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Ben Wyvis at last: but downhill all the way back

Ben Wyvis at last: but downhill all the way back

Postby old danensian » Thu Oct 06, 2016 7:30 pm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Wyvis

Date walked: 01/10/2016

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 16.5 km

Ascent: 980m

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There's very little you can say about the ascent of Ben Wyvis. It's been well-reported, photographed and recorded. There's a staircase for most of the way up and the last stretch is almost a motorway comprising a myriad strands of paths, tracks and carriageways that must have been tramped by those for whom this Munro is their back garden.

A gloomy prospect up the Allt a Bhealaich Mhoir - despite the sun splitting pavements elsewhere

It was a shame that a persistent cloud hung over the hill while all else remained clear and sun shone on the Fannaichs and everything else to the west; but hey-ho, you takes your chance.

The sun shines on the Fannaichs and An Teallach

The descent on the other hand warrants a line or two, not in celebration but in frustration and regret for having chosen this particular way off. I'm a circular route man when the opportunity arises and the idea of descending the An Cabar staircase really didn't appeal and there was plenty of time to traverse the full package.

Glas Leathad Mor stretches away from the cairn on An Cabar

Not your normal view from the top of a Munro - rigs in Nigg Bay

Maybe I should have taken notice of the advice from the WH route description that, "by far the quickest and most pleasant route of return is to retrace your steps," rather than the SMC guidebook suggestions to complete the traverse and continue over Tom a Choinnich.

A brief moment without a crowd on the summit of Glas Leathad Mor

It started promisingly. Short grass, soft ground and a gentle descent to the bealach bode well. The short fifty metre pull to the lonely cairn was a stroll rather than a climb. Leaving the crowds behind was an added benefit: I didn't see a soul after leaving the cluster of visitors round the trig point on Glas Leathad Mor. And then it stared to go downhill in every possible way.

Completing the traverse across Tom a Choinnich

The south west ridge of Tom a Choinnich looked grassy: just an amble down the slope and an easy wander along to the Allt a Gharbh Bhaid: follow it back to meet the outward path. Easy peasy: no time at all.

Well it looks straightforward - down the south west ridge of Tom a Choinnich

So much for trying to conserve energy for a more exciting day to follow.

Alright, I didn't expect a bowling green surface or a gently sloping croquet lawn. Nevertheless, I'd hoped to stumble across a track, stride out, find the ground easy to cross and enjoy the end to the day. Instead I encountered a tussock-fest punctuated by heather that was determined to ambush my progress and conditions that made the end of the day tiresome rather than relaxing.

As I got lower, the trenches between the tussocks got deeper and wetter; the clumps of heather became more and more determined to wrap themselves round my ankles and send me headlong. There might have been a path there somewhere, but it hid itself well. I persevered and squelched onward.

And there wasn't a straightforward way through the remnants of the forest either. Cleared: which really means that anything economically useful has been cleared, leaving the debris of broken branches, barely buried stumps and anything remotely resembling drainage long since dammed. So the next mile was equally laborious and potentially gloopy.

Tortuous going amidst the remains for the forest near the Allt a Gharbh Bhaid

Find the final stepping stones across the Allt a Gharbh Bhaid - and reach an easy path at last

Finally, after a boulder-hop across the widening Allt a Gharbh Bhaid, I could walk normally along the forest road and back to the path leading to the car - and relief.

Ben Wyvis had been one of those hills driven past frequently, always with a promise to stop and visit "next time." This was its time. I'd been en-passant to Torridon, so the fact that it wasn't my sole objective helped overcome the shortcomings I found.

Maybe there's mileage in a there-and-back every now and again.
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old danensian
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Location: Ayrshire

Re: Ben Wyvis at last: but downhill all the way back

Postby dogplodder » Thu Oct 06, 2016 7:55 pm

Yep, been there, done that. The first time I climbed Wyvis it was with a pal who wanted to include the tops as well. The tops were fine but coming off them was hard work much in the way you describe. :?

The next time I went up and back the same way and the experience was transformed. 8)
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