What a great day yesterday well worth the early start and the drive over to the North West was stunning, the forecast was one of these exceptional days. cold crisp, blue skies and no wind. I was listening to the radio Scotland Outofdoors show as I drove over and their forecast was exceptional. No wind and sunshine, must remember my sun screen. Ben Wyvis had a red hue as I drove past and as the daylight came the hills were plastered right down to the road, this was Scotland at its finest. I passed scores of deer mainly hinds driven from the tops by the cold and the temperature was -4.
I was planning a day with a pal Mark who lives below these great hills near Black Bridge, he has views of Ben Wyvis and the Fannichs and regular deer visiting! Living the dream, we had a brew and a hot cross bun and set off. I wanted to climb Am Faochagach an outlier of the Deargs a hill that I find is never easy? This Munro gets some bad press as boring but has great views. I knew it would be quite today and the masses would be on its big and more well-known mountains like An Teallach, Sgur Mor or Beinn Dearg. Looking at my Munros I had done this hill 7 times 5 times in winter, twice with the other 5 Munros in a day and it was always a hard hill. I had not done the ridge from Strath Vaick and the views once you gain the ridge are marvellous. Though only one Munro it was a long day in possibly deep snow. Mark was up for it and as always very fit and wanted to climb it.
We set off from Strath Vaick Lodge as Mark got permission from the keeper and we were met by the usual barking dogs and plenty of deer. From here is a pull in deep snow onto the ridge, through the trees and following some tracks. A hill track follows the line but it was hidden under masses of snow. We kept changing the lead but I was amazed by the depth knee-deep in places surely on the ridge it would be easier? The views down the Strath and the Corbett Beinn a’Chaisteil is the highest point on a remote ridge rising above Loch Vaich. That would be for another day!
The first top was hard going at a height of 666 ! Meall an Coire an Laogh made me wonder was this hill going to be too much in such snow but the view and the cairn and a good break for food and drink that made it all worth while.
The Fannichs were looking great and Sgur Mor and its neighbours stunning as were the lochs and the snow sparkling all day like diamonds. It was warm and I was carrying too much gear but what a joy to be out. By now we could see the hills 7 in total to the summit. It was a long journey every 15 minutes we would change over breaking the snow and gradually get the miles in, Beinn Dearg with the remote Coire Ghranda with its secret cliffs looking splendid as did An Teallach.
I found out had left my photo card in my computer so had to make do with my phone. We were following a fox trail in the virgin snow we followed it for miles picking a good line. Then we met the odd ptarmigan and the huge corries with drooping cornices where the snow had just dropped and frozen, once the wind comes?
It was just stunning we could see more and more mountains Seanna Bhraigh a remote Munro and miles of mountains, we stopped we had to it was so hard going but what a joy to be here. The wonderful winter scramble on the Munro Cona’ Meal that the long 3 hour walk in deters looked magic as the views opened out. How I love this place.
We were getting there, it was hard but we looked at the watch and would make the summit, the tops came and went and on the beleach we had a break when we saw three people. They had taken the shorter normal route and we left them to break a trail over the last two tops, it was great to have a break. On the last top it was icy and easy walking we felt cheated but they were a strong party and we met at the summit they were in a rush and headed of. The ice on the ridge was sparkling and made that last bit uphill so easy but care had to be taken. Time was moving on, we ate quickly it was nearly 1500 and a long way home 10 kilometres of heavy going. I was amazed that the snow even on the ridges was not scoured and the cold temperatures and no wind had meant that the snow had just dumped making it hard walking.
It proved to be and we still had a lot of trail breaking to do even down hill, now I can see why this is a ski mountaineering hill. The views got better as the sun went down it got a bit chilly and the mountains had an Alpine glow, what views. Heading back Ben Wyvis was now red in the evening sun and the light in the Loch and an eagle flew over at the end of the day. The descent to the Lodge was purgatory knees were sore and the drifts seemned worse we were tired but what a lovely night to walk out in and so much better than last few years when I was pretty ill. The fitness is slow to come but will come back as we descended through the trees back onto flat ground and the road just before darkness fell its getting lighter every day.
We got the gear off, boots off bliss and the feet sore then some magic home made soup at Anne and Marks and then home in the dark, pretty tired and creaking a bit. A lovely drive home – 5 temperature catch up with the football and the rugby back to normal life. I will be sore today but what a day a specail winter day. The sun and no wind made it specail it would have been so hard having to navigate in poor weather. People ask why do we go out in the winter have a look at the photos and see the wonder that is a Scottish winter!
Note – Sir Hugh Munro on his ascent of this hill had trouble crossing the river at Strath Vaick and the gillie and a horse were sent to take him down to the Aultgusish Inn. Iknow how he feels.