The long drive about 3 hours for the weekend at Kintail was done later in the day the forecast put my ideas for a day on the hill out the agenda. It was very wet and the A82 past Loch Ness was busy with lots o f road works after the floods. I have not driven over for a while to the West and even in a dreich day in the rain and wind it is still special, the rivers and Lochs are full, the hills grey and foreboding and had some fresh snow falling above 700 metres . There were lots of windfarm traffic on the road and many signs (some worse for wear) against them in the fields near Invermorrision. To me the battle looks lost and I wonder when I see all the people involved working on the projects and all the new hill roads is this good idea? How much will these places change for ever? Is this progress for a more environmentally friendly source of power for the future?
On the way I stopped at the Sandeman memorial near Loch Clunnie and wrote a piece on it on yesterday’s blog. There were no cars in the usual Kintail car parks as the wind and rain and sleet swept across the glen. These hills are some of the best in Scotland steep and rugged most start from sea – level and all summits are hard won. I always thought in my days with Mountain Rescue that many underestimate these hills where in summer the 7 oe 9 Munros of the South Clunnie can be one of the finest high level walk is Scotland. The North side of the Glen has the 5 Sisters and the Brothers great peaks but in winter they can become Alpine. I have done all these ridges in winter and they took many hours and good conditions. In winter especially these summits are hard one and with the forecast poor with high winds – 40 plus with gusts and snow showers any summit would be a good day. Fresh snow on steep grass and steep cliffs is not the best of combinations and the Kintaii hills can have this in abundance. The waterfalls were pouring down the hill showing the secret winter climbs that may emerge later on in the winter season. The South Clunnie still seemed to have some snow high up when the weather cleared at times. This drive is still special as I spent a few wild searches on these cliffs with the local Kintail Mountain Rescue Team. To me in a wild day this is very similar to Glencoe and as special. The rivers were very high and ground saturated the poor sheep and odd deer were looking forlorn. I was soon at the Morvich Outdoor Centre where we were staying with my local Moray Mountaineering Club for the weekend. It is situated at Morvich with incredible views of Beinn Fhada and the back of the North Clunnie even in the rain looking impressive.
Kintail Outdoor Centre provides a unique setting as an adventure base, offering unparalleled scope for outdoor pursuits and field studies. Local countryside rangers are on hand to offer advice, introductory talks and guided walks.
The Kintail Outdoor Centre is situated below Sgurr na Moraich, the last of the famous Five Sisters of Kintail, and Ben Attow (the Long Mountain). These spectacular mountains rise steeple from the shores of Loch Duich offering some of the best hill walking in Britain. The centre is 5 minutes from the A87, with Glenelg and the Isle of Skye in easy reach.
Up to 20 can be accommodated in this excellent bunk house property. Accommodation comprises: 5 bedrooms with bunk beds – one two-bedded, three four-bedded and one six-bedded; a fully equipped kitchen; lounge with wood-burning stove; dining room; drying room and laundry.
Location: Kintail Outdoor Centre is situated on the banks of the River Croe between the Fives Sisters Ridge and Ben Attow. (Grid ref: NG967211)
Facilities: Kintail Outdoor Centre offers excellent bunk house accommodation. The centre comprises of two wings both sleeping ten people. Facilities include a fully equipped kitchen, common room/dining room, drying room and laundry facilities.
I met a good pal Andy at the Centre who had left home at 0500 to get a hill done but had been battered by the rain and winds and decided not to go. Andy had gone over to Glenelg as he is chasing Marlyns a long drive from his home. He had the Centre open and the fire on; I dumped my gear and had about an hour of daylight and the rain stopped so I went out on my bike down the nearby Glen Licht. The track just behind the bothy heads into Gleann Lichd, this is a great, wild glen behind the Five Sisters of Kintail on the other side is the huge Beinn Fhada or Beinn Attow. This is a very underrated hill Gleann Lichd is wonderful place to be and on a good day these high Corries on the back of the 5 Sister’s hold many secrets for the interested winter climber and I spent many fun days in the past in these quite corries, they are worth the walk! In the old days we could drive up the land rover track and pick a Corrie and it was a place to know as many who get lost on the 5 Sisters walk off this way by many by navigational mistakes.
The track was very wet but the rain had stopped so off I went it was a bit of fun on my old bike it’s nearly as old as me? The track was well flooded after all the rain but a great way to travel even on my old wheels and limited suspension. As I rattled down the Glen there were lots of Deer about sheltering from the weather low down and they just watched my futile efforts on the bike. I was no threat only to myself! Later on the sky darkened and the rain came I was only a few miles away but it poured down. I got off the bike and sat and got soaked, fresh snow and sleet was falling high up and it got colder. I sat and enjoyed the wildness,I could see the start of the wild Corries on the 5 Sister and the huge mass of Beinn Attow and it long ridge. I was starting feeling at one with nature when two others arrived, they out for a walk they were from Stafford up for a week this was their last day and they were a bit older than me! We had a good chat, it was pouring and getting cold, they were a hardy pair. They told me to take care on my bike on the way back and I headed down, The rain was thundering down by now and a bitter wind made my lack of gloves evident but worth it just to get that blasted face by the raw wind. I was pretty wet by now and soon back at the Centre to a hot shower a cup of tea and then see what tomorrow would bring? Fresh snow was on the steep hills high up as darkness fell.
As I was drying out two of the club arrived they had tried to climb A Ghlas Beinn a Munro near the Centre but were unable to cross the burn high up in the glen. They wisely changed their plan and had a wild day on Beinn Fhada instead with the additional interest of the Hunter Pass a rock step on the ridge on the way home. They ascended it in slushy snow and a bit of a wind to descend it in winter on a wild winters day is not easy, so they did well.
A great effort in wild conditions, these Munro baggers are a hardy bunch and I was impressed by their efforts. The rest of the club arrived through “dribs and drabs” throughout the evening and we soon had 18 arrive. We all got sorted and most decided we would wait and see what the weather would bring in the morning and unfortunately the forecast was not great even higher winds with gust over 40 knots. Trying to explain what effect wind speeds have on the body on the hills is hard but 40 knots for me is pretty strong and it is hard to talk to your party on the hill and after that for me you will and can get blown over by sudden gusts. The boys on Beinn Fhada had shown what was possible, if you are fit and strong and take care!
It is never easy decision-making when the weather is so fickle! What would tomorrow bring?