So with the weather looking rubbish almost everywhere this weekend, we decided the best chance of nae getting soaked, was up in Sutherland or thereabouts.. We arrived in Elphin Saturday lunchtime, but the hills were all clagged in Well at least it was dry..
I don’t know why we singled out Cul Mor for a wee Saturday afternoon jaunt, but we did, and set off down the well made path.
It takes a long route round the hill, with a very gentle incline. Even low down the views were nice to the north.. A few sunny patches were drifting about, but the clag was firmly stuck to the tops.
Before long we were at the cairn at the top of the dug out path, and we stopped for a while to admire the views.
The route continued at a fine easy gradient, but underfoot it was a little bit boggy for a while. We were soon up on a rockier section for a bit of a steeper climb up to a plateau. The route was well marked with cairns – handy in the clag that had now enveloped us
There was a Lochan up on the plateau, and we skirted right of it, partly because that seemed to be the way the cairns were pointing, and partly because there looked to be a lot of interesting natural torridonian sandstone sculptures over that side.
We met up with the path again a bit further on, which took us gently up to the steep bit. The boulder field up is trickier to negotiate than average, with rather large blocks in a confusing jumble. It wasn’t a long section however, and we were at the top in no time.
The sun seemed to be threatening to burn through the clag, so we waited for as long as we could before the chill winds made getting moving again an attractive prospect. We reluctantly left the summit, hoping it wouldn’t clear in 10 minutes time like it usually does..
Down the boulder field, and we went to explore a few more of the slabby spurs en route. Didn’t seem to take too long to get down the hill, the mists did seem to be starting to thin out a bit, but it was clinging stubbornly on.
We were almost back at the car when the Cul Mor top cleared just for a moment.
Glad we didn’t hang around up there or we would have been very cold waiting! Fine way to kill a few hours, even if we didn’t get the bonny Assynt views
Across the road from our lay-by, there was a visitor centre place, so we went to have a mooch, and I am so glad we did. If you aren’t up on your geology, this is the pace to come. There was a heather thatched round shelter with some fun innovative displays inside.
My Dad likes sharing his geological expertise with me on walks, but I find the subject a bit dry and have troubles retaining the information so it was almost all new for me! There was a short walk under the Moine thrust up along the top of the cliffs and round in a circuit back to the car.
The going is steep in places, but every time you start to get a bit hot and breathless, there is a sculpture, or a display, or a bonny view to give you an excuse to stop for a bit.
It only took 45 minutes to do the whole thing, but we were worried about the time, and the dropping light levels, so we headed off to find a spot to camp.
We found one just down the road, beside Loch Awe (obviously not the loch awe ) which was teeming with big jumping fish. We dined and slept with the local stags shouting, barking and grunting all night on the surrounding hillside.
We awoke to a fine day – loads of blue in the sky. It wasn’t far down the road to Inchnadamph, the car park almost full already – popular!
We set off over the road bridge and up the track, surprised to see a ring ousel mucking about in the river – shouldn’t they of flown off somewhere hot by now? Well maybe not, as the day was roasting! Layers were soon removed and we passed the camp spot we had weathered out a storm in last Christmas – our first attempt at these hills, foiled by the high winds making mobility impossible. It seemed a far cry from the bright weather we were getting today! We passed the chamered cairn.
Past the cottage, and on to the fine grassy path beyond, up the glen.
The path undulates a fair amount and is rocky in places where parts have been washed away, but progress was fairly quick. Dougie’s legs had apparently gone all jelly-like, so we were forced to stop before the real ascent started, then again a little further up.
The path was at first very boggy as it turned uphill, then there were huge rocks in the path to negotiate. Dougie was still feeling sapped of strength and the going was steep and tough..
Nevertheless, we did get up to the ridge. The final section delightfully over a big 10 foot step of rock at the back of a hanging valley. When we had been here previously, it must have been banked up with snow, because neither of us remembered it being rocky. Over the lip we took another food stop on the same boulder at which we had decided to retreat from the hill at Christmas. All new ground from here on!
The next section wasn’t quite as steep but it was rocky, a good path weaves an easier route though, and we enjoyed fine views of the immediate surrounds, over Loch Assynt, and away out to sea – just perfect
After a false summit, there was a fine narrow grassy ridge leading to the shelter cairn. We could see the clag rolling our way though,
At first patchy it was pretty much all consuming by the time we hit the top.
We sat in the shelter for a while, but it was 3PM already – 4 hours to get this far.. Jeepers! A look at the GPS told us we had actually been going at almost 2 miles/hour – we had just stopped a lot to eat with Dougies wobbly legs troubles
We set off toward BMA, the initial descent involves crossing over some massive square boulders, before easier ground is reached.
In the clag, there was just rolling rockiness, up and down we went, It was fun though – huge slabs and the odd boulder field making things interesting.
There was the choice of rocky crest, or the bypass path – what fun! Eventually there was just a tiny scramble up to the summit..
Rather further and took more energy than the map would of suggested, so good to get there. It was 4 O’clock now 2.5 hours until dark, so we were feeling the pressures of time.. We headed back the way we came, the rocky ridge somehow more fun and shorter on the way back..
Climbing back over Conival, you would think would be a chore, but it really doesn’t feel like much ascent. These are separate munros by a small margin I think. We had got our stomp on and we were back at the bealach in what felt like no time at all, stopped briefly,, the sun beginning to hide behind the surrounding hills. We were soon down below the clag and managed to do a fast pace down the hillside, peaty ground taking the pressure off the knees. We happily avoided the boggy bits by staying on top of a spur to the left of the path down at the bottom.
I had hoped we would have time to visit the caves on the way back – must be over 20 years since I was last there, but alas the light was not on our side.
It just finally got too dark as we were passing the hostel only a few hundred yards from the car – well timed!
It was a long drive home from Inchnadamph – almost midnight when I got back to Aberdeen, but it was well worth it – what a super day! And you always feel jammy when everyone at work is moaning about how bad the weather has been when you are nursing your sunburn
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