walkhighlands

Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Sutherland Weekender part 1 - bog, slush and Beinns

Sutherland Weekender part 1 - bog, slush and Beinns


Postby malky_c » Sun Mar 07, 2010 11:01 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Ben Hee, Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill

Grahams included on this walk: Beinn Direach, Carn an Tionail

Date walked: 06/03/2010

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 28 km

Ascent: 2000m

1 person thinks this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Another opportunity to take the car and spend the whole weekend away presented itself, and I changed my plans multiple times, binning Ardgour and the Eastern Cairngorms for Sutherland. This appeared to be least affected by snow and gave me a number of options to pick and choose from.

As it was I started on Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill, and things didn't look too promising. The starting point at West Merkland summed itself up really - murk. A patter of rain on the roof of the car made me think that maybe a quick dash up Ben Hee then back home was the option, but the forcast had hinted at improvements, so onward to the Meallan it was.

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



01 Icy Allt an Albannach.JPG

Leaving the track to follow the Allt Beithe, I realised that I had better get used to wet feet, as a combination of soft melting snow and deep rivers meant that every step was a slop. At the point where I crossed the Allt Beithe, a new problem presented itself: iced up river. At one point most of the water was actually flowing on top of the ice, so I tested out and legged it across.
02 Icy Allt Beithe.JPG

The route up over Meallan Liath Beag was shallow but endless. Above 450m, I was in the cloud, so took a couple of bearings. To be fair, this ridge is probably very pleasant in good conditions, as it consists of slabby stones and short grass. Today though, it was just something that stood in the way of the mountain proper. This duly loomed out of the mist, with a steep rocky spur leading N onto the shoulder of Carn Dearg. Another bearing then to cross the un-named 741m summit onto the highest point. The snow varied between the slightly melted hard packed variety (which was a pleasure to walk on) and melting slushy stuff, sometimes up to a foot deep (which wasn't pleasant). Although the cloud was down, there was enough bare ground visible through the snow to avoid white-out conditions. Also, there was the occasional tantalising glimpse of a cliff edge or cornice, which indicated that the main NE facing corrie was probably quite impressive.
03 Interesting looking cliffs near Carn Dearg.JPG
04 Meallan Liath Choire Mhic Dhughaill summit.JPG

On the summit I stopped for a bite of lunch, but a biting wind had got up, so I didn't hang around for long. I was able to follow my footprints back to the Carn Dearg shoulder where I had joined the ridge, then I took a bearing. Strangely the summit ridge of Carn Dearg had loads more snow on, with the occasional blown pile to plough through. Conditions were approaching white out for a short while, but part way down the NE ridge, the cloud began to clear.
05 WTF! Looking down Carn Dearg NE ridge.JPG

And I was glad it did. I hadn't read any guidebooks for this area, but what was shown on the map hadn't prepared me for the steep rocky steps in this ridge. While there was very little that could be described as difficult, the winning combination of slushy snow and rock hard turf (with the occasional smear of ice) added some spice. Finally down at the foot of the ridge I began to get some views. The N coast was visible, and Ben Hope and Ben Loyal were gradually shedding their cloud. There were even some spots of sunshine over in the east!
06 N face of Carn Dearg.JPG
07 Looking back up the NE ridge.JPG
08 Ben Hope.JPG
09 N face of Carn Dearg.JPG
10 Lookin S over Lochan a Bhealaich to Beinn Leoid.JPG

This was enough to make me want to continue across Carn an Tional, which was a steep but straightforward (if slightly rocky) ascent. True to form though, the cloud descended as I reached the summit. It was much thinner than before though, and carrying on to Beinn Direach didn't really add much distance to the route. A fairly even snow slope to run down sped the descent up, although the col was crossed by many rocky ribs which slowed things down again. A short plod up a snow slope on the other side brought me to my first properly clear summit of the day. The line of cliffs on the E face of Carn an Tional looked interesting, as had a glimpse I had caught of the W face on the way up. All in all they made Carn an Tional a hill I fancied re-visiting.
11 E face of Carn an Tionail.JPG

With the end of the route in site, I had another break then made a rapid descent to the Bealach nan Meirleach track, missing out the minor summit of Meall a Chleirich (maybe I should have included this for fun?)

My original plan had included Ben Hee as well, but the extra 600+ m of re-ascent and manky weather had put me off the idea. Looking up the N face of Sail Garbh though, the route appeared temptingly free of snow, and the weather had improved greatly in the last half hour or so. With a couple of hours of daylight left, I thought 'what the hell' and started the ascent.

While the first 350m or so of ascent passed very quickly, the rest was a bit more of a slog. I hit rubbishy soft snow at 600m. I had also neglected to check the distance, which was more than I had expected. I ended up retreating into auto-mode and plodded the last section methodically.

It was worth it though. By then the time was about 5:20 pm, so the light was at its most interesting. The long string of hills to the S from Seana Braigh to Carn Chunneig (seems funny to have these hills as the southern horizon) were enjoying the best of the sunshine, while Ben Hope was turning red and pink and orange streaks appeared behind Quinaig. Unfortunately the photos don't really do it justice. Strangely, the summit trig point and shelter were covered in a huge hump of snow. If I hadn't seen a photo of them elsewhere I would swear they didn't exist.
12 Quinaig from Ben Hee.JPG
13 Where's the trig point gone! Summit of Ben Hee.JPG
14 Loch Shin and sunny hills.JPG
15 Looking across NE summit of Ben Hee to Ben Hope.JPG

I would have liked to have stopped here to admire the view for longer, but the cold breeze was back and I wanted to get down to the lower slopes before dark. The first 200m were great, the soft snow that was so tedious on the way up being great for running in. To counter that, contouring round Meallan Liath Mhor seemed to take forever, and was probably a pointless exercise. After a slop down a boggy lower hillside, I reached the track and the car in twighlight at about 6.30. This actually turned out to be a great day in the end, as much for the challenge as anything.

Being a bit knackered, I debated going home to a nice comfy bed, but I knew I would kick myself if the weather on Sunday was good, so I drove north to Durness then down to the south end of Loch Eriboll. It says something for the sparseness of the population in this area that I only passed 3 other cars on the 45 mile drive (2 of those being in Durness itself).

My objective was Strabeg bothy, a half hour walk down a very wet track. There being no moon and little starlight, I needed my headtorch every step of the way, and was worried that I might walk right past the bothy without noticing! Luckily it was obvious, and two wet feet later I was making dinner in one of the nicest bothies I'd stayed in. There was loads of room and everything was tidy. There was even a kitchen and bathroom, complete with cast iron bathtub! The plumbing wasn't operational though, so any thoughts of an icy bath were out of the window. After trying unsucessfully to get a fire going, I went to bed.

Part 2: http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3755&p=22450#p22450
Last edited by malky_c on Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.
User avatar
malky_c
 
Posts: 5996
Munros:282   Corbetts:222
Grahams:219   Donalds:74
Sub 2000:276   Hewitts:269
Wainwrights:122   Islands:36
Joined: Nov 22, 2009
Location: Glasgow/Inverness

Re: Sutherland Weekender part 1 - bog, slush and Beinns

Postby davetherave » Sun Mar 07, 2010 11:26 pm

Good 1st instalment Malky, looking forward to no 2. Also good that the weather cleared slightly for you, and that the sun did make an ever so short appearence for you. :)

would you have been man enough to try the bath if the plumbing had been operational.? :?
User avatar
davetherave
 
Posts: 717
Munros:220   Corbetts:88
Grahams:26   Donalds:5
Joined: Apr 25, 2009
Location: Brechin

Re: Sutherland Weekender part 1 - bog, slush and Beinns

Postby malky_c » Mon Mar 08, 2010 12:10 am

Cheers. Part 2 has much better photos in it, and was a more straightforward walk, so less rambling on by me.

As for the bath, um...maybe next time!

The bothy logbook had quite a few entries from a dave the rave, who appeared to look after the place. I assume this isn't you? (bit far to go to check out a bothy!)
User avatar
malky_c
 
Posts: 5996
Munros:282   Corbetts:222
Grahams:219   Donalds:74
Sub 2000:276   Hewitts:269
Wainwrights:122   Islands:36
Joined: Nov 22, 2009
Location: Glasgow/Inverness

Re: Sutherland Weekender part 1 - bog, slush and Beinns

Postby gaffr » Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:20 am

Well!....That is a big day out at this time of year...you're hardy! I managed these two in a day but separately. Ben Hee first then a wee drive along the road to Kinloch for the one with the longest name! I assure that the concrete trig point and the surrounding small windbreak is still in place on Hee.
Had to get my head around the approach to the Cranstackie two from 'the other side'.
A fine weekend among the smaller mountains :lol:
User avatar
gaffr
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 1870
Munros:281   Corbetts:203
Grahams:33   Donalds:14
Sub 2000:11   Hewitts:25
Wainwrights:11   
Joined: Oct 25, 2009
Location: Highland.

Re: Sutherland Weekender part 1 - bog, slush and Beinns

Postby mountain coward » Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:20 am

Not surprised you were getting a bit knackered towards the end of that lot! What a long day in winter! You must be very fit!
mountain coward
 

Re: Sutherland Weekender part 1 - bog, slush and Beinns

Postby malky_c » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:34 am

I always plan out routes like this at home, but rarely end up following through with them! Thought I'd push myself to do this one in full for a change. In fact my original plan for this area was to go from the north, a few miles south of the Ben Hope starting point, and do the Graham Sabhal Beag as well. That would have been about 25 miles though, so I didn't bother.

These hills actually looked like they would make a great summer traverse, with loads of great spots for a high camp. I'll definitely be heading back there again sometime.
User avatar
malky_c
 
Posts: 5996
Munros:282   Corbetts:222
Grahams:219   Donalds:74
Sub 2000:276   Hewitts:269
Wainwrights:122   Islands:36
Joined: Nov 22, 2009
Location: Glasgow/Inverness

1 person thinks this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).



Walkhighlands community forum is advert free

We need help to keep the site online.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by setting up a monthly donation by direct debit?



Return to Walk reports - Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: markab278 and 51 guests