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Druim Fada

Druim Fada


Postby Norman_Grieve » Mon Aug 25, 2014 1:36 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Druim Fada (Loch Hourn)

Date walked: 04/03/2009

Time taken: 9.5 hours

Distance: 18.9 km

Ascent: 1216m

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OK Capt., herebe a bona fide epic [3039 hits]. :shock: - Ascent - distance given for 1st snowy attempt.

Triumphant return was only 11.7km, 941m, giving tot. for the twa climbs as 7077ft ascent, 19 miles.
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Last edited by Norman_Grieve on Thu Aug 28, 2014 12:45 pm, edited 4 times in total.
Norman_Grieve
 
Posts: 378
Joined: Jan 10, 2011

Druim Fada TR.

Postby Norman_Grieve » Mon Aug 25, 2014 1:38 pm

Called round to GC's at 7.15am but got no response to my rattlings of letterbox & subsequent bawling of 'Armed Polis' through it. Gave up, climbed doon his landing stairs, then tried his buzzer & climbed back up. Renewed banging & bawling brought a belated response from GC who apparently had been on the sauce 'til 3am.

A leisurely mug of tea later & we were off, only to get caught in the lengthy Aberdeen Airport rush hour jams. We finally got clear of these and were on the open road by 8.20am, following the A96, beside which a few snow patches appeared at Forres.

By Nairn the pavements were covered, as they were in Inverness and the radio informed us that the A82 was blocked between Tyndrum & Glencoe. There was no sign of Ben Wyvis which appeared to be enveloped in a snowstorm.

GC kept demanding an egg roll as we sped doon Loch Ness, picking up a hitcher fae California by the Clachan Hotel & dropping him at Drumnadrochit, where all cafes & the chipper appeared to be shut. The skies were now blue and the snow level had lifted to a few hundred feet above the loch.

A few miles after turning off the A82 at Invermoriston GC finally got an extremely pricey egg roll at the Redburn Cafe (£3!) Added to the 3 EP regional newspapers she'd picked up at Inverness Tesco garage - she could have bought a fine looking torch they'd had on display at Morrison's Inverurie petrol station where we'd filled up earlier.

We then hit the 'Cluanie Curtain', which was on this occasion a whirling maelstrom of falling snow. This prompted mutterings from GC that she might just stay in the car if things didn't clear up sharpish.She then complained that she'd got no Cola, which omission was rectified with a costly 1.5L bottle at Shiel Bridge service station (£1.95!)

Climbing up over the Mam Ratagan pass the drifts of snow piled up beside the road got steadily deeper but at least that falling from the sky had stopped. GC then revealed that she'd got no spare trousers and despite years of my councelling that denim was the worst possible material for hillwalking, especially in winter, particularly in snow, she was wearing jeans.

We arrived at the public roadhead at Corran 5hrs after the off as the latest snow shower was slackening off. I had pointed out the end of the very long, very white, Druim Fada ridge on the approach to Arnisdale. I now got GC to repeat the name several times before jumping out the car at 1pm, once I'd got my boots on feet & rucksack on back.

Leaving the sizeable carpark I soon crossed the bridge and turned left at a sign reading X miles to Kinlochhourn. I negotiated the deep mud around a gate beside the river, having decided this was where the sign was pointing, rather than follow the track up the hill to between two newish looking houses.

The grassy track in the field over the gate soon disappeared however and I bore right away from the River, towards a widely spaced line of farm buildings. I followed along the top of what seemed like a grassed over ancient wall beside a marshy depression which might once have been an old track. This soon led to birchwoods beside the river where a clearer path shortly met a good track coming from a bridge over the River Arnisdale.

More rapid progress was now made, first through birchwoods, where a distant view of the summit Druim Fada could be seen. Leaving the woods a bedraggled Red Deer hind was standing a few feet away from me and for several seconds just stood looking at me, before it turned and unsteadily cantered off down beside the track back into the woods.

After a mile or so, strolling along in the bright sunshine surrounded by blindingly white snowy peaks, the track began to climb steeply upwards, above the river gorge below, with several sharp bends. It reached a crest where it dropped down again to another bridge back across the river, below a ravine enclosed by very steep craggy ridges.

These looked fairly suicidal, being plastered with deep soft snow, so I carried on down over the bridge, past a warning notice that this was at your own risk and on no account to be undertaken on horseback. A fine waterfall was passed below the outlet of the Dubh Lochain, which turned out to be a double lochan, separated by a short stretch of flat ground.

There looked to be a feasible way up through the trees & crags facing, once across the double outflow from the upper lochan & with the benefit of hindsight, this is probably what I should have done. However, it still looked most unappealing in the deep snow, so I carried on past both lochans, both sporting well kept brightly painted boat houses.

Beyond the upper lochan a herd of red deer were grazing in the sunshine on the flat valley floor. I could see that the river here was wide and deep, negotiable only by a GC style swim. The track began to be covered in places with a thin layer of snow but I could see it snaking over glacial mounds up ahead.

The furthest of these were across the other side of a sizeable stream coming down from a glen to the left around the back of Beinn Clachach, the Allt an Tomain Odhair. I decided to carry on along the track 'til across this stream via a bridge & then cut down to cross the reduced flow of the righthand stream.

There seemed to be a line of large stones, mostly jutting out of the water and I just managed to cross these dry-shod. I then headed rightwards across gently rising slopes of bog and heather, towards the right end of the steep craggy wooded hillside. It was now 2.40pm and I had already been going for the best part of 2 hours just to get to the start of the climb.

The depth of snow rapidly increased below the crags which I thought I could tackle head on. However, I got about 30ft up by pulling up on young birch trees and digging into the snow with both hands. My feet slipped on the rocks revealed by the soft snow sliding off and my hands were soon getting numb as I hadn't bothered to put on my gloves.

I climbed back down, put on my gloves, had a brief look at a line a bit further left, then decided to follow round below the right edge of the crags, to try to outflank them. This proved quite simple if hard work and I was soon above the lowest band of crags.

The angle eased somewhat but it was still very tiring slow going in the deep soft snow and I was still recovering from my earlier abortive exertions on the crags below. I threaded my way through another band of crags, alternating between a shallow gully and rock rib on the left crest.

After a few hundred feet I could see that I had to drop down to cross a flattish plateau between the main Druim Fada ridge and the northern subsidiary summit of which I was now just below the top. Even crossing this was hard going although I tried to avoid the deepest snow by heading for any rocks or even grass sticking through it.

Reaching the steep craggy slopes leading up toward the summit ridge I first slanted left, then back right below successive rock bands. The snow here was getting even deeper and no more consolidated and I arrived gasping for breath above the second tier. Here the angle eased but progress remained painfully slow and knackering.

I was half hoping that once I reached the crest of the ridge the wind would have blown some of the snow away and as I approached the last rocks I was desperately hoping that they would be the top. No such luck, I could see a rocky pinnacle a few hundred yards away along the narrowing ridge, covered in even deeper snow than that through which I had already been ploughing.

The far side of the narrow pinnacled section was steep and I slipped several feet as the soft snow slid off, banging my left knee against the side of the left rock rib. I stumbled on across a dip in the narrow ridge and slowly made my way up the right, northern side of the next top.

Progress was even more tortuous, I was forced to crawl over the bottomless drifts of soft snow in places. As I was now in the shade I started to feel the cold and stopped to put on my spare sweater. I also drank greedily from my 2L bottle of blackcurrant juice and ate a sausage roll.

I decided that I would see if I had enough remaining strength to climb to the next narrow rocky top, an hundred or so feet above but that was it. If that wasn't the top I was going to head down and try to get the hell out of the bl*ody snow before it got dark.

As I moved back left onto the crest, back in the sun I felt a bit warmer but it was already low in the sky and I reckoned I hadn't got more than an hour or so of daylight left. I guess it must have been after 5pm when I drew alongside the final 30ft cliff of this top.

However, I could then see that the summit was still several hundred yards distant and a couple of hundred feet higher. I immediately decided that there was no way I was going to make it up the broader, gentler, final climb up the ridge. I was just too exhausted, even supposing I'd had enough remaining daylight. The weather also looked to be closing in with snow showers hanging in the air, far below above Loch Hourn.

Rounding the rocks of what turned out to be point 647m, back on the crest I could see all the way down to Loch Hourn, with birch trees stretching most of the way up a shallow corrie. Although I realised that a good part of the way back to Corran along the shore would be rough and pathless, I didn't think I could make it back the way I'd come.

I also didn't fancy trying to negotiate the steep craggy north face and deep wide river & lochans, which I'd avoided on the way up. Thus, I took the committing plunge and headed down the far side of the ridge. The snow on the south side had been in the sun all afternoon and was even worse than on the north side where I'd come up.

Even sliding on my backside down a very steep gully between the crags, I had to push with my legs to keep going. I was sending piles of loose wet snow cascading down below me and even seemed to be sinking down into it. I idly wondered if anyone had been killed in an avalanche on a Graham.

A second assisted wet bumslide took me down to a stream crossing, beyond which I entered the birchwood and finally escaped the clutches of the deep, wet, cloying soft snow. I veered to the right, away from the developing gorge of the main stream, soon coming out of the woods again.

A few hundred feet below me there was an island in the narrows of Loch Hourn, which turned out to be Eilean Mhogh-sgeir. A Heron took off from the shore of a bay, beyond which I cut across the neck of a peninsular jutting out towards the island.

Soon I came to a deer fence, the end of which I swung around about 20ft above the shore. In the last of the daylight I then scrambled along rocks and seaweed covered ledges below a seacliff. Fortunately the skies above had stayed clear and there was a half moon riding high, bright enough to cast a shadow. I stopped briefly for a rest, consuming some cheddar cheese & my remaining sausage roll, washed down with more blackcurrant juice.

There was a fine moonlit view of Ladhar Bheinn beyond Barrisdale Bay, which looked rather too distant for my liking. I had a feeling that I'd seen some cottages along this shore when walking along the path to Barrisdale, just across the loch. Sure enough, after traversing along below some more seacliffs, I came across a line of three cottages just back from the shore.

The doors were all padlocked and there was no shelter which I could have used in emergency. I wondered whether in future I should take a hacksaw in my kit, just in case? Beyond the cottages I followed a boggy pass behind a wooded hill sticking out into the loch, which turned out to be Caolasmor.

The next section was particularly tough going, I alternated walking in the woods just above the shore and following the rocks along the shoreline itself. I stopped briefly for a rest, consuming some of one of 3 Christmas cakes (as supplied by one of my favourite mistresses) to boost my energy levels. Not long after I surprised a stag in a small dark bay surrounded by trees.

I then came to a large boulder field below a line of cliffs, which were nice and dry, rough and slabby, making for enjoyable moonlit scrambling.
However, beyond here was a series of small cascades, below which the rocks were extremely slippy.

I soon found the cliffs were dropping steeply straight into deep water, thus I had to reverse 'til back past the cascades. I then climbed up steeply around the side of the cliffs into the woods, then traversed above them and back down towards the shore on the far side of the impasse.

I could see that I was now not far from the entrance to Barrisdale Bay and after more slow going following the remains of an old iron fence in thick woodland, I came out at a stony bay opposite an island (Ealean a' Gharb-lain). I then took off Norma's woollen hat as my head was getting too hot, despite the freezing temperatures.

At long last I picked up a path, which was impressively constructed, with large flags lain along a terrace cut out of the steep headland on the far side of the bay. This was followed by a remarkable rock cutting through the headland, which seemed almost to be rewarding me for my hours of tortuous progress along the pathless miles of the lochside thus far.

Above another small bay the path passed through a wooden gate and I had to search around a bit, until I realised that it took a sharp turn to the right along the top of a long thick slab of stone. The next section went along near the top of some steep cliffs dropping straight into the sea glinting in the moonlight. A substantial curved wall built around the head of a small inlet, held back the material used to make the fine level path.

I kept looking up to the snowy ridge high above expecting to see the toe of it dropping down to Corran but it seemed never ending - a fine challenge for any budding Reinhold Messner in the conditions I'd encountered earlier. Each headland along the coast I also kept hoping would be the last before Corran, only to see another stretching away into the distance.

By now I had passed Ladhar Bheinn across Barrisdale Bay and reflected that the £20 I'd paid to be taken across the bay & back from Arnisdale over 9 years earlier, had been amongst the best I'd ever spent. Finally that headland arrived (Rubha Camas na Cailinn), and the path dropped down to a long wide stretch of small stones along the shore.

I then heard a bleep from my mobile, signifying that I'd received a text from Norma, which was demanding that I supply her with cider, fags & a Galaxy! It had taken over an hour to arrive and when I tried sending one back saying that I wasn't even back to the car yet, it repeatedly failed to send.

The gravel then gave way to awkward rocks split by a stream's ravine, which I followed up into the trees and soon found the wide, level path once again. Coming out of the wood I saw the lights of a house ahead and thought maybe I was going to survive after all.

I stuck to the path, following alongside a wall, rather than head for the house, which proved a sound decision, as a dog appeared snapping over the top of a gate. Not long after I hit the fleshpots of Corran and turned right between the old whitewashed cottages. I then walked down towards the bridge past a large detached house, within which a comely wench was going about her chores in an impressive looking kitchen.

Moments later I was back at the car, where GC was still ensconsed, asking me if I had any food left. He declined the Christmas cake, I found I'd lost the cheese and only later found my Snickers bar, thus he remained hungry. It was 10.30pm and he told me a guy had been speaking to him half an hour earlier, who was planning to call out the MRT, if I hadn't appeared by 11pm.

I asked GC if he could still remember the name of the hill which I had been climbing, to which he said 'Glen Farrar'? Approaching Glenelg I pulled over to let a LWB Landrover past, which turned out to be the MRT, who was passed again shortly afterwards, parked up facing back towards us.

Only incident of note before we hit Aberdeen at 3.10am, 4 1/2hrs later was just past the Clunie Inn, where a deer strolled into the road just in front of us. Both of us got away lightly as I'd been doing under 50mph, as we'd spotted several close to the road.

I'd just mentioned to GC that they could write off you and/or your motor if you hit wan. At first I thought the beast's snout had hit my driver's window, only hours later realising that it had aktually clipped the wing mirror.
Norman_Grieve
 
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Photies.

Postby Norman_Grieve » Mon Aug 25, 2014 1:41 pm

I think the they nicely convey my feeling at the time, of things slowly (rapidly?) slipping oot of control...

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Norman_Grieve
 
Posts: 378
Joined: Jan 10, 2011

The triumphant St. Patrick's Day return - photies.

Postby Norman_Grieve » Mon Aug 25, 2014 1:44 pm

The triumphant return - knocked 4hrs off 1st attempt time, following summit ridge all way back to Corran.

Amazing what difference a couple of feet of the white stuff makes, n'est pas?

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Norman_Grieve
 
Posts: 378
Joined: Jan 10, 2011

The triumphant return.

Postby Norman_Grieve » Mon Aug 25, 2014 1:49 pm

Called round for GC just after 7am, who was already up & sober. However, after saying she was coming she then had 2nd thoughts; Perhaps mindful of the 19 1/2 hrs she'd spent in the car less than 2 weeks earlier and I left 30 mins later on my tod. I swapped GC's bullsh*t for Terry Wogan's mainly St. Patrick's Day related, on the radio.

Despite the blue skies the day's frustrations continued as I got stuck behind a succession of lorries & tractors on the A96 Goat Track, then got stung for £1.75 for taking my own dosh oot at the Huntly BP Service Station.

Stopped 3hrs from the off in Drumnadrochit Co-op where the assistant sent me back to the reduced section for an half price pork pie. As I passed Urquhart Castle I discovered that in addition to passing it's sell-by-date it was also burnt.

However, things began looking up after passing the Red Burnt Fingers Cafe along Glen Moriston, as the traditional Clunie Curtain failed to materialise and I followed a convertible with it's top doon!

There wasn't a trace of snow going over the Mam Ratagan Pass and the wobbly, noisy exhaust held up well even squeezing past the roadworks just before Arnisdale. For a moment or two I was surprised by the amount of snow left on Druim Fada, until I realised I'd been looking at Ladhar Beinn.

I got to the Corran car park at Noon, with just one other car there and set off 15 mins later in hazy sunshine. I had cut my liquid down from an excessive 3L to just the one and found I had mislaid wan of the 3 Xmas cakes from the previous visit. This time I walked back up the road towards Arnisdale and cut off right along the good track up the glen.

This soon led past half a dozen or so highland cows grazing from a hay bin, then 13 stags sitting in a field beside the river. Not a trace of snow could be seen on distant Druim Fada, as after 1/2 an hour I reached the bridge crossing over to join my direct route from Corran taken 2 weeks earlier.

I stepped over a large frog and several pools with spawn before climbing the steep zig-zags in the track. After 50 mins this led to the stream between 2 steep rocky ridges just before the Dubh Lochans, which I had avoided on my previous snowy visit.

This time I thought I could spot a grassy ramp leading leftwards through the rocky ramparts of the lower tier of crags on the l.h. ridge. This proved easy on the grass but would have been dodgy 2 weeks earlier, as it was a wee bit exposed.

The ramp soon led onto the crest of the ridge, which was at first easy angled but soon led to the base of a fine scramble of 80ft or so of moderate climbing on beautiful clean, rough, dry gneiss. There were several ledges of a foot or so in width, which lessened the feeling of exposure.

Looking down I could see a tall figure clad in drab attire, way down below on the crest of the track, before it drops back down to recross the river.
After a few more shorter sections of optional scrambling there was a very steep section on grass between wet slabby crags. This obstacle might have been aviodable in the deep, soft snow by a wide detour to the left, to leave the ridge entirely.

The steep section was sheltered from the cool breeze and I felt myself overheating in the warm but hazy March sunshine. Superb views opened up over to my final 3 Munros in Knoydart just across Loch Hourn, as I made my way up the final still rocky but less steep final slopes up to the summit ridge.

I crossed a very firm snowbridge across a small lochan as I approached the summit, which I gained shortly afterwards, in just 2hr 20 min fae the car. Still this amounted to almost 12 hrs of effort, when added to my previous attempt. Thus I had great satisfaction in mounting the twin reigning summit cairns and gazing along the ridge to the high point of my first attempt.

The ridge to the next top, from which I had descended to Loch Hourn nearly a fortnight earlier, looked further than I had then thought, around 1/2 mile distant. This I confirmed in my mind, that in my exhausted state, in the then very hard going and limited daylight, I'd indeed made the right decision - to leave the summit for another day, to whit, today.

As I made my way back towards Corran along the start of the long knobbly, at times narrow ridge, I watched as a pair of Golden Eagles soared high overhead.

I then disturbed a large stag which ran around the left (S.), side of the next top. This was across the other side of a col, within which nestled two sizeable lochans, around which necessitated a minor rocky detour, also on the south side.

From here I had a good view directly down to the 3 cottages which had been an early landmark in my 4 hr moonlit retreat from the hill, 13 days earlier. The descent from here looked a good deal steeper, rockier and more densely wooded lower down, had I by some superhuman, Reinhold Messianic effort, managed to make it over the summit on that occasion.

I could also see the first long stretch along Loch Hourn from where I had come down above the island Eilean Mhogh-sgeir, where I had only been able to scramble along the base of a couple of seacliffs because the tide was out.

Beyond a minor top I followed a narrow path down a rock cutting, again on the south side of the next major top, Sgurr Mor <627m >. This bypassed a steep crag on the crest of the ridge, beyond which I cut up steeply back up right to it's summit rocks. This section would have been almost unthinkable in the deep, soft, wet snow of my earlier visit.

There was a nice wee scramble up a beehive formation on a cone-shaped outcrop hereabouts, covered in small ribs which made for reassuring small fingerholds. There was an imposing final rock tower crowned by a large block on this section, which I later found was depicted by a single 10m contour on the 1:50000 map!

I could now see right into Barrisdale across it's wide bay, beyond Lochan Uamhalt, over half way down the slopes towards another larger islet Ealean a' Gharb-lain. This had marked the end of my second tough section a fortnight earlier, from behind the Caolasmor peninsular's wooded hill, beside the Loch Hourn narrows of the same name.

The best climbing of the day was still to come, up a fine hand-sized crack-line, above the end of a rightwards trending ramp. This was probably Difficult-V.Diff. rock climbing, on an entirely avoidable buttress of 30ft or so in height.

It led up to the final main top on the ridge <614m >, which sported a fallen old-style narrow, round trig point. I checked it for the initials CMcN but could find no hallmarks left by the vandal responsible! Although there still remained the best part of a mile to the end of the ridge from here, the going was more straightforward, with less in the way of rocky distractions.

However, the skies which had been greying over with high cloud, now lit up as the sun dropped below their western edge. This provided opportunities for some nice pics of the towering Beinn Sgritheall, beyond Arnisdale, the shortest, steepest, highest slope from peak to sea on the western seaboard.

I passed dozen or so Red Deer grazing just off the left side of the ridge, below which I could make out the fine path above the shoreline. That which had so greatly assisted my progress in the darkening night, as the moon became obscured by high clouds, nearly a fortnight earlier.

Steep crags lay below the direct descent to the whitewashed cottages of Corran nestled far below, so I moved left above the top of the cliffs, following the crest of the ridge to a steep break on the right. I followed a tall new wooden deer fence down very steep ground, leaving it where it dropped over a short crag and turned left.

After attending to my ablutions, I then briefly followed an old lower iron fence leftwards around another steep drop, then through slabby outcrops past several sheep down to the top of a belt of deciduous trees close to Corran. This hid a line of steep cliffs, perhaps ancient sea cliffs above a raised beach.

I cut back south through these along a sheep track, then very steeply on a smaller animal path, winding down a nose through the trees to emerge on the final stretch of the fine coastal path.

This quickly led me to the bridge over the River Arnisdale in Corran, beyond which I turned a sharp corner between the last cottages to be confronted by an enormous stag, with equally huge antlers.

Standing just feet away, it just regarded me with large staring eyes and when it eventually turned I noticed the back of it's antlers were reddened. I idly wondered whether this might be the blood of some unwary hillwalker who got too close, as I followed it for the last hundred yards to the car.

Just after I reached it, the only other vehicle in the sizeable car park, which had been there when I had set off, approached. This turned out to be Mrs Squiz and Mr Realsquiz, who wound down their window for a wee chat. As we did so, the aforementioned stag lazily jumped over the roadside fence, to join some Highland cows.
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Re: Druim Fada

Postby AnnieMacD » Tue Aug 26, 2014 5:40 pm

That was some epic trip in the true sense of the word. I 'followed' you on the map - you were very detailed in your descriptions so it was easy. That walk along Loch Hourn in the moonlight must have been fantastic - if you'd known you were going to get out OK! I can't believe your friend sat in the car all day waiting for you :crazy:

So when you did the repeat, did you take the same route in and up to the summit? That looks a great ridge walk from the summit to the trig point. And were there any difficulties descending from the there to Corran? I really fancy doing this hill some time - NOT in winter!!!!

OK, this one has to go in the Epics book - not the comedy book. My heart was in my mouth :o
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Re: Druim Fada

Postby Norman_Grieve » Thu Aug 28, 2014 1:22 pm

AnnieMacD wrote:That was some epic trip in the true sense of the word. I 'followed' you on the map - you were very detailed in your descriptions so it was easy. That walk along Loch Hourn in the moonlight must have been fantastic - if you'd known you were going to get out OK! I can't believe your friend sat in the car all day waiting for you :crazy:

So when you did the repeat, did you take the same route in and up to the summit?
EMaps of the twa routes noo added.

AnnieMacD wrote: That looks a great ridge walk from the summit to the trig point. And were there any difficulties descending from the there to Corran?


None tae speak of in the snowless conditions o' ma return - might hae been a different story the 1st time!

AnnieMacD wrote: I really fancy doing this hill some time - NOT in winter!!!!

OK, this one has to go in the Epics book - not the comedy book. My heart was in my mouth :o


Aye, Annie, my all time favourite quote is fae Ouakha, who commented that this wasnae from on the front line but awa o'er the next valley! :shock: I was really starting to think I'd pushed it too far this time, as things really felt like they were slipping out of control...
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