A wintry day on A Ghlas Beinn Kintail.

A ' Ghlas Bheinn route

A ‘ Ghlas Bheinn route

We were staying at the Morvich Outdoor Centre and we had decided that the forecast and the rivers and a night of rain may hamper a big day so we chose the nearby hill A’ Ghlas Bheinn – (918m, Munro 276) ‘the greenish/grey hill’. We could walk from the Centre and took the undulating path up towards A’Ghlas Bheinn or it has been called t the hill of the 100 bumps in the past . The path is straight forward  following the signs and it takes you over bridges which cuts any problems down with river crossing. We had planned to walk up the Corrie but the boys yesterday said the rivers were wild and there had been more rain during the night.  So it was the  forestry track then takes you to the ridge line which is very steep ground after an easy forest walk from more or less see level.  The weather was forecast for winds 40 – 50 mph and – 3 at 800 metres with a windchill at 900 metres of -10. At least we may have some views in the weather but the odd spindrift and possible whiteout in snow showers may occur. A steady winters day.  

A big group to start with on the walk in up the Falls Of Glomach Path which follows the forestry road , warm work.

A big group to start with on the walk in up the Falls Of Glomach Path which follows the forestry road , warm work.

From here the fit the boys plus Drummond raced up the steep grass in true Moray Mountaineering Club style and we split into two groups a natural process. You gain height but its hard work and not easy walking, but the rain had stopped and we had views that made up for the effort.  This would not be an easy descent in fresh snow as the ground was wet and slippy but at least you gain height quickly, even at my pace. It would slow down as we hit the snow and wind higher up, instead we just enjoyed the wild views of Beinn Fhada.

The "race start" and me lagging behind, with Ray looking on.

The “race start” and me lagging behind, with Ray looking on.

Before we left we had a variance of experience and we all took full winter kit including axes and crampons, though there looked little snow from the bottom, it would be winter higher up. We were soon approaching the snow and left the shelter of the ridge and the wind arrived a steady 20 miles and hour and pretty chilly. Time for more gear put on by all. Poor Gus was not feeling well and decided to go back with Brent but there will always be another day. We were now in a group of 6 myself Ray, the two Jennys. Fiona and Jan and we got more great views with the girls posing when the wind died down.

The girls enjoying the views with Beinn Fhada or Beinn Attow in the distance. For the winter climber there are some intersting winter climbs in these back Coriies?

The girls enjoying the views with Beinn Fhada or Beinn Attow in the distance. For the winter climber there are some interesting winter climbs in these back Corries?

Getting the correct kit on early is so important and so easy to lose a glove as we got organised for the open ground we were on. The snow was down and there was little shelter, some had goggles on and all were pretty well covered up. We got the odd gust but with the ski poles they were not getting to bad but the higher we went naturally the wind got stronger! We could see the three ahead and at least they were making a path in the snow which was getting thicker as we gained height. The poles are a great help in winter on ground like this especially for someone with battered knees. The snow was wet but the higher we went the better it got and there was a fair bit of drifting in places as the spindrift blew it about!  The climbers would have to be careful out ice climbing this was classic snow movement in the mountains. We were safe as we followed the ridge line yet there were some big drifts in places building.

Getting higher and into the wind!

Getting higher and into the wind! Time to wrap up and put the head down.

I get asked  pretty often what do wind speeds mean as few understand the strengths and it is good when out to ask what speed they think it is few get it right most overestimate the speed? I get blown a bit by 30 knots and once you hit 40 knots speaking gets tricky on the hill. Add a gust of 50 plus and there is a good chance you may or will get blown over. If you are near a cliff edge or on a narrow ridge this could be tricky. Many think that poles are the answer and make you steadier but on steep ground or snow then I put them away and out comes my ice axe? Any view on this ?

Blowy

Blowy

Of course any weather is only a forecast but many nowadays are correct and give you an idea of what to expect. After been blown away many times and battered about I am very wary of the wind it can be a killer and have had to rope of ridges in call -outs in the past in winds excess of 100 mph where we were staying alive not searching. Even getting blown over in a boulder field or by a stray gust hurts and is easy to break something and as you get older you are not so quick to protect yourself when blown about. Hence I am very wary of high winds.

Poor photo in the windy summit ! A' Ghlas Beinn

Poor photo in the windy summit ! A’ Ghlas Beinn

 

The Guide below may help but best to get out and see what the wind effect is and see how it effects you and be careful!

8 – Gale 39 – 46 mph Walking Dangerous! Difficult to speak to each other?

Take care in high winds!

9 – Severe Gale 47 – 54 Blown over crawling Branches break small trees blown over
10  – Storm 55 -63 Progress impossible even by crawling Some trees uprooted  Structural Damage

 

the winds were now about 40 knots with the odd gust the ground was steepening so time for the ice - axes! Poles away time?

the winds were now about 40 knots with the odd gust the ground was steepening so time for the ice – axes! Poles away time?

It was getting windier and at about 800 metres it was poles away and ice – axe out. The ground was now frozen and there was verglas on the rocks. It was a battle to the top but we managed to pick a reasonably sheltered line stopping to catch out breaths and checking each other at times. It was now very hard to talk as a group and we were in the “Celtic Huddle” when we did this.  The top does go on and on and soon we were there it was pretty wild now and no place to stop, no shelter. So we checked the map and headed off using the lee side to keep out of the wind. It is handy to carry some food handy in your pockets jelly babies are ideal as it is easy to forget to replenish your energy levels in wild weather. Top tip!

Wild weather on the way off.

Wild weather on the way off. Poor picture in the wind

As soon as we hit open ground the wind hit us and it was a battle for a while and then we found some shelter and had a well-earned break with great views. How the weather had changed in a few hours, I had lots of gear on in the end 5 layers<  yet it was so warm early on, now it was full winter conditions and we were lucky we had some vision and not a white – out!

A break at last.

A break at last. Out of the wind.

After this it was a long trail back the same way there was a bit more snow now but a lot easier going down. The last bit was steep down to the forest and the grass was wet so we took it easy. Back down at the forestry track we met a couple who were heading back from an attempt to reach the Falls Of Glomach but the snow was to deep for them on the path and they lost it. They were amazed how much kit we had on and by now were taking off. It is so different low down in the glens than up in these big winter mountains.

Back down at the forestry track!

Back down at the forestry track!

We wandered back myself and Ray and the girls chatting a bit behind, it had been a good day but full on winter and it was great to back on the hills. At the Centre all had a great day, the rivers were still high as one party tried to cross a wild river and decided not too. Hills were climbed at Glenelg and the Clunnie and the 3 ahead of us continued on the Falls of Glomach in the wild weather. The forecast was wild for the next day and I decided to head home in the morning . The body was a bit battered even after a short winters day and it was raining heavy in the morning.

On the news on the way back home  the Mountain Rescue Teams were busy an avalanche had taken 2 climbers down 1000 feet on Greag Mheagaidh. They were very lucky, another group were out for the night in the Mamores and another in the Cairngorms. There were other incidents all over Scotland.  I was glad no one was badly injured and despite the reported politics in Mountain Rescue the teams are still as they say ” open for business” and doing their usual job well supported by Bristows helicopters.

Stay safe out there and be careful its easy for a fun day to turn into an epic?  Especially as we wait for a break in the weather after along spell of wild conditions.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist
This entry was posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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