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Navigation tester on the Aonachs

Navigation tester on the Aonachs

Postby GillC » Tue Jun 17, 2014 8:56 pm

Munros included on this walk: Aonach Beag (Nevis Range), Aonach Mor

Date walked: 15/06/2014

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 19 km

Ascent: 1916m

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Sundays plan was a bit sketchy. John Paul Bell was on the last day of his marathon charity climb, doing the top 10 hills in Scotland, starting on Friday night on Lawers, ending Sunday with Aonachs Beag & Mor then CMD and finally Nevis. I was keen to do the Aonachs but having been on CMD and Nevis 2 years ago, I wasn't too fussed about adding them on, keeping the escape route of dropping off before CMD firmly in my mind, but willing to give it a shot if I felt good.

We had found a very random camping spot beside the Glen Nevis road for Saturday night, a short way down from the top car park. Car tucked in off the road, tent up, praying for a breeze that never really came, so sitting with a beer or 3, we tried to keep the midgies at bay before scrambling for the cover of the tent and sleep.

1 Handy camping.JPG
Handy camping

Only 1 night time sortee into midgie heaven then another couple of hours sleep.

We had nothing concrete arranged to actually meet up with JP but his plan was to be off somewhere around 6-7am. We were kitted up, tent down etc and up at the top car park for 6:30am start, midgie nets firmly on our heads.

The track up the Steall gorge is easy going and only takes about 20 mins. The midgies cleared and we had a bit of smirry rain here too. Sticking to the bottom of the hillside on our left, we followed a poor excuse of a path round rocks and bog. At one point I put my right foot down on a rock, only to discover it was actually a gap between two other rocks. My foot dropped about 18 inches and my left shin battered off another rock. Thankfully and with John having to pull me up, only my dignity was damaged lol :?

2 Falls of Steall in the mist.JPG
Falls of Steall in the mist

At the junction of the rivers, where the Allt Coire Ghiuthsachan runs down to meet the Water of Nevis, we crossed the wooden bridge to the ruins. These are a mash of old walls, pretty low down and overgrown so not easily seen from a distance.

The Allt Coire nan Laogh runs down behind them and we started off up the hill here, towards Sgurr a Bhuic, knowing this to be JP's route also, we hope to pick him up at some point.

Some seriously steep ground here, at some points the ground no more than 2 ft in front of our faces. Checking the map, we knew there was a flat area at around 800 mtrs so just plodded on up. We could see some people on the path below, at the River, coming in from the East, possibly from a bothy or overnight camp and a solo person back down under the Steall waterfall, following our route up. We weren't sure if JP was going solo or had company so didn't know if this was him.

The weather forecast was a bit out today. Showing clear on the Aonachs for the morning, with CMD and Nevis coming out of the cloud nearer lunchtime and remaining clear. But the skies above us were pretty cloudy and the tops of Nevis/CMD, firmly in hiding. Visibility on the valley floor was clear with most of the Ring of Steall visible, fingers crossed the cloud would keep rising. The top of Aonach Beag is out of sight from here but there was still a lot of cloud moving around so we didnt hold out much hope of a view.

The wind picked up here and was a bit icy so on reaching Sgurr a Bhuic we both went for our gloves. Funny thing that, we both thought we had gloves, and both discovered we didn't. I'd made a last minute change of rucksack and hadn't put in the dry bag with hat, gloves, buff, while John knew he didn't have gloves but thought he had mitts, nope, so alternating hands in pockets for a while and layers on to keep some heat in.

Visibility was down to prob 100 mtrs or so as we moved North now, skirting round Coire a Bhuic, still hanging with heavy cornices that had slipped away from the rocky faces but refused to give up just yet. :crazy: White out conditions would be a killer up here, steep crags on your right with no respite for the entire Eastern wall of the Aonachs ridge.

3 Sgurr.JPG
Looking back to Sgurr a Bhuic

At a point of 1048 mtrs, the path takes a sharp turn West, again following the crags, along Stob Coire Bhealaich then North towards the lower slopes of Aonach Beag. Visibilty closing down even more, we followed the path across the hillside and away from the crags. After what seemed like too long, we started to move downhill slightly and were met with a big drop and a big rocky hill on the other side, barely visible through low cloud. First check of the GPS, we had walked under the summit of Aonach Beag and round on a contour line of about 1140 mtrs. So, no choice but to turn up the hill for the slog up to the summit, about 80mtrs above us in the cloud. This had been a long haul to this point, around 4 hrs of pretty much constant up hill. No views, couple of pics and a small bite to eat.

4 Summit of Aonach Beag.JPG
Summit of Aonach Beag

We had no further sign of the solo guy we saw at the start so still didn't know if John Paul was up here (prob still in his pit!!! lol :lol: )

At the summit, we checked the map and as visibility was pretty bad all round, we decided to take bearings from here to the narrow neck between here and Seang Aonach Mor. Bit of a steep drop here but not as narrow as I had thought from the map,,thanks John, no risk of falling off the side lol Picking up the path to Mor here, it pretty much just leads the way, well worn and no problems. A lot quicker than anticipated, we saw a large cairn in the mist, or was it a big rock? no,,got closer, defo a large cairn. Seemed too quick to be the top but on checking the map, yes, broad flat plateau ahead, cairn at this end of it, looked good to me. (GPS check again, just to be sure)

8 Summit of Aonach Mor.JPG
Summit of Aonach Mor

We had passed around and over a couple of fairly large snow fields on the top of the ridge, slushy enough to walk on but still icy and slippy around the edges. The crags to the East still holding huge melting cornices.

7 Any minute now,,thats gone!.jpg
Any minute now,,thats gone!

5 Slipping snow in the gully.jpg
Slipping snow in the gully

With very bad visibility now, we still hadn't seen JP or the solo walker from below. We had already decided that conditions as they were, John didn't want to do CMD arete and Nevis with no views, having seen nothing from the hills to the East and now the same on the Aonachs (secretly , I was quite pleased, this was a longer walk than we had envisaged)

Our next task was to make our way back down to Seang Aonach Mor and then head West to drop off the very steep descent down to Coire Giubhsachan. Measuring from the cairn, we anticipated 600mtrs South, so used pacing on the path to get to that, me on 64 paces to 100mtrs, John on 68, we tied up at pretty much the same spot for each 100mtrs. Reassessed at 600 and decided to go another 100 mtrs before turning West. At this point, John saw a flash in the cloud and reckoned it may have been someone taking a picture on the snow. We hung around for a minute or two but no one appeared. Taking a bearing here, we headed off and bang on, got to a mid size cairn, marking the path down. (all hail the MCof S nav course :clap: )

The path down actually stays to the left of a rocky gully but thats not immediately obvious so we started off down the gully, then I spotted the path, tightly winding its way down and clinging to the ground just above us to the left. I was in a better position to move over to it, but John, slightly further on, decided to stay on the shifting scree. With clear signs of footprints and pole marks, I though maybe John Paul had already passed this way in front of us.

Now with both of us on the path, we picked our way down the fiddly and VERY steep path, a tumble here would have you go down quite a long way, losing some 300mtrs in height in under half a km. The cloud base was lifting by the minute with CMD almost completely in the clear.

We met a couple on their way up and had a chat. Got the score from last nights England World Cup game (2-1 to Italy) and on we went, reaching the beallach pretty soon afterwards. There is a small section of wall here, maybe 20 mtrs, a squarely finished end then heading up the bottom of CMD and petering out. Why? answers on a postcard.......

9 CMD with a rising cloud base.JPG
CMD with a rising cloud base

10 John dropping off to the beallach under CMD in the background.jpg
John dropping off to the beallach under CMD in the background

11 CMD arete and up to Nevis under cloud.JPG
CMD arete and up to Nevis under cloud

Still only 1pm. we took some time here to take off a layer,have some munchies, loo break and enjoy the views of the Western crags of Aonach Beag, the Ring of Steall to the South with CMD and the arete above us. Keeping an eye on the path of our descent, should we still catch John Paul somewhere (I'm sure he stayed up to watch the footy and slept in) Nice easy but very boggy path down from here. Passed some others on their way up. eventually reached a flat expanse of land at around 500mtrs.

13 Nice flat section for a while.JPG
Nice flat section for a while

12 Ring of Steall to the South.JPG
Ring of Steall to the South

We hopped around the river as it veered East and West across the boggy land, and continued following its path down. Lots of lovely pools, drops, waterfalls etc on the way down, ending with a spectacular drop and wide white waterfall into a large pool.

14 John hiding in the rocks.JPG
John hiding in the rocks

15 Bit of the local flora.JPG
Bit of the local flora

16 Amazing huge waterfall near the bottom of the Allt.JPG
Amazing huge waterfall near the bottom of the Allt Coire Ghiuthsachan

Back to the valley floor and stuck to the main path following the Water of Nevis (would have save my wee leg from that earlier fall if we had used this on the way in!)

Lots of people around, playing on the wire bridge etc and passed even more on our way down the gorge path.

Change of boots, check of the stats, 19Km and over 1900mtrs of ascent, this certainly was a longer day than we had anticipated. No sign of John Paul and Nevis and CMD will have to wait to see John another time.

Munros #91 & 92 for me, and Curved Ridge yesterday,,one happy but tired burd.

Ok,,whats next??? :clap:

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Re: Navigation tester on the Aonachs

Postby Fife Flyer » Tue Jun 17, 2014 10:06 pm

Another cracker Gill, shame about the weather :(

Maybe the weather was arranged to check out your navigation skills & it looks like you passed :wink:
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Re: Navigation tester on the Aonachs

Postby Tomsie » Tue Jun 17, 2014 10:36 pm

Sure was a big day, to be honest we should never have gone to watch Columbia way too early :lol: :lol:
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Re: Navigation tester on the Aonachs

Postby jupe1407 » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:01 pm

Nice work Gill. That pull up to Sgurr a'Bhuic was murder. :lol:

We did indeed sleep in, though not because of football. I didn't finish the 6 Cairngorms until about 10 then drove down to Fort William. The solo guy wasn't me, he passed me while i was waiting on Matty in Steal Gorge as i'd left my car keys in his car :?

The solo guy i think just headed on up the water of nevis. No sign of him in front of us, or heading up An Gearanach. We were a good bit behind you guys, the clag lifted just as we were heading towards to marker cairn on Aonachs ridge and the couple you spoke to met us at the top.
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Re: Navigation tester on the Aonachs

Postby AnnieMacD » Thu Jun 19, 2014 5:50 pm

Great navigation, Gill. I find the pacing the hardest - how did you keep concentration on counting steps?

Pity you didn't get the views but love the waterfall picture.
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Re: Navigation tester on the Aonachs

Postby GillC » Fri Jun 20, 2014 9:02 am

AnnieMacD wrote:Great navigation, Gill. I find the pacing the hardest - how did you keep concentration on counting steps?

Pity you didn't get the views but love the waterfall picture.

I have to work hard at counting without losing concentration,, but it was on a good path and only had to count to 64,,,7 times lol
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