Thursday, September 20, 2012

Loch Ericht to Loch Laggan: Ben Alder (25) and Beinn Bheoil (112)

Walk date: 03/05/12

My Munro #'s: 228 and 229

Pronunciations - translations - heights:

Byn awlder - hill of the rock - 1148m

Byn vyawl - hill of the mouth - 1019m


Duration (all) - 08:00 - 19:50
Duration (hike) - 09:45 - 18:30

Distance (all) - 57.1 km
Distance (hike) - 25.3 km

Total ascent (all) - 1650m
Total ascent (hike) - 1050m

Weather - nice all day long, warm and dry with a good wind on top

Team - with Paul P

Other hikers: only people on route in/out or staying at bothy, no one up at height

Day 5 - Thursday
Paul P and George 'Daddy Team' Hiking Trip 2012

And so at last we come to Ben Alder!! Long have I looked in books at these hills and wondered when the opportunity would come. The Ben Alder group of hills is massive, but it is their remoteness which really conjures up a special feeling and epitomises the difficulties of spending time amongst them. It takes 16km of thankfully good estate tracks before the hiking even starts. Although Culra bothy looked good, we hadn't managed the organisation required to stay there, and instead opted for cycling in from Dalwhinnie.

The going is good pretty much all the way in, although there is a significant incline after the Alder lodge and the high track is of not as high quality. Rounding Loch Pattock is also a little rough, but the views from being lochside together with the delights of negotiating the suspension bridge made it worthwhile!

Once beside Culra bothy, we ditched the bikes and hiked up Bealach Beithe on a great path. Our thoughts of tackling either of the northern buttresses soon receded as our going was more than sufficient, even around Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe when the path got a little soft.

Once up on the high Bealach Breabag, we had a good break and once again ditched the bags to enable a quick ascent.  Unfortunately the path we were following turned out to go down toward Loch Ericht again and so we had to make a quick turn and charge up the rough southern flank.

As we reached the crest we also reached the snow line and we soon found ourselves strolling on thick snow with tremendous views all around.  It was great to sit and admire the distance we'd come, as well as contemplate Bein Eibhinn, Aonach Beag, Geal charn and Carn Dearg, all waiting for another adventure.

Our return to the bealach was fairly quick, although we still failed to find an actual path, and found a way through the rough eastern flank instead!

After that, Beinn Bheoil and it's straightforward path came easy, although it was further than it looked with an unexpected height gain on the second part, but we knew everything was in hand, and the views along Loch Ericht made it worthwhile.

The return leg on the bikes was smooth and a fair bit quicker, enjoying as we did the incline we had previously slogged up.  We arrived back at Dalwhinnie just shy of 12 hours.  A superb day out, and a set of hills that I personally can't wait to get back to.

The Alder Lodge:
The suspension bridge at Loch Pattock:

First sighting of Culra Lodge:

The bealach from Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe:

Clambouring up the south side of Ben Alder:

Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe from Alder:

Overhangs on Alder:

The final climb on Beinn Bheoil:

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Loch Lochy, Loch Arkaig and Loch Eil: Sron a' Choire Ghairbh (239) and Meall na Teanga (275)

Walk date: 02/05/12
My Munro #'s: 226 and 227

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Sron a Choire Ghairbh - srawn a corrie ghirav - 937m
Myowl na tyenga - hill of the tongue - 918m

Duration - 12:20 - 19:00
Distance - 21.2 km (inc 6 km by bike)
Total ascent - 1300m
Weather - Beautiful.  Hot with a nice breeze at height.
Team - with Paul P
Other hikers: a few

Paul P and George 'Daddy Team' Hiking Trip 2012
Day 4 - Wednesday

After some big days, we decided to switch the plan around a bit and do a lighter day today; instead of our plan of two consecutive Alder group days, we reduced our Alder aims to just one day, and put in this pleasant little hike instead.  The only problem was that just getting to this hike proved to be an epic; after a lie-in and a relaxed drive down the A86, we found the road blocked almost at its end.  As a result, we had to drive all the way back to our new base at Newtonmore, and then drive to Loch Lochy via Inverness!  We don't normally start hikes after noon!

Anyway, this hike saw our first use of the bikes, and made the first (and last) 3km fly by.  After that, the path didn't hang about and pretty much made a constant sharp incline up to the bealach between these two beauties.  In the mid-afternoon heat, we made the wise decision to keep the bags between the hills and pace up each one in T-shirts.  We felt like kings strolling about on the tops with the light breeze cooling us down as we gazed over to the Nevis range and beyond still crusted in snow.

This is a highly recommended shorter hike.  It's by no means effort-free, but the rewards are great for what you have to put in!  It unfortunately still turned out to be a big day for us, as even on the way back, another accident meant that we had to repeat the whole trip via Inverness route.  Boo hiss, but a fantastic meal in The Glen Hotel, 'Newtonmore made up for it!

Meall na Teanga

Great views!

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Saturday, September 08, 2012

Glen Affric and Strathfarrar: Mam Sodhail (Mam Soul) (14), Carn Eige (Eighe) (12) and Beinn Fhionnlaidh (128)

Walk date: 01/05/12
My Munro #'s: 223, 224 and 225

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Mam sool - hill of the barns - 1181m
Kaarn aya - file hill - 1183m
Beinn yoony - Finlay's hill - 1005m

Duration - 08:00 - 19:15
Distance - 27.8 km
Total ascent - 2000m
Weather - A misty morning gave way to glorious sunshine for most of the day.
Team - with Paul P
Other hikers: 3

Paul P and George 'Daddy Team' Hiking Trip 2012
Day 3 - Tuesday

After a rest day, today saw Paul return to the fray, although the rest had not exactly cured him, and for myself, the extra hiking day had only pushed my ankle worse.  And so it was in a sorry state that we started what we knew would be a very big day, and a linear one at that, meaning that if we turned back we would have to repeat every step at some point in the future.  

The opening kilometres of this hike were along estate tracks, and the hard ground was unforgiving; Paul and I had to keep to our own sides as we required opposite cambers to help ease our ailments!  Once we were onto the path proper things improved, as did the weather, as a mist-filled glen gave way to strong sunshine, bizarrely coinciding (after a sharp turn off the lochside path) with our hitting the snow line!

Thankfully, the route along the loch and then up into Coire Leachavie was fantastic, and we soon forgot our potential alternative descent route down Gleann nam Fiedh.  The route only really gave out when we hit the snow, which was a little worrying as the walls ahead seemed impregnable.  Fortunately for us, a super keen lone hiker overtook us at this point, and provided a welcomed lead on the way ahead. 

Once on the ridge, the snow was deep and soft and going was slow, and for a while the cloud came in and made us worry that this was going to become an epic, but after a short while the sun became the victor and we strode to a magnificent first hill at 1181m, Scotland's 14th highest...

A long downward push and climb through the same soft snow found us gaining another 2 metres overall as we came to stand on Carn Eige, the 12th highest...

After being on two amazingly high hills, the third hill of Beinn Fhionnlaidh was a surreal sight, standing so low below Carn Eige, but Beinn Fhionnlaidh demands respect as it is one of Scotland's most remote Munros, and, after descending through much loose snow, it was a privilege to stand upon it, especially with the wonderful views over the ridiculously long Loch Mullardoch, which had given us all the problems on the first day.

You always take a deep breath leaving such a remote point as you know all the work that remains.  We had hoped for a quicker return as a path bypasses the height of Carn Eige, but ironically in all the snow this less frequented route seemed much more work than the climb back onto it would have been.

Once past Carn Eige and back over Mam Sodhail the going was much quicker and our spirits were raised as despite less than 100% fitness we had managed a classic Munro day, and we had done it in spectacular conditions.  Truly one of the best hikes experienced!

Glen Affric starts to fend off the morning mist:
Coire Leachavie, gateway to a snowy world!

Burning off that mist!

Paul gets serious with the sticks!

On the ridge!

Nice hat, onto Mam Sodhail:

And Carn Eige:

Beinn Fhionnlaidh below:

Looking back:

The git that is Loch Mullardoch:

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