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Sleeper, wild camp, retreat and quick double!

Sleeper, wild camp, retreat and quick double!


Postby Majorbunting » Tue Jun 14, 2016 11:02 pm

Munros included on this walk: An Gearanach, Sgorr Dhearg (Beinn a'Bheithir), Sgorr Dhonuill (Beinn a'Bheithir)

Date walked: 02/05/2016

Time taken: 6 hours

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Friday evening: 3 men and 5 boys met up at Euston station.

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Slight hitch at the start involving the Group Leader not having properly briefed his boy, who locked himself in the loo and refused to come out. Fortunately, he changed his mind and graciously refused the tenner that we had offered as a bribe.
An evening of careful planning and session blanc in the restaurant car before we awoke to the magnificence of Scotland...

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Bacon rolls and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs.

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Topped up on (D-of-E discounted) gear in Fort William (4 man emergency shelter) and took a minibus to the carpark below Steall Falls. Boys took the 'Danger of Death' sign in their stride.

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A stunning walk up to the wire bridge - past falls, pools, primroses, gigantic boulders and scots pines clinging to the ravine walls.

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Reached the famous wire bridge at 11:30 ish. Boys rocketed over using their ice-axes to lengthen their arm span. I carried Frank on my back.

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Took us till 1pm to set up camp on a natural levee by the meandering burn, grab a bite and then we set off. Delayed by 30 mins trying cross the burn below the falls - we might have been better taking our boots off and wading?

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Followed the path around and then up onto the gently sloping North West brae of An Gearanach (following the path to the West of the burn). We hit the first patches of snow at the top of the brae, beneath the high crags and decided that rather than follow the mapped (but very snowy) path on the North East side, we would instead climb the steep (but snow-free) rocky elbow West of the crags.

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This was a sensible, but tiring choice and by the time we re-joined the path at about 850 m, the boys were pretty knackered although not too knackered to enjoy sliding around on the safer snow fields...

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At times the whole Ring of Steall opened up...

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At this point the summit of An Gearanach was temptingly close...

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However, after much discussion, we opted to leave it for another day. The time was around 4pm and Privates Robinson and Carter had bad memories of fumbling around in the Lakes after dark... So, much to the agony of our feverish Group Leader, we set off back down the rocky elbow.

Ten minutes into our descent we were hit by a twenty minute blizzard, that, had we gone for the summit, would have been quite interesting...

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I felt we made the right decision, given the children, but we certainly missed an exciting climb.
Once the blizzard cleared, the walk down was easy... you can just see our tents on the bend...

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It remained light for a couple of hours after we reached base camp. We scoffed our dehydrated dinners and while we congratulated ourselves on a safety-first mentality, our children frolicked unobserved on the wire bridge. We found enough dead wood for a fire...

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We drank our whisky before hitting the sacks. (My squad's cheap sacks were perfectly warm while the other squads' expensive down bags were satisfyingly either too hot or too cold). The predicted rain battered our tents from around 3am till 7am and, come morning, the falls were impressively swollen.

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We had our porridge, made good use of our mini-shovels, and pottered about till lunch. Packed up, crossed the bridge again, strode back down by the burn and met our minibus on the dot of 3pm.

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We drove down to a cottage in South Ballachulish that my interfering other half had insisted we book due to the rain... It seemed like any more mountains were out of the question as we sat down to a mighty feast in the Ballachulish Hotel... but, suddenly, we realised, that the cottage was nestled beneath the twin peaks of Sgorr Dhonuill and Sgorr Dhearg... Much alcohol-fuelled discussion involving avalanche warnings, train times, cottage check-out time etc... and I found myself being woken at 5am... Sadly Private Robinson felt unable to leave his bed at the required time and Group Leader Nelson and I set off, unencumbered by children, into the pouring rain and the forest path beneath the two hills.


The paths were excellent through the forest and even signposted. The burn was a fantastic torrent. We soon found ourself in the open moorland heading up to the ridge between the summits. We needn't have worried about avalanches as the snow was largely melted leaving only a large cornice along the ridge and some stretches that were easily avoided. We only stopped once for a serious call of nature from the Group Leader.

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The rain stopped and we found ourselves on the ridge in calm but misty conditions.

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We opted for Sgorr Dhearg first and headed East. It was a fairly long slog up a gravelly path in poor visibility. As we reached the top the wind got up and we were fairly pelted in our faces with a mixture of hail and snow as we turned and headed back down to the ridge. One down, one to go.

The climb up Sgorr Dhonuill was much more exhilarating. Heavily corniced coirries on our right plunged hundreds of feet into dark, swirling mists...

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while, on our left, a steep boulder-strewn flank stretched precipitously downwards.

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As Group Leader Gandalf picked a path upwards, we were enveloped in swirling snow flakes that often seemed to be flying upwards with us. Finally we broke free at the summit, our elation tempered by a memorial plaque to a lost climber. For a glorious few moments the clouds broke and we glimpsed the vast ranges of snowy mountains and lochs around us.

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We sped back down the hill, the Group Leader sensibly resisting his urge to slide down the snow fields that - we later realised - would have deposited him directly over a large cliff. Back to the cottage by 12:30 to find the boys sluggishly watching the telly...

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Bunged everything in the dryer... showered... pub lunch in Fort William... Sleeper back to Euston...

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Back at work Tuesday morning!

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Majorbunting
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 10
Munros:22   Corbetts:2
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:5
Wainwrights:7   
Joined: Jul 26, 2015

Re: Sleeper, wild camp, retreat and quick double!

Postby SAVAGEALICE » Thu Jun 16, 2016 9:01 pm

Great stuff! ... what fun and adventure :D ...would have loved a weekend like that when I was a kid :thumbup: :-D :)
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SAVAGEALICE
 
Posts: 614
Munros:282   Corbetts:160
Grahams:55   Donalds:1
Sub 2000:44   Hewitts:23
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Joined: Aug 26, 2008
Location: Alness, Ross-shire

Re: Sleeper, wild camp, retreat and quick double!

Postby Alteknacker » Fri Jun 17, 2016 7:07 pm

Absolutely brilliant! A joy to read.

You're really giving these kids a gift for life when you take them on this kind of expedition, as I'm sure you know. It was being taken on trips like this as a young scout that got me into the magic of the mountains; and now my eldest grandson is 10, I'm planning on getting him out on the hills this year (I've already got him on to climbing walls...).

:clap: :clap: :clap:
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Alteknacker
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Re: Sleeper, wild camp, retreat and quick double!

Postby Sunset tripper » Sat Jun 18, 2016 4:50 am

The sleeper is a great way to travel. Love the wire bridge pictures, a brilliant adventure :D
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Re: Sleeper, wild camp, retreat and quick double!

Postby Majorbunting » Mon Jun 20, 2016 9:30 am

Thanks for the comments! It was a great trip.
Majorbunting
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 10
Munros:22   Corbetts:2
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:5
Wainwrights:7   
Joined: Jul 26, 2015

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