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Sutherland Weekender part 2 - Stacks and man traps

Sutherland Weekender part 2 - Stacks and man traps


Postby malky_c » Mon Mar 08, 2010 1:09 am

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn Spionnaidh, Cranstackie

Date walked: 07/03/2010

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 13 km

Ascent: 1000m

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...the stack of course being Cranstackie, which along with Beinn Spionnaidh made up today's walk.

In part 1 (http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3752), I had arrived at Strabeg bothy, where I stayed the night. Although I was convinced I hadn't had any sleep, I actually got up feeling quite refreshed just before 7. The weather outside looked sunny, and I could see the summits I was heading for that day were clear of cloud - what could possibly go wrong?

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Cranstackie from Polla

I had decided on the lazy apporach of not lugging my stove and sleeping bag over the hills, so I walked back out to the car. This meant that the long broad ridge from Conamheall to Cranstackie (as described in one of Kinley's reports) wasn't an option any more.
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Loch Eriboll and Ben Hope from lower slopes of Cranstackie

Started walking just E of Polla, using what I thought was a shortcut. Bad move, as the bridge shown on the map had disintegrated, leaving a thigh deep wade in its place. Glad I was wearing shorts...

Once over the river, the hillside rose towards Cranstackie, starting off very boggy in the lower reaches. I picked up the amusingly tilted Allt Coire an Uinnseinn, which flowed in a slight gorge. Holding my sanity, I crossed this and headed for a steepening ridge. Things dried out hereabouts, and as the gradient eased again, I was walking on a lovely slabby pavement. There was much more rock than the map seemed to suggest, and despite the apparent tameness of this side of the hill, the summit actually presented quite a bold outline.
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Cranstackie summit from ascent
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Across to Meall Horn and SE end of Foinaven
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Ben Hope from near the summit

I reached the south summit ridge at about 10 am, where it was apparent that I hadn't missed much by avoiding the Conamheall ridge. The main grandstand views from this ridge are of the numerous NE corries and ridges of Foinaven. While they still looked interesting, Foinaven had a cap of cloud on it which lessened the visual impact a bit.
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NE corries of Foinaven (west)
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NE corries of Foinaven (east)
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Loch Eriboll, Ben Loyal and Ben Hope
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Summit of Cranstackie

10 minutes later and the same fate befell Cranstackie. The cloud descended slightly, blocking all of the best views. As the summit was only just in the cloud, short range views were still to be had over the cliffs onto Strath Dionard.
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Kyle of Durness and Faraid Head

Fortunately I could still see the way down - useful, as it was pretty steep. I'd never though much of these hills from a topographical point of view, thinking they were probably most interesting for the views. Turns out that close up they are quite intricate, Cranstackie in particular.
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Eastern corrie of Cranstackie
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Ben Loyal and Ben Hope again

After the initial steep rocky section, there was a steep scree-like section. then the rock type changed abruptly and everything was grassy. From the col there was a 20 min ascent to Beinn Spionnaidh on the most significant patch of snow I had walked on so far that day.The summit was very similar to that of Cranstackie, a boulderfield with an enscarpment along the northwestern edge, and sadly the same capping of cloud :( . one thing that was more noticeable here was the ankle-trappingness of the boulders. In places they were covered with snow, which varied between being solid and plunging your legs into all sorts of holes.
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Looking back from Beinn Spionnaidh to Cranstackie

Deciding that a) I didn't want to wade the river at Polla again now that I'd dried out and b) the ridge NE from the summit should theoretically have some good views from it, I followed it to Carn an Righ. I wasn't wrong - views down to Durness and the Kyle of Durness were stunning. Also I realised that these hills must be some of the few summits where you can see both the Western and Northern isles. The stormier weather out to the west meant that other than a brief glimpse of the Butt of Lewis, this wasn't going to happen today. Orkney however was prominent on the horizon, with big patches of snow visible on Hoy.
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Loch Eriboll from Carn an Righ

Descent from Carn an Righ crossed ever worsening boulders. Most of the rock was very unstable and had a nasty habit of moving when stood upon. Also, the hillside steepened to a line of low cliffs. Somehow I had to get through these. I did so via a combination of scrambling, slithering and kicking steps in the bank of snow, only to ralise that If I'd gone 100m or so to the left, I could have avoided the most awkward bits!
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Stupid descent route

From here more boulder traps led to boggier ground then eventually the corner of the forestry plantation. The views across to Ben Hope and Ben Loyal just got better and better as the day went on. At the road, a walk of a mile or so brough me back to the car. Again there was hardly any traffic, with only 1 car passing in the 20 min or so it took me to get back to the start.
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Ben Hope again
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...and again!

With the weather so great, I took a long slow drive back to Inverness via the W coast. A great end to the weekend.
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Traigh Allt Chailgeag near Sangobeg
Last edited by malky_c on Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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malky_c
 
Posts: 5676
Munros:282   Corbetts:222
Grahams:219   Donalds:71
Sub 2000:221   Hewitts:254
Wainwrights:102   
Joined: Nov 22, 2009
Location: Inverness

Re: Sutherland Weekender part 2 - Stacks and man traps

Postby mountain coward » Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:27 am

Shorts????!!!! :o :o Have you got false legs that feel no pain?

Great report and pics, especially for me as I hope to be there in June and those are 2 hills I've had my eye on for ages! :D So thanks for those...
mountain coward
 

Re: Sutherland Weekender part 2 - Stacks and man traps

Postby malky_c » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:42 am

I like walking in shorts. I usually keep wearing them right through winter (on the lower hills at least - wouldn't consider a Cairngorm plateau epic in shorts!), but this year has been exceptionally cold, so this weekend is only the second of the year that I've done it.

Great area this. I'd say that it's one of my favourite in Scotland, but I find myself thinking that about lots of other parts as well! This area probably wins on the beach front though. These hills are much less steep from the east than from the normal starting point at Rhigolter.
User avatar
malky_c
 
Posts: 5676
Munros:282   Corbetts:222
Grahams:219   Donalds:71
Sub 2000:221   Hewitts:254
Wainwrights:102   
Joined: Nov 22, 2009
Location: Inverness

Re: Sutherland Weekender part 2 - Stacks and man traps

Postby mountain coward » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:29 pm

I'm definitely going to be doing them from the east... although the west side looked okay too - just they look much easier from the east...

I normally wear shorts much longer than most people but I sure couldn't wear them at this time of year in the weather we've been having... and that's in England - up there it's been much colder!
mountain coward
 

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