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Lights out for Darker Skies......in Assynt

Lights out for Darker Skies......in Assynt


Postby Avocetboy » Mon May 28, 2012 8:42 pm

Route description: Sgurr an Fhidhleir - the Fiddler

Grahams included on this walk: Sgurr an Fhidhleir

Date walked: 18/05/2012

Time taken: 4 hours

Distance: 8 km

Ascent: 750m

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I have been holidaying at a cottage in Culnacraig for the past 3 years, directly beneath Garbh Choireachen as it plunges into the sea and have always said that one day I must traverse the ridge from Ben Mor Coigach.
However, the previous two years, the weather, family activities etc. etc. had all thwarted my attempts, but this year, as we turned right on the B road heading towards Achiltibui, the view of the Coigach range, bathed in late afternoon sun, was just begging me to climb it.
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So a plan was hatched, to fit in with family activities, I would get up one morning at sunrise and climb the Sgurr an Fhidhlier and Ben More Coigach .Not only would this achieve my ambition of conquering these hills, it would also be the first time I had ever been up in the mountains on my own. I should also add, that I struggle with heights and particularly in exposed situations, but I was still not sure whether this was a fear for myself, or that of others who are with me. Ie Wife, Children, Dog etc. So, hopefully, I would be able to conquer all of this on one trip.
Next stage was the weather. There was no chance of mild weather, but I wanted low wind and good visibility and, using the Mountain Weather Forecast, Wednesday 18th May was the day with clear skies and 15 MPH winds.
And so it was that at 5.15am I left the cottage with Garbh Choireachen and Conmheall both dusted with snow and made my way up the farm track to the start of the footpath where the road ends at Culnacraig.
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The first part of the track is pretty steep and eroded. I avoided this by keeping to the left. By the time the slope began to ease, I then basically lost the path, but seeing as I was between the Gorges of Coire Reidh and Alt Nan Coisiche, I was pretty comfortable plodding on through the heather and the bogs. The views behind me to the Summer Isles and across Loch Broom were beginning to open up, but there was a little more cloud than the weather forecast had lead me to believe.
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To the left of me, Conhmeall was looking attractive with its dusting of snow.
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And, to the right, the Coigach Ridge was looking pretty fearsome!
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Trudged on through the heather, until at last I was rewarded with the site of my first target, the summit of Sgurr un Fiddhleur, snow capped and bathed in sunshine. The going was easy and I was pretty excited at the view that awaited me at the summit.
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Looking back, however, things were pretty different. Dark skies and something was falling from the sky. Rain, Hail or Snow..I could not be sure, but it was at this point that I realised I had forgot my waterproof trousers. Sh*t!!!! No way was I going back, and I took the view that it was only a shower, so if legs got wet, they would dry out. No worries...Push on.
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Within 5 minutes, I was engulfed in low cloud and hail...Dry Hail, so all was good. The summit had become obscured, but at this point I found a cairn and realised I had stumbled across the path.
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Looking back, the weather was clearing again and, with dry trousers, I continued my push towards the summit.
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Scrambly bit at the top. I removed my pack and scrambled my way up to the summit.
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I was immediately hit by the wind, but before my eyes the whole of Assynt seemed to be swirling in and out of storm clouds.
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Stach Pollaidh
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Out towards the Reiff Peninsula
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Cul Beag
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I sat around for a few minutes, but began to get cold, so I headed off down the slope towards the plateau between Sgurr an Fhidhleir and Ben Mor Coigach.

I gazed in awe and Stach Pollaidh framed between the vertical cliffs of the Sgurr an Fhidhleir and Bienn an Eoin.
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And rays of sun breaking through the stormy clouds above Cul Beag
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I could see a stream running down from Speicein Coinnich and used this as a route to reach the ridge. The going was steep, but pretty easy and I was loving being on my own in total silence. There was no wind, no bird song, nothing, just the crunch of snow underfoot.
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Looking across the frozen plateau, the sun was still shining on loch broom and out to the summer isles
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And looking back Sgurr an Fhidhleir looked majestic
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Eventually I reached the ridge and could make out the distant summit cairn of Ben More Coigach, my next target.
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The ridge was fantasic and at this point with a gentle drop on one side and a steep drop on the other I felt totally safe and secure. There was still no wind and I was hopeful I could make it all the way along the ridge.
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However, as I drew parallel with the summit of Coigach, the weather began to close in. I stood looking over towards Coigach which eventually disappeared and watched as Speicein nan Garbh Choireachen began to disappear into cloud and snow.
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Visibility now dropped to metres and I stood around wondering what to do. I considered making my way towards the cairn of Ben Mor Coigach but was concerned that if I missed it I could end up somewhere I would rather not be!!
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Instead I opted for some breakfast to mull things over. Pan au Chocolate and Revive.
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I waited another 5 minutes getting colder and colder and eventually decided that the most sensible option was to make my way down and out of the clouds. I traversed across the slope and eventually The Fiddler reappeared through the Clouds and I re picked up the path and headed off towards home. Once out of the clouds, a cold but glorious day had begun.
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I consider myself a novice when it comes to hill walking, but this was the most invigorating challenges I have ever had. I had not managed to walk the ridge and escape down Gharb Choireachen, but being alone, in one of the wildest places in Britain, at 750 metres, in snow, in May is an experience I shall never forget and has whetted my appetite for many more.
Last edited by Avocetboy on Mon May 28, 2012 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Avocetboy
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Re: Lights out for Darker Skies

Postby soulminer » Mon May 28, 2012 8:54 pm

An achievement indeed,knowing when to bail at the right moment :thumbup: Fine report from a fine area, and some nice imagery in there as well :)
Cheers.
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Re: Lights out for Darker Skies......in Assynt

Postby Gavin99 » Mon May 28, 2012 9:10 pm

That looks a lovely bit of exploring , some great atmospheric photos too , you will have to return and complete the ridge on a fine day :D
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Re: Lights out for Darker Skies......in Assynt

Postby Lenore » Mon May 28, 2012 9:12 pm

Insanely beautiful pictures, I love them! The views in such fierce weather must have been pretty unique. A great report.
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Re: Lights out for Darker Skies......in Assynt

Postby BoyVertiginous » Mon May 28, 2012 11:50 pm

Excellent stuff, AB. Great thread title, lots of anticipation, cracking pics...and common sense. With the summit so agonisingly close I'm not sure I would have had the sense to get out. You'd want to enjoy that ridge in clear conditions though, spectacular.
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Re: Lights out for Darker Skies......in Assynt

Postby BlackPanther » Tue May 29, 2012 9:13 am

BMC looks like a real cracker - it's my next target in Assynt :D
We climbed the hill next to it, Cul Beag two days after you and all the snow was gone by then. What a change. Weather has been odd this year so far: we had May in March, November in April and January in May, and the last week was July in May :lol:
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Re: Lights out for Darker Skies......in Assynt

Postby Avocetboy » Tue May 29, 2012 12:09 pm

Many thanks to all of you for your kind comments

Black Panther. I saw your report on Cul Beag and shall aim to do it next year - I was in the valley between Cul Beag and Stac Polliadh the day before and was lucky enough to see an eagle rising up the thermals where the shoulder is. No snow on the hills that day. Beautiful place. I shall be posting a report at some point.
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Joined: Feb 6, 2011
Location: Boston, Lincolnshire

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