Catching up from New Year !
Weatherr – Rapid increase of wind with height. Walking difficult across the hills and any mobility tortuous on some higher areas. Severe wind chill.
It was now the 2 of January and I was still out with the Moray Mountaineering Club at Roybridge Bunkhouse and had a hard winters day on Beinn a’ Chaoriunn (see yesterdays blog) The Bunkhouse at least had a good but dirty drying room and much of my wet gear was dry in the morning apart from my gloves and boots. We had to put the fire off in the bothy as the fire was so smoky and the ash was coming all over us in the room and our eyes were stinging despite it being and enclosed stove. The glass front of the fire had fallen out and was kept in by a jammed knife? It was a leisurely start, the forecast was for a wet windy day and I was pretty sore and stiff from the previous days efforts. I was a bit battered after yesterday and Ray Harron fancied a walk in Glen Roy e which is more or less straight out from the Bunkhouse. Glen Roy has 4 Corbetts – 3 Carn Deargs and our planned hill Beinn laruinn a really unpronounceable hill. We had both done them all before but fancied the Iron Hill Beinn Laruinn. We left after a leisurely breakfast it would be a short day about 3 – 4 hours.
The drive up Glen Roy is always a lot longer than the map says, it is a windy road and a wild glen. There is a view-point where the Glen and the other hills can be marvellous but we were in heavy rain and the hills were covered in cloud and most of yesterdays snow stripped!
“Beinn Iaruinn rises very steeply above the rollercoaster road up Glen Roy, with the northern arm of its corrie being the most usual route of ascent. Combining the hill with neighbouring Leana Mor, however, makes for a more enjoyable walk avoiding the steepest slopes”.Glen Roy is a mecca for geologists with its famous Parallel roads.
There was no rush as we looked at the incredible and World famous “Parallel roads” that are the levels of ancient reservoirs which were dammed up by glaciers blocking of the mouths of the Glens and incredible sight. The Parallel Roads of Glen Roy, Scottish Highlands, represent a series of ice-dammed proglacial lake shorelines produced during the cold climate of the ice age).
Darwin made his “Gigantic Blunder” on them on his visit in June 1838 by drawing on his recent findings in South America during the Beagle expedition and believing that the shorelines were of marine origin. This was contradicted by Louis Agassiz’s Glacial theory of 1840 which postulated that the shorelines had been cut by freeze-thaw processes of lake ice during the maximum extent of glacial ice in the climatic reversal known as the Younger Dryas / Greenland Stadial 1 or locally the Loch Lomond Readvance.
Four decades after his 1839 paper and shortly before his death, Darwin conceded that he was incorrect. However, he had conceded that he was embarrassed by “that confounded paper of mine” as early as 1861, in letters to Thomas Jamieson quoted by Jamieson (1863; 1892).
Interest in the Parallel Roads continues to this day, both among earth scientists intrigued by the dramatic processes that shaped that landscape, and among tourists attracted by the natural wonder of the landforms.
I had decided to go lightweight and put on my summer walking boots and a lighter bag. I had done this hill on a wild day in winter in winds of over 80 mph and we crawled to the summit, the same day as one of our team walked over a cornice but I had forgotten how steep it was. As Hamish Brown says ” unlike the green Carn Dearg over the other side of the Glen our hill the slopes on this hill are steep and bouldery as well as very steep South ridge which he describes as a jagged ridge and defended by steep crags and foul ground ” We like him parked near the bridge and then in the rain headed up by the stream over heavy bracken and heather following the burn into the wild Coire Nan Eun. This is rough ground, we were watched by a herd of hinds across the ridge and as we wander into the corrie it was a steep hard walk will no paths.
The wind was getting stronger and by now we were at the headwall of the coire which Hamish Brown says is steep and we picked a line up the heather, grass scree and wet snow. I now wished I had my axe and big boots on, it was tricky walking and we were soaked. Ray kicked the odd step in the mud for me and I had made a daft mistake with the boots and no axe was even dafter. I was on all fours at times and grabbing the heather but it was very slippy indeed and a slip could have been not the thing to do.
I keep the learning these lesson again! We eventually made it on to the ridge, good route finding by Ray and boy was I was glad to be on flat ground again and Ray just smiled all the time. It was now windy but nothing like yesterday but very cold and we had all our gear on, the cold was penetrating . I had the memory of crawling along this ridge last time on this hill and never realised how steep the ground was in the Coire when we were crawling to the summit on the 2 March 1997. Why was I up in these conditions in 1997? I teaching two new Mountain Rescue team member’s on how to deal with the wind, we may encounter on a call -out and had to rope up. We were still in the clouds and rain and no views we had a short look at the map, took a bearing and decided no way were we descending the way we came and went down to the beleach which was easy wet walking. It was then down he steep ground, heather and rough ground knee bracing and back to the road with a few views of the Glen. All the gear was soaked and I felt the efforts of this short day. It was an easy drive back after a brew in the car, get the gear off sort it out in the drying room and a shower and lots of tea,
The Iron Hill lived up to its name again and you never stop learning – winter boots and an ice axe on steep ground. Is this “skill fade” or incompetence or just being daft and not treating these hills with the respect they are due, especially in winter! Lessons learned.