In long, balmy days of Junes past, me and Andy have generally tried to get one really big walk done, to try and use the daylight to the full. This year, a clever plan was devised to try and cross off the sole remaining Far Far North Munro - less a really big walk than a really big drive.
To add a bit of spice, we decided to try and fit in the drive, the hill and the Colombia game which was due to kick off at 9pm.
The forecast had been a factor in the whole plan, but it proved to have been somewhat optimistic - claggy, rainy and viewless at the summit. Still, if the forecast had been accurate, there'd have been no prospect whatsoever of driving for a total of almost ten hours simply to walk for about five.
On the plus side, it was a new experience to arrive in Tain at 9am, just as the shops were opening. ;)
In all honesty, it's not a hill that I would rush to repeat. It might well be that the Walkhighlands route would make for a more enjoyable day out, whereas we - largely owing to the self inflicted World Cup time pressure - started out taking the "traditional" shortest route that Cameron McNeish describes thus:
Start from the A836 road through Strath Vagastie. There is a good parking spot at 545 303 and once across the river, rough moorland rises towards the western slopes of the hill. Head for Loch nan Uan and from its northern shore the grass & heather slopes steepen quite dramatically towards the lowest point of the ridge above. From the outflow of the loch it’s best to head South East and so avoid the craggy ground below Meall nan Con. Once the ridge is reached, a short ascent on good underfoot conditions lead to the summit boulderfield and the cairn.
In the event, the grass and heather slopes steepened rather more than we liked the look of, so we kind of cut across country, bypassing the loch on the south side, and headed for what looked a rather less strenuous approach to gaining the ridge.
|Looking back to Ben Loyal
The underfoot combination of tussocks, bog, gloopy waterlogged grassy moss and generally adhesive heathery rubbish did not make for a terrifically enjoyable wander...
...but matters did improve once we got higher up, and found the bypass path on Creag an Lochain.
|Looking back along the ridge/plateau/nice flat bit
At that point the weather was about as good as it got all day, so there was a perfectly acceptable flattish dander for a wee while, before the final slog up the impressive rocky summit cone of Meall nan Con.
It was proper clagged in by then, inevitably, and remarkably cold to boot. I'm not sure there wasn't a wee touch of frostiness setting in on the WBD's eyebrows at one point.
We were around three & a half hours for the ascent, and exactly two to get back to the car. We came down the traditional ascent route, and it is not something I would have liked to try in the other direction. Steep, boggy, steep, slippery, less than obvious, and steep.
I think we've both kind of agreed that from now on, some of these hills are going to require a wholehearted commitment to overnight stays. I certainly couldn't have driven all the way back down the road on Saturday evening, so I'm glad Andy was in the mood for taking the wheel. Plus, he aye makes better time than I would, so we caught the start of the football after all. Bang!