What to do when Panther wants Mhor
by BlackPanther » Tue Nov 22, 2016 3:41 pm
Route description: Sail Mhòr, from Ardessie
Corbetts included on this walk: Sail Mhòr
Date walked: 20/11/2016
Time taken: 6.5 hours
Distance: 10.8 km
Ascent: 782m8 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Sunday was a perfect day weather-wise for a wintry adventure. Well, almost perfect, as temperature dropped well below zero. It was -4*C in the early morning when we left Beauly, and as we drove past Loch Glascarnoch...
The morning was beautiful, An Teallach dressed in white coat, fingers crossed for good views from higher ground... I knew we were up for a special day!
I remembered from our previous visit, that there was a reasonable path for the first 300m of ascent. The hill itself just about makes the Corbett height, but the starting point is almost from sea level and most of the slopes are rather steep. We decided to go over the lower top (not named on the map), then traverse to the summit and descend the southern shoulder of Sail Mhor, to complete some sort of circular. We considered adding the outlier, Ruigh Mheallain, but sadly didn't have enough daylight left in the end.
We parked in a large layby beside the waterworks building. The road was deserted, nobody else daring Sail Mhor today. We located the start of the path and marched on.
I turned out to be tricky from the very beginning. The path looked benign but it was covered in ice, rocks were verglassed (a non-existent word according to spell check ) so after 10 minutes of strictly come dancing on ice, we abandoned the path and climbed on the vegetation. The grass was still icy but more grippy. Soon, we stopped to snap a few photos of the waterfalls. The moon was up and the whole scenery looked weird to say the least:
We spotted a small herd of goats watching us from the distance. No surprise here - I had seen them before on An Teallach as well as crossing the road in Dundonnell, they are a common sight in this area:
Above 200m we entered the snow zone, which made walking a little bit easier, fresh snow being better underfoot than hard ice. The massive bulk of Sail Mhor dominated the view. It may be one of the lowest Corbetts, but the steep cliffs looming above us gave me goosebumps!
This photo shows the condition of the path (in the middle) - ice rink would describe it best!
We reached the flatter ground of the open corrie, where the path descended slightly to cross a small burn. From here, it became indistinct and especially under snow it was impossible to find, so we simply plodded on along the river, snow becoming deeper in places now...
It was our first full-on winter experience this year and I was feeling a bit apprehensive. I haven't worn crampons since my accident in February, hopefully they won't be necessary today!
The wide glen was still in shadow and at about 10:30 am we witnessed "An Teallach sunrise":
The river was not in full spate but a bit more water than we expected, so we spent some time looking for a suitable spot to cross...
Having found a good set of stepping stones we realised we couldn't use them 'cause they were covered with verglass! We managed to get across somehow and I was eager to tackle the initial steep section of the slope in front of us, to climb out of the daunting shadow...
Going for it:
As soon as we emerged on the sunny side of life ( ), we felt like teleported into a different world! The sun was blazing now, soft snow covered everything like a king size duvet Simply stunning! Walking wasn't too bad at the moment. Snow was ankle deep and getting deeper, but we were full of energy and enjoyed the experience!
Happy Black Panther wants Mhor!
So far, views have been restricted by the deep corrie of Allt Airdeasaidh, but now we caught the first glimpse of what was to come - winter panos in abundance!
Kevin stopped to adjust his boots and gaiters, as snow was becoming a fluffy obstacle now
2016-11-20 sail mhor 141 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
When I climbed Sail Mhor for the first time it was mid-summer, I remember posing with "the ugly side of An Teallach". Nothing ugly about AT this time, even from this less attractive profile it looked amazing (apologies for the reflection in the photo, couldn't turn off the sun ):
After a short break and refreshing drink of ice cold water from the bottle, we continued up, not too steep at the moment but getting slower with each step...
We took turns leading as the person going first had the harder job breaking the fresh snow. We decided to climb straight up the slope above us and over the lower top, simply because we thought that going through the upper corrie would mean very deep snow, and we were already falling behind with time. Which was partly due to Kevin's constant stops for photos (almost 400 snaps done that day ), including those showing my struggle with the white stuff:
As we gained height and ground became steeper, better views opened up and not only to An Teallach, though the latter was still the star of the show:
Zoom to Beinn Dearg Bheig, one of the hidden gems of the Fisherfields:
Climbing was hard now and we slowed down to snails pace, so much snow with the consistence of milk powder. I was still in the lead and working hard, sweating in the blazing sun, but desperate to go on:
We agreed that the "cut off" time to get to the summit would be 1 pm, to give us 3 hours of daylight to return to the starting point - which in given conditions was not a lot!
About 2/3 way up the steep section the ground was getting too steep and too unstable for my liking, so having found a flatter spot we stopped to put crampons on. Maybe an unnecessary precaution but one hole in my knee is enough, don't fancy another one!
Crampons, if not necessary, proved very helpful, they made it easier to find good grip on ground covered in powdery snow. We picked up speed and soon arrived on the main ridge, tired and puffing, but very happy indeed
We couldn't resist stopping for a photo session, now when the difficult part was over. We still had another 50m or so ascent to the true summit, but the terrain was much easier now, less steep. Crampons went back to rucksacks and cameras came out!
The mesmerizing world of Fisherfields in winter:
Looking north to Assynt, the high lump of Beinn Dearg to the far right:
Zoomed Beinn Dearg and friends:
Conival/BMAssynt ridge I think, looks spectacular in white:
An Teallach, you beauty!
West Assynt pano from Ben More Coigach to Canisp:
Panther still wants Mhor!!!!!!!!! If last weekend wasn't a great birthday gift, then Mother Nature compensated for it now, giving us the best wintry spectacle we could ever expect! I know, any hill done in winter conditions is double fun and twice the pleasure, but Sail Mhor is possibly one of the best winter viewpoints I visited in my entire hillwalking career!
Kevin concentrated on capturing panoramas. I didn't take my small compact which takes great panoramic photos, because it doesn't work very well in low temperatures. Kevin's panos were good enough though...
Across Little Loch Broom:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 206 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
With An Teallach:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 207 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Eventually, we checked our watches, it was 1 o'clock, cut off time, we better hurry up to the summit!
The final climb didn't take long and soon I was posing proudly by the large cairn - a repeat hill for both of us, but who cares. Sail Mhor is a hill of many happy returns!
Lucy in her winter gear, her 31st Corbett:
Views from the summit are simply stunning, any time of the year and in winter even more so. I noticed that the top of Sail Mhor cast an interesting shadow across Little Loch Broom:
View west to the sea:
A spell of bad weather that never reached the land:
A few more photos from the top...
An Teallach again:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 232 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Distant tops of Torridon:
Some cloud boiling up over the hills to the north:
We warmed up with hot tea and filled up with extra calories, getting ready for swimming in the snow on the way down. We were about 15 minutes behind the schedule, but the delay was not drastic and we hoped to catch up some time on the return descent.
We traversed south along the ridge, where - guess what - we took some more photos...
Beinn Dearg Mhor and Bheig, waiting to be discovered but not this time of the year, wait for summer my darlings!
The initial 200m of ascent took us 15 minutes or so, there was enough deep, soft snow to simply run down the slope. Kevin stopped at some point to swap batteries in his camera and he caught this image of me (very tiny black dot) in the shadow of the majestic Forge:
We were making good progress and the danger of getting caught by the darkness was surely over now, so we enjoyed the descent, hopping from one snowy lump to another, falling into knee-deep holes, but all with big grins on our faces
On the lower slopes, we captured this interesting feature: a band of large stones covered in snow, like chocolate crumble topped with icing:
An Teallach panorama:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 301 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Descending into the upper corrie of Allt Airdeasaidh:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 310 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
More icing on a cake:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 318 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Crossing the river proved easier higher upstream, and soon we located the path leading us down - not that it was of any use at all, pure ice. We carefully descended the grassy slopes back to the car park, enjoying the final spectacle of the day, sunset colours above Little Loch Broom:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 338 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Sail Mhor has definitely given us more (mhor) than we ever wished for, though working out in the deep snow was very tiring. A route which usually takes about 5 hours including breaks, took us almost seven... But in given conditions, even that was fast!
Really, really recommended for any time of the year, this forgotten Corbett deserves to be appreciated, a fantastic little hill wig big attitude
by Yorjick » Tue Nov 22, 2016 4:59 pm
by Cairngorm creeper » Tue Nov 22, 2016 5:03 pm
by jmarkb » Tue Nov 22, 2016 5:30 pm
For other readers (or for next time!), it's worth noting that going up (or down) the west side of the burn is an option to avoid the river crossing, which can be impossible after heavy rain. It also gives better views of the upper falls, and there is a bit of a path (when not buried by snow!), though it's not as well marked as on the east side, and it's not evident at the start: from the parking spot, head up past the telegraph poles until you reach the burn above the lowest falls.
Another variation is to head out right across the obvious shelf from the top of the falls, and at its end climb steeply up the left side of a gully to reach the shallow col SE of the summit. If you have time/energy/weather, the wee top of Ruigh Meallain is also worth a visit.
by malky_c » Tue Nov 22, 2016 5:35 pm
Looked like a memorable day out - to be honest I would have swapped Wyvis for this if I'd been prepared to drive a bit further . Great hill as you say - will be going up it again before too long I think.
by BlackPanther » Wed Nov 23, 2016 4:13 pm
Climbing on the west side of the burn is mentioned as an alternative ascent route in SMC Guide to Corbetts (2002 edition), also visiting Ruigh Mheallain, we simply didn't have time to go to the outlying top, definitely will return to this hill to explore it more
I bet that it was easier up higher hills with the trail well broken We saw a few cars parked in Corrie Hallie, so some brave souls went up An Teallach, as well.
The soundtrack music was appropriate, too... Funny, how the car stereo is set for random tracks but it tends to pick tunes that fit. One day we were driving through heavy snow shower and it played "Crazy world" by Scorpions... Another time, after escaping from a thunderstorm, we were welcome to The Doors - Riders On The Storm
by Mal Grey » Wed Nov 23, 2016 4:40 pm
BlackPanther wrote: Funny, how the car stereo is set for random tracks but it tends to pick tunes that fit. One day we were driving through heavy snow shower and it played "Crazy world" by Scorpions... Another time, after escaping from a thunderstorm, we were welcome to The Doors - Riders On The Storm
Happened to me going up Glen Affric the other year. Just as I came out of the woodland section, and could first see the view of mountains looking very dramatic with their heads in clouds and pools of mist clinging to the corries, up comes Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms" with its opening line of "These mist covered mountains...". Timed almost perfectly to the second.
by Alteknacker » Thu Nov 24, 2016 1:00 am
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