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Wild Night on Suilven

Wild Night on Suilven


Postby jmcsporran » Fri Oct 14, 2016 2:14 pm

Route description: Suilven

Grahams included on this walk: Suilven

Date walked: 11/10/2016

Time taken: 4.5 hours

Distance: 11 km

Ascent: 731m

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My mate Andy Belshaw and I always wanted to undertake a photography trip to Suilven. The forecast for Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 October said clear blue skies, light winds (5mph) and temperatures of 5C. My ‘suncalc app’ told me the morning sun would rise directly over Meall Meadhonach, Suilven’s secondary peak.
Suilven 11 Oct 2016 - 31.jpg
Sunrise on Suilven

We set off from the car park near Glencanisp Lodge for the long walk in carrying 55lb/25kg packs of camping and photography gear. Very quickly my torn Achilles (from a previous climb of the Big Boochle) was giving me a lot of pain, but no pain, no gain. It’s a long trudge (very long) to the little stone cairn, then turned right and trudged (trudge was my favourite word on this trip) across the peat bogs and around the lochans to the foot of the Bealach Mòr.

Nothing prepares you for your first sight of the route up Suilven, if I had thought the going tough until then, as you crest the final ridge and gain sight of the start of the climb up Suilven, across Loch a’ Choire Dhuibh, it takes your breath away. “Bloomin heck” was my mate Andy’s outburst (this is the polite version).
Suilven 11 Oct 2016 - 19.jpg
Morning don't get much better than this

After a break we gathered our strength and began the climb. There is a lot of loose scree and awkward bits, it’s also incredibly steep. It’s the steepest climb I’ve ever done, without actually being a rock climb. Carrying 25kg packs is awkward and we had to pay careful attention to our balance. Suffice to say, it was hellish. However, when I finally crested the ridge, the sun hit me full in the face and the view was simply breathtaking.

This is where things went a wee bit sideways. The Met Office and normally reliable MWIS forecast was wrong, the winds were not 5mph but 30 to 40 mph, later gusting to 50mph, cloud and mist rolled in during the night and temperatures dropped to freezing. We began to climb Caisteal Liath but the wind was blowing us off our feet and losing your balance on the rock climb with the weight of our packs was a bad idea, so we dropped down to the bealach and set up camp. Pitching a tent in high winds is fun in its own right.
Suilven 11 Oct 2016 - 7.jpg
Wild camp on Suilven at sunset

With the tents pitched, time for photography - the views and sights were superb. After the sun set, time for coffee, rehydrated pasta and chocolate biscuits. The mist and cloud then rolled in and you couldn’t see more than 10 metres. When it did clear, we had great views of the moon and stars over Cul Mòr, Cul Beag, Sgorr Tuath and Stac Pollaidh. Time for more photography and a hip flask with some Talisker Storm malt whisky (I always take an appropriate malt on an overnight camp. As I could see Skye in the distance, then Talisker was appropriate. I take Jura for Buachaille Etive Beag as I can see the Paps of Jura from Stob Coire Raineach, etc.). Time for bed. The wind picked up during the night and it was a wee bit of a rough night.
Suilven 11 Oct 2016 - 8.jpg
Twilight glow over Assynt
Suilven 11 Oct 2016 - 11.jpg
Moonlight over Cul Mor and Cul Beag
Suilven Space Invaders.jpg
Aliens on Suilven

Up at 6 o’clock for the dawn and a climb up Caisteal Liath with the photography gear for the views over Meall Meadhonach. With the mist rolling up and over the mountain and a temperature inversion down below - simply superb. Breakfast of beans and sausage, coffee and KitKat.
Suilven 11 Oct 2016 - 26.jpg
The Wall in the middle of nowhere
Suilven 11 Oct 2016 - 9.jpg
Cloud and mist flows around Canisp

We met a ‘young’ woman up top who solo camped overnight on Caisteal Liath – Lyndsay Warrack. Probably the bravest and fittest woman I have ever met on the mountains. Having camped on Suilven, she was going descend, then climb Canisp that morning.
Suilven 11 Oct 2016 - 2.jpg
Sunset over the mountains
Suilven 11 Oct 2016 - 28 copy.jpg
Sunrise over Suilven from Caisteal Liath

We began the descent at 11AM. The descent for Andy and I was worse than the ascent. If you lose your balance on the way up you fall inwards, on the way down it’s different. Whose stupid idea was it to do this. Mine. The long trudge back was a real pain, literally. We stopped half way for a break and met Lyndsay after her climb of Canisp.

Arriving back at the car after the 4-hour trudge, Andy and I ‘pigged out’ on all sorts of ‘unhealthy options’, which mostly consisted of sweets, crisps, cakes and Red Bull. Then the 5-hour drive home. It was a great trip, one of the best. One of these days I’m going to climb a mountain not carrying a huge weight on my back – it might feel different, but where’s the joy in that?
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby weaselmaster » Fri Oct 14, 2016 2:17 pm

Great pictures - quite an experience. Particularly like the one with the sun rising over the tent.
You do need to get your pack weight down though :wink:
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby jmcsporran » Fri Oct 14, 2016 2:22 pm

I've tried to reduce weight but I use everything I carry, my heaviest camera lens weigh 5lbs by itself. I've replaced my sleeping roll with the NeoAir Xtherm, took a lighter tent, etc. etc. but I can't forego any photography gear.
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby mountainstar » Fri Oct 14, 2016 3:54 pm

Superb high camp, you cannot tell from the photo's that you had bad weather (Great photo's btw)
I camped up there last year, and had an amazing night (including sunset and sunrise)
It's one to remember for a lifetime.
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:15 pm

1. Jaw-droppingly good photography.

2. Great spot for a camp.

3. "I always take an appropriate malt on an overnight camp." - that has to be the best camping tip ever.
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:22 pm

Mesmerising pictures and sounded like a great experience. I appreciate you carring all that weight to share this with us. :clap:
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Fri Oct 14, 2016 8:47 pm

Suffering for your art??? Loved the photos, congratulations and thanks :D
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby litljortindan » Fri Oct 14, 2016 10:19 pm

Amazing cloud.
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby larry groo » Mon Oct 17, 2016 8:02 am

Aye, some of the best pics yet!!

Amazing place, fine effort.

:clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby trekpete » Tue Oct 18, 2016 10:59 pm

Weather might not have been as expected John but the photos fair make up for it.
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby rockhopper » Tue Oct 18, 2016 11:33 pm

Great idea - excellent result for your efforts :thumbup: - cheers :)
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby Sunset tripper » Wed Oct 19, 2016 3:21 am

Great pictures. I tried for Suilven once in poor conditions. We got on to the ridge but it was totally mental with winds you couldn't walk in so we had to bail out. On the way back down there was tornado like water spouts blowing across the loch and also on the lower slopes of Suilven that day we found a boat. :shock:
2013-05-13 13.17.50 (480x640).jpg
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby Borderhugh » Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:29 am

Looks fantastic. Lovely photos there. Its a superb mountain. Sadly I had clag on top. :clap:
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby Alteknacker » Wed Oct 19, 2016 8:15 pm

Wonderful in every way. The pics are just brilliant. Your pain is our gain :D
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Re: Wild Night on Suilven

Postby burnsider » Sun Nov 20, 2016 9:52 pm

Marvellous pictures! I climbed Suilven a few years ago in September on a beautiful sunny day. I lugged my Canon SLR and a couple of lenses and it stopped speaking to the memory card just as I turned up from the loch towards the bealach :crazy:. The spare I had with me was for the camera's predecessor and of a different type
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