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Doubly compleat – the end of an adventure on The Saddle
by Clach Liath » Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:04 pm
Munros included on this walk: The Saddle
Date walked: 18/04/201416 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).
It is a long time since I first “compleated” the Munros, almost 23 years in fact. The desultory approach to my second completion has arisen as a result of the arrival of two kids and a requirement to concentrate on maintaining one’s position on the slippery pole of professional life. Indeed I did not really intend to embark upon a second completion. It just sort of happened as I joined with others on their Munro quests and lo and behold my numbers increased to the point where it seemed a crime not to aim for the second completion.
There is some merit in a slow approach. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Revisiting some areas not visited for 20 years or more felt like coming to them for the first time. I also indulged in many multi-day trips and rediscovered back packing and wild camping.
But over the past couple of years I decided that my slothful approach needed bucking up otherwise I might end up becoming too old for this game or, even worse (for me), with some unwelcome record of being the person having taken the longest time between completions if indeed I made it that far.
A haphazard approach meant that I did not have much choice for a final Munro if I was looking for an “iconic” peak which might tempt family and friends north. One thing clinched it for The Saddle though. Not only does it have the superb approach via the Forcan Ridge but I was also aiming to complete all of the subsidiary Munro tops. There were two tops on the west ridge that I had not done and which I could include in the day.
So the day was fixed last October – Good Friday 2014 with the Saturday as a reserve in case of bad weather. I then still had seven Munros to do in addition to The Saddle. But five of these were on the South Glen Shiel Ridge which I tackled at the end of March. On that trip I had the opportunity of checking the snow conditions in Kintail noting that there was still quite a lot of the white stuff about! Over the following weeks I kept an anxious eye out for the weather forecasts hoping both for some rain or higher temperatures to take some of the snow away and for any signs of a nice high pressure then to settle over north west Scotland.
Forecasts in the week leading up to the Easter weekend were not that promising though the winds would not be strong and there was likely only to be a little rain as a high pressure was building from the west.
So the scene was set for the gathering at our base at the Kintail Lodge Hotel. Sorry to anyone who tried to book their Trekkers’ Lodge or Wee Bunkhouse for the weekend, but I got in there first.
I was privileged to have a group of 21 people and two dogs to join me on my special day. Let me introduce you to them.
Mrs CL – wife and retired Munroist. Now prefers home comforts to wind and horizontal rain, navigating through cloud and sleeping in tents, cars or on roadside verges. Cannot think why. But she still likes the views from sunny mountain tops.
Sporty son (SS) – fit (as demonstrated by reaching the summit 45 minutes before anyone else) but uninterested in mountains. Happy to spend hours running around kicking a football but cannot see the point in spending similar amounts of energy in walking up slopes for hours (and then down again).
Darling daughter (DD) – veteran now of 30 Munros mainly under sufferance but would surely do more if all summits were fitted with plugs for hair straighteners and with mirrors for adjusting hair and make up.
Jet – faithful hound and willing companion – occasional appearances on Mutts on Munros.
Peter – brother and inveterate mountain/hill list ticker, but not (generally) of Munros. Ascents of mountains in Europe, Asia and North America, Ultras and, er, UK county and other highpoints.
Jill – Peter’s wife and patient herder of her brood.
Peter and Jill’s brood – Twm, David, Ceri and Patrick, all willing and potential Munro baggers.
Derek – brother and outdoorsy type. Marathon runner who generally considers UK hills to be mere pimples. Has climbed mighty peaks in Europe, Asia and South America.
Cathy – Derek’s wife, enthusiasm personified. If I could bottle it I would make a fortune.
Adam – Derek and Cathy’s teenage son who knows no fear (and perhaps does not recognise when he should have it).
Sue – sharer of many an adventure in the Highlands and a completer of the Munros.
Caroline – likewise a companion on Munro ascents and supporting cast in previous trip reports on WH. Another completer of the Munros.
John – yet another regular hill companion and supporting cast in previous trip reports and just four away from his own “compleation”.
Paul, Mary, Laura and David – friends from Yorkshire and definitely not hill people! Laura has accompanied me and DD up the Ben, Snowden and Scafell Pike and David is a fit teenager.
Max – German student staying with Derek and Cathy.
Camille – a French exchange student whose time with Peter and Jill happened to coincide with this date, who “had never done anything like this before” but by the end was enthusing about Scotland. I never had exchanges like this when I were a lad!
Bramble – Derek and Cathy’s yellow lab.
IMG_6259 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Loch Duich and Ratagan
Good Friday 2014 dawned clear and blue. Loch Duich was still. There was not a cloud in the sky. Wow! The forecast had turned out to be good but this was a real bonus. Organising 22 people and two dogs for a co-ordinated start sort of worked in that we agreed on two departure times!
Sue, concerned about her fitness, wanted to leave sooner and Caroline agreed to go with her. Everyone else would follow on 45 minutes later.
We would start at the lay by to the west of the start of the stalker’s path. When we arrived there was no sign of Sue’s car and without mobile phone reception at that location we could not check up on what had happened to the two of them. So the rest of us set off anyway hoping that we would see some sign of them later.
IMG_6189 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
IMG_6190 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Detailed description of the route is unnecessary as it is covered in other reports and the WH route description. A more direct route up Coire Mhalagain to the foot of the Forcan Ridge is feasible though we were glad of the straightforward nature of the path. Some took that direct route in descent.
The group soon became strung out along the path as the exuberance of youth let rip. The dogs were romping around the hillside returning every once in a while to check that their pack members were still around. Despite the sun, the relatively early hour meant that the temperature was very pleasant. The first members of the group arrived at the col between Meallan Odhar and Biod an Fhithich in about an hour. Being a little behind I had shouted up to the leaders to wait there. The still air meant that my voice carried to them for some distance! So the message had got through.
We regrouped on the col waiting for the stragglers. Unfortunately Paul was struggling and Bramble, who had been carrying a bit of an injury, was no longer fit to carry on, so Max was deputed to look after him. We lost three of our party here. After a lengthy stop to ensure that all were well hydrated and food was taken on the rest were ready to continue.
IMG_6193 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
On the col - frowning face of The Saddle behind
Instructions to the youngsters were given to wait next at the junction of paths at the foot of the Forcan Ridge so we could finally decide who was going which way. I hung back to talk with a guy from Chesterfield who had been given a day off by his family to enjoy the hills and was seated a bit away from our rabble. I apologised for being responsible for destroying the solitude.
IMG_6197 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
En route to the Forcan Ridge
IMG_6199 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Back down to Loch Duich
At the next stopping point, reached after another 40 minutes or so I was relieved to see that Caroline was there and Sue was approaching. They had mistaken the parking spot and started instead from Mhalagain Bridge. Well at least they had been found!
After another shorter break lounging in the sun, Mrs CL, SS, DD, Mary, Sue, Jet and (eventually) John decided to follow the dyke around to the Bealach Mhalagain and up to the summit from there. The rest of us were to tackle the ridge.
I had been to this point the day before to check what conditions looked like. Conditions were certainly more benign today.
As there were still vestiges of ice in shadowy corners and snow high on the flanks I gave a brief pep talk on the dangers lurking above on the ridge. No doubt this advice was soon forgotten as hands took to the rocks with gusto. Still I was carrying a rope in case anyone had difficulties with the exposure. The ridge becomes progressively more exposed up to the top of Sgurr nan Forcan. If there were any alternate routes to the side of the ridge, then they were covered in snow today. So we had to keep to the main spine of the ridge. Careful spotting was needed for some of the younger/less experienced members but all performed well and were exhilarated by the experience.
IMG_6200 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Starting up the ridge
IMG_6201 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
IMG_6202 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
IMG_6203 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Across to Sgurr na Sgine
Atop Sgurr nan Forcan I was able to exchange waving arms with SS who was already at the main summit. Looking down I could see figures following the route via the Bealach, some on the final slopes to the trig point.
1798518_10202688079555839_2323195101031812761_n by Clach Liath, on Flickr
On Sgurr nan Forcan (thanks to Cathy for this photo)
IMG_6207 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Beyond Sgurr nan Forcan there is, of course, the down climb. I was regarded as a bit of a killjoy by insisting that all of the kids took the gully down the south side of the ridge to avoid this obstacle. Caroline serenely took on the down climb once the kids were committed to the alternate route. Adam, on reaching the foot of the drop, promptly climbed ¾ of the way up it and back down again just to prove his uncle was being unduly cautious!
IMG_6209 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
The down climb
IMG_6210 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Back to Sgurr nan Forcan
IMG_6211 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Tiny figure on the ridge
From then on the ridge is delightfully narrow without the same sort of exposure or scrambling apart from one short fin of rock that is avoidable to the left (south). There is then a final sharp rise and the summit cairn is suddenly there. Compleat at 1.40pm – for a second time! What a day.
IMG_6212 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
The Forcan Ridge from the summit
IMG_6219 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
The compleat man
DD and my two brothers were there to greet me. In true Reverend AER style I kissed the cairn, but there was no Mrs CL. SS had dutifully returned to the trig point and then descended a couple of hundred feet to provide morale boosting encouragement to her and a couple of others.
As the area around the true summit is small we had agreed to all meet at the trig point. So I wandered on over there. There was a bit of a chill wind and we found a bit of respite amongst the rocks below. Everyone was soon there. Mrs CL, Sue and John dutifully went out and back to the summit proper. On their return champagne and whisky were doled out. Given the time of year I thought it only right to hand out Cadbury’s Cream Eggs (kindly carried up by SS) to all.
10150735_10202688089316083_4348036505143918547_n by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Zoom of the summit from the trig point with me leaving the summit (thanks to Cathy for this photo)
IMG_6221 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
IMG_6225 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
I guess, at that point, I was too preoccupied with ensuring all were happy to take in the views. That would come later. The distant views were a little hazy though the Ben, Torridon and Rum could just about be made out. Even on such a glorious day people eventually started to get cold. But we had been on the summit ridge for 1½ hours. Apart from a couple of chaps no-one else came up whilst we were there. I thought this quite surprising given the day and the weather.
However, I still had further work to do – two more Munro tops to climb. Then I would be doubly compleat. John and Caroline agreed to accompany me. None of the kids thought that the next section of the ridge would be exciting enough. Ho hum. In fact there are some sections that are pleasingly narrow. Dark snow plastered cliffs fall away to the right and a steep grass and rock slope is to the left. In one or two places hands have to be used. There is a path, quite strong in places, that took us over Spidean Dhomhuill Bhric and on to Sgurr Leac nan Each, the final one. Another adventure had come to an end.
IMG_6234 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
John and Caroline en route to the western tops
IMG_6236 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Hazy Ladhar Bheinn in the background
IMG_6238 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Towards the South Glen Shiel Ridge
IMG_6240 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
The final summit with Beinn Sgritheall behind
IMG_6247 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
Caroline and me on Sgurr Leac nan Each
I was asked later whether I had felt emotional on reaching the summit of The Saddle. No, I didn’t really, more a quiet contentment. I was, perhaps, more moved on reaching this final top with two good friends with whom I have shared so many mountain days over the years. The tops are a fascinating challenge. Think of the east top of Ben More Assynt, the east top of Lurg Mhor, Sgurr Thormaid, Sgurr Thearlich, the Bhastier Tooth, Knight’s Peak (mmm, thanks for the demotion!), the northern pinnacles of Mullach an Rathain and all their little difficulties; or Glas Leathad Beag, the eastern tops of Ben Avon, the western tops of Stob Ghabhar and, yes, Tom Dubh (look it up if you do not know it) which send you to parts of a mountain you might not otherwise visit. There are others that fall into these categories too.
IMG_6243 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
From Sgurr Leac nan Each towards the 842m top
IMG_6255 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
John approaching the 842m top with the Ben in the background haze
IMG_6252 by Clach Liath, on Flickr
NW coire of The Saddle from the 842m top
The return was over the 842m bump from which grand views of the north west coire of The Saddle are to be had, a brief stop in the sun above the lochan below Sgurr a’Gharg Gharaidh, a grassy stalker’s path on the east ridge of that hill (not shown on the map) and a sometimes wet path along the Allt a ‘Coire Uaine to Shiel Bridge where SS provided a lift to save the additional walk to the Hotel.
Needless to say, celebrations continued at the Hotel well into the evening. Thanks to Marianne and Michele at the Hotel for helping to make the occasion memorable.
by The Bruce » Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:26 pm
by Silverhill » Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:04 pm
Dare I ask what is next?
by andyfitz » Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:49 pm
by rockhopper » Wed Apr 23, 2014 11:21 pm
by Clach Liath » Thu Apr 24, 2014 9:06 am
The Bruce wrote:Well done to you all! What a wonderful day, one to remember forever - thanks for posting. It is *almost* worth struggling through all those days of horizontal rain, wind and low cloud to really appreciate conditions like you had last week!
Yes I am becoming a bit more of a fair weather walker these days. But even I had to congratulate myself on organising the weather so well on this occasion
by Clach Liath » Thu Apr 24, 2014 9:10 am
Silverhill wrote:A great read and well done on your second compleation!
Dare I ask what is next?
You dare. Others have asked the same question. The answer is that I am unsure. As mentioned in the report there is John's completion in the near future so I will join him on that. After then, who knows - perhaps there will be more postings on the Walk Reports - Outside Scotland thread....
by Mountainlove » Thu Apr 24, 2014 12:46 pm
by mband » Thu Apr 24, 2014 1:03 pm
Thanks for posting the photos of the ridge - wanted to see what it was like, think I could manage!
by theformerastronomer » Thu Apr 24, 2014 1:18 pm
I still can't envision 1 completion, let alone 2
by The Rodmiester » Thu Apr 24, 2014 3:37 pm
by Clach Liath » Thu Apr 24, 2014 11:18 pm
rockhopper wrote:Magic ! Congratulations to you and a big "well done" to your fellow walkers - a cracking way to finish your double and what a day to pick - cheers
Mountainlove wrote:OMG the second round done- amazing Congratulations and what a hill!! It is amazing how many people came up with you. Superb report as well
Thank you all.
by Clach Liath » Thu Apr 24, 2014 11:21 pm
mband wrote:Greta report and photos! What a lovely day for you all to enjoy.
Thanks for posting the photos of the ridge - wanted to see what it was like, think I could manage!
If you don't mind a bit of exposure, then it just requires a little care. Enjoy it when you tackle it!
theformerastronomer wrote:I still can't envision 1 completion, let alone 2
I was at that stage once - a long, long time ago
by Clach Liath » Thu Apr 24, 2014 11:23 pm
The Rodmiester wrote:Many congratulations on your Double Compleation that report and pictures is a great record on a fabulous day, in fact the weekend could not have been better, you lucky lucky guy Just wondering on your first Compleation was that a quiet event or did you have a large crowd of family and friends as well?
Thanks - yep I was lucky.
The weather on my first completion was good too . There was a smaller group then comprising Mrs CL, Peter, Derek, Cathy and Sue who were with me again this time
by Phil the Hill » Fri Apr 25, 2014 1:30 pm
I don't think you were in any danger of being the slowest compleater. I'm still on my 1st round, having started in 1989 - on the Saddle, as it happens. (I'd been up the Ben about 10 years earlier than that, but don't count it as the start, as I wasn't bagging Munros then.)