The photo above was taken after my second operation when I was pretty ill a few years ago 2017. As I recovered slowly by walking round my stunning Moray coast they were just not enough for me. I needed to see the hills and be in them. Though it was winter I just needed to be there and close to the mountains. It was still winter yet would I be up for a day on the hills?
Many years ago I had climbed after a snow hole in the remote Coire a ‘ Ghranda below Beinn Dearg. It’s a wild area and the approach was from the Aultguish which can be tricky due to a big river crossing and boggy ground. This is wild country you rarely meet anyone on this side of the mountain.
This was a place I wanted to revisit and had asked a mate to come (Pete Amphlett). I wanted to show him the great lines that form the ice falls in winter he agreed to accompany me.
It had been cold for a few days so the ground would be frozen if we were lucky. We parked at the far end of the loch at the Ullapool end. I had told Pete it would be a slow day he was okay with that. Even better he took the car and did the driving.
Pete picked a great line in he had been in this side a few times . It was still a long way in.
The late Andy Nisbet the famous Scottish climbing author said that it takes 2 and half hours to walk in, we took a bit longer and passed a couple of swans on the lower Loch a’ Gharbrain, that was the only wildlife we saw that day.
The route is famous for bog but today it was dry and frozen hard but still hard work. The views were great and even behind us we could see the Fannichs covered in snow with snow cornices clearly visible by Pete’s binoculars.
We could see Cona Mheal is a lovely Munro with its scrambly East Ridge takes in the views a lovely mountain. The snow was heavy going higher up and the hidden Loch nan Glean frozen solid, then the great cliffs of Coire a’ Ghranda came into view as Andy Nisbet states “the Corrie has a wonderful wild atmosphere” in the new Northern Highland Central Guide.
So many lines – such a great corrie it was a wonderful sight.
I had been to this wonderful area many times often with the RAF Mountain Rescue we trained a lot in these great hills and had many call-outs in this wild area. I also chased Munro’s, climbs and our at times our egos hardly taking any of it in.
When your young you hardly ever stopped to enjoy this wild place and now I can sit and take it all in. Nowadays it is different we had lunch and sat and looked at its grandeur it is so like Skye and it’s great Corries .
The Loch was frozen solid and apart from a fox’s footprints there was little life. Many come to Beinn Dearg and grab the Munro’s or the famous ice climbs of Emerald Gully or Penguin Gully and never see this place.
There is only one rock climb on the broken slabs by the famous Bell in 1946 but many incredible winter climbs. The famous climb “Ice bomb” is on the big cliff and was done by Mike Fowler the tax man from London who has climbed so many of Scotland’s great climbs. The late Andy Nisbet has done so many of the climbs it is incredible. Poor Pete he had climbed Emerald Gully the day before in 1994 and walked all the way in to this Corrie with a well known English visitor who was that tired when he reached the crag they walked out! The joys of winter climbing.
We spent some time and then wandered back in the sun get sunburnt – note must pack sun screen and glad I had lots of water. We passed the ruined croft at the loch how hard must have life been in those days? We were soon back at the car and it was great to be driven home ensuring I rehydrated with pure hill water.
The body was a bit stiff as Pete dropped me off we had some day.
The effect on me was great I had a great sleep felt so much better but tired than only a day in the mountains can bring. My mind was full of the joy of the hills especially in winter.
I wrote this the next day:
The Coire of the Four Lochs
Familiar view, dry frozen moorland.
Swans on the Loch, little wildlife about.
Stop, the view the Fannichs – snow plastered.
Grind up the hill, to the frozen loch.
Peaceful, hard going in the snow.
Huge Cornices, ice ribbons, gullies
The big corrie – wild remote exciting.
Walk across the frozen loch
Take it all in – Wildness as it was.
Only nature is working here.
Time out – enjoy.
The journey back – hard going
Ruined crofts – what have they seen?
The Dam – landscaped, changed by man?
All gone now?
Soon the road.
Then the Wind-farm site
Are we losing it?
2013 April – Heavy Whalley – Coire a Ghranda
Little was I to know that I would need 2 more operations to get sorted. I am sure I would never have coped without days like these to see me through. The mountains and wild places have great healing power.