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Assyn-gle hill is not enough!

Assyn-gle hill is not enough!


Postby Lenore » Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:55 pm

Route description: Stac Pollaidh ridge and circuit

Corbetts included on this walk: Cul Beag

Grahams included on this walk: Stac Pollaidh

Date walked: 29/04/2013

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 10 km

Ascent: 1300m

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After 7 months, a return to the Highlands at last! First time walking with a Walk / Talk Highlander, first time venturing North of Ullapool, and first time walking in Scotland in Spring, or so I thought… On this Monday morning, Rocket-Ron, my gracious host for the week, drove us Northwest from Inverness through some of the most exciting hill country in the area, but the big ones kept their summits well out of sight. Intermittent sleet down in the glens, near zero temperature, glimpses of snow-covered Corbetts, and the realization I might get my first bit of snow walking after all. Snow in May? Snow it is! Exciting! Scary? Cold. Most definitely, cold.

The target: an Assynt gem, Ron’s favorite small hill, one very high on my wish list, and the perfect ‘help I’m Dutch I don’t do hills it’ll hurt but I do like scrambling’-start of a week’s walking. You guessed it: Stac Pollaidh. Smallish and a very short walk in, there wouldn’t be much keeping us from reaching this summit despite the weather. Driving up, I found myself estimating the height of the hills around me, checking cloud levels, and using sheer willpower to WISH Stac Pollaidh clear. Closer, straining my neck to try and look around the next hill, and then the next, in the hopes of spotting our target.

Found at last:

Image
DSC06907 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

Excitement growing; I felt like a puppy about to be let of the leash. To be back in Scotland, and then find myself in this magical corner… It doesn’t get much better. Aside from one older couple gearing up at the car park, it seemed like we’d have the hill to ourselves. Might that have something to do with the forecast for “extreme buffeting, at times making all mobility impossible”?

The excellent path makes for quick going round to the back of the hill, where the ascent proper starts. Across the loch, Sgurr An Fhidleir looked foreboding and awesome:

Image
Sgurr an Fhidleir by Eleonora F, on Flickr

Clouds drifting by very fast leading to views continually changing. A bit of the Summer Isles; a glimpse of Cul Beag and Cul Mor; Suilven and Cul Mor playing hide and seek:

Image
DSC06932 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

We were around the right side of the hill (seen from the car park) and up on the crest in no time, where the full force of the wind hit us straight away. Wow! I had to crouch down behind a boulder as I did not think I could keep standing. I nearly let go my hopes of reaching the true summit, but Ron wouldn’t be Ron if he’d let one gust of wind stop him, and after a few moments it passed and we were off along the rocky ridge. Lucky for us it turned out we actually spent most of the time on the leeward side, protected from the worst of the wind.

And what a ridge it is!

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DSC06938 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC06941 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC06955 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC06960 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

First summit reached easily, the one where the WH description ends. A lovely vantage point, from where you have a good view of the true summit and the one rocky obstacle you need to get up to reach it. In fact, it didn’t look that bad. Ron decided to demonstrate the ‘hard’ way up first:

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DSC06970 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC06972 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

And though I figured I’d try Ron’s route if there wasn’t an alternative, there is a much easier option: when facing the rock wall, bypass it on the left and you’ll find a crevice running up at an angle. You can squeeze yourself into it and then it’s only one awkward pull and a little bit of knee-scraping and grunting and you’re up. Might be a bit more difficult if you’re short, but as I’m Dutch, that wasn’t a problem ;-)

Image
DSC06975 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

I might have to add that by this time we’d already left our packs somewhere to scoot over one very airy bit of rock that juts out over a steep drop. I don’t have a fear of heights, but did not want to risk having my pack catch on the rock or push me forward into the abyss, so opted for leaving it. I don’t remember for sure if this was before the first or the second summit, but think it was before the first summit.

True summit reached! The highest point, so obviously this was where the winds hit us again and aside from a a quick summit pose / sail and some pictures of the view, we did not linger long. We made even better time going down, with me running after Ron on the last portion of the track (running - seriously!).

Image
DSC06985 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC06991 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

Back at the car in two and a half hours, plenty time yet and an appetite for more. (Who wouldn’t in such surroundings?!) These being my first hills in over half a year, we opted for the lowest nearby neighbor, Cul Beag. This little Corbett sits right next to Stac Pollaidh. You only need to drive a little ways down the road. It makes sense to do bigger Cul Mor behind it as well if you’re in the neighborhood, but that’s a long one, and wasn’t for today. Just a quicky up and down.

Cul Beag:
Image
DSC07076 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

There’s a stalkers path up to a little Lochan between Stac Pollaidh and Cul Beag, but as soon as you leave that path and start going up the flank of the hill it’s a slippery, grassy mess all the way to the small bealach between the true summit on the right and a minor summit on the left. And a steep slippery mess at that!

This is where my lack of hill training got to me. At times I felt like I wanted to turn back, legs were just done for. I almost named this report ‘No Mor please, I Beag you!’ But in the end, I couldn’t let a silly little Corbett get to me, so I quit whining and followed Ron up. At the bealach we turned onto a zigzag path up to the summit, quite straightforward had it not been for the nasty wind and hail that decided to visit us. Summit bagged in clag:

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DSC07064 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

I took my time descending leisurely while Ron ran ahead to go up to the minor top on the other side of the bealach. I swear, the man’s like a mountain goat! Can you spot him?

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DSC07070 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

I bet the views from the summit of Cul Beag on a clear day are stunning, as the ones lower down were wonderful already! The views towards Stac Pollaidh and Suilven are excellent:

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DSC07050 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC07058 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC07028 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC07071 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC07085 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC07089 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

Still early, so we drove past Ardvreck Castle on the way back. It’s on a small promontory; there's some displays with information. Aside from the castle ruin there's another big house (also a ruin) and some grave hills. Quinag is across the loch (another hill I’d like to visit!).

Ardvreck Castle:
Image
DSC07118 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC07123 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

Quinag across the water:

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Quinag by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC07109 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

On the way home we spotted these along the road:

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DSC07096 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC07099 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC07147 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

Tired, satisfied, happy. Assynt, I’ll visit again. Soon!

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DSC07155 by Eleonora F, on Flickr

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DSC07091 by Eleonora F, on Flickr
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Last edited by Lenore on Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Lenore
Walker
 
Posts: 586
Munros:13   Corbetts:4
Grahams:1   
Sub 2000:1   
Joined: Apr 22, 2012
Location: the Netherlands

Re: Assyn-gle hill is not enough!

Postby litljortindan » Mon Jun 10, 2013 4:35 pm

Great stuff. Stac Pollaidh looks interesting in the mist. I would find it a bit nerve wracking in strong wind though I think but you never know until you try I suppose! Went there and to Cul Beag this year. Both great hills.
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litljortindan
Walker
 
Posts: 1521
Munros:110   Corbetts:47
Grahams:22   
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Re: Assyn-gle hill is not enough!

Postby Johnny Corbett » Mon Jun 10, 2013 4:56 pm

Lovely area, only been up there for the Munros but need to go back especially for the Graham. Good stuff :D
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Johnny Corbett
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Posts: 2905
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Re: Assyn-gle hill is not enough!

Postby Avocetboy » Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:19 pm

Hi lenore, cul beag looks a fantastic mountain. We planned to do it a couple of weeks ago, but I opted for cul mor instead (TR to follow). The valley in between stac pollaidh and cul beag is a truly special place. Love the photos on stac pollaidh ridge, I just don't think I've got the bottle to scramble along it.!
Avocetboy
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 324
Munros:33   Corbetts:13
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Joined: Feb 6, 2011
Location: Boston, Lincolnshire

Re: Assyn-gle hill is not enough!

Postby Lenore » Tue Jun 11, 2013 5:01 pm

litljortindan and avocetboy, it wasn't as bad as it might look! But then again, I had Ron with me, and his no-nonsense attitude helped a lot to make it less scary :D

Thanks Johnny, and yes, do go back for the little ones up there - they are lovely!
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Lenore
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Posts: 586
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Grahams:1   
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Re: Assyn-gle hill is not enough!

Postby rockhopper » Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:28 pm

welcome back and what a great way to return ! glad the weather cleared up a bit for you as well - cheers :)
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Location: Glasgow

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