The Kyle railway line and some of its story! Worth a trip through some stunning scenery!

I am staying with friends in the Old railway station in Plockton on the West Coast it is a stunning location. Outside the house is the railway platform and the Station house has been converted into a stunning holiday home that is rented out! It still has many of the features of an old railway station with the classical wood panelling and ticket office window. We get visitors of the train thinking it is still the Station! You meet some folk so many good people about! A group of Norwegians were great company as they waited for a train and gave us a drink of their potato based drink?

As a climber I know this line well it is part of the mystery of the Highlands. We take it for granted but the work involved in building it in the 1890′ s must have been immense. It takes some journey from Dingwall to Kyle.

The Kyle of Lochalsh Line is a primarily single track railway line in the Scottish Highlands from Dingwall to Kyle of Lochalsh Many of the passengers are tourists, but there are also locals visiting Inverness for shopping, and commuters. All services are provided by Abellio Scotrail and run beyond Dingwall to Inverness.Most services run to or from Inverness; one daily train continues beyond Inverness to Elgin in the current 2016 timetable). In the past there were some through services to/from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen.[None of the line is electrified, and all trains on the line are diesel-powered, as are all other trains in the Scottish Highlands. It goes through some stunning scenery everyone must go on it. It is good to see that the local school use it to transport some students to home!

The Station at Plockton.

Last night we went out for a meal into the village it was a stunning night. The meal in the Shore at Plockton was exceptional the fresh fish and venison was superb. The views of the Tollie Crags the boats-and the Loch on a warm night were stunning and Scotland at its finest. The Palm trees ,various flowers are out and with the stunning colours and the warm Southerly wind is a bonus at the end of the night. My foot is still sore and wearing open toed sandals is not easy for walking surprising how a skinned toe can stop you walking far or am I just wimp? We just got back in daylight up the big hill and then a big April shower hit the road. In minutes it was a river and we sat and had dram and then bed. Living the dream !

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Plockton visit and meeting great friends and a interesting lass from Islay .

I am visiting two good pals staying at the Old Station House at Plockton. It is a wonderful location and we get about 6 trains a day! The folk think our house is still part of the set up and it is so amazing who you meet.

The bunkhouse is the big White building on the left and our house is on the right by the platform! I stayed in the Bunkhouse on a Nre Year meet in the past what a place to be. It was New Year and the village was amazing.

It is an incredible place to stay and we have already met so many grand folk both local and visitors.

Today we went for a wander to a cove past the Plockton Airstrip a place I know well from my Mountain Rescue days! The Wessex helicopter used to use it for training the aircrews and to refuel after call outs and I stayed in the village a few times after the odd hairy call out in Skye.

We went down to a secluded beach this morning with my mate Lyle and Judy and Byron the dog and had a great day. My foot is a mess after the day on the hill on Sunday as I have torn my toe so have to take it easy. It was a great wander and we enjoyed the views of Skye, sun and the sea.

It was magic views the sea and the hills and we met a lovely young lass Eleanor from Islay who is at present at the Outdoor College at Fort William. She is here to gain some work kayaking with a local company and gave us a tour of possible places to spot wildlife especially the otters. It was great to see such enthusiasm for the wild places from someone so young and we all enjoyed her company.

It was then a big chat about her life in Islay

and hopefully we will meet up this week. We loved to hear her plans for the future and how she loves climbing biking and kayaking. She was brought up in a special place Islay and loved it there and still does.

We spent most of the day there then a shower came on the skies darkened and we headed home!

Lyle showed me the shop as in the photo a great honesty shop and the jams and Chutney are magic .

We met some Norwegians eating for the train who had come on holiday here in 1972 and were back on a trip! They gave us a drink and we had a great laugh!

Life in the West.

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Ben Tee – “The Fairy hillock” what a stunning day, and grand views all day,

Ben Tee is a prominent Corbett, visible from many points along the Great Glen and Glen Garry, and makes a fine, wide ranging viewpoint. That is the guide book description of this hill. I was out with the Moray Mountaineering Club on their monthly bus meet. Sadly there was only 18 on the bus on what was to be a stunning day. I left a foggy Burghead to get the bus in Forres and we stopped at Nairn and Inverness picking up folk. The weather brightened as we went down Loch Ness and soon we could see the hill above Loch Lochy. They were still snow covered but most of us had planned to climb either the two prominent Munros Meall Na Teanga and Stron a’ Choire Ghair or Ben Tee a Corbet. One had been dropped of for a long glen walk to Fort Augustus via the High route. On the bus there were many ages and it was great to see everyone was out for a good day. As the bus left we all started of on our varying routes.

 

Loch Lochy hills

The time we have from about 1000 – 1730 means that the day has to be planned as it all depends on the Bus Drivers hours. We arrived at the Canal Laggan Locks  in the sun, it was still a bit cold but stunning with all the yachts in the wee marina. It was along the road now lots of holiday accommodation and then steeply up the hill, the legs feeling it after a long lay off. We did not have time to visit the Killfinnian Falls and followed a rough path to the wild open moors. These can be hard going and were today as the snow is not long gone but the views were magic. This is the hills of great views. The big Munros   Meall Na Teanga and Stron a’ Choire Ghairb still had big cornices and most grab them by the beleach but the ridges on to each area day on there own and few get the joy of these places and the wildness of untrod-den ridges?

The boys wrapped up at the start of the day Laggan Locks a magical place.

We had a hard slog across the rough ground no path in places but it was fairly dry and in the footprint of deer yet I never saw one all day. As you lose the sight of Loch Lochy the area becomes vast and the windfarms above the Invergarry road come into view. There are over 80 of them now and it is a big area of industrialisation but is it a good or bad idea? I will leave it with you to comments. The hill is now in view and it has a lovely summit ridge and as Hamish Brown says it has a symmetrical summit and from here the views though hazy are worth the effort.

The girls on the way up as the sun comes out and Loch Lochy in the background.

There was a keen wind jackets gloves and hats were on for the final ridge. It was now a good path and I was stopping and marveling at the views. It was hazy but what a wonder was about of big hills in all directions and the wildness and trees lower down and hill after hill after hill.

Heavy going on the way up

We all went our own pace and the last ridge was good as there was a path and rocks, we could see a few of our group ahead they would be cold in the wind but we were soon on top.

Moray Club on top still chilly

It was so good to get a summit in at 901 metres a big wee hill but a day out and the weather made the day.

Babs a new Corbett at last

The lassies on top well done. All wrapped up on the top still cold on the summits and then down to the sun.

A bit chilly but happy.

I wandered away and looked down. On the side of the Munro  opposite  was a huge old  Avalanche of over 1000 feet and that drew my attention to the hanging cornices and steep snowfields that were on the bigger hills. There was plenty of snow about and what a view, it has been a big winter.

The big Avalanche Photo Gordon Eccleston

I looked down at the drop between the Munros and my hill and could not beleive that over 40 years ago we did that day from Kintail over the 2 Munros and then the Corbett. Then we headed to Spean Bridge all on foot, nowadays ?????  We had some food on the summit and then I headed off I  using the snowfields that we avoided on the way up to move a bit faster.

We had some great discussions on the way down as you do  of the senseless bombing in Syria. How I was in the military so long and all the time the sun was warm and we crossed of the ridge onto the moors a lot easier than on the way up. It was then hit the path and head off I slipped bumped my arm and got covered in mud but we were soon on the steep, sheep shorn slopes and back at the loch, sun burnt. It was then head for the Laggan Locks get a drink on the barge and then a laze on the sun and wait for the rest. The all got there hills done in superb weather and there were a few sun burnt folk on the bus.

Tea on the Barge at Laggan Locks in the sun.

The rest all got back having a great day and we even met Andy and his dog from up on Ben Hope the day before ticking Munros with some of the club a big drive down with his puppy. It was then to Fort Augustus for a break, the usual beer. I had chips and sausage then home after a fun day out.   The body hurt and maybe the arm needs a check, also got blisters!!!! by wearing the wrong socks.

The last bit to the cafe!

Thanks to all for a great day for organising the bus Gordon and the girls who left me as they raced up the hill, enough said.

Todays tip – Sunscreen and beware of sheep ticks?

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1976 North – South Walk – Glen Affric – Food and boots drop off by Seaking helicopter. Greenfields and the Big 4 On Ben Nevis.

 

Day 11  May 19 –  The bIg Hills of Kintail  – It was a great start from  Altbeithe Youth Hostel and another big day ahead. We had a look at the crash nearby of a Vickers Wellington that crashed in the war.At ten o’clock on the night of 13 February 1942, a Vickers Wellington Type 1c bomber crashed into a hillside in Glen Affric. The crew of six all survived. It was their last training exercise before going to fight in the Second World War in the Middle East.

We were glad  it was another good day with no wind  and great weather we crossed the river and said good bye to the amazing Aultbeithe Youth Hostel.  It is a long pull up the North West Ridge to the first Munro Mullach Froach choire 1102 metres another massive hill with its huge wild corries and more herds of deer. This is another remote Munro and one that many chase in winter the scramble along the summit ridge can be interesting scramble along the towers and intimidating in a wind, you are a long way out from here if anything happens. The one inch to the mile hardly shows the ground that you crass very different from today.  I had been on these hills before in a wild winter’s day and had used a rope on the tricky wind and cornices, not today just bits of neve in places and great walking.  The ridge along to the next Munro A’ Chraileag 1120 metres and then along a broad ridge with huge open Corries to Sgurr nan Conbhairean 1109 metres and then Carn Ghulsaid 957 metres.  Great views and we were half way into our walk and going well, my knee was stiffening up on the descents it felt like cartilage but just kept going a bit behind the boys but no problem in such weather.  Then it started to rain and we got wet  and had  a long road walk along the road to Greenfields near Loch Garry.  As we hit the main Kintail Road a Yellow Sea King stops by the road and out jumps Mick Anderson RIP the wincheman with some food for us , they are soon gone and we are so pleased. Paul had new boots waiting at Greenfields  THE SEA kING DROPPED THEM OFF! how he coped I will never know.

The Late Mick Anderson RIP – Helicopter winchy and Mountain Rescuer

We also had trouble finding the bothy as we had never been there before far less in the dark. This is an new area for me and it will be a huge day again tomorrow.. These hills and the road walks are very hard, body aching, gear very wet, great to have dry gear on after a day being wet. This is the best part of the day along with the soup and tea; I crave for bread, Looking at the map and reading my battered book before I fall asleep. This was a big day and again we see no one but lots of Deer and many are now down very low and many are now down very low a sign of wild weather coming. I hate the roads not easy on my knee; we wear our RAF sand shoes on the road and look like tramps now with our stubbly beards. The Great Glens were over

Greenfields

Day 12 May 20   

The day of no bothy Green fields – jIM ADDS Ben Tee –  Sron A’Choire Chairb, Meall na Teanga – Spean Bridge . Greenfields is a beautiful place at the back of the Glengarry Forest and the plan is the Corbett Ben Tee and the Loch Lochy Munros Sron A Choire Garbh and Meall Na Teanga. It is great to be out of the forest and a new way up old favourite hills. This is big country and great to see a new aspect to these popular hills, I wonder how many come this way? The normal route from the A82 from the Laggan Locks takes you through some forestry but not today we are at the other side of the hill today. There are few paths coming from this side until we reach the hills. It is a very steep but great ridge walking and I enjoyed the views along the Meal Na Teanga ridge and the wild descent to Clunes battering on the knees and all more new ground. High winds and more snow we are battered and nearly drop off at the beleach due to the weather but push on.

We sign the wee book hidden under snow on the summit hidden in a tin. The ridge walk was great and these hidden Corries are full of deer and we see many hares, we have yet to meet anyone on the hill!  We are rewarded with a great view in the clearing of the big hills ahead and Loch Lochy.  We have no bothy planned today the bothy has fallen through so we will have to bivy at Spean Bridge and after a long walk and a stop at the Commando Memorial to reflect and see the day ahead on Ben Nevis and the big Four. We manage a pint and some food in the pub but cannot get a bothy for the night. In the end we sleep at the railway station at Spean Bridge and are sleepless all night bivy as the trains arrive early. It was just what we needed an early start and the Station Master was kind to us he opened the toilets and must have thought we were strange. It was 

Looking into the wilds of Meall na Teanga

Distance 19 miles and 5000 feet of ascent. Munro Total 2   

Day 13 May 21 1976 –

Spean Bridge – Fort William Via The Big 4 (Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis.)  

We are in  Spean Bridge was where we were let down with the bothy and could not get hold of the owner and  had to sleep in the Railway station. The trains were going through all night and a railway worker spotted us and said we could stay he opened the waiting room but said be gone by 0600, good man. It was an interesting wander early from the huge Leanachan Forest. I wonder what my Mum and  Dad would have said if they had known we slept in the Station? How we needed a wash the last on was at Strath Connon a few days ago, we look fairly battered like tramps!  We passed the old dismantled railway in the forest and then onto the open slopes of Aonach Mor no Ski are in these days but just a huge plod up open cliffs which were to became a favourite climbing area in the years to come. It was a big day these 4 hills and a must as they are all over 4000 feet. The summit was easy to find but huge snow fields still remained and we wandered along the ridge  Aonach Beag is a better looking peak guarded by crags and a place where only a few venture to climb in winter . The North East ridge is a great day in summer or winter but defended by the long walk in. We were going well we had a day off coming in Fort William with showers etc. From here you can see the huge North East Face of Ben Nevis and the next hill Carn Mor Dearg. As we dropped back down to the huge beleach the views of The Grey Corries  and the wild hills in a 360 degree panorama and many hills that we were to climb on our way to Ben Lomond. The weather was great and the descent to the Beleach to Carn Mor Dearg was easy on huge fingers of snow. This is a tricky area in bad weather but not today. It is very steep onto Carn Mor Dearg and the views of the huge North Face of Ben Nevis is incredible. There was still plenty of snow and after the grind up onto the ridge the summit was an airy walk. This is a favourite day The Carn Mor Dearg Arete to Ben Nevis an airy scramble in winter and a place to concentrate as the great North East Buttress and Brenva Face dominate the walk.

On Carn Mor Dearg Arete

I love this area and was to climb so many routes on this huge Alpine Face on winter Courses in the future. Bob Run, Cresta, Frostbite, and of course the North East Buttress great days and wonderful adventures,and rarely meet any other climbers.  The ridge drops to the beleach and the old Abseil post ( now removed) gave a steep descent into the huge Coir Leis in winter a place to take care as the snow can be alpine hard. The Abseil post were built by the RAF Kinloss Team  under John Hinde  after a spate of terrible accidents to walkers descending into the Corrie. From here it is about 1000 feet ( 300 metres) through the summit screes and boulders to the summit Here we met out first people since we started the walk on the hill. We were very unsociable which I apologise for and had a great break  on the summit. The Mamores our next hill looked snowless and this great ridge with it summits radiating from the summits looked incredible as did Glencoe and beyond but the view to the west were wild. Jim and Paul followed me along the edge of the great cliffs, huge cornices still defended the climbs and as the weather was good we just followed the well-worn path down to the Red Burn. In these days there were many accidents on the Ben and the famous 5 finger gully took a toll every winter. Even nowadays the summit plateau should not be underestimated it is wild place in bad weather and in the years to come I was to learn that on many occasions. I tripped on the way down and wrenched my knee it was very sore and swollen and the constant descent is hard on the knees no walking poles in these days to take the brunt of the weight. We wandered to our bothy and a day off we were staying at the ATC hut in the town and made ourselves at home and then down to the swimming pool for a shower and a swim. My knee was really swollen by now especially after the bolt off the Ben but  we stopped at the wee shop and gorged our selfs we were very hungry. We had a day off tomorrow so hopefully it would calm down. It was then change and out for a meal and the famous Jacobite pub with its constant bell to announce closing time. We were exhausted but would enjoy this day off and try to recover for a huge day on the Mamores the next day. 

Distance 16.5 miles and 7500 feet of ascent – going very well magic day with light bags and the chance of a shower.   Munros 4   

A REST DAY YES !!!!!!

 

 

 

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1976 – North to South Scotland the Wild Glens, Strathfarrar, Cannich, Affric some of Scotland’s finest walks day after day.

The North to South Walk May 1976

1976 Day 8. May 16 – The Strathfarrar Four

It was going to be a hard day for me as there was a long walk in to the mountains that we had planned to do they were the four Munros of the Strathfarrar Hills. Normally they are climbed from Glen Strathfarrar  where access is limited by a locked Hydro gate but this is another wonderful Glen  and to climb these mountains from StrathConnon would not be easy, especially feeling not 100%  the plan was to climb  Sgurr Fuar-thuill :   ‘peak of the cold hollow’ Sgurr a’Choire Ghlais :  ‘peak of the grey-green coire’ Carn nan Gobhar :   ‘hill of the goats’ Sgurr na Ruaidhe :   ‘peak of the redness’  We had big bags that we had restocked with  4 days food but I just took it easy and followed the stalking  paths for nearly three hours up and down this remote area meeting lots deer in the hills, what a wild area this is.  The usual wild river crossings were interesting but we were getting good at them by now, boots off and get in there.

I was very weak still I kept going and it was a long day and once on the ridge the wind came up. Paul and Jim waited on each summit and i just kept going, it is a great area but limited shelter and eventually we were on the last Munro. It was a bitter cold on the top and I could see the road below Paul and Jim headed down and I took it easy on the way down. I was running on empty when I got into the old bothy near the old Broulin Lodge and had an early night really exhausted after a huge day,

The old Broullin Lodge at Strathfarrar now a modern Estate house we used it as bothy for a few years.

 

Tomorrow would be more of the same we were now in the “Great Glens”  all the mountain Summits are hard work, big hills and big days. I felt that I could cope again.  I was amazed at the basic gear we had, the famous Curlies boots , breeches , canvas gaiters (what happened to them) and the tartan shirt, ventile jacket and  Helly Hanson polar fleece the new secret weapon. A months wages on these new jackets.

Curlies boots

Wet gear most days but we thought we were so well equipped for the mountains.  I still feel the pain of putting on the wet gear every day!  A was hungry but we could not face the chocolate we had and was losing what little weight I had.  The Stags were down at the bothy and I even managed to watch them outside massive herds about, what a pace to be.l 

A really hard day for me distance 17 miles and 5547 feet.

Day 9 – 17 May

 Broullin Lodge Strathfarrar  –  Affric Munros – Sgurr Na Lapaich  Carn Nan Gobhar  An Riabachan An Sochach  Mullardoch House Glen Cannich. I was feeling a lot stronger still not 100% and we had a good night in the bothy. Paul had somehow burnt his boot in the fire we had he had put his boots into the old oven and not noticed. One boot was in a mess and had a hole in the toe. Poor Paul but he was a bit embarrassed but said he would cope. We followed the hydro track up to the power station passed the old woods and an area I love it is called Strathfarrar Forest with pine and birch trees and is a stunning area that few see. These are usually done as 4 Munros a big day in a remote area but this area I call the Great Glens is stunning and the weather was magnificent. These Glens are so special and so few know them and at the end of winter stunning.  The boys were ahead and going well. It was a great walk and despite the heavy bags. We were soon of the track and the long wonderful ridge up to Sgurr Nan Lapaich.  This is the most prominent with its well-defined summit makes it an easily identifiable  peak in the range The views were outstanding, we were still in our trainers/ RAF sandshoes and when Paul went to change near the top he had dropped his boots!   He went back and found them about 4 miles away where we crossed the river, and then he caught us up as we decided to do only other Munro that day Carn Nan Gobhar.  The other two peaks are highly sought by Munro baggers An Riabachan with its fine craggy Coire and the lower extension An Socach. They are wild peaks but not for today, we had winter climbed here some ibcredible cliffs.  Nowadays many take the boat in from Loch Mullardoch but it is still a day to remember, there is climbing in the remote Corrie and I climbed a few lines with the team in years to come.   We were all together now and then down the very steep ground to the Loch Mullardoch, hard going it was not a hard day but what I needed. The road from the Loch took us to the Lodge at Mullardoch and another bothy for the night

Distance 15.5 miles and 4500 feet of ascent.

 I was feeling stronger today hope Paul’s boot holds up, Paul seems not bothered he will do the hills in his sandshoes till we get a new pair. Tomorrow we head into the great hills of Glen Affric another wild place, these days are inspiring and when I look at the map it will be a big day tomorrow .The weather has been fine and we are moving well. I am learning so much and have the packing now sorted out each morning and we carry nothing we do not need. The feet are wet most days but not cold, the views of where we have come from and are going to impressive. The Munro tally is increasing and we may be able to beat the record of 42 Munro’s in 21 days at this rate.t.  Another great day in the famous Glens Of Scotland big hard hills but what views the day’s distance was 16 miles and 6600 feet of ascent it seemed far longer. Paul’s boots held up he is some guy and Jim just powers on, powerful people. I am feeling stronger got over the bug and now enjoying these wild areas.

Carn-nan-godhar.j

We are half way through our walk and going well, we carry little excess in gear just a change of clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food a stove and fuel, we have few comforts. The weather has been pretty good but there are still patches of hard snow in places and the ice axe is a great companion. The rivers have been tricky with the melt water from the snow and we have to take care, boots of but our feet are always wet. . I feel now as I was to on many other long walks and expeditions that I am part of my environment. We all feel the same; we are at one with the mountains, picking lines up these great hills where there are few paths. We pick up animal tracks mainly deer and move well despite the big bags of about 30 lb. All day we see amazing things the wild animals and the summer plants coming through. The extra daylight in May means we have plenty of time on the hill and the constant views of the hills and our route give you   a buzz when times are hard. I now know the feeling of being at one with the hills, we have seen no one apart from the Keepers and enjoy the solitude and our own company, and we are all in our own worlds and getting on fine. We hope to pick up a new pair of boots for Paul after Kintail.

 

Mam Sodhail

 Day 10 May 18 – Mallurdoch bothy – and Five of the Affric Munros. The great things about the walk are you start the hills from a different way few will climb Toll Creagach from Glen Cannich. We had a problem at the Dam but sorted that out eventually and then a great long ridge from the Loch all the way up to the summit. Our journey today was all on the high tops of the Affric hills all the way to the remote Aultbeithe Youth Hostel. Today we would miss the great Affric Forest but we would be high all day and get a few mountains in. From the summit of Toll Creagach it is a broad ridge along to the beallach Toll Easa used in past days as a route between Affric Lodge and the now submerged Benula Lodge under the waters of loch Mullardoch, all part of the Hydro System. The ascent of Tom A Chonich by the south East Ridge from the beleach is a good scramble still snow-covered and not the place to slip.     These are big mountains in a wild environment, from the summit of Tom a’ Chonich follows a grand ridge and there is a delightful section where the crest becomes narrow and broken  into some shattered pinnacle’s that today needed an ice axe to assist the journey. The great dome of Cairn Eighe lay ahead a huge hill of over 3800 feet. The outlier Beinn Fhionnlaidh looked feasible but not today, we headed on to Mam Sodhail and its massive summit cairn. How many miss the chance when in this area to get the illusive summit of Beinn Fhionnlaidh and a few Munro rounds are never completed because of this?.  Our last Munro of the day An Socath was a long ridge walk at the end of the journey and from here a huge drop into Glen Affric down the stalkers path. It was a long walk to the Aultbeithe Youth Hostel a great place to stay for the night and I felt that last pull up to An Socath. I twisted my knee on the way off descending into the Glen and limped along the track to the Youth Hostel. It had been a great day in some amazing mountains; I never tire of this place and a night in Glen Affric Youth Hostel to look forward to. We had the place to ourselves, no one had been there since February and there were a few spare tins we ate well that night and had a great fire. We dried the gear at last and sat enjoying a great bothy again no people at all on the hills and lots of free food.Stags were down again at the bothy, in the evening and watched me as I enjoyed a great sunset over the Kintail and Affric hills, what a day, what a walk. I was feeling a lot better the knee was twinging but had a great sleep in a comfortable Hostel; this was the way to live.  Another great day in the famous Glens Of Scotland big hard hills but what views the day’s distance was 16 miles and 6600 feet of ascent it seemed far longer. Paul’s boots held up he is some guy and Jim just powers on, powerful people. I am feeling stronger I seem to have got over the bug and now enjoying these wild areas.

Affric Youth Hostel

 

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A look back The North – South Walk 1976 – Loch Droma the Fannichs, The Nest bothy, Fionn Bheinn , Hospitality at Scardroy Lodge and not well?

Where were you 42 years ago in 1976 we had a plan, we used our leave for the full year nearly ? We lived on packet soup porridge and some compo rations. It was a North to South of Scotland basic kit and lots of pain.

Day 5 May 13 1976

Route. Loch Droma bothy – The Fannichs Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich, Sgurr Mor ,Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan, Meall Gorm, Meall A’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr Na Chlach Geala Sgurr nan Each – The bothy the Nest of Fannichs.

We were glad to leave the damp wet bothy and head for another big hill day we had planned to climb as many of the Fannichs as possible. It was away early, the tea and porridge a ritual. The snow was down to the road and we had a day planned for the high peaks of the Fannichs. This range of peak contains 9 Munros and most lie on the A835 road to Ullapool. It is a route do  lightweight and in later years I did it in its entirety on at least on 12 occasions , twice in winter a long 16 hour day!. It was a classic training day for stamina for the newer team member’s. Not today though with a big bag and poor weather we would see what happens?  The main ridge is fairly continuous with outliers and the final two are separated by a big beleach of 550 metres. It was a big pull out of the bothy up the broad snowed up slopes and onto the main ridge a big pull in the winter weather. Our wet gear and feet were a worry as we were wearing the standard Curlies very basic boots and three pairs of socks to try to keep them dry and warm but no chance. We were soon on the summit of Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich. This is a good viewpoint but not today and now in cloud onto the big summit of Sgurr Mor with its very steep ridge and in the bad weather it was not easy to find the summit cairn perched close to the edge of the cliff.  We had thought of picking this up on the way back but the weather was worrying and better to get it done and if the weather improves skirt it in the way back!  This is a tricky place on a winter day not the place to slip with the snow very icy covered with fresh snow.

This is an impressive hill and stands proud with its summit like at times a big Alpine peak. There was little shelter so we kept moving on out to the far two Munros Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan. It sounds , simple but a long walk out into wind and wild weather. We were left with a dilemma, should we leave our bags on the beleach but the fresh snow made it an easy decision to make, No! It was then back along the ridge climbing Meal Gorm again ( does that count as another Munro) with the odd views of Loch Fannich below. We were back over Sgurr Mor the weather made any attempt at skirting it impossible and then out onto Meall A’ Chrasgaidh and back to the beleach and the Sgurr Nan Clach Geala and its huge buttress breaking through the and giving us great views. That day we saw the mighty An Teallach and the Fisherfield wilderness more remote Munros and of course the previous days Beinn Dearg hills and then the days to come with the great glens mountains sneaking a view, The final peak of the day is Sgurr Nan Each and the wild descent to the Nest of Fannichs bothy. There was no way in the conditions we could do anymore hills 6-7 Munros was enough for today, the weather was wild and we just wanted of the hill and into the bothy.  It was comforting to get out of the wind on to the Mountain Bothies Association bothy known as the “Nest of Fannich” situated on Sgùrr nan Each’s lower south-west slopes by the loch which a great help when climbing mountains in this area. (This bothy was burnt down in 1991 and never replaced) I loved the name “Nest” and it was great to get out of the wind at  comforting to get out of the wind on to the Mountain Bothies Association bothy known as the “Nest of Fannich”. (This bothy was burnt down in 1991 and never replaced) I loved the name “Nest” and it was great to get out of the wind at last and get the fire going with the dry bogwood left by previous visitors and some dry wood by the Fannich Estate.  On arrival we got changed and then the process of fire on, stove on and food on the go tea and soup were wonderful and then the evening meal. What a classic bothy I had stayed here before and it was in an  incredible situation a classic bothy . We were soon sorted and pretty tired with two hard days, we slept well as the weather again picked up and the snow turned to rain. I was always amazed as how Jim coped on arrival each night he was amazing and so organised everything was packed neatly everything in its place and me and Paul lived completely the opposite and Paul was definitely worse than me. By now our characters were showing Jim the driving force, Paul head down and getting stronger very day me just chugging along. My knee was hurting every day and I was getting left a bit behind. We saw huge herds of deer every day and no one, the hills and bothies were so quite this was a specail time in our lives. Each day we got more hill aware, the showers the weather we started to know when the changes were coming in weather. We bacame I feel at one with our surroundings a unique period in my 40 odd years on the hill.

Distance for the day 21 miles and 7547 feet of ascent. 7 Munros in total and grand Total 0f 15 Munros

The ruins at the Nest of Fannichs.

Day 6. May 14

Nest of Fannichs – Fionn Bheinn and Scardroy Lodge. The leaving of the bothy was not easy wet clothes on and huge rivers to cross that were pretty swollen by the rain and snow. These rivers were endless and we got soaked as we headed round Loch Fannich and into the back of Fionn Bheinn our only hill for the day. This hill is described as an uninspiring hill in many guides but from the Fannich side it is a wild place and we enjoyed once we got there the lovely North Corrie of the hill the Toll Coire was impressive.

From here it was down onto the road at Achnasheen and from here I felt awful. I told the other two to keep going and I would catch up on the way to Scardroy Lodge in Strathconnon. I had a bug and went downhill very quickly and the easy pull over to Scardroy left me wasted it was less than 5 miles and 500 feet but what a mess I was in when I arrived. The keeper and his wife were with Jim and Paul and had a meal and a dram for us I went straight to bed feeling awful and really worried about tomorrow! The keeper was a lovely man and his wife was so good to me, I must have looked awful.

Distance 21 miles and 7547. Total 1 Munro Grand total 16 Munros .

1976-scardroy-lodge-north-to-south-walk-

Day 7. May 15

It was a forced Day off at Scardroy looked after by the keeper’s wife and given drinks and lots of care, I thought for me the walk was over. I started to get better and after eating some soup that was brought later in the afternoon I felt weak but on the mend. We were given a great meal that night and I decided to carry on and see how it would go. I will never forget the kindness shown to me at Scardroy and unfortunately lost the name of the Keeper and his wife. Can anyone help? My mother phoned them when I told them of the kindness I had been given and thanked them for all their help. I was pretty weak when I went to bed but I prayed I would be able to cope with the big hill day?

1976-scardroy-lodge-north-to-south-walk-

Jim and Paul were fine but said they would make the decision if I was too slow, I remember these words even to this day. I was to go back to Scardroy and thank them after the walk and drop a few gifts and a bottle but it was little recompense for such great Highland Hospitality. My Mum even wrote and thanked them as they let us all use the phone this was 1976 no mobile phones then. This Glen was to be revisited on several call outs in the years to come both for aircraft incidents. One in 1982 for an USA F111 that crashed a few miles from Scardroy and both crew got out alive, the other was for a missing Cessna aircraft that was found on Liathach. It is a wonderful place and the two Corbetts are wonderful hills and view points for the area. Sgurr a’ Mhuilinn and Meallan nan Uan, Strathconon. I have huge memories of this area.

1976 Big bags n-s walk.

 

 

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1976 North to South a look back in time. Ben Hope to Ben Lomond a walk on the wild side at times.

I have not got out much this winter but this is a look back when I did.

Where were you 42 years ago in 1976 we had a plan, we used our leave for the full year nearly ? We lived on packet soup porridge and some compo rations.

1976 North – South getting tired

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 the 270 miles with no support all travel on foot. The palns was to 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 were a long way away

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.All military authorization for expeditions in these days had to have 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.

Extract from The Big Walk North To South –  May 1976  David Heavy Whalley , Jim Morning and Paul Burns.  Heavy Whalley – Jim Morning (JM Paul Burns(PB) This was the first expedition in the RAF to be led by SAC’s VERY JUNIOR RANKS and no officer. The expedition had lots of support by Pete McGowan (Team Leader) who stuck his neck out to let us do the Traverse.

A long drive up to Tongue in the far North of Scotland the night before it took 4 hours and then we were dropped off at Ben Hope the most Northerly Mountain in Scotland. The ascent was from North of the Broch of Dun Dornagil.

In 1976 the Ben More path was not as it is today a big path but an easy ascent by small waterfall and then along the fine ridge with its big cliffs to the West. It has great viewpoints and its splendid isolation makes it a lovely peak to climb. Today was not for hanging around as one does the weather was fine and though we carried 4 days food in our sacks we still carried all the up and down?  The views are great the magic Ben Loyal looks and is a great day out and the landscape is wild in every aspect, the views to the sea and the huge moors make this a place to stop and drink it all in.  In these days we must have been daft and it was rush, rush rush.  I was lucky enough to enjoy this peak on many occasions and even to run up this peak several times along with other peaks all in one day. I also climbed this peak by various ways including by a gully in winter on the big cliffs and great ways up but not easy access  a bit of a walk in and the a grand but serious scramble from the North a long walk in that gives a different aspect to this fine peak. You can miss the scramble by a gully but it is still a grand outing and worthy of an ascent? There was I notes much winter climbing potential here!

We had no idea what we were taking on this was our first walk, we were very fit and wanted no support on the walk. We had set up food caches in lodges and bothies and were carrying very basic gear as this was 1976. The maps were inch to the mile and pretty basic in these days. From here we were heading to Merkland Lodge via the Corbett Ben Hee ( the fairy hill) After  Ben More it was along the road and along the Estate Road past some incredible places and names Gobernuisgach Lodge and then on to Beleach Nam Meirleach the robbers path and onto Ben Hee an amazing hill with some big cliffs worth having a look at. This would be great mountain bike ground today as the road cuts across some wild places. It was rough walking I bet there is a good path now but we were soon on the top and the weather was fine it was then down to the Lodge at West Merkland to see the keeper who met us with a big dram and a great bothy an enjoyable day and despite the hill bag weight about 40 lbs it was not too bad. We were all going fine and had and enjoyed a great introduction. We took our time it was about 8 hours there was no rush! Tomorrow was another day.

The day’s distance was 21 miles and 5437 feet of ascent,  1 Munro climbed

Day 2 May 10 th 1976

It 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 0700 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. After we left the track it seined 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 and the sea were incredible, how I was to love this place and spend a lot of time here on the nearby Aeroplane Flats where a 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. 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 there 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 Keepers phone 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.

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

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.

 

Day 3 May 11 – Ben More Lodge – Loch Coire Mhor bothy

This was the only day planned to purely road walk and it was along trail down to Oykel Bridge and then follows the forestry and estate road into Corriemulzie Lodge huge open moorland. In these days there were few cars and we had an easy walk to the hotel and very upmarket place for the famous fishing on the river Okyel.

From here it was head down and into the wilds the weather was again special and after Corriemunzie Lodge the track along Strath Mulzie and into Loch Corrie Mor and our bothy for the night below the impressive Luchd Coire and the ridge leading to Creag Duine looking so impressive. The view changes as you get closer and the 5 kilometres of cliffs are rarely seen by the Munro baggers from the West. I love this place and its history the Coire Mor bothy and the Corriemunzie Club for many years climbed these huge cliffs in winter and many are rarely visited or climbed. This is a true remote place and to see it at the end of winter with the great rim of cliffs above a featureless plateau is so impressive.

I had our first food cache hidden here and it was in good nick and we soon had a wee fire and a meal and then enjoyed the ambience of this place. All the greats of this club had spent many nights in this tiny bothy and though Spartan I revealed in its history and even had a simple guide of the time to pick out the lines on the cliffs. I would visit this again and run a winter 4 day trip a few years later. I was outside enjoying the view until late, more herds of deer were around we had seen no one on the hill after three days and tomorrow we would hit the big hills right outside our door. We had a big day planned 5 Munros in a wild area and the weather were changing.

Today’s distance 21 Miles and 1400 feet.

No Munros – Grand Total 3

1976 Copy of N – South walk Strath Okyel Jim Heavy – pain was yet to come!

Day 4 May 12

The night was spent in the bothy at Loch Coire Mhor below the great cliffs of Seanna Bhraigh a wild place. This was day 4 of a walk from the North of Scotland from Ben Hope to Ben Lomond in the South by three young members of the RAF Kinloss MRT. We were staying in bothies where possible and carried our gear and food with us using pre placed food caches every 3- 4 days. It was a trip into the wild with basic maps one inch to the mile and simple hill kit. It was May 1976.

It is a great way to start a day right in amongst the hills and the bothy at Loch Coire Mhoir is the place to be. Outside is the incredible ridge of An Sgurr onto the steep narrow Creag an Duine Ridge interesting way up onto the summit plateau of the huge Luchd Corrie and the summit of Seanna Bhraigh.

This is where the famous Corriemulizie Club mainly from St Andrews University who produced a guide to the area in 1966.  I was to lead a trip for 5 days in 1981 to climb here an amazing trip but that was in the future. It is still an area rarely visited and I enjoyed the wildness of these huge cliffs.  From here the weather changed and it snowed and it is a long way to the next Munro Eididh nan Clach Geala this is really remote and challenging area where navigation has to be on the ball.  There are some secret cliffs in this area and many I have still not visited. I was so looking forward to seeing the remote Coire Ghranda and I was to snow- hole on the beleach years later after a wonderful climb in this remote Corrie.

The main cliff of Beinn Dearg and the normal approach up Gleann na Squaib most go for the classic Emerald Gully a real tick in the old days but in later years I was to have some wild days on Penguin Gully and other climbs of a modest standard nowadays. These   were climbed by such great talents of Scottish Winter climbing like Tom Patey, Bill Murray and Norman Tennant some of the greatest climbers of the pre and post war eras . The hills are hard work and in the weather we had tricky there were few paths and by now the snow had covered them one we went to Meall nan Ceapraichean and out to Cona ‘ Mheall and then in white out up to Beinn Dearg our last Munro of the day. It was very tricky finding the top as there was still plenty of snow about and big cliffs to be aware off.   From here it was a tricky descent still lots of snow very hard in places. It was very steep and into a very wet glen walk to Loch Droma bothy a very simple broken down hut by the A 835, where we managed to get a small fire going and our wet clothes off. We soon ate and were in our beds early everything was soaked and we were off to the big hills of the Fannichs tomorrow another huge day, with wet gear.    I went up to the house to mention we had arrived but no joy, so we just got on with our night meeting no one again. We had spent a whole day of the hill helping making the track up to the house for the Very Senior retired RAF Officer the year before who owned the house. I remember it well and spoke my mind about it at the time but was only a young lad.  It was a tricky day with long spells of hard navigation this was not a place to underestimate in bad weather and we were walking into a wind from the summit plateau only getting a break in snow covered peat hags, We saw few footprints until Beinn Dearg this is a lonely place to be and never easy in bad weather.  It was a wild night in the bothy and the snow and rain fell most of the night, it was damp and wet and I could not wait for morning to come. The Deer were down at the wee bothy all night and on the road after the salt and shelter it was a night to be in!

Distance 16 miles and Height 6599 feet. 5 Munros – Grand Total – 8 Munros

1976 walk Heavy Jim Tired – there was a lot more to come!

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