Saturday, day 8 of my Kintail week - it was time to get onto the Brothers ridge. This was hopefully going to be a day where both of us would have a numerical celebration awaiting us. Weather was dry and actually sunny, although the winds were substantial as they lashed the trees around the cottage as we set off, a bit later than usual getting going as we'd to clean the cottage and pack up before we left. We decided to park at the Cluanie Inn rather than the parking spot a kilometre or so along the road for 2 reasons - firstly it was 1 less km to walk on the way back, secondly we were planning to have a pint/meal in the Cluanie anyway on our return. Allison was struggling with pains in her back and knee after the exertions of the last 2 days and I was a bit worried how she'd manage the route. Trooper she is, she was game for tackling all 4 Munros, but taking on Ciste Dubh first allowed an escape after 1 if needed. As things turned out, this was good planning
P1030058 by 23weasels, on Flickr
It was really hot walking along the road to the beginning of the walk, with some flies and midges buzzing around despite the gusty wind. This was almost like a summer's day We'd chosen to go over Am Bathach first of all, which would put another tick in the Corbetts column, and would also miss out on the soggy boggy ground of the valley. There's a good path up this first hill, although the forrest plantation shown in the map has been reduced to matchwood. Steady climb from a starting elevation of 228m, there would be several dips before reaching the top of Am Bathach.
P1030059 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Looking back the South GlenShiel ridge looked impressive across the other side of the road. There were also good views of A'Chralaig on the right - nice to see what I'd climbed in clag last saturday
P1030060 by 23weasels, on Flickr
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Dips along Am Bathach
P1030063 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Up ahead I could make out the distinctive vertical curved cliffs of Ciste Dubh, the sinisterly named Black Coffin - though it didn't look overly sinister in the sunlight. Did look a bit narrow along the ridge however and the wind was getting up as we gained height...hmmm
P1030064 by 23weasels, on Flickr
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As we walked further along the back of Am Bathach, the pinnacled ridge of Mulloch Fraoch Coire came into view on the right.
P1030067 by 23weasels, on Flickr
The mountains were positively glowing in the sunshine (a rarity this week) and the light was giving some impressive layers of blue.
P1030070 by 23weasels, on Flickr
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Top Am Bathach
P1030069 by 23weasels, on Flickr
From the summit of Am Bathach Ciste Dubh looked a much fatter hill than the impression from farther off.
P1030071 by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1030072 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Now it was down to Bealach a'Coinich, a drop of about 350m that was going to await us again coming off Ciste Dubh . The path disappeared in and out of boggy sections and at one point we crossed an immense slab of granite.
P1030074 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Looking back at Am Bathach revealed an impressive conical shape, on the left rose Aonach Mheadhoin, the start of the Brothers ridge. That was going to be half-way for me, all going well...
P1030075 by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1030076 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Am Bathach to Loch Cluanie
P1030077 by 23weasels, on Flickr
As we climbed the flank of Ciste Dubh the hills of the South Glen Shiel ridge and the Saddle became more imposing, dark against a sky which was "closing in". Allison was increasingly struggling with pain now and it seemed increasingly evident she wouldn't be able to manage more than Ciste Dubh today. Damn
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There were several ups and downs to negotiate before the final top of "the coffin" was reached - fortunately the wind was relatively benevolent apart from the odd gust that stopped us in our tracks for a moment or two.
P1030083 by 23weasels, on Flickr
We could see the rain coming in over the Brothers' ridge and knew it wouldn't be much longer that we were going to have views.
P1030084 by 23weasels, on Flickr
However, I was glad that we had at least enjoyed the sights up to this point.Snapped a few more shots including over to Mullach Fraoch Coire and the rocky spur of the summit of Ciste Dubh.
P1030085 by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1030086 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Allison wended her way to the top - her 100th - but was in so much pain that the celebration was a bit flat. I was really proud of her effort and determination in getting to the ton in a quick time and would have liked the occasion to have been memorable for the right reasons
P1030087 by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1030088 by 23weasels, on Flickr
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At least someone's happy
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View back along Ciste Dubh ridge
P1030092 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Not really the way we'd imagined it would be. By this time it was around 1pm and we decided to have something to eat and I had to decide what I was going to do. It was very clear that Allison's day was over, and a slow and painful trek back to the car was the next thing for her - but I was now sitting on 140 Munros and dead keen to get to the 141 mark - the fact that Aonach Mheadhoin was only 400 metres of ascent from the bealach that we had to pass anyway was too much of a lure to turn down - F-it, I was going to do the ridge. Ever the chivalrous one, I did escort Allison most of the way down to the bealach and the safety of the valley route back to the car - or the Cluanie Inn to anaesthetise her pains if she saw fit, before nipping off with a "see ya" up the shoulder of Sgurr an Fhuarail at a more realistic speed.
The weather was rubbish by this time - rain battering against my glasses, clag soup but did I care?
P1030094 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Put on a good bit of speed up the side of the hill (I did look back once to check that my wee injured buddy was still moving - she was ) and soon the pointy cairn of Aonach Mheadhoin loomed into sight out of the clag.
P1030095 by 23weasels, on Flickr
I'd waited a while for this - well, since September anyway - and yes, I did enjoy the moment. Every one of my "numbers" - 50, 100 and now 141 - has been done solo, which is a bit odd as normally we walk together
P1030096 by 23weasels, on Flickr
The rest of the ridge was walked in the same conditions of no visibility and pouring rain. This was a bit frustrating, especially having to stop and wipe the fog from my glasses on narrow sections so that I could actually see where to put my feet
P1030097 by 23weasels, on Flickr
It felt like a proper ridgewalk though - at times steep drops to both sides and narrow or jaggy crests to walk along, was great fun even with slippy rocks:D .
P1030098 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Made it along to Sgurr am Bhealaich Dheirg and its summit off to the right along a rocky promontary without any difficulties
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then a left turn - tricky in the mist - to follow a faint path over rocks in the general direction of Saileag.
P1030101 by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1030102 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Was buzzing now, despite the conditions remaining pretty dire. Walking down to the bealach an lapain I could see the start of the Sisters route ahead of me, mist swirling around the sharp edge of Beinn Odhar -
P1030104 by 23weasels, on Flickr
oh I was so tempted to just keep on going and do these beauties as well - even if it was about 5.30pm, poor visibility etc....I felt a real zip in my step. However, I knew I had some responsibilites to my hill-partner and should really return to see if she'd got back alright. And i didn't have any more food with me except a nakd bar. And it would be nice to actually have some views when doing these hills - OK it's time to be sensible and get back to the Cluanie.
Descending the terrible stony eroded path back down to the road was not much fun - really this is one hill track that should be improved given the traffic I assume it sees (though I met not another soul today). Not an experience I'd be keen to repeat actually. Dangerous too as it was easy to loosen scree that could hit walkers below. And I fell on my bum at least once into gloopy mud
One helpful strategy when getting ready for today's walk was to shove a pair of trainers into the rucksac for th 8 or 9km along the road back to the pub. Changing into them at the roadside and packing my boots into a drysack bungeed to my pack I kinda hoped that someone might stop and proffer a lift in the rain, but no such luck - I geared myself up for a brisk walk back along the road to the Cluanie. Trainers really helped reduce foot pain and increase speed, and I almost enjoyed the romp along the roadside apart from when drivers got a bit closse to my edge of the road or I had to splash though puddles when moving in to the rightside verge when a bigger vehicle came along. As it was I made good time along the road, just over 70 minutes, and get my skins off at the car before heading into the Cluanie where Allison was indeed making use of the pain numbing properties of good beer. A very tasty fish & chips and couple of pints set off the day for me before we went off to camp for the night.
The plan for the following day had been to head up to do the Sisters, probably taking the route from Morvich along the north of the hills rather than the main road route. It did seem somewhat unlikely that Allison was going to recover sufficiently overnight, but we both kept fingers crossed. However, the frequent groans of pain as she turned over during the night were not promising, and it was clear at daybreak that no further hills would be taken this week. Disappointing, as the morning was absolutely perfect with clear blue skies and not a breath of wind. Ach well, it had been a good week on the hills and I did manage 19 Munros, 4 Corbetts and a Graham. As we drove back down the road i reflected that the early run home would allow me to get out in the garden for a few hours and do some much needed weeding - who needs hills to climb when you can do that
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