Monday 29 June 2015

Third time's a charm

Forgive the unorthodox slang title, but I'm working my way through the final season DVD of Sons of Anarchy, and I feel all...transatlantic.

Yesterday saw me and Andy manage, after two false starts, to get to the top of Sgurr a' Mhaoraich, above Loch Quoich. On our first visit, at the end of 2013, we failed to make any inroads on the hill at all, with the singularly bogging weather causing us to elect instead to embark on a "fact finding" low level wander to Barisdale. The full story can be found here.

We returned a couple of months back, and actually gained a wee bit of height. Result! The summit proved beyond us though, entirely due to the fact that there was a large, deep, slippery and unstable-feeling snow slope just before the final ascent. We both had the Kahtoola spiky quasi-crampons with us, but - well - it just wasn't the right, um, vibe. The section was an odd combination of long, steep run out and protruding pointy boulders, so votes were cast and unanimously we retreated to the car, from a position (as yesterday proved) about 15 minutes from the cairn.

Before I do anything else, as a matter of mild interest, compare and contrast the vista at the end of April with the late June conditions...

Indeed, in this next photo, if you're bored enough with everything else on the internet to look closely, the path through the snow - and a potentially telltale debris trail - are both visible.

We turned round (cautiously) at the big rock to the right of the debris. Given that the path to the summit, as we established yesterday, would have been entirely buried under the section of the topmost snowfield that's lying in shadow in the last picture, I'm satisfied that the Munro walkers Spideysense was fully operational in April.

I found the walk itself rather more enjoyable than the route descriptions would have you believe. The stalker's paths get you onwards and upwards rather smoothly, and there's a nice combination of undulating grassy stuff, craggy sections with impressive drops, and near scrambly bits near the summit. Once you're there, it's also a tremendous viewpoint, although as ever, my photies don't really do it any justice. It's also a right good dug hill. Admittedly I was slightly concerned about the numbers of deer that we'd seen on our previous sojourns to this neck of the woods - Jorja finds the smell of hoofbound venison irresistible - but in the event we saw none of the big chaps at all on this trip.

We were a shade over four hours for the walk. That's not bad going, albeit we just went up and down the same way, rather than turning it into a round trip as per some of the route descriptions, but not still not too shabby. The pace was largely set by Mr Fitzpatrick, whose recent cycling epiphany and consequent fitness upgrade seems to have removed the need for either of us to stop for any kind of breather on the way up. Thanks for that, like. ;)

Useful  information? Well, it's definitely a hill that's easier when you can see the path. That last section is a bit clambery anyway, and if it was snowbound and/or icy you could find yourself embroiled in a full on winter fankle if you weren't sure precisely which bit you were aiming for. I also have to admit that the half hour section on single track road to get to the starting point of the walk is a bit of a bind, and something I'd far rather be doing in the daylight. Finally, and most importantly, if like us when travelling north west,  you tend to head up the A9 from Lanarkshire then cut across via the Laggan road to Spean Bridge, thus avoiding the Fort William traffic bottleneck, the good news is that the former hotel at Dalwhinnie has partially reopened, transforming itself into a perfectly acceptable wee cafe, serving bacon rolls, coffee and other tasty comestibles. Given that Dalwhinnie is generally bang on two hours away from Airdrie, it's a good stopping off point. And they've recently shut the public toilets in the village too, so buying a roll and sausage is a small price to pay for the use of the cafe facilities.

It's about a four hour drive from darkest Lanarkshire to the Glen Quoich bridge. Eight hours in the car for a four hour walk might seem...unbalanced. In more than one sense of the word, I suppose.

On the other hand, we had a great day out on Gairich last September, and we had a grand jaunt last Saturday up this yin. I still tend to the view that I enjoyed those two hills far more than if I had tried to do both of them on one trip, driving a couple of miles round the lochside inbetween ascents. Which is a thing, apparently. Having said that, I'm sure I'd feel worse about my carbon footprint, and do a bit more hill-combining if I was getting up more than one new Munro every nine months.

We have a mix and match selection of photos. The light was better the first time, the height was better the second. Thus it's mainly April pictures. ;)

Not a bad wee vista, straight from the car


The stalker's path soon gets you up high, into the beautiful April weather. Five minutes later...'s snowing.

Target acquired.


Damn right, hmm. Slip crossing that, and you're not ending anywhere comfy.

The view back the way was good too. :)

It was still a right good walk, of course.

Here's a few from Saturday. The summit photos from the most recent visit went a bit monochrome, because I'm trying to learn how to work my camera, and I've, er, found a new button. Just be grateful it's not all sepia.

The last stretch, about five minutes beyond where we turned back in April. 

I maintain this section would be little fun in the snow that we saw two months earlier.

There's folk on that ridge...


Nearly there

Looking back down the ridge. Gleouraich in the middle distance. 


Yon's the South Glen Shiel ridge in the last photie. I'm beginning to wonder if the Wee Black Dug could manage that. Watch this space. But don't hold your breath. ;)

1 comment:

  1. Busted. You can tell from the photos that we're nothing if not style conscious.