Valentines day treat a day early –  Canisp 847 metres, another day in a winter wonderland in the North West away from the maddening crowds.



Hamish Brown  says ” Canisp’s great merit is as a viewpoint – it stands in centre of the huge rock and water wilderness that is so typically “North West ” and out of which rise the starkest and most dramatic peaks in Britain.”

From  Climbing the Corbett’s a great inspirational book by Hamish Brown..

It was a good night apart from the lack of  sleep again  due to the heavy snoring by the rest f the room.The  night had ended with a lovely sunset that only Elphin can produce. Ned and one of the boys raced up the top of the wee hill above the hut and they were rewarded by some great photos. I watched it all from the hut just amazing the Alpen glow on these majestic hills.

Canisp - looking great.

Canisp – looking great.

There were 7 others in the hut. The big group was a family of 5 who had a great time caving one day, then Ben More Assynt and Conival,the next day Beinn Spiohnaidh and Cranstackie. How lucky are these kids to enjoy these great hills and it was great to meet you all Dave, Liz, Lachlan, Struan and Kirk. It reminded me of past days with my Mum and Dad so many years ago. Jim and Calum were the other pair in the hut and they climbed the majestic Quinag  a great outing of 3 Corbett’s a big day in winter. When they got back to their car there was a note saying to call a number as a member of the public was worried about them being off the hill late. Poor Jim never noticed it till next day as he drove back in the dark  and found it a small slip of paper on the windsceen. I left him to get in touch with the person?   They were going to contact the Police, strange as this is a wild car park away from any habitation. I was well aware of  where they were and thought they would be off in the dark they are sound mountaineers? I had never heard of this happen before especially in such a wild area?

The land of lochans and mountains.

The land of lochans and mountains.


Ned and I headed for Canisp the weather was not great to begin with and then it cleared after a great breakfast of porridge “the food of the gods”. There was more wind about today about 30 mph on the tops and about – 5 there would be some wind-chill! It was a short drive up to the start of the hill no one about when we parked and then a long 4 miles to the summit and it looked further. The views all round are magnificent and it was another crazy day for photos. We had great view again of our hill yesterday Cull Mor and then higher up Suiliven and the wild lochs and moors that surround this incredible mountain.  I love the geology of this area the sandstone rocks, slabs,the shapes and the quartzite shattered all over the place. This is a place where glaciers were and the words of my favourite poem are with me all day.

What a hill for views of Suiliven.

What a hill for views of Suiliven.

Man in Assynt

Glaciers, grinding West, gouged out
these valleys, rasping the brown sandstone,
and left, on the hard rock below — the
ruffled foreland —
this frieze of mountains, filed
on the blue air — Stac Polly,
Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven,
Canisp — a frieze and
a litany.

Who owns this landscape?
has owning anything to do with love?
For it and I have a love-affair, so nearly human
we even have quarrels. —
When I intrude too confidently
it rebuffs me with a wind like a hand
or puts in my way”
a quaking bog or a loch
where no loch should be. Or I turn stonily
away, refusing to notice
the rouged rocks, the mascara
under a dripping ledge, even
the tossed, the stony limbs waiting”


Norman MacKaig


What would he think of what is happening in Scotland with its wind farms?

The wind was biting higher up and I had 5 layers on at one point, my fingers were  so cold with the photo taking and then I put the big gloves on what a difference. There is some great walking though it varies on the moor it was frozen solid and plenty of low-lying ice and then the quartzite shattered rocks and slabs but so impressive and the view even when you stop and look behind of Conival, Ben More Assynt, Breabeg and other mountains.


As we gained the snow level and it gave great depth to the views we savoured every minute each in our own time capsule and enjoying this grand wee mountain and in a winter setting it is another favourite. SuilIven is so imposing looking surreal like something out of the Canadian Rockies to me with its tooth like  a ridge seen from this angle on Canisp.


The best view of Suiliven  is from the sea where it is an incredible site and one can only wonder what the Norsemen thought when they saw it for the first time?  We got battered on the ridge by wind but soon were up higher and then the views of the sea opened and the vastness of Quinag opened up. The hidden cliffs of Canisp rarely seen were snow-covered and it was a wild setting with the lochans and the sea and the wind saying keep moving to the summit shelter. We had some hot tea and a butty and then a few more photos and off into the wind again heading home.

Ned pushed on I was a bit slower but stopping to get more photos I never tire of this place and with the wind and the sun hitting us we soon dropped down a bit and shed some clothes. It was a 2 hour walks off taking it easy avoiding the ice in places but loving it. We were soon out of the snow and then a long plod down the path to the moor and then the car. The area is so dry especially low down there was  even a fire warning. The last pull up to the car was hard and then boots off gear off and heater on and a 10 minute drive back to the SMC Hut at Elphin. The crowd’s had gone from the hut, they had left us some food and we were on our own. It was time for some tea, get the gear away and then my famous lentil curry soup. I then had a wee sleep no snoring at last a shower and then haggis, neeps and tatties to finish the day. We had only seen one person all day and as we hugged the ridge looking for photos he charged ahead and we met near the top and had a short “bleather” only three people on this vast wild place, we are truly  blessed. From the top the hidden ridge heads to the sea and that must be a long but magic way up from Lochinver?

Ian at the top.

Great views of the hidden ridge and the view to Lochinver.


Tonight I will have a room to myself no snoring and after a dram it will be an early night. It is a wild forecast tomorrow a bit higher winds and very cold. We will clean up the bothy and return home, I have a Mountain Skills talk in Aviemore in the Mountain Cafe on Wednesday 15 Feb at 2000. Whatever happens it has been a great two days.


  1. I love this place and though my ability to enjoy the hills is a lot slower but  so much better than when I was ill for the last two years. What a hard time that was and while I get tired I find health and time in this place  is so important. I have had my valentine this year with  2 days in Assynt what a great wonderful lover, that asks little but effort. As the great man says;

“. I can’t pretend
it gets sick for me in my absence,
though I get
sick for it. Yet I love it
with special gratitude, since
it sends me no letters, is never
jealous and, expecting nothing
from me, gets nothing but
cigarette packets and footprints.

Who owns this landscape? —
The millionaire who bought it or
the poacher staggering downhill in the early morning
with a deer on his back?

Who possesses this landscape? —
The man who bought it or
I who am possessed by it?”


What a couple of days.


About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
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