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An Teallach: whatever the way

An Teallach: whatever the way

Postby old danensian » Tue Apr 26, 2016 10:19 am

Route description: An Teallach, Dundonnell

Munros included on this walk: Bidein a'Ghlas Thuill (An Teallach), Sgurr Fiona (An Teallach)

Date walked: 08/04/2016

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What better start to the day does anyone need?

The snug warmth of a sleeping bag swapped for fleece and base-layers. The reflection of a pink dawn hue over the still waters of Little Loch Broom as the backdrop to breakfast: chilled fingers wrapped round a mug of steaming tea. The prospect of reasonable weather enhancing the taste of my loch-side muesli as another WH Meet began after a late-night drive north.

Sunrise over Little Loch Broom at Dundonnell

As the reflection disappeared under the advance of tidal ripples, the team assembled. Long-distance early starters mingled with bleary-eyed late-risers dashing round from Gairloch. The eager and the anxious gathered at Dundonnell chatting about conditions, hangovers and the prospect of needing to pack the added weight of winter gear.

Above, An Teallach awaited. All the way from sea-level, a pair of full-strength Munros and their adjacent serried pinnacles lurked to test our mettle.

Catching up, comparing experiences, forming friendships, discovering connections: the day began as those attending WH Meets in the past have come to expect. A snake of conversation slipped through the roadside shrubs by the two bungalows on the edge of Dundonnell and followed the path round the base of Meall Garbh. Jokes about parking next to the MRT base swung between black humour and worries about tempting fate. Sea-level was left behind and a cohort of nine chatted as the path gained height.

Rising above it all from Dundonnell

While continuing round to the Allt a Mhullin, navigational unanimity was stretched as a variety of photocopies, printouts, maps and gps plots, on at least two different devices, suggested the way ahead - or rather this way, or that way, or maybe even that way.


In the end, the majority followed the clear path etched into the hillside beside the Allt a Mhuillin while a splinter pair took a high-level route along the spine of Meall Garbh to enjoy early views to the coast and the Summer Isles.

An Teallach's Bidein a Ghlas Thuill from Meall Garbh - heading for the high road above the Allt a Mhuilin

Twin peaks: Bidein a Ghlas and Sgurr Fiona from Sron a Choire

Looking north from Sron a Choire

The assorted groups reassembled within five or ten minutes of one another on the broad saddle beside Sron a Choire before skirting round to the bealach between Glas Mheall Mor and the first Munro summit of Bidein a Ghlas Thuill. There, debate ensued on the criteria to be met to qualify as a Munro. Knowing the almost innocuous warts and blimps that claim fame on the list, we felt sorry for Glas Mheall Mor, with its fine top standing proud above Strath Beag and at the end of a fine ridge. Some tops are just meant to be recognised on their own, irrespective of their status: they remain another excuse to come back.

The unsung Glas Mheall Mor from the slopes of Bidein a Ghlas Thuill

So, we turned to the challenge ahead, and now there was little scope for differences of opinion on the way head. Gradually steepening and increasingly snowy, the trig point on the summit of Bidein a Ghlas Thuill stood out like a miniscule nipple high on the skyline above.

As Yazz once sang, "The only way is up," and we steeled ourselves for what was expected to be a tiring slog.

Conditions became increasingly "interesting" and as the snow became harder they gave a nagging sense that donning crampons or spikes might be a good idea. So, halfway up, we took the chance of a breather and then enjoyed the confidence using winter gear can give.

Gearing up below Bidein a Ghlas Thuill

Until now, the top had been visible since leaving the saddle by Sron a Choire - but Sod's Law dictated that the clear skies we had enjoyed down in Dundonnell at the start of the day was well on the way to disappearing. The tiny spike of the trig point on the summit ridge began to drift in and out of view amidst the gathering cloud. It, and the surrounding tops, played peek-a-boo for the next few hours and tantalised our aspirations.

Spiked-up and wielding ice-axes, we gathered together at the trig point on Bidein a Ghlas Thuill just forty five minutes after leaving the bealach below and four hours from leaving the cars. There followed an exchange that dented my ability to fend off any semblance of advancing age.

"They've seen some service," said someone as they looked down at my own crampons. "They're like my dad's old Salewas," said someone else. "He used to hang them on the back of the door."

"Yes," I agreed. "Winter 1975 while at uni, and with the Stubai axe I'm still using they cost a good chunk of my grant that term."

"Streuth," intoned a duet. "They're older than me."

Some people instinctively know how to cultivate an affection for the youth of today.

Cloud and views continued to drift in and out while we snatched some sustenance, enjoyed the occasional glimpses of our spectacular surroundings, and pondered the options that lay ahead. The steep sweep down and back up to the Munro's twin peak, Sgurr Fiona, and the towering pinnacles beyond, both tempted and daunted in equal measure.

Polly ponders the plunge from Bidein a Ghlas Thuill

To all, the pinnacles were to be savoured over a long and lazy summer's day. To some, the initially steep descent and subsequent clamber to Sgurr Fiona could be left for a clearer times and more benign conditions. But, for John, Darren and I, the challenge of Sgurr Fiona was there to be addressed: bring it on.

An Teallach's pinnacles, Sgurr Fiona and Sgurr Creag an Eich from Bidein a Ghlas Thuill

While the half-dozen early-returners began their descent, we took their best wishes and placed orders for soup at Keith's in Laide later in the day. In the spirit of ensuring the technology of one of the country's major companies is fit-for-purpose, we also took reluctant charge of one of a pair of radios that had been brought north. for "testing."

As is often the case, the gradient beyond the summit of Bidein a Ghlas Thuill relented and the descent proved straightforward with banks of snow making for easy and safe progress. Nevertheless, we remained sceptical about the SMC guide timings of just thirty minutes between the two tops.

From the bealach we started the climb and, as recommended, traversed to the right as the summit came close. In patches the snow was a bit thin and needed care in places, but the route soon swung back to the left and the table-top summit was reached in a surprisingly brisk thirty eight minutes.

Out along the pinnacles from Sgurr Fiona

By now the skies were clearing again. More consistent views opened up and the intricacies of route-finding along the pinnacles and over Lord Berekely's seat were definitely to be shunned for a day of lingering in the warmth. While posing for the obligatory summit photos - right a bit, back a bit, a bit further, no not that far - a disembodied voice from the depths of my rucksack queried our progress and, with bizarre timing, warned us to take care.

Sgurr Creag an Eich from Bidein a Ghlas Thuill

North from Bidein a Ghlas Thuill

With only a faint hope of catching the others on their descent to Dundonnell, we turned around and began our return to Bidein and beyond. The occasional glissade and the odd slither saw us back to the bealach and, in a similar time to the outward trip, found ourselves revisiting the trig point. No longer thronged with the WH Flash-Mob, and with visibility improving by the minute, we spent time exploring the views down gullies and crags we'd missed on the way up.

An empty summit - Bidein a Ghlas Thuill

Plunging gully, curving cornice and Glas Mheall Mor from Bidein a Ghlas Thuill

After shedding the winter gear we upped the pace. A combination of radio and text relayed the news that the others were planning to follow the high-level route over Meall Garbh before descending directly to the cars. So, we too stayed high and benefitted from the views north up the coast.

Beyond the nose of Meall Garbh the descent got steeper. Interminable zig-zags went back and forth each barely losing height. Cairn after cairn after cairn littered the clear path with little need for such proliferation. It seemed to take ages and the farm buildings below seemed to get no nearer.

Little Loch Broom from the lower slopes of Meall Garbh

Inevitably, the cars finally came into view and flagging spirits rose. We met the outward path and marvelled at the size of the cairn we must have missed on the outward part of the walk. However, it was one of those descents where you heave a sigh of relief at the end and exclaim "I'm glad we didn't have to go up that way."

There was another sigh of relief over five hundred miles further south as well. On the day before heading north I'd told my daughter I was snatching a quick trip to the WH Meet in Torridon. The news was greeted with one of those non-plussed "u-uh"s that conveyed an unspoken suggestion that I didn't do anything daft. The following weekend I was due to play the role of proud dad, walking her up the aisle.

I guess she had a point.

And that's why it's taken me so long to re-live the day in the paragraphs and photos of this report.
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Re: An Teallach: whatever the way

Postby pollyh33 » Tue Apr 26, 2016 12:58 pm

Jings Nigel what a day that was!

50% Fun and 50% Fear when I looked down from the summit of Bidean and said ' stuff that for a game of soldiers'
** NB I may be paraphrasing here :crazy: :crazy:

Thanks for putting up fab photos but it does look like I have a Tomsie growing out of rucksack :lol: :lol:
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Re: An Teallach: whatever the way

Postby litljortindan » Tue Apr 26, 2016 4:01 pm

Great report. Might even motivate me to attend a meet some time. Your '75 crampons also give me hope for the future.
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Re: An Teallach: whatever the way

Postby Tomsie » Tue Apr 26, 2016 5:07 pm

Great day out with good company, returned a few days later and got as far as Berekelys seat, but looking forward to heading back again. :)

pollyh33 wrote:Thanks for putting up fab photos but it does look like I have a Tomsie growing out of rucksack :lol: :lol:

Thanks for the lift :lol: :lol:
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Re: An Teallach: whatever the way

Postby Petr Dakota » Tue Apr 26, 2016 5:22 pm

Great day on great mountain ! :thumbup:
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Re: An Teallach: whatever the way

Postby Borderhugh » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:26 pm

Great report Nigel. I wish I could write like you do!
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Re: An Teallach: whatever the way

Postby Andymac75 » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:50 pm

Good report.
I'm looking at tents ,as I like the idea of an early morning start miles from anywhere.
Waking up with the bog myrtle and morning dew.and a fry up.
Days/weekends like yours stick in the noggin .forever.

Suppose I'm getting old as well :lol:
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Re: An Teallach: whatever the way

Postby dogplodder » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:54 pm

We did the same as you - missed the path for the high route on ascent then came down it and were thankful we'd missed it.

pollyh33 wrote:
Thanks for putting up fab photos but it does look like I have a Tomsie growing out of rucksack :lol: :lol:

I thought when I saw Pauline at summit she'd taken a wean up there! :shock:
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Re: An Teallach: whatever the way

Postby Jaxter » Wed Apr 27, 2016 11:22 am

A great report - looks like quite a day :shock: :clap:

Was lovely to meet you, albeit very briefly :D
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Re: An Teallach: whatever the way

Postby spiderman » Mon May 02, 2016 10:06 pm

I enjoyed your report it was very entertaining
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Re: An Teallach: whatever the way

Postby Alteknacker » Wed May 04, 2016 10:37 pm

Still a mountain I have an appointment with, and from this excellent report it certainly looks like it would be good to do in winter - lots of adrenalin to keep one warm. Don't know if I'll be able to wait that long though: the glimpse of it last weekend really whetted the appetite, so I think it will be this summer...
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