I was at Kintail for the New Year and had a great time what an area the sea and the mountains make this a special place here are a few memories.
My first weekend in Mountain Rescue at RAF Kinloss was in early Feb 1972 and arriving in the back of a 4 tonner at Kintail and staying on a small bothy opposite the Kintail Lodge Hotel. It was a long journey then no bridge at Inverness and a 3 hour drive in full on winter.
I will never forget the journey down freezing in the back of the wagon and arriving in the dark. Sleeping on the floor early start and a huge hill day on Sgurr nan Ceathreambnan a remote Munro in crampons for my first day back in the dark from Iron Lodge.
In the Bay next morning was a sailing ship and with the hills covered in snow it was incredible. Sunday was up Beinn Sgritheall steep and wintry.
Few spoke over the weekend but I was hooked.
November 1 1977 West to East Of Scotland.
Kinlochourn-Gleouraich-Spidian Mhialach-Cluanie Lodge.
Our daily routine is always the same up at 0500 porridge on and try to be gone by 0700 earlier as the weather got worse. The daylight was getting less every day and at the end we had about 6-7 hours daily. We usually finished in the dark first things was the water on for a brew as we changed into our one change of clothes and socks, get a fire going if possible. The meal was always porridge in the morning the” food of Gods”, soup and a ready meal never enough at night and on the hill we carried chocolate about 3 bars a day was what we planned and carried. At the food caches we had some lovely things like tinned fruit and custard, I loved it. I hardly ate the chocolate and Jim on one day ate 10 bars, it is scary now thinking about it. We carried everything these were the days before lightweight gear , mobile phones and GPS.
Day 5 We had a wild night in a Turkey shed it snowed and was freezing a long day ahead. This was another massive pull from sea level; then a big walk to Cluannie Lodge at Kintail there was lots of snow we may have to pull out because of weather is so bad. We had been wet all day worried about frozen feet, no ice axes with us, hills now plastered and very tricky on the very steep wet grass descent. Gleouraich-Spidian Mhialach these are massive hills. Winter was with us on the hills, we may have to relook at our plans as we struggled all day. The keeper gave us a huge dram when we arrived at Cluannie Lodge in the dark and told us the weather was going to get worse he gave use of a house near the big Lodge. We had a great fire and tried to get our clothes dry wet gear in sleeping bag every night. Told Terry that my knee was bad he stayed with me Jim pushing on with navigation and route, just hanging in. I phoned RAF Kinloss from the Lodge and asked for ice axes and pain killers to be sent out ASAP. A very long hard day, these are serious big hills, the wind is so constant as is the wet gear.
35k/2816mtrs. – 2 Munros and Total Munros 7
Day 6. November 2
Cluanie Lodge Kintail – We did not want to leave the comfort of the bothy and the fire. Jim still wanted to complete the 9 Munros of the South Cluannie despite the weather conditions. We had some day and used fence posts as ice axes. In the end we settled for seven of the Cluannie Munros in deep snow and heavily corniced. Drum Shionnach-Aonach Air Chrith-Maol Chean Dearg-Sgurr a Doire Leathain-Sgurr an Lochan-Creag nan Damh-Sgurr na Sgine- Sheil Bridge, no ice axes lots of snow. It was really tricky coming off in the dark with the deep snow all the way. The area knowledge I have is very handy and saves time, we have to watch as we are getting white out conditions at times then it clears. We stayed in tiny wooden hut at Sheil Bridge near the shop, no heating.
Another huge day of 25k/2841mtrs.
We needed a day off after 12 Munros in pretty wild conditions. Knee very sore had a big chat as we are heading into wild Affric but will be slower but will get there, pain killers help! Terry has a bit of a limp but still chasing Jim, weather to wild to be left behind and snow too deep to break own steps, all took turns today over the 7 Munros.
Day 7,- 3/11/77 A day ofF at Sheil Bridge Kintail well needed in the small bothy, we got our ice axes picked up our winter gear and another wild weather forecast for the following week! It was great to have lie in and sort out the gear and get it dried off. We picked up our rations for the next few days and the bags were very heavy! We went to Kintail Arms for lunch and were soon back at our tiny bothy and slept like logs.
Day 8. – 4/11/77 – Kintail Sheil Bridge – A very steep start to the day after a walk up the road and then huge hills on the 5 sisters of Kintail ridge. This is classic walking/ mountaineering. I feel a lot better today that we have axes and crampons. We see no one, the hills are very quiet no wonder it is November. Sgurr Na Ciste Dubh, Saileg, Sgurr a. Bhealaich Dheirg, Aonach Meadhoin, and out the long ridge to Ciste Dubh. It was a great day with lots of height, snow on the ridges and left early at 0630 and just got in to the bothy in Glen Affric at Altbeithe Youth Hostel. It was a wild descent into the bothy which we could just make out between the storms, with the rivers giving a bit of trouble in the dark. The bothy is the Youth Hostel very remote and access by a long walk. It is left open to help walkers and is a magic place and in winter solitude. There was lots of food in it so we ate well, this was great but will have to leave early and start in the dark; it is a big day in the tomorrow. Knee hurting with all the descent will it cope? What a cosy night in the Youth Hostel am still amazed that is was left open in winter for the few that venture out. The new Helly Hansen polar fleeces are magnificent well worth the expenditure; Jim is still wearing “curlies” the team issue boot. I am in my big winter boots but still getting cold feet due to the constant wetness.
All part of the learning on the mountains and we learned.
I went on the climb in this area so so often did lots of call outs and the huge big days South Clunnie always with so many new troops . My aim was all the North Clunnie even the Kintail Traverse in 22 hours. Me and my dog did this unsupported a great day. All that training was so needed that day. Non stop walking 20 Munros in a day not bad for a walker.