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What to do when Panther wants Mhor

What to do when Panther wants Mhor


Postby 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: 782m

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Sail Mhor was one of my first Scottish mountains and I always wanted to return to this lovely hill in winter conditions. By winter conditions I meant full snow cover, not just a few patches here and there. The easiest route up and down is only a half day walk in summer time, so doing it "the hard way" was always tempting for a panther!

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...
C-c-c-cold!
DSC02140.JPG

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!
2016-11-20 sail mhor 014.JPG

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.

Track_SAIL MHOR 20-11-16.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


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 :lol: ) 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:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 046.JPG

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:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 058.JPG

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!
2016-11-20 sail mhor 079.JPG

This photo shows the condition of the path (in the middle) - ice rink would describe it best!
2016-11-20 sail mhor 082.JPG

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!
2016-11-20 sail mhor 092.JPG

The wide glen was still in shadow and at about 10:30 am we witnessed "An Teallach sunrise":
2016-11-20 sail mhor 097.JPG

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...
2016-11-20 sail mhor 108.JPG

Having found a good set of stepping stones we realised we couldn't use them 'cause they were covered with verglass! :evil: :evil: 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:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 111.JPG

As soon as we emerged on the sunny side of life ( :lol: :lol: :lol: ), we felt like teleported into a different world! The sun was blazing now, soft snow covered everything like a king size duvet :D 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!
2016-11-20 sail mhor 127.JPG

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!
2016-11-20 sail mhor 119.JPG

Kevin stopped to adjust his boots and gaiters, as snow was becoming a fluffy obstacle now :lol:
Image2016-11-20 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 :lol: ):
2016-11-20 sail mhor 134.JPG

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...
2016-11-20 sail mhor 143.JPG

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 :shock: :roll: ), including those showing my struggle with the white stuff:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 152.JPG

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:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 156.JPG

Zoom to Beinn Dearg Bheig, one of the hidden gems of the Fisherfields:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 158.JPG

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:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 164.JPG

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 :D
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:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 165.JPG

Looking north to Assynt, the high lump of Beinn Dearg to the far right:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 179.JPG

Zoomed Beinn Dearg and friends:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 216.JPG

Panther bewildered:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 183.JPG

Conival/BMAssynt ridge I think, looks spectacular in white:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 180.JPG

An Teallach, you beauty!
2016-11-20 sail mhor 187.JPG

West Assynt pano from Ben More Coigach to Canisp:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 194.JPG

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!
2016-11-20 sail mhor 198.JPG

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:
Image2016-11-20 sail mhor 206 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
With An Teallach:
Image2016-11-20 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!
2016-11-20 sail mhor 230.JPG

Lucy in her winter gear, her 31st Corbett:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 229.JPG

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:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 227.JPG

View west to the sea:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 221.JPG

A spell of bad weather that never reached the land:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 219.JPG

A few more photos from the top...
An Teallach again:
Image2016-11-20 sail mhor 232 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Fisherfield zooms:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 236.JPG

2016-11-20 sail mhor 240.JPG

Distant tops of Torridon:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 250.JPG

Some cloud boiling up over the hills to the north:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 247.JPG

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...
2016-11-20 sail mhor 253.JPG

Beinn Dearg Mhor and Bheig, waiting to be discovered but not this time of the year, wait for summer my darlings!
2016-11-20 sail mhor 262.JPG

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:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 268.JPG

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 :D
On the lower slopes, we captured this interesting feature: a band of large stones covered in snow, like chocolate crumble topped with icing:
2016-11-20 sail mhor 283.JPG

An Teallach panorama:
Image2016-11-20 sail mhor 301 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Descending into the upper corrie of Allt Airdeasaidh:
Image2016-11-20 sail mhor 310 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
More icing on a cake:
Image2016-11-20 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:
Image2016-11-20 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! :lol: :lol:
.......
Really, really recommended for any time of the year, this forgotten Corbett deserves to be appreciated, a fantastic little hill wig big attitude :wink:
Last edited by BlackPanther on Thu Dec 05, 2019 5:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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BlackPanther
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Re: What to do when Panther wants Mhor

Postby Yorjick » Tue Nov 22, 2016 4:59 pm

Looking at your car stereo - "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" seems very fitting on this occasion! A great report for a fine Corbett! :thumbup:
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Re: What to do when Panther wants Mhor

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Tue Nov 22, 2016 5:03 pm

A great report and pictures, a hope we get some more glorious weather before the snow goes again because I really want to go out and try it, having read your report.
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Re: What to do when Panther wants Mhor

Postby jmarkb » Tue Nov 22, 2016 5:30 pm

Brilliant! It's a great wee hill for this time of year.

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.
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Re: What to do when Panther wants Mhor

Postby malky_c » Tue Nov 22, 2016 5:35 pm

Funny that all of the difficult snow conditions were on the lower hills for a change - probably just because so many people had been up Ben Wyvis that it was well trampled down :D .

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 8) . Great hill as you say - will be going up it again before too long I think.
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Re: What to do when Panther wants Mhor

Postby Mal Grey » Wed Nov 23, 2016 2:53 pm

Simply wonderful!
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Re: What to do when Panther wants Mhor

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Nov 23, 2016 4:13 pm

Many thanks, everyone :D At last the wintry madness has started! I can't wait for another deep snow adventure!

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 :D

I bet that it was easier up higher hills with the trail well broken :lol: 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 :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: What to do when Panther wants Mhor

Postby 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 :lol: :lol: :lol:


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.
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Re: What to do when Panther wants Mhor

Postby Alteknacker » Thu Nov 24, 2016 1:00 am

Great report, and wonderful pictures :clap: :clap: :clap: What a place! Can't help but envy you, it being an 11 hour drive for me ....
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