Kintail meet 2011 - 3 from 9 do 7 on the South Cluanie Ridge
by Graeme D » Thu Sep 29, 2011 4:57 pm
Route description: South Glen Shiel Ridge: 7 Munros
Munros included on this walk: Aonach Air Chrith, Creag a'Mhàim, Creag nan Dàmh, Druim Shionnach, Maol chinn-dearg, Sgùrr an Doire Leathain, Sgùrr an Lochain
Date walked: 10/09/2011
Time taken: 10.5 hours
Distance: 22.3 km
Ascent: 1800m14 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Friday all day at school I had been like a caged lion as I watched the hands on the clock and willed them to move faster until the big hand was pointing at the 8 and the little hand was just over half way between the 3 and the 4. It seemed that all the other boys and girls were already out there playing or else on their way, and I thought it was so unfair! I could have squeemed and squeemed! Eventually though, the two hands were in magical alignment. The waiting was over. The appointed hour had come! Time to go to the Kintail Meet!!!
I vaguely remember a colleague speaking to me about something quite important that had to be done the following week. Now, what was it she said again? I dunno...... my ears appeared to have malfunctioned. Or else I was only semi-listening........
Then the trusty old Astra was snaking northwards up the A9 on what may well turn out to be it's swansong. My tie had come off but otherwise I was still in work attire! Being keen to get going is one thing, turning up in school uniform is quite another, although the idea of a uniform-themed meet may have some mileage and could be worth further investigation. Bod???? Whad'ya think??? Monty could do a Britney Spears routine!
Lucifer needed dinn-dinns in any case and a pee-stop wouldn't go amiss (for both of us), so I pulled in at Dalwhinnie and availed myself of the Public Conveniences! Ten minutes later, the dug was fed and had peed, as had I, and my change into civvies was complete. Vamos!
By the time I was pushing the Astra's creaking old frame (I really should refrain from making constant innuendo throughout this report about Monty and his misfortunes ) along the winding Glen Shiel road, the rain was lashing off the windscreen. I was running late as well. Bloody work! But then I was there!
This was my first WH "meet" since the day nearly 2 years ago when myself, kevsbald, CurlyWurly, walkaboot and the artist formerly known as Mountain Coward had met up at the Old Bridge of Tilt carpark near Blair Atholl to walk in over Carn a'Chlamain to meet John Burgess at the Tarf Hotel. Since then I have missed out on several subsequent meets, all of which have now entered into the stuff of legend for those who were there. Glencoe, Aviemore, Roybridge..... I had missed them all and the camaraderie and in-jokes that would have built up around them. I had the same feelings lurking at the back of my mind that a couple of people would later that weekend admit to me that they too had had, either on this meet or previous ones - Would I fit in and get on with people? What if it was all a bit clique-ish (well, it has been said!)........?????
I needn't have worried. The Friday evening and a significant part of the early hours of Saturday morning disappeared in a whirl of drinks, jokes and laughs (the last two of these not necessarily being connected in any way!), initially in the Kintail Lodge Hotel and then back at the Outdoor Centre at Morvich. I called it a night around 2am but a couple of others were still going strong at that point. I believe it was well past 4am before the place fell silent.
I was up at 6.30, early rising having become something of the norm these last 6 months since fatherhood altered my life and my perceptions. I left Thomas (who had been quite sensible with his bedtime) and Iain (who had been less so) in the land of ZZZZZs in the room we shared and headed through to the fantastically appointed kitchen to get the coffee and the bacon rolls on the go. Fantastic! Slowly, steadily, sometimes unsteadily, the others came to life and we began to reflect on the merits or otherwise of drinking so much the night before and to discuss our plans for the day. At 6.30, the weather had looked pretty decent but two hours later it had taken a real turn for the worse. Still, 9 of us decided we were going to take on the South Cluanie Ridge, although Alan was only planning on doing the first 2 Munros before dropping back down to the Inn where he would be picked up by Danny who was planning a spot of fishing. The rest of us hoped to do the whole thing and bag the 7 Munros. AndrewD, as per his already posted report, was having an eventful day in the comapany of Britney, I mean grandad, on the Brothers and Sisters ridges across the other side of the Glen Shiel road. Johhny and Kim were off to the South of Spain, I mean Torridon, for some good weather on Maol Chin Dearg. And Janet and Ellie were staying off the hills and heading for some of the other attractions in the area.
So, after a little negotiation and subsequent manoeuvering and positioning of gear and cars, the 9 of us in the South Cluanie Ridge party were all reconvened at the start of the track just east of the Cluanie Inn and heading across the bridge for the longish walk and ascent up to the point where a path branches off up onto Creag a'Mhaim.
Little did we know but in a couple of hours, it would be two-thirds of our party being culled!
Am Bathach and A' Chralaig beyond the western end of Loch Cluanie
East down Loch Cluanie
I walked towards the rear, talking initially mostly to Valerie and Polly, then to Bod. The weather seemed to improve and the sun came out to play. Bod and I discussed the importance of Outdoor Education within the new Curriculum, and the ups and downs of the teaching profession in the 21st Century - teachers eh??? What are they like????
As we neared the turn off for the path up onto Creag a'Mhaim, the rain came on and the clag drew in. It was a pretty miserable ascent, with the group getting increasingly drawn out as we approached the first Munro summit. At least there was some cause for celebration, with this being Thomas’s 100th Munro.
Nathan and Mountainstar/Alan (being shadowed by Ritchie) with Loch Loyne below
The group help Thomas celebrate his 100th Munro. Has anyone seen Bod and Valerie?
Bod and Valerie (ably escorted by Ritchie) soon arrived to join the rest of us but it was already becoming clear that our collective pace was way short of what was required if we were going to manage the whole route. The pace did seem to pick up along the sinewy, craggy ridge towards Druim Shionnach but for most of the group, the end was nigh!
Alan, Iain, Stretch and Lucy on the narrow ridge to Druim Shionnach
Nathan drinks in the views!
Druim Shionnach - the cull is about to begin!
One by one, they dropped like flies at the summit of Druim Shionnach. Alan had been planning on heading down at this point anyway. Stretch had already decided enough was enough and in light of the weather, he was heading back to St Andrews to get some work done. Bod was clearly suffering the effects of the night before, and it was clear he was not going to make all seven. Valerie went with him, as did Nathan. I thought Iain was a dead-cert to carry on but the combination of a heavy, late night and the promise of more clag did for him too. That just left myself and Thomas (both of whom I think might have been swithering at this point), and Polly (who was having none of it and was most definitely not for calling it a day).
And so we bade our farewells as Polly, Thomas and myself set off heading for Aonach Air Chrith, the third Munro and highest point of the day.
My two fellow survivors shortly after leaving Druim Shionnach
If anything, the weather deteriorated further, and I for one began nursing private doubts as to the wisdom of continuing.
I was first to reach Aonach Air Chrith, where I found the three blokes who had set off at the same time as us and who we had intermittently come into contact with throughout the day. They had just decided to chuck in the towel and return to the Cluanie Inn as well. They looked slightly sceptical when I reaffirmed our intention to complete the task in hand. Polly and Thomas soon arrived and one of the three guys took a “survivors” group shot at the summit cairn before they headed back towards Druim Shionnach and an escape route down to the pub.
The high point of the day - in terms of altitude at least if nothing else!
The ridge then swung towards the middle Munro of the seven, Maol chinn-dearg. Still the rain lashed down and did an excellent job of scouring and exfoliating. Polly questioned why people would want to spend a small fortune on spa treatments when they could just come up here in these conditions. Discussions also took place about the exact distinction between semi and demi and on what exactly the plural form of ptarmigan is! The guff that gets spoken in the **** rain at 3,000ft!
Heading for Maol chinn-dearg - could conditions get much worse?
Yes, clearly they can! Polly elects the bum-shuffle method of down climbing
Maol chinn-dearg and heaven knows I'm miserable now!
A wet and windy lunch was had atop Maol chinn-dearg and I think the general consensus now seemed to be that we had gone beyond the point of no return. There was nothing else for it but to persevere in the clag, resigned to a day of no views. Clearly we were not going to see a ptarmigan. Or even more than one of said animal. And as for our chances of catching a glimpse of a herd of wildebeest.......
But then a miracle of sorts happened. As we descended to the bealach between Maol chinn-dearg and Sgurr an Doire Leathain, the cloud began to lift and the sun began to break through. We were treated to stunning views along the ridge in both directions, across Glen Shiel to the Brothers and Sisters, and down to the jutting northern arm of Loch Quoich.
Things start to look up between Maol chinn Dearg and Sgurr an Doire Leathain
Back whence we came - Maol chinn-Dearg clearing nicely!
Polly battles on
Across Glen Shiel towards the Brothers, A 'Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-choire
Gairich across Loch Quoich with Gleouriach to the left
Our spirits now soaring (a bit like the golden eagle reputed to have stolen Stretch’s lunch!), we closed in on Leathain, the fifth Munro of the day, jutting out on a spur from the main ridge itself. We could also now see the rest of the task still facing us in the form of the two final Munros further along the ridge, the next one, Sgurr an Lochain, looking particularly fine.
Thomas approaching Leathain with Sgurr an Lochain dominating the view ahead and the Forcan ridge visible beyond
Loch Duich between Sgurr an Lochain and the Sisters ridge
Closing in a bit
Thomas welcomes Polly to Sgurr an Doire Leathain
Me at Munro summit number 5 for the day
Things closed in a little as we approached Sgurr an Lochain but we still had fine, atmospheric views, particularly ahead to the dramatic Forcan ridge and way off to our left to the jumble of Knoydart peaks.
Heading for Sgurr an Lochain
Across Coire Lochain to the Brothers
Sunshine on A' Chralaig
The lochan through a cleft
Lucy on Sgurr an Lochain
We didn’t dally on Sgurr an Lochain before making tracks for the final Munro of the day. Leg weariness was beginning to creep in now and our pace had noticeably faltered, but we remained resolute in our determination to accomplish our objective.
Sgurr Beag (right) and Creag nan Damh (left)
Saileag and Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dearg from soon after leaving Sgurr an Lochain
Back to Sgurr an Lochain
Southern slopes of Sgurr nan Lochain tumble into Glen Quoich with Gleouriach in the distance
We could see figures at the summit of Creag nan Damh but they were long gone by the time we reached it. We spent a bit longer here, taking a few pictures and generally soaking up the satisfaction of having made it to number seven. For a large part of the day, it hadn’t looked a likely outcome. But here we were. Now only the descent back to my car to go.
Tired legs faced with the steep ascent of Creag nan Damh
South towards Buidhe Bheinn
Summit of Creag nan Damh - Polly gets signal and checks on progress of Andrew and Gramps
Survivors on the seventh Munro
Coming due west off the summit, we were almost immediately faced with a steep, scrambly climb back up again. Instead we decided to head off to our right down the wide grassy (albeit initially quite scree covered) gulley. We could see well down and it seemed to offer us a reasonable route back towards the road.
The way home!
Initially all went well, the only issue being trying to fight the leg fatigue on the steep slopes, but then the stream seemed to disappear into a gorge which didn’t seem to offer a safe route so we had to climb back up the slopes to our right a bit to navigate around the obstacle.
The sun sets and the warfare looms
Once back down by the stream, it again seemed to be plain sailing all the way home, but we ended up having to do several river crossings as the terrain on one side would deteriorate and become impassable. Initially the crossings were easily negotiated, and even when the river became wider, I still managed to negotiate safely across and maintain dry feet. My boots had held up well to what the day had thrown at them, and I wanted to keep it that way with one eye on another walk the following day on the way down the road. Disaster struck however, on about the fourth or fifth crossing, when in the gathering gloom and most probably as a result of increasing weariness both in legs and brain, I misjudged a step onto a rock and ended up with one leg up to the knee in cold water. It was enough for a flooded boot. Worse was to come though on the next crossing. With Polly and Thomas already across, and the river now rather disconcertingly wide, I ended up waist deep and in a full-scale wade for the opposite bank.
Soaked from the waist down, it then appeared to be a straightforward yomp back down the path to the road. However, the bog factor soon went off the scale, and our use of industrial language did likewise. Thomas commented that this was no longer walking, this was now warfare. And there was one more battle to fight before the war was ended – another full scale river wade. By this stage I don’t think any one of us as much as batted an eyelid or thought twice before ploughing in. We just wanted it over.
And then it was. We were back at the road in near total darkness with only the nagging worry being the exact whereabouts of my car. But then we saw light glinting off my tail lights a couple of hundred yards along the road. It only remained to get Polly back to her car at the Cluanie Inn before we all returned to our respective accommodation and made ourselves respectable before showing face at the Kintail Lodge Hotel, where they had by now stopped serving food but fortunately not beer!
A big thanks to everyone involved for making this such a day to remember, and especially to Polly and Thomas, my fellow survivors and warriors, whose brilliant company, humour and steely resolve made the day. Cheers guys!
by kevsbald » Thu Sep 29, 2011 5:05 pm
by magicdin » Thu Sep 29, 2011 5:15 pm
The first time I did the ridge it was that warm I threw myself into the first burn I came to
by snodland » Thu Sep 29, 2011 6:54 pm
by Alan S » Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:01 pm
Liking that last pic
by MarilynMunro » Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:45 pm
Sorry to have missed you at the Kintail Lodge - I'm not sure but I think we may have walked past each other as Hazel and I left.
by rockhopper » Thu Sep 29, 2011 9:48 pm
Sorry couldn't attend your meet up - maybe another time.
by pollyh33 » Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:05 pm
Thank you for putting together such an amazing report and for being so kind by not posting any pics of my knackered face.
An unforgettable experience with two fantastic gentlemen- cheers!!!! XXX
by Merry-walker » Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:07 pm
Fantastic report and what an effort from all of you. Wished I could've made it, really do. I'd have hypo'ed after the first couple, dragged you down. But blummin' well done.
Photo's are brilliant.
by pollyh33 » Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:13 pm
by Graeme D » Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:20 pm
pollyh33 wrote:Sorry Graeme I forgot to thank you for buying me the blue cheese cheesecake thingy. I was so hungry!!! Apologies to Nathan who had to witness me wolfing this down. I gave up with the cutlery, it was just holding me back!!!
No problem! I'm sure Nathan witnessed far worse things than that during the course of the weekend!
pollyh33 wrote:Thank you for putting together such an amazing report and for being so kind by not posting any pics of my knackered face.
They're on Scottishhills!
Thanks all for the positive comments! It was a blast!
by Bod » Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:52 pm
by Liathach » Fri Sep 30, 2011 12:09 am
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