Took advantage of a favourable weather forecast and headed North planning to climb some hills and, in addition, complete the Scottish National Trail.
Early departure from Auld Reekie on Wednesday 28th May for the long drive North to Altnaharra. Booked into the Altnaharra Hotel tonight and plan was to check in to the hotel before heading the few miles NW to Ben Hope and enjoy a wee saunter up to its summit.
Very interesting 'road' from Altnaharra through Strathmore to Ben Hope. The road is single track - no surprise there - but unlike any single track road I've driven in the past this one has very few passing places. Not a good road to meet oncoming traffic. Given the grass growing in the middle of the road, I reckon it's fair to say this road does not experience high traffic flows.
Anyhow got parked and started up Ben Hope at 1355. Parking spot is easy to find. A very obvious sign at the side of the road alerts you to the fact that this is the route up Ben Hope.
It's a steep climb; no gentle walk in, with a gradual ascent, this is up and at em from the start. Path was a tad muddy in the lower reaches but improved as I headed higher. Nice views back over Strathmore as you ascend.
Reached the summit at 1525. There's a small, stone, semi circular shelter at the summit.
Cloudy day but as the cloud was higher than the summit it didn't really obscure any views though it did make the views a bit hazy. That said the 360 degree views from the summit were amazing.
Ben Loyal was clearly visible to the east and Ben Klibreck could be spotted to the south east.
Conival and Ben More Assynt, with their patches of remaining snow, could be seen to the south west.
View north over Loch Hope to the Ocean.
Given the lack of houses, people and the absence of vehicle and other man made noise, this could have been a view from another planet.
Sutherland might be relatively devoid of people but the landscapes are incredible, well worth a visit.
Despite being the end of May it was cold at the top, though there was no visible snow at the summit. I didn't have access to a thermometer but would imagine the temperature was only slightly above zero but the wind chill delivered by a very cold easterly wind made it feel several degrees below zero.
Given the chill I didn't hang about overlong. The views may have been spectacular but the cold was pervasive. And to think the author Robert MacFarlane spent a night on the summit in the winter, a story beautifully told in his book, ' The Wild Places.' In that particular story, MacFarlane described Ben Hope as, 'being one of the least accommodating places to which i had ever come.' Perhaps that is true of an overnight stay, at the summit, in the depths of winter, but today it was a lovely walk, albeit a tad chilly at the top.
After about 10 minutes of combining savouring the view with staying warm I began the descent and was back down at the car at 1635. 2 hours 40 minutes up and down so it's not a time consuming expedition. The Munro equivalent of Arthur's Seat; a steep ascent, nice views but no great challenge.
Path was wide, obvious and easy to follow all the way to the summit; no need, on a clear day such as this, to check your map for directions. Although the path was a tad boggy in its lower areas, given how wide the path was, it was not difficult to avoid the worst of the boggy bits.
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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.