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Conival, Andy Murray and a day of Some Confusion
by MusicalHiker » Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:00 pm
Route description: Ben More Assynt and Conival
Munros included on this walk: Conival
Date walked: 07/07/2013
Time taken: 9.5 hours
Distance: 17.5 km2 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).
My very first thought, the word which sprang into my mind like an eager squirrel.... MOUNTAINS!! Maybe I could wangle a mountain climb on this trip! with this in mind I suggested a drive down the west coast, one of the most stunning drives in the country. Mum didn't care where we went really; it was a blissful escape from everyday stuff, and she was very excited about the prospect. I booked the ferries, entirely forgetting to check when the Wimbledon Mens' Final was on.... oops.
When it comes to mountains, my mother generally thinks I'm bonkers and can't see why anyone does it. However, she was oddly keen when I mentioned the possibility of climbing something, so I researched a few routes.
We caught the 6am ferry to Scrabster in glorious sunshine and I drove us to our B&B at Scourie. The weather closed in, but we donned full waterproofs and wandered along the approach path to Quinag, just to get a feel for the hills. It was fun: driving rain, fog and strange gusts of wind so strong we were blown off our feet. She loved it, and when the next day dawned dry and sunny with a pleasant breeze we decided to head for Inchnadamph, all the time thinking about Andy Murray who was playing the tennis final that afternoon.
At this point, the Confusion began. Now, I have walked to the Bone Caves before. I have also walked to the Traligill Caves before. In the same weekend, three years ago. I had failed to remember however that those two cave routes are DIFFERENT. My memory, normally as sharp as a very sharp knife with a masters degree in sharpness, decided to abandon me. I parked at the Inchnadamph car park, my first mistake, thinking that we could visit the bone caves and then if we felt good we could try the mountain. I now know that it was the wrong car park for the Bone Caves, but my map showed caves, so I reckoned we were on the right path. Here I made my second mistake of the day - I threw my Scottish Mountaineering Club Munro book into my rucksack, with enough food and water to sustain us for several weeks. Well, ok, actually I threw in the SMC Corbetts book by mistake!! This error was not discovered until several hours later but hey ho, you know it turned out OK because I'm still here, writing this report.
It was half ten when we set off. It was all very familiar. I knew I had been here before. We trundled along in perfect conditions, with Conival peeking invitingly under a small cap of cloud.
After a while I became a little confused. Where were the bone caves? "I know I've been here" I told Mum. "But it just doesn't feel right!" After some time we reached the Traligill caves, and passed them, along the path which I now know leads to Braebag. "Oh F**K" I said, momentarily annoyed. "I hate walking the wrong way, this is all wrong but I don't know why!!"
We turned and retraced our steps back to the junction in the path, where the route to Conival follows the river. I noticed a tick merrily strolling across my gaiters and I showed Mum, who said with surprise, ooh, it's tiny!" I told her about Lyme disease and advised watching out for the little buggers. We discussed how we felt about tackling the mountain, and decided to go for it, as we were well equipped, had the route map and book with us (or so I thought) and had plenty of time - after all, it doesn't really get dark at this time of year. We trundled happily along the riverbank, and gradually approached the part which starts to go UP.
"I can't imagine going up there" mum said, gazing skywards. "Perseverance, one step at a time" I replied. "It's all about keeping going and not looking too far ahead."
We began to climb, in the now hot sun, on the left side of the lovely burn which cascades prettily beside the path. When I say path... well, there is a path of sorts but it is messy, wet, unstable, steep and pretty lethal in places.
There is a lot of erosion happening too, where not everyone is going the same way. Mum accidentally stepped into a peat puddle and went up to her ankle in bog, but apart from that this part was uneventful. Although it was my spare boots she was wearing.... as well as a really posh Paramo jacket borrowed from a friend, which made me green-eyed!
It seemed like it took forever to reach the next challenge.... a scramble! We crossed the burn and approached the rocky outcrop we knew we had to climb to reach the bealach.
"This is well outside my comfort zone" mum said nervously. To be fair, I hadn't done anything like this either but I thought it looked like fun so chose the easiest looking part and up I went, easily. She followed me with no problems, but I could tell she didn't like it, and I was surprised to see a big flattish area with large rocks. I think I had expected more of a ridge. It was easier going for five minutes, before the final push for the top. I took out the Munro book, just to check we were going the right way. 'Oh, crap!" I announced. "It's the wrong feckin' book!"
No problem however, because I could make out a path among the rocks and scree. I had not expected a path all the way.
"Follow me!" I said with confidence, and set off upwards. The views were stunning. We really were very lucky, considering we only had one day to do this. The breeze was very welcome, and it became colder as we climbed. Mum was delighted to see her first wild deer, and I was more entertained by the ring ouzels, having seen thousands of wild deer before. I want to be a ring ouzel in my next life!
We met a few other folk en route to the top, in fact I think we passed about 15 other people during the climb.
Soon we were sat in the summit cairn eating lunch. "Bet these radishes never thought they were coming up a mountain when I planted them" I mused as I munched on my home grown, well travelled salad.
Unfortunately my hands both went white and numb. I started to worry about frostbite and tried to get the blood back into them. I don't know how cold it was up there but there was snow lying in places. I looked across to Ben More Assynt. I knew mum would not cope with the ridge, as she doesn't really like heights. I'm not into bagging all the summits, it's an impossibility living in Orkney, so I decided not to go for it either. If we hadn't wasted an hour flumping about in the wrong direction looking for caves that weren't there, I'd have done it.
After a while at the top enjoying the sense of achievement we began to descend. I had been more concerned than I was letting on about this part; mum has never done this before and I just hoped her knees were going to be ok. I tend to let go a bit, and bound down in half the time it takes to go up, but mum was more for the extreme caution and occasional unladylike bum-sliding. She kept going "ooh" and "argh" and "eek", and so after after a bit I said "Heavens, will you just shut up, unless you have fallen over the edge or something!!"
At this point my phone quacked. I have a duck ringtone...... anyway, it was The Boyfriend, at home. He was rather excited. "He's won two games!" he announced. "what do you mean?" I enquired. "I hope you mean sets?" Graham doesn't understand tennis too well. "Well," he said, "from the left, the boxes have 2 for Murray and then 4, and nothing for the other guy." I started jumping up and down and yelling, as clearly Murray was slaughtering the World Number One and was going to win. At that point O2 conked out on us and we carried on the descent, much cheered. The next time the phone quacked, Graham was more hyper than I have ever heard him before over a sports event...."HE'S DONE IT!!!!!" he howled with joy. What an end to our eventful day! Would I rather have been in front of a TV? Hard to decide, but I was just happy happy happy.
When we got to the river and it was flatter, I gave mum my pole so she had both of them. She was getting sore legs and feet. I bounded on at my usual pace and then waited for her to catch up, and we made it back in this fashion to the footbridge where the paths join up again. All credit to her, she hated going down but managed it in one piece. I think the part I enjoyed least was the steep boggy bit going back from the scramble, to the river at the bottom. It's just tedious.
We took off our boots and socks and stuck our feet in the river. We cracked open the tea and cake, and drank from the river. Then it was a simple stroll back to the car, where a lamb was asleep under the back wheel and needed to be woken. i had a crazy notion to hit Lochinver Pie Shop, but wasn't sure it was open Sunday nights so I drove us back to Scourie and to the hotel, where we burst into the bar the very minute they stop serving, at 8.30pm. They were very kind and rustled us up a fish supper each, and I splashed out with an Appletise.
We noticed a Local nearby. Probably because he was staring openly at us. And I knew he was a local because he was wearing huge yellow wellies. I blanked him, but knew fine we wouldn't get away with it that easily. Then came the classic line.... "Ach, you two must be sisters!?" We were forced into conversation. I won't bore you with the details but it ended up with me telling him which Munro we'd just climbed. "Conival isn't a Munro!" he declared. "There's only one Munro in the whole of Sutherland and it's Ben More Assynt"! I knew fine he was wrong so I told him he was talking rubbish. "Conival's a Munro," I said. "So's Ben More Assynt, and what about Ben Hope? Are you telling me it's not in Sutherland?"
"It's not a Munro" he argued. "I've been a stalker on these hills for 18 years, and I tell you, the only one that's a Munro is Ben More Assynt". At this point I nipped outside and got my Munro book and Landranger maps out of the car. At that moment he got up and put his arm round my mother, the scumbag!! She escaped unscathed and I slammed down the evidence on the bar. Drunken Duncan was still arguing his point, declaring that the Ordnance Survey folk were wrong, and so was the Scottish Mountaineering Club, and the whole bar was laughing at him, when we walked out.
My mother now says she gets it; she understands why I climb mountains, and she wants to do it again! And Graham understood the whole tennis thing too, so it was a very enlightening and joyous day all round.
by BobMcBob » Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:23 pm
by craighall » Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:25 pm
In a similar endeavor to avoid being too much of a ' couch potato ', I was walking in the Lake District.
I had endeavoured to walk up to the fantastically - named ' High Street ' in the Eastern Lakes, but only made it as far as the Hayeswater Reservoir, when the very warm weather and Dunblane's finest prevailed.
The sight of a fair few Scots walking around Ambleside at about 6 pm, with their chests pumped out was something to behold.
by Torridon_snails » Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:22 pm
We also didn't make it to Ben More Assynt, but it just felt so amazing being on top of Conival, we didn't care about going anywhere else (except that we had to catch the bus back to Lochinver at some point!).
By the way, Scourie is well worth exploring if you get the chance. We stayed at Glenbain last summer (the white cottage about a mile up the Conival track, very close to the wonderful rock formations of Traligill), and had a few days in Scourie before - will try to post something over the summer...
All the best,
Daniel and Clare (Torridon_snails)
by MusicalHiker » Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:37 pm
Thanks for your comment
by Collaciotach » Thu Jul 11, 2013 11:21 pm
Good report and as a islander from the West I appreciate island claustrophobia
by Bod » Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:10 am
Funnily enough Sunday saw us checking the tennis score too from the mountainside, usually wouldn't dream of that....what a belterof a day. Love that wee path leading into Conival before it steepens up
by Torridon_snails » Fri Jul 12, 2013 7:26 am
All the best...
MusicalHiker wrote:Torridon Snails - hello! Yours was one of the reports I read before deciding on this hill, I was inspired by your story and hope you have continued to enjoy many more walks since then. Glenbain is a great cottage, I hope one day to stay there. I stayed a whole week in Kylesku once, it was a lovely place too. Nowhere down the west coast would be a disappointment!
Thanks for your comment
by MusicalHiker » Fri Jul 12, 2013 9:45 am
You know I had always wondered if there were any Munro bagger's on Orkney
There are a few baggers here actually.... but our highest hill is only 480 metres so lots of travel is involved!!