Saturday, November 13, 2010

Scotland November 2010


Ben Lui

On pretty much a whim I headed to Scotland on Friday afternoon November 5th. Not being one to do things the easy way and wanting to avail of the free travel passes I had for train and ferry I went to Belfast by train and caught the late ferry to Stranraer. I arrived at 01.30 and had to wait until 07.10 for a train to Glasgow. A further two hour wait ensued until i got the wonderful west highland train to Tyndrum. I arrived at 14.15 and checked into the By the Way hostel for a few nights. This is a fabulous hostel and I would highly recommend a visit. As it had been a long 24 hours of travel and doing nothing I immediately ditched my bags and set off on a short climb of the hill behind the village. This involved a steep pull onto the shoulder of Creag Bhan Eigheach and a gentle climb onto Meall Buidhe at 653mtrs. A steep drop back to the village followed in the gathering gloom and I was soon settled back in the hostel.



From Len Lui towards Ben Cruachan
Sunday promised to be a beautifull day but the forecast warned of bad weather arriving in the evening. I therefore decided to make an early start and was out on the trail before 7am. The plan today was to climb Ben Lui and if the weather looked good to do Beinn a Cleibh. Then if things were still ok to return over Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhcraig. It was a beautiful crisp frosty morning and the long gentle walk to the base of Ben Lui on the good track was delightful. This approach shows Ben Lui and it's impressive corrie (Coire Goathach) at it's best. The first rays of sun lit it's flanks and gave the morning a distinct alpine flavour.
Arriving at the end of the track the climbing begins. A fairly steep pull brings you into the base of the corrie and you then climb right onto the broad ridge of Stob Garbh. The ever expanding views are great and to the north a dusting of snow can be seen on the summit of Ben Nevis. Ever upward and I was soon on the frozen summit. The views all around were superb with the eye favouring the Beautiful Ben Cruachan near Oban. As the weather was still playing ball I went onward to the uninspiring Beinn a Chleibh. I am really amazed that this has Munroe status as there is barely 150mtrs of accent involved in reaching it's broad summit. It seems to me that I have been on other "tops" elsewhere that are much more difficult to attain. Still a quick up and back bagged it and I made a long traverse of the southeastern slopes of Ben Lui to reach the saddle under Ben Oss. There followed a solid 350mtrs of a slog to the summit. By now the weather was showing signs of a change and cloud could be seen massing to the south. I headed quickly to Beinn Dubhchraig over undulating ground and climbed the 180mtrs to the top. A long descent followed along the Allt Coire Dubhchraig on a very boggy path to where I joined the West Highland Way back to the hostel. A good day with four Munro's, 1600mtrs of climbing and 24 kilometers long. It started to rain ten minutes after I arrived back.


Ben Oss
Beinn Dubhchraig














After a wet and windy night things hadn't improved by Monday morning. The wind blew horizontal sheets of rain up the valley from Crianlarich. Still I decided to get the first train to Bridge of Orchy and climb Ben Dorian. Snow was now lying to 400mtrs so I emerged from the train with every layer of clothes already on. The route starts from the station and follows the Allt Coire an Dothaidh into the corrie. While the weather was bad I was comfy in all the clothes and the further I got into the the corrie the more shelter was provided. The cloud was up at around 800mtrs. All was going well until I reached the bealach. Here I experienced the full fury of the wind and though I managed to get up to the 800mtr mark, by now further progress was proving impossible as I was being literally being blown backwards. I was also being blinded by spindrift which constantly covered my goggles. I therefore decided to turn back and retreated back to the train station. I then followed the West Highland Way back to Tyndrum and after a good shower and fresh clothes felt happy with the day and thoroughly invigorated.


Tuesday was a much more benign day. The snow from the previous couple of days was still lying to 600mtrs. As I was heading to Fort William that afternoon to join up with my friend Francis Jan Kluzniac I made an  early start and headed for Beinn Challuim. The route followed the West Highland Way until it enters Auchtertyre farm. From here access is gained to the open mountain. A broad gentle slope gradually rises and I soon entered the snowline. The saddle is broad until you reach a steepening under the south top and from here a  stiff 200mtrs sees one on this top. The views south towards Loch Lomond are superb and to the east the snowy vista continues.


The view east from Beinn Challuim

Beinn Challuim
A quick return to the valley floor and I got the 14.30 train into Fort William.














A very early start on Wednesday morning saw Frank and me leaving the North Face car park heading for Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. It was a frosty cloudless and wind free morning and the day promised much. We made steady progress and were above the CIC hut by dawn. A steep slog up around the Douglas Boulder and we headed right and our first steps onto the ridge proper. We had to don crampons straight away as although snow free the rocks were icy. We climbed steadily on good rock at an oblique angle and gained the ridge crest just before the first tower. the climbing was not difficult but was quite exposed.

Frank behind the CIC hut

The climbing before the first tower
Climbing the first tower


After the Great Tower


Well happy on Ben Nevis summit

Ever upward we made good progress and faithfully following the crest of the ridge we arrived under the great tower and the infamous eastern traverse. This was quite easy but we were not sure where to start the climb to the top of the great tower. We continued too far and climbed instead into the tower gap. This was seriously exposed and had some vertical steps. The rock and our axes were sticky from the cold.After the gap all the real difficulties were over and we continued easily to the summit. The day was glorious and Frank enjoyed his first time on top of Britain in sunshine with alpine views. After a well earned lunch we returned to the car and headed to town to quietly celebrate.


The long journey home began the following morning. The weather was once again wet and stormy and we were very happy to have done Tower Ridge in such perfect conditions the previous day.  All in all a good trip and I am already looking forward to the next time.