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A Hidden Quartzite Delight!
by jakeyboy » Sun Jul 24, 2011 6:36 pm
Route description: Ben More Assynt and Conival
Munros included on this walk: Ben More Assynt, Conival
Date walked: 22/07/2011
Time taken: 11 hours
Distance: 17.5 km
Ascent: 1265m1 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Laura and I had completed Maol Chean-dearg at the beginning of the week and it had been such an epic occasion that we'd really thought it would be a wee while longer before our next Munro. But as usual, the pain was gone and as my sister said, "just like having kids, you swear you won't do it again, but when the pain passes.....!"
So it was then, that Laura and myself headed off to Assynt and to the Inchnadamph Hotel car park ready to tackle Conival and it's sister summit Ben More Assynt early on Friday morning!
As ever, we had the route notes from "walkhighlands" as a guide and with a slightly overcast sky above, we set off up the glen. By way of a guide for others, I am adding pictures of both the footbridge and the concrete, (or tarmaced stone) bridges referred to in that guide, as we were a little confused where it stated that one was alongside the other. Since they are clearly some distance apart. Maybe it was just us, anyway here they are:
Immediately across the stone bridge the pathway continues straight on, though for some reason white painted stones have been placed here and the sign by the path states "Glenbain" to the fork on the right. Once around this bend, you find yourself surprisingly at the other end of the "barred" path. Inexplicable as it was, we laughed it off and continued on. Passing Glenbain Cottage and the large shed farther on, we came to the plantation and past that, the fork to the right for the Traligill caves. We kept left and soon came our first clear sighting of Conival.
The path through this section passes some very picturesque portions of the stream and eventually steepens to become half path, half stream as it rises through very black boggy terrain. Passing some pretty waterfalls as we went, it was surprising how much height we seemed to gain in what felt like a relatively short time. I noted a herd of deer on the distant hillside which gave me the first opportunity to use my camera's 30x zoom feature. The result was pretty good, although I was dismayed to see the battery warning light as I looked through the viewfinder. Frantically searching for fresh batteries I almost broke down when I thought that I hadn't any with me. Then I remembered that I'd put a set in my bag before I left, but I was sure they were used. I resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to rely on Laura's compact for our pictures of the day. I was not pleased!!
Since I couldn't stand the thought of not being able to take photos, (after all, that's one of the main reasons for my outings in the hills!) I decided to take a chance on the loose batteries I had thrown in the bag. As I searched for them, imagine my delight when I came across an unopened pack of new lithium batteries!! Woohoo!! My day was suddenly bright again, and we continued upwards with me happily snapping away. As we climbed ever higher, I was amused to see Suilven peeping out from behind Canisp as we gazed back across the glen!
Soon we reached the band of rock which we had to scramble up to get to the bealach. Laura was a little intimidated by this at first glance, but it turned out to be a breeze really. Once over this obstacle, it was a case of endurance ahead as we looked towards the steepening scree, and the zig-zag path through it. We decided a toilet break and some refreshments were in order before we continued. As we were climbing earlier, we had been passed by a solo bloke who just nodded a passing hello and continued on ahead of us. We wondered how far ahead he might be by now, as he seemed to be on a mission. We were later to find out that he was running the route!!
As our well earned break ended, we readied ourselves for the long hard slog up the scree. As always, the higher we got, the more the landscape expanded. For a short while the sun even reared it's golden head, and the quartzite glistened as only it can in these, our hidden gems of Scottish mountains!
After what seemed like an eternity of foot-punishing, power-sapping, calf-killing scree, we were finally within sight of the summit of Conival. An easy stroll along a grassy path gradually led us to the welcome sight of the summit cairn. As we looked back, we could see a group of three other climbers heading toward us. By the time we did the obligatory, celebratory photo-shoot, they had also reached the cairn. All of us chatted and swappen encounters etc, and after we were all suitably rested and refreshed, we set out for the all-too-distant Ben More Assynt summit. The ridge between the two summits is very deceiving, since it's made up largely of jagged boulders of quartzite which conceals the true undulating nature of the ridge. In short, it looks straight forward at first, but once you are on your way, it turns into an up and down semi-scramble over very sharp quartzite stone slopes. A few false summits later and we were there!! Hurrah!! Two more Munro summits under our belts, who'd have thought?
After a brief but exhilarating visit to both summit cairns on Ben More Assynt and a short break for refreshments, we left BMA as another two weary travelers arrived. For some reason the return ridge crossing didn't seem so difficult as the way out, and with clouds closing in briefly, causing us to take a short stop again at the Conival summit cairn, we were soon making our descent.
After what seemed like an eternity again, we descended the zig-zag path through the quartzite scree, finally reaching the relative comfort of the steep, grassy and boggy terrain beyond the bealach. The reverse scramble down from the bealach presented neither of us with any problems, and in no time at all it seemed like we were back on the level ground that makes up the last few kilometers back to the car park.
These two Munros, hidden as they are from the road and the casual drivers visiting the area, lend a sense of mystery to the climber. A tough and challenging route over jagged rock and scree, with portions of relentless steep peaks and troughs to negotiate on the ridge between the two summits, merely adds excitement. The reward for the long slog through the muddy and boggy steepness of the glen approach, is the delight of a lengthy but never dull ascent up a rocky boulder-strewn landscape that throws up only the smallest of challenges along the way. The scenery from both summits, the intervening ridge and the numerous viewpoints in every direction make for an outstanding and delightful outing. We both thoroughly enjoyed our climb, and I would recommend this highly to anyone planning the trip. Superb!!
by BlairYompers » Sun Jul 24, 2011 8:36 pm
How were the legs feeling after your 2 munros?
by jakeyboy » Sun Jul 24, 2011 9:13 pm
BlairYompers wrote:looks like the 2 of you had an excellant day out there. Some good views...
How were the legs feeling after your 2 munros?
Legs? What legs?? Oh, these limp numb lifeless things on the end of my hips you mean!! It was well worth a day's pain Blair, All fine and raring to go again now! Thanks for looking
by jakeyboy » Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:54 am
monty wrote:great report Jakeyboy, I hated the walk between the two done in the clag and strong winds. It was a horrible walk getting to ben more and back
Cheers Monty! We were lucky again with the conditions, but I'm surprised we weren't moaning more about the endless ups and downs of the walk between the two, (a lot longer than it looks too!) I guess calm weather helped a lot. Am off to read your report now
by colgregg » Tue Jul 26, 2011 6:26 pm
by jakeyboy » Tue Jul 26, 2011 6:55 pm
colgregg wrote:I was eying these two up as possible targets if I get back up to Ullapool again. There's enough to keep you busy round there for many a visit. Just a pity it's an 800 mile round trip.
Just go camping for a few nights colgregg, or there's plenty B&Bs in the area!! Well worth the visit I'd say
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