1976 North to South Walk of Scotland day 2: Conival and Ben More Assynt. Into the wilds.

This is the story of my first Walk from North – South of Scotland in May 1976 it was an adventure and no day was ever the same. The gear was simple the maps basic but what a trip

1976 May – RAF Kinloss MRT – North to South Traverse of the Highlands. The aim – This was a mountaineering expedition from the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland Ben Hope to the most Southerly Ben Lomond. The route was planned to cover 270 miles. Climb 42 Munros and ascend a total of 70,000 feet. This was 1976 gear was simple as were the maps and  there were limited communications Mobile phones and GPS  were a long way away off. Our gear was very basic in these days and the hills were extremely quite with few paths away from the honey pot areas.

The Team was all from RAF Kinloss MRT  Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning , Paul Burns all were young SAC ‘s (a very low rank in the RAF)This was only allowed to go after great arguing with the powers that be by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader Pete Mac Gowan.  It was hard in this era gaining authorisation for expeditions in these days had an officer in charge. (Normally military expeditions were led by an officer or SNCO) The planning was done an orgy of maps joining and tracing other walks in the past and done in the dark winter nights or at weekends. Food was planned and food caches set up with the help of Keepers and Village Halls and friends of the team. The RAF Team would meet us at weekend training Exercises and re supply us, well that was the plan.

Day 2 May 10 th 1976

This was all a huge adventure for us; we had never appreciated the distances into the mountain or the unusual aspects that we would have to climb the hills. We left Merkland Lodge by 0800 there was plenty of day light it was May and wandered down the A838 past Loch Merkland and down a few miles to the top of Loch Shin and then follow a hydro road into the wilds. All the time we could see Conival and the huge massive of Ben More Assynt in the distance.

Into the wilds

After we left the track it seemed endless we hit the purgatory sloped for about two hours to eventually reach the Summit ridge of Ben More Assynt. It was a great day and the views of the moonscape Assynt of the great hills Beinn Loyal and Fionaven and with the sea were incredible. In future years how I was to love this place and spend a lot of time here on the nearby Aeroplane Flats where an Anson plane and crew had crashed in 1941 and are buried on site, what a fitting tribute to those who gave their lives for us and how many visit this remote grave?

It was along the narrow ridge of broken Quartzite blocks (interesting in winter) to the days second Munro Conival . From here we could make out our route and our next objective Seanna Bhraigh and the Loch Coire Mor bothy. We were heading for Ben More Lodge hidden in the back of Loch Ailish for the night and had a great scramble down the short ridge to Dubh Loch a place of remoteness and beauty.

Scrambling on the ridge .

On the way we spotted several gullies still holding lots of snow on the other side of the Coire and the possibility of good gullies still holding lots of snow on the other side of the Coire and the possibility of good climbing in a scenic area. I was taking note for future trips to this area and wonder how many visit this coire and see its hidden beauty. There were vast herds of deer moving around and so much other wild life, spring was in the air and the winter was leaving but the hills would still hold their winter coats for a few more weeks. It was a wet glen walk as the hills were shedding their snow in the May sun but we were soon on the track and then the Estate road to Ben More Lodge and again great hospitality from the keeper who was glad to see us after a long winter. He asked us where the deer were and we were rewarded by a huge dram again as the Keeper had phoned from Merkland had said we enjoyed a dram after the hill. It was incredible hospitality again and we were soon in the bothy sorting out our meal and then an early night. The weather was great again a bit overcast but clear and limited wind. This can be a tricky area to navigate in and one mistake here can take you into wild country.

Today’s distance was only 17 miles and 4478 feet of ascent. Total Munros 2  yet It was hard going.

Grand Total 3 Munros

 Looking back much was on tracks and hard ground onto the hill, we were feeling great and this walk was going well.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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