Achnashellach and Torridon Hills: Sgurr Choinnich (139) and Sgurr a Chaorachain (78) BUT NOT Maoile Lunndaidh (125)
My Munro #'s: 73 and 74
Interesting use of the word 'bridge':
The west ridge of Sgurr Choinnich offers no shelter:
Sgurr Choinnich (right) and Sgurr a Chaorachain (left):
Looking back to Sgurr Choinnich just after the col:
My 'lost' hill, Maoile Lunndaidh:
Hiking Expedition 2006! 09:00-16:30. Knowing that today's walk was one of this expedition's longest, and that severe weather in the form of 60 mph gusty winds and possible white-out conditions was due, I set off in the car with a deep breath and a 'turn back the second you become uninterested' attitude!
The car park at Craig is a forestry car park on the right if coming from Achnasheen, blink and you will miss the entrance. Having put my bike together, I set off across the railway line and onto the forestry track. This started climbing steeply once the river had been crossed and to be honest, with my absence of cycling muscles and 13 year old bike, I pushed it along for most of it!
However, I was still at the bridges over Allt a' Chonais after an hour's effort. Now, when we say bridges, do not be expecting quaint weathered wooden constructions put together by a hard working old hermit. Instead, expect two loosely hung cables, one above the other, and absolutely nothing more. I searched up and down the river for a short while, but decided that the river was just a little too high. Begrudgedly, I started across the second bridge and I must say that it was actually ok once I had got used to the sudden switches from leaning forward to back and back again. This second bridge had its cables closer together and in any case was the better one for the route ahead so check this one out if you're up on this route.
After the bridges, a good path leads up to Bealach Bhrearnais. Although to this point, the odd gust had hit me, there had been no real problems, and gladfully no sign of rain or snow. Of course, as soon as I hit the bealach and started up the exposed west ridge of Sgurr Choinnich I started getting much more weather and my walking started to be impeded. Instead of the path, I started walking south of the crest to minimise what problems being blown over would cause! However, I needed to get to the crest for the summit and I did this by creeping hunched over, for a moment on my knees, to touch the summit stones before retreating and starting eastward again.
This avoidance of the Sgurr Choinnich crest caused a further problem as the ridge to the col before Sgurr a Chaorachain went straight from it, but instead I found myself too far down the slope, tentatively stepping onto a snowbank to try and get a visual of where the ridge began! Finally realising what was necessary, I crept back to the crest and then gracefully sat myself down and pushed myself along with my hands and feet along the snow bank until I got to the rock of the ridge. Once I was onto the ridge, I continued my crest-avoidance and made my way through deep snow and over rock toward the summit of Sgurr a Chaorachain. Going was very slow with the wind increasing and threstening black clouds dispatching from the obvious blizzards on the hills to the south of Loch Monar, but I finally got up to height just below the summit.
Taking in the peak of Sgurr a Chaorachain was still not straight-forward though, as my crest-avoidance had brought me to an omnious snow-bank just south of the summit. From my position below this bank, I could see nothing at all of the route ahead, even at full stretch. Although by my own and by the GPS's reckoning, it was but a brief step north to the summit, the wind was so strong that stepping over the bank would most likely mean falling over, and there was no visual confirmation to stay that no, of course there wasn't a sheer drop immediately ahead. It most likely took me only five minutes to build up the courage to trust the navigation but it felt like fifteen! Suddenly, I moved onto the top of the bank in a crwal and literally on all fours, made my way onward, no doubt looking very sexy! Almost immediately, I thankfully saw the summit stone ring and, tapping it quickly, transferred back to merely hunched walking, and picked up speed down the slopes to the north.
Very quickly onto the sheltered side of the hill the effect of the wind was much reduced and I started exhaling waves of relief. Having decided somewhere between the two hills to ditch the third, Maoile Lunnaidh, I made my way down to the forestry path again. Sitting having a second lunch, I started to seriously contemplating taking in Maoile Lunnaidh after all, just ascending it from that sheletered side and indeed I even walked for fifteen minutes along the forestry path toward it. Wisely though, it being 15:15 already, and with my feet throbbing as the full size of it came into view, sense prevailed and I reversed my route.
Once the bike was picked up, progress was rapid, especially as I discovered that my rear brakes weren't working and squeezed my front ones so much that the air was particularly sulphurous.
My drive back went through Locharron where I was able to replace the waterproof trousers that my bike had just chewed through! Blustery day out with no too much regret over the 'lost' hill.