We had 4 days to make the most of the hills from Wednesday this week and boy that's what we did!
Headed on Wednesday to meet our guide Kenny Grant (Point5) for some scrambling at Glencoe so it was a mad dash to pack on Tuesday night , fill the car with as much as it can carry and off we set wondering what the next few days would bring ! But Bring it on we say!
Day 1 - Glencoe - Curved Ridge (Stob Dearg, Buachaille Etive Mor)
Arrived at the layby for 9.30 , clouds still shrouding most of Glencoe and the Big Bookil was no exception so we had some trepidation about how tough curved ridge was going to me as we havent done any graded scrambling before, it was wet and this is rated a Grade 2/3!
We got our gear together, rope etc included and headed in to the base of the mountain as the rain strated to wet the rock even more... arrived at the waterslide on the NE edge and from here it was up - all the way!
We passed a couple of lads who had decided against it i the wet but as its Rhyolite the grip would still be god Kenny assured us (and he didn't lie) so harness's and helmets on, tie and off we go.
Many have detailed the route so I'll let pics do the talking (briefly) but will say its a fantastic route, exciting without being scary, challenging without being daunting and the views both out in the glen and around onto things like the Rannoch Wall are awesome! For our first proper graded scramble the day couldn't have been better. ! or 2 complicated bits but none overwhelming, even the "crux" is well doable and while there is some exposure overall if felt great - soon you focus on placement and climbing rather than slipping and .. gulp.. lets not go there, While most maybe dont bother with ropes we enjoyed the added protection to allow us to just focus on climbing and learning skills like protection placement and foot/hand work. Lunch at around 750m was also brilliant with the mist clearing enough to really feel the height above Glencoe!
Summited Stob Dearg after a bout 3 hours (only 1 pitch was quite long and sustained, rest easy going overall), walked down and headed to our lovely hotel in Boat of Garten to rest, eat ( wee drink ) and prepare for day2..
Pics from the day
Day 2 - Ledge Route (Ben Nevis North Face)
Up early (too early for the full scottish ) so with packed brekkie and lunch i hand we headed once more to meet Kenny at Nevis this time. Sore and achy (and a little tired as I dont sleep well in hotels).
We met himat the Nevis Range car park, jumped in his Yellow van and headed up the ranger track (he has a akey) to save us 40 mins each way...
We headed up the good path into the North corrie we discussed how we felt and what the target would be for today. Sam was clearly feeling the ache a bit from the day before (I was too a little i'll hasten to add) as its our first "multi day" and we looked at Castle Ridge but after discussion we agreed on Ledge route rather than run out of steam 1/2 way up..
Walking in you get a stunning view of both CMD and the gullies and buttress's of Nevis - totally different from the tourist route! and the low hanging cloud juts added to the atmosphere of age old rock and adventure ahead!
We reached the CIC hut (was dying to see it) and as we threw on some layers (colder now) and had a snack Sam was obviosuly feeling a bit tired so she decided to let us crack on and instead head back to the car for a day of rest.. we discussed and agreed it was best so off Kenny and I set for Gully 5 (snow still filling) it with Sam waving us off.
Ledge route is "only " a Grade 1 scramble so would be a "cruise" compared to Curved Ridge but my legs were clearly feeling it from the day before and i was definitely pushing myself to keep up. We geared up as soon we cleared the scree filed then worked our way up Gully 5, cutting snow steps as we went , tough going!
We cleared that and the the real scrambling starts with a wide , wet slab of rock - my ultimate hate! I worked across it with almost no dignity forgetting everything I had learned the day before but made it and Kenny was great at keeping me right before telling me that was basically the crux point and from here it was an easy up..
The route is VERY doable, views are incredible, going straightforward , some wonderful points where you feel exposed on one side but very comforted on the other. Only a couple of pics as we moved quick but i was huffing and puffing by the time summited after about 3 hours. Only 1 bit had caused me a wee problem - there is a 2.5m drop off a wall where you cant really see the foot holds , although crampon marks ( its a great winter route) help and I basically lowered/scraped/slid my way off (bruises bear the memory!) but apart from that I was walking with ease, placing my feet well and seeing and using notches and holds that before i would have been able to see let alone trust.
Again roped and helmeted i was able just to get on and enjoy rather than worry about falling as well as continue to spot and plan natural protection opportunities for more complicated routes. The views across the CMD back into the corrie and across to Castle Ridge made the day and when we summited it was to clear skies and a great view back south to the Nevis summit Plateau and all the walkers heading up the trail. A quick walk out via the red burn, turn right at the lochan (rather than left to go down the pony track) and across the moor and we were back at Kenny's van by 3pm - 5 hours all in! An end to 2 great days of guided scrambling, much more confidence and a real desire to come back and tackle Castle Ridge and then some winter axe play!!
Day 3 - Assynt - Suilven and the Suileag Bothy
After Nevis we had a very restful evening , great dinner and a few celebratory beers before a good night sleep, a full Scottish brekkie and some some planning for the next 2 days.
After discussion we agreed on the original Plan A - Suilven and a night at Suileag!
Hit the road, stop for firewood, water etc and we arrived at Lochinver at around midday and took the great path via the GlenCanisp Lodge to where the wee cairn marks where to turn for the Suileag Bothy.
Lovely bothy, 2 big rooms and all you would need in terms of sleeping , cooking and sitting areas. 2 Lads from Belgium were there on the start of a 12 day tour of Scotland so we had a quick chat, gave them some walker shortbread, a wee bit of JD I had spare and the wood etc and we left them to it to do Suilven - we had wanted to for ages!
Along the whole track Suilvens North flank is side-on giving the full view of the "head" and "fin" and as you near it you realise your going to be going pretty much straight up the gully.
Well defined track (wee bit of bog) and round the larger lochan takes you to the foot of the gully. Its steep and the midges were all over us but we moved up in the sun - great weather all day! - and soon (ish) we made it to the narrow ridge running the length of Suilven. She may only be a Graham but WOW what a hill and DOUBLE WOW what views! Got to be among the best in the country (a new thread perhaps? ). We took pics, then headed up the (very) easy scramble to the summit.
It was around 6pm and the light was still great, calm on top, silence and just views for miles all around.
Basically - perfect!
Making our way back doen the steep gully takes time (especially as I take LOTS of pics) but we soon did and were back along the road to the bothy for about 8.30pm very much looking forward to food, drink and a rest...
The Bothy provided all of this - and more - a surprise at about 1.20am as 3 travellers appeared out the now wet and wild night. We had carefully moved to the other room as Sam wasn't to keen on sharing so there was plenty of room for us all. (its really only open for emergencies due to the floor but we were very careful not to make it worse and left supplies of packet drinks, sugar, wood etc so hope we paid our dues - even made a donation to the MBA to support the repairs).
The wee Primus Eta stove performed brilliantly, the JD we brought also helped us get on our sleepy way and the porridge in the morning with coffee (ready in minutes thanks to the Eta) really made the whole thing very cosy! Our bags were warm, our mats were comfy and all in all it was very very good fun!
Sun up about 4.30 (head in bag until 6) then brekkie and were off back up the track (all rubbish with us ).
Got to the car for 8 and it was off on the road to Glasgow and home... very very contenetd, proud of our achoievemnt, proud of our country and not a little sore and stiff from the effort we will remember fondly these 3 days on the hills and the night in Suileag.
Thanks for reading
Back at the Bothy
Amazing few days, great guide and the most wonderful country on earth! oh.. and surprising good weather all in!
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