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Beautiful Hope

Beautiful Hope

Postby The English Alpinist » Sun Oct 17, 2021 1:28 am

Munros included on this walk: Ben Hope

Date walked: 26/08/2021

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 15.5 km

Ascent: 1041m

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0 title.JPG
A Broch, and Britain's northernmost Munro.

So, I had made a start to my career as a Munroist in a week of resplendent August weather in the northernmost reaches of the land. I had accomplished Conival and Ben More Assynt, with the bonus of Breabag (a Corbett), two days before. My start in being a 'Grahamist', however, was less successful, as Stac Pollaidh had basically made me retreat with head bowed, despite it being a smaller mountain than the rest of the stuff I was doing. That little experience goes into my top 10 lessons for the would-be Scottish mountaineer (which I might write up one day) - 'size isn't everything', or something to that effect - but none of that mattered now, not at all. My spirits were high again! I had slept beautifully in my car in the tranquil valley of Strathmore, possibly my favourite place in Scotland, next to the ancient ruin of Dun Dornaigil by the foothills of Ben Hope itself. This, the most northerly of all the Munros, was my sole objective for the day and it held a beautiful symbolism for me in its name (even though the Gaelic means merely 'hill of the bay'), as I am indeed emerging into a period of hope :D in my life. How cool 8) therefore, to incorporate this one on my first mission. I'd visited the Broch of Dun Dornaigil twice in the past, and always wanted to return to what felt like a place of peace and pilgrimage.

1 route.JPG
The cliff-edge route looms above Strathmore.

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2 ascent.JPG
I ascend.

I chose to make my approach more interesting by ascending via the Allt na Caillich waterfalls, a strategy which had the added poetry of causing the Broch to be my basecamp. It would cause added mileage too, but not much, and the entire route seemed very straightforward. I choose the word 'seemed', for as I reached the elevation where the watercourse was to be crossed, there was no sign of any trodden path up to the cliffs that lead to Ben Hope. I therefore got into that excruciating second-guessing game with myself and ventured higher, thinking I might see it, but didn't; so I ventured higher still. Then, vaguely like a Columbus stubbornly refusing to take us about - except this being a sea of cussed peat hags - I simply ploughed on until I gained the other 'shore'. By then, I could see without room for any possible doubt that I was way off course, which returned a sense of empowerment. I found myself acquiring the first of two south-east summits of Ben Hope. This - 'Sail Romascaig' at 719 metres - I told myself was extremely clever of me, as it brought with it a view of the main mountain far superior to the one I would have had. On a weather day like this it was a truly fine route of approach with a greater sense of spaciousness and drama than (I imagine) slugging up the steep official route. Not only was it satisfying skirting excellent mountain edges whilst fixing eyes on the beckoning summit proper, but I felt delightfully teased by a certain Ben Logan miles to the east. I captured its photo and with it, I hope, the memory and resolve to return to these parts one day and bag that celebrated Corbett.

3 moor.JPG

4 moor2.JPG
Further off-course.

5 quartzite.JPG
Quartzite I think.

6 1st summit.JPG
Sail Romascaig, without having had any plans to do it.

7 rock.JPG
How on earth did this rock come about?

12 Ben Loyal.JPG
Ben Loyal, as zoomed from Ben Hope.

8 2nd summit.JPG
Another bonus summit.

Partly out of gratitude for reaching solid ground, I found myself developing a beginner's interest in geology. Also, I suggest, this is one impact of the Covid era: you absolutely relish every detail of the outdoors, especially if you were an outdoor person to begin with. Well, it was certainly easier underfoot as I marched inexorably toward Ben Hope's airy summit over a kind of moonscape of (I believe) quartzite. On the summit and down the 'correct' side were people, not many though, and quite a mixed bag. The young couple who assisted me for the all-important photo purposes were clearly not hardened walkers, and they had only attempted this mountain as a bucket list cum diversion thing from driving the 'North Coast 500', which is fair enough. The relentless steep ascent had apparently caused a measure of lovers' tiff, but they'd recovered their composure by the time I met them, and now they were immersed in zoom-meeting with what seemed to be everybody they knew in their life to brag about where they were. I think, however, I was more inclined to doff my Marmot cap to one guy who had ascended via the north ridge. I had contemplated that, but wanted to treat myself to a relaxed and risk-free day. If my geology taster course had not been enough, then descending by the main route and encountering the panting and sweat-saturated folk on the way up convinced me that my 'choice' of ascent had been sublime.

9 they took.JPG
Taken by the 'North Coast 500ers'.

10 north view.JPG
View down the north ridge the the end of Scotland.

13 me summit.JPG
Hopes he will be here again one day.

15 cliff walk.JPG
I return by the cliffs of Leitir Mhuiseil (ahead), rather than dropping down here.

16 descent.JPG
Looking back whence I have come.

17 Broch.JPG
Return to Dun Dornaigil.

18 old car.JPG
Old car, older Broch, older mountain.

I could have continued straight down to the road, but in such sun-bathed conditions I felt I had no excuse not to do the cliff walk along Leitir Mhuiseil - the one I was supposed to have done on the way up. I was rewarded accordingly by the view over Strathmore and some excellent edges, and the trail was obvious most of the way whilst clearly not being trodden all that often. When I rendezvoused with the waterfall of the Allt na Caillich, there was a certain pleasure in seeing in perfect clarity the mistake I'd made earlier. I see that I have to stop thinking 'in English'; unlike our neat little Lake District, the Scottish terrain is simply more rugged in every way, and a recognized route does not necessary yield visible signs of it. This is where maps are ever so useful, and more importantly honing one's skills in interpreting the lay of the land. My roundabout tour today had no consequences besides turning 8 miles into 10 miles and actually enhancing the Ben Hope experience, but I can't help wondering how I would have felt about it in the great grey void which the mountains entertain us with so often. As I returned to my favourite Broch in the world, glowing with hours of exposure to vitamin D and the satisfaction of bagging 'the most northerly one', I resolved to try and think in Scottish for tomorrow's expedition: Ben Klibreck.

20 notice2.JPG
Isn't history great?!

11 trig point.JPG
Hope is eternal.
Last edited by The English Alpinist on Mon Oct 25, 2021 12:02 am, edited 3 times in total.
User avatar
The English Alpinist
Mountain Walker
Posts: 173
Munros:10   Corbetts:3
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:127
Joined: Oct 27, 2015
Location: Lancashire England.

Re: Beautiful Hope

Postby R1ggered » Sun Oct 17, 2021 9:56 am

Great report. Done the traditional route to the summit and also had a great day like you had. Loved the old Broch and the surrounding area :clap: :clap:
Mountain Walker
Posts: 93
Joined: Nov 28, 2012

Re: Beautiful Hope

Postby rockhopper » Sun Oct 17, 2021 11:06 am

Nice day to enjoy it properly :thumbup: I see you've already made a good start on your hills journey and covered the four most northerly munros which many of us leave until later on - cheers :)
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Posts: 6943
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Grahams:75   Donalds:89
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Location: Glasgow

Re: Beautiful Hope

Postby The English Alpinist » Mon Oct 18, 2021 6:34 pm

Thanks for your comments guys, and yes I may have got the 4 northerns done now but there's a frightening lot of travelling and walking ahead to get anywhere near the achievements of most of you!
User avatar
The English Alpinist
Mountain Walker
Posts: 173
Munros:10   Corbetts:3
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:127
Joined: Oct 27, 2015
Location: Lancashire England.

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