by working it out mentally on your map?
If its West and your bearing is East check again! So simple? On my Mountain Rescue days we called this the “Assynt Triangle” as many have ended up in the wrong glen always carry a map compass with the knowledge of its use and ensure your phone is charged. It seems that many now rely solely on a phone and its maps that are handy but never rely on them solely as the batteries easily run out especially in the mountains where the weather/ cold can effect the battery power. This is not the place to wander about, especially in dark!
There are many memories on my big walk in 1976 North to South of Scotland this was our second day and the wildness and the beauty of this place is still in my memory. I was a young lad and it was all so new to me and to be on these hills away from the normal routes was so refreshing and this was 1976. I loved the walk South along the ridge ticking a Munro top and then the wild glen out “peat hag central” into the river Okykel and Ben More Lodge where we spent the night with the keeper. Great days and what wild walking and huge learning, the descent was not easy across the peat hags.
Today our ridge was magic a bit slippy in places with the Quartzite making it interesting walking and it seemend a long way to the summit. The ridge is fairly long about 4 kilometres but the huge wild corries make it interesting to walk on and in winter this like all the Assynt hills is tricky navigating.
I was here many years ago with my pal Mark “Cheeky Sinclair” in 1994 just before he was killed with another friend winter climbing with Neil Main on Lochnagar. Mark was a prolific winter climber and we were trying a climb in this wild place in early winter. It was an very early start then a big 3 hour walk in winter to the cliff but we never finished the climb, we abseiled off. It was then a fight back in bad weather across this ridge needing all our skills to get off in a white out. We were going to come back but it was not to be, I had a few thoughts about this on my walk today and think of them both often especially in places as wild and special as this.
These big corries Glas Corrie Bheag and Glas Coire Mor are wild places and I wandered over to edge to look into these corries. We were watching the weather come in and soon it started raining, it was pretty heavy not far off sleet on the higher hills and most had all their waterproofs gloves and hats on, how the weather changes so quickly.
It was heads down in the rain and we soon made the summit I was a bit behind a bit sore after a slip on the grass and rock and with the rain belting down it was good to see the final summit ridge. It was a short stop in the rain and mist and a bit of navigation off the hill avoiding the big cliffs. The weather got better and on the way back the sun came out yet we took it easy on the slippy ground the quartzite rock like soap at times.
It was a careful descent into the Corrie trying to keep away from the crags but we were enjoying the sun coming out and heard a few more stags roaring and met a few hinds on the way off.
By now we were near the other caves that make this area so unique and traversed above them on some steep ground above the hidden river the Allt nan Uamh which is underground until the last mile of the track. It is amazing to see river bubbling emerge from the ground what a unique place this is. These are great caves for the Cavering fraternity and three of our club were underground in these caves all day as we headed home.
We got down to my car I had pre – placed and saved a hour walk back to the Lodge for the night just as it was getting dark. It was a bit of a struggle to get 6 in the car but we managed see photo below and saved a walk back in the dark.
I was glad it had all worked out as the last hour especially above the caves on the steep ground would have been interesting in the dark! It was back to a shower and evening meal, then the clubs Annual fancy Dress what a night. Now that was another story!
It was a special night of laughter, song and fun just what I needed thanks to the Moray Mountaineering Club and the Inchnadampth Lodge for a great day.
As Hamish Brown “says there are no easy miles in Assynt.”