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An Teallach – One of those "character building" walks
by PeteR » Fri May 11, 2012 6:43 pm
Route description: An Teallach, Dundonnell
Munros included on this walk: Bidein a'Ghlas Thuill (An Teallach), Sgurr Fiona (An Teallach)
Date walked: 29/04/201215 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).
The Saturday night had seen my first experience of sleeping on the ground in well over 20 years All in all not a bad experience, despite waking up in the middle of the night and experiencing a zip “moment” (could I get the thing to work? No I couldn’t Did I just give up? Yes I did ).
When I did eventually surface I could not believe my luck. Clear blue skies It was looking like the perfect day to get the best experience out of such a great hill. It was a relaxing start to the day for me for once as well. No getting up at not-quite-right-in-the-head o’clock. Instead time for a bit of breakfast before heading off from the campsite just after 9.00 am to the parking area at the start of the walk.
Rather than tackle the hill from Dundonnell my plan was to park up at the parking area close to the track into Shenavall and the Fisherfield 5 and a bit. A slight issue here, in that I parked up where I saw a chap getting himself ready and naturally assumed this was the start of the walk. We got talking and agreed to walk in together, which turned out to be not only a nice change for me to have a companion to walk with, but as we would discover later on possibly for the best on a hill like this in that winter/spring environment.
Setting off we soon discovered we were in the wrong lace and should be parked up a little further toward Dundonnell A quick back track was in order.
Eventually we were parked up at the right place and soon heading off up the correct track It was clearly going to be a cracking day, with the sun beating down pretty strong already. Sun cream. Now there would have been a good idea But as I was to discover later on this was not the only piece of kit I was going to rue not bringing with me on this weekend
The early stages of the walk are pleasantly uneventful as you follow the good track into Gleann Chaorachain before taking the right hand fork toward Shenavall and the decidedly steep looking sides of Sail Liath what we were going to have to make our way up. Views toward Fisherfield were opening up nicely and suggesting a camping trip in there could be a fund couple of days In similar weather, of course
Fisherfield and Shenavall from ascent of Sail Liath
It was certainly a nice change to have a walking companion. Lots of talk about mountains and various walks we had both done as well as kids (his wife had just given birth and his few days away seems to have been a treat before parental responsibilities really kicked in ).
Soon we were making our way up the steep side of Sail Liath. At first we had the benefit of a path, but it was steep all the same Higher up we hit boulders and the path, for what it was, was mostly difficult to follow. So we adopted a “as straight up as we could make it” approach to clambering over the (sometimes loose ) boulders. It seemed to take an age, but eventually we made it to the cairned plateau of the hill, with the final slopes up onto Sail Liath ahead of us. Time for a quick break before we continued on our way.
Easy route up Sail Liath
You really can't fault the views
We’d had glimpses of the pinnacles of Corrag Bhuidhe on our way up, and arriving at the summit of Sail Liath was just one of those “wow” moments There would be plenty more of them throughout the rest of the day too.
First "wow" moment looking toward Corrag Bhuidhe
Stob Cadha Gobhlach from Sail Liath
Just as we were being wowed by the view everything changed
A dog appeared from the opposite direction quickly followed by its owner and his pal – two harbingers of doom They had turned back on account of the wet, soft ground and wet, soft snow banking up on the bypass path around Corrag Bhuidhe making progress difficult. Mention was made of of ice axe and crampons being required to get through the worst of it. Now, that reminded me of another piece of kit I may have left at home
My companion for the day and I swapped glances, but decided we would take a look for ourselves anyway, rather than bail out so early. I think we were both so keen to do the route and the weather was just so perfect that we felt it couldn’t be as bad as all that. Even so the words of the two harbingers of doom had got inside our heads that was for sure From now on ever slip, every stumble seemed to take on added significance. And we weren’t even in the snow yet
The truth is that the descent off Sail Liath and the climb up onto the next top of Stob Cadha Gobhlach is steep in places, but overall the path is a good one. Had we not had the words of the other walkers ringing in our ears we would have been fine, and would probably have enjoyed ourselves more – not that we weren’t enjoying ourselves, just we were both a bit anxious about what we were going to discover later on.
Despite our anxiety we were still able to appreciate the great views.
Corrag Bhuidhe looking impressive
View to Stob Cadha Gobhlach
The route done so far
From Stob Cadha Gobblach it was more of the same, with a steep descent and a nice steep climb up toward Corrag Bhuidhe and the eventual bypass path. I was even able to enjoy a nice, reasonably exposed little ridge section before we hit the final steep push up to the bypass path below the pinnacles.
I was still able to enjoy the views
Loch na Sealga
Corrag Bhuidhe getting closer
To base of Corrag Bhuidhe
Scrambling opportunities for those that want them
A short arrete below Corrag Bhuidhe
View to Fisherfield
And then we were at the bypass path Gulp!
Corrag Bhuidhe pinnacles
This was where everything changed for the both of us. My companion for the day was wanting to explore the pinnacles, while I was happy (as in not happy really, but compared to attempting the pinnacles fairly ecstatic ) to make my way round the bypass path. With no ice axe I adapted my walking pole as an ice axe substitute, by keeping it at its shortest length and removing the guard at the bottom. Not ideal, but it would do.
I could now see what the harbingers of doom had been on about, although at this point things didn’t look too bad with the snow. I’d walked in worse. I was following the tracks that were already there, which occasionally were on the path and sometimes a little above it.
And then I slipped Not a bad slip, but I was on my belly and sliding down onto the path I didn’t go far before digging my adapted walking pole/ice age substitute into the ground and arresting myself. And then, in trying to get myself to me feet I slipped some more Again not far, but enough to give me the “willies” as I found my body straddling the path and my legs over the edge contemplating a steep slide down had I not stopped
As I say, I didn’t slip far, and it was all over in a matter of seconds by the time I had stopped and was back on my feet. But the sides to this beast are steep. Very steep. I was convinced that had I not stopped when I did they would have been picking me up in pieces somewhere near the bottom. I took a picture looking back, but I'm not sure it really does justice to the steepness of the sides at this point.
The "bypass" path. Can you see it?
Once I was eventually back on my feet I was feeling a bit shaken up and I knew that if I carried on I would probably be well out of my comfort zone in places. While not particularly a risk taker I do believe though that without pushing ourselves we achieve nothing. So I was happy for now to get to the end of the section of path I could see and then reconsider my options at that point. Arriving at the end of this section of the path and I could suddenly see all too clearly why the other chaps had turned back at this point. There was much more snow now. I overlooked taking a photo at this point, as I was still getting over my little slip.
And then my companion reappeared on the pinnacles asking how I was, at which I relayed to him my little slip. He had decided the pinnacles at this point were beyond his capability, but he wasn’t sure how he was going to get down
At this point I was having to curb my naturally downbeat sarcastic sense of humour for fear of causing offence to my companion. People who don't know me that well can sometimes take my humour the wrong way, and I wasn't wanted to offend my walking companion at this (or any) stage.
Looking back the way we had come I didn’t fancy turning back and going over that again, but then looking ahead I didn’t much like the look of that either. It seemed the bypass path was in little bite size sections, so get past one bit and you would then discover if the next section was better or worse. I was imagining worse But I knew it was probably only a short section and things should improve once the summit of Sgurr Fiona was reached (What kind of fool am I? ............... A b****y big one it seems )
Some good news though. My companion was down off the pinnacles and contemplating the next section of the bypass path. After a quick discussion we decide to continue. I know that some might consider this foolish behaviour, given that neither of us had our ice axes with us and I’d already had a slip which could have ended much, much worse than it did. But having a companion to walk with did give me confidence that should anything unfortnate happen we were there to help each other out. So please don't think too badly of me. I would say though that this was no place for the inexperienced to try out their winter skills ill equiped. It was certainly no place for the novice.
The reality for me though was that the going actually got easier. With more snow about it was easier to kick good steps into it and I had a greater sense of assurance I was getting a god purchase in the snow with my steps. We took our time, but progress was actually not too bad. I was feeling out of my comfort zone still, but I’m sure that was more down to the slip rather than any particular technical difficulty.
My companion was convinced as we made our way along the path that we would actually be better off gaining height and walking immediately below the scrambles. There was less snow and from below there appeared to be a reasonable shelf to walk on. I wasn’t particularly convinced, but agreed to give it a go. Cue probably the last piece of madness for the day as we undertook a steep climb up the steep snowy bank. At the top my pal went off to explore the scrambles in reverse while i took 10 or 15 minutes to repair my shattered nerves
Oh, and enjoy the views too.
A little "window"
A view down the climb up from the bypass path
More pinnacles to excite some of you
I’m not quite sure where we were in relation to Lord Berkely’s seet, but we were higher than I had expected to be. And in truth my companion was spot on. Making our way round to the summit Sgurr Fiona from here was by comparison to the bypass path a bit of a doddle. If fact, I wasn’t convinced at first we were on the summit as it seemed to just appear out of nowhere.
Lord Berkeley's seat - good luck to him. You won't see me sitting up there
An Teallach view from near Lord Berkeley's seat
Corrag Bhuidhe and Lord Berkeley's seat
Fishfield views again
Sgurr Fiona summit.....at last!
View looking back from Sgurr Fiona
View out to sea from Sgurr Fiona
A small, exposed summit, but great views. Despite everything it was well worth the effort We sat there for a while soaking it all in before moving on to our next target.
Psychologically I was convinced the worst was over. Then I saw the route down of Sgurr Fiona An Teallach, the hills that doesn’t stop giving............me stress
Sgurr Fiona descent
View back toward Sgurr Fiona
Sgurr Fiona and Sgurr Creag an Eich
My, that was steep In retrospect, super fun, but at the time a lesson in slow, steady progress so as to avoid any more “adventures”. At this point my companion for the day decided he wanted to head off, so we parted company and I made my slow progress of Sgurr Fiona and then on up to Munro number two, Bidean a Ghlas Thuill. By comparison to most of what had gone before this walk up to the summit of this one was easy.
On the way up and on the top it was a case of just more great views If it hadn’t been such a stressful walk at times I’m sure I would have appreciated these views more. They really were worth all the effort
An Teallach picture of the day
Bidean a'Ghlas Thuill trig
Glas Mheall Liath from Bidean a'Ghlas Thuill
All that had gone before
Sgurr Creag an Eich
The descent of Bidean a Glas Thuill, while steep is nothing compared to what I had already had to conquer.
Descending off Bidean a'Ghlas Thuill
Arriving at the col with Glas Mheall Mor I had a choice. The plan had been to locate the steep path into Glas Tholl coire and head out from there. One look at the ice cornices hanging there was enough to convince me I’d had enough adventures for one day. So that was a none starter.
Then I could have gone over Glas Meall Mor and dropped down from there. But I’d climbed up enough, so that was knocked on the head too.
So that left me the Dundonnell path. It would deposit me on the roadside well away from my car and so I’d have a long trek back, but rather that than climbing up and over anything else.
Sgurr Fiona from near Coire Mor an Teallaich - it's still hard to believe that I came down that
The route home
The path seemed to go on and on and on and on and on.........but eventually I was back at the roadside, where it was head down and march myself back to the car.
Little Loch Broom
As luck would have after about 15 to 20 minutes a car driving toward me slowed down and stopped. It was my walking companion for the day, offering me a lift back to my car. Now, normally I’m a car-to-car walker and I never accept lifts. I say normally. Today wasn’t normal, so I felt quite entitled to take him up on his kind offer, which I did
So, An Teallach! What to say?
Perfect weather. A great walking companion for the day. I had a slip. I took a risk (perhaps too great a risk for some). I got out of my comfort zone and came out the other side. I was emotionally drained by the end of it. But this was perhaps my best day on the hills so far. A fantastic hill with superb views all round. A fortnight on and I'm still buzzing about it I simply can’t wait to return one day, knowing what I know now, and truly enjoy the experience free of the stresses and concerns that had been with me for large chunks of this trip
by jwramsay » Fri May 11, 2012 6:54 pm
Thanks for showing me what I missed out on last weekend! Looks like you had a great great day.
by Gavin99 » Fri May 11, 2012 7:02 pm
by kev_russ » Fri May 11, 2012 7:14 pm
by basscadet » Fri May 11, 2012 7:38 pm
I'd be feart to go up there wi snow aboot - respect
by rocket-ron » Fri May 11, 2012 7:47 pm
by pigeon » Fri May 11, 2012 8:10 pm
by davgil » Fri May 11, 2012 8:36 pm
Glad that trip didn't end up worse
Fantastic photos, no wonder you were buzzing after it, well done!
by dooterbang » Fri May 11, 2012 8:40 pm
My experience was similar to yours whe doing this. Did it as a group and went over the pinnacles only for the guy in front of me having to be roped up. Im behind, freezing and wondering WTF im doing clambering on to a piece of slabby wet rock 3000ft high!!! After 30mins he is up and its my turn to scramble up...but i couldnt make a move and then had to be roped up, i couldnt even tie a figure of 8 knot!! I eventually made the move and was elated to be alive, i then did the whole ridge and loved it....once i had wiped my arse clean.
Thanks for posting and stirring up some old memories.
by Johnny Corbett » Fri May 11, 2012 8:58 pm
by Alastair S » Fri May 11, 2012 9:23 pm
Needless to say I'm glad you didn't come to any harm. The bypass was snow free a couple of weeks earlier making things a lot easier but Sgurr Fiona wasn't any less steep. Even snow free the bypass path isn't always clear and on a couple of occasions we backtracked a bit to get on course. I'm sure one of the route takes you higher sooner as we didn't get as close to Lord Berkeley's Seat as you did.
by lochlaggan » Fri May 11, 2012 10:40 pm
by Banditman » Sat May 12, 2012 7:54 am
by L-Hiking » Sat May 12, 2012 10:25 am
But probaly not for me, great reading and Dooters comments made me laugh too
Who was that Nutter Lord Berkley
by monarchming » Sat May 12, 2012 2:02 pm