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The chicken's way to Stac Pollaidh's summit

The chicken's way to Stac Pollaidh's summit


Postby weaselmaster » Wed Mar 22, 2017 3:30 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Beinn a'Chaisgein Beag, Beinn Ghobhlach, Beinn nan Eun, Carn Loch nan Amhaichean, Sgiath a'Chaise, Stac Pollaidh

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Cnoc a'Bhaid-rallaich

Date walked: 21/03/2017

Time taken: 27 hours

Distance: 74.5 km

Ascent: 4080m

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Ah well - the time had come for the "Inn Pinn" of the Graham world - Stac Pollaidh true summit. We'd been to the middle summit cairn years ago, had a look at the challenging few moves on the final approach and thought "meh - another day". All my scrambling confidence seems to have evaporated of late - maybe cos I've not been doing any - and the thought of climbing this extremely exposed block was doing my head in. So back last autumn I decided that I wanted a man with a rope along to do what had to be done - I got in touch with Paul Tattersall from Go Further Scotland back in the autumn and asked for his assistance when the time came. With our last extended weekend, it was now or ...sometime later. The weather forecast was seriously rubbish and almost caused me to bale - high winds over the weekend with heavy snow - just what one wants for a trip to the far northwest. However, after much deliberation, and some to and fro-ing of emails with Paul we decided to go for it.

Allison managed to get away from work at lunchtime, having claimed some hours due, so we were able to head up the A82 and arrive in Ullapool at a reasonable time - ie when it was still light. It was snowing however, with a coating of wet snow on the road as we drove by Ardmair. I reckoned we should just camp at the Stac Pollaidh car park - we found a sloping spot and pitched up for the night. Some nice views to Cul Mor and to Beinn an Eoin before bedtime.

ImageDSC02895 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Mor Coigach
ImageDSC02898 by Al, on Flickr

Friday - Stac Pollaidh

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We'd arranged to meet Paul around 10am at the car park - he arrived about 9.30 and we did some preliminaries then set off. The clag was down over the ridge as we set out - I hoped the day would improve but it didn't til we got off the hill. Route was up the west side of the mountain then follow the faint path to the col, where there's a narrow sandy junction with the troublesome rock face. By the time we arrived it had started to snow/hail and the wind was gettign up. The clag hadn't lifted. Great :roll: We ditched our sacks and got into harnesses - it did feel a trifle embarrasing to be requiring a rope for what is basically 3 or 4 moves - but the difficulty really presents itself on the return from the summit, and I am very glad that I'd opted for the safer option - particularly with slippy wet surfaces like we had today. Anyhow, Allison set off first, having been shown the moves by Paul, and made it up no bother. I was a bit anxious, although without real reason, and set off after her, clambering to the top of the rock face. Off with the rope, skip along to the summit cairn and then back down again. I don't think my descent was particularly elegant, but I could imagine only too well how it might feel without the security of a rope.

ImageP1150060 by Al, on Flickr

Heading up
ImageP1150061 by Al, on Flickr

Approaching the hard bit
ImageP1150063 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150064 by Al, on Flickr

Allison sets off
ImageP1150066 by Al, on Flickr

Easy, really
ImageP1150068 by Al, on Flickr


My turn whilst Allison goes to the top
ImageP1150069 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150070 by Al, on Flickr

Imagestac2 by Al, on Flickr

Once we'd both returned to the col I suggested we have some lunch then decide what to do. We'd enjoyed a scramble along the ridge previously in great weather, which today wasn't. Anyway, we had a joyous amble along the ridge using the rope at one slippy part then descending to the eastern approach path and back to the car. A short day, but an important stage in our progress towards the Grahams. Paul was great company and I'd recommend him to anyone for climbs in the northwest.

ImageP1150073 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150074 by Al, on Flickr

We drove to Ullapool to do a little shopping before setting off for Badrallach campsite where we'd spend the next three days. We'd stayed here at midsummer 2014 when we'd completed our Munros on An Teallach and had fond memories of the site. It's changed hands in the meantime but is still a quirky and lovely site. We were the only tnet there - about 10 minutes after we arrived a campervan doing the NC500 joined us but that was it. The views over to An Teallach and Sail Mhor are special.

Sail Mhor from Badralloch
ImageDSC02904 by Al, on Flickr

An Teallach
ImageDSC02905 by Al, on Flickr

Bothy behind
ImageDSC02903 by Al, on Flickr

Saturday - Beinn a'Chaisgen Beag

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For Saturday's outing we'd chosen Beinn a'Chaisgen Beag, a remote western outlier of the Fisherfields. We'd climbed its big brother, Beinn a'Chaisgen Mor whilst doing a Fisherfields circuit. The approach for this single hill would be from the west- from Gruinard Bay, an area new to me. I knew there was a track in (in fact there are 3 possible track options from the west) but not the type of terrain. I'd looked at combining the hill with a circuit of Simms around Loch Toll a'Mhadaidh but reckoned that - at 27km just there and back - the single hill would have to do. I do like efficiency of hill bagging, however there are some areas it is really no hardship to return to time and again, and if the Fisherfields and friends are not a worthy place to revisit then nowhere is.

An Teallach / Loch Broom
ImageDSC02907 by Al, on Flickr

We drove the small distance from the campsite to the start of the track at Inchina, where there's verge parking. An Teallach looked sumptuous in a coat of new snow. I'd stopped to take some snaps on the Badrallach road, just beside a sheep field and the whole flock (including one goat) had run towards me expectantly - I felt sorry they were not getting a morning feed from me and watched their despondent, hungry eyes as I drove off. From the start of the track there were some rather special views - An Teallach from behind, as it were, and the fantastic Beinn Dearg Bheag and Mor - probably my favourite Corbetts, with the northern half of Beinn a'Chlaidheimh just visible beyond. The Gruinard River was flowing swift and deep - glad we didn't have to cross that. A phalanx of geese flew overhead, honking. The track provides a good surface for walking with options for camping along side should you wish. There's a section enclosed by deer fence. As we continued, the sky became more overcast, but still providing impressive views of the mountains beyond.

Hopeful Sheep
ImageDSC02908 by Al, on Flickr

Feed us!
ImageDSC02909 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Ghobhlaich, BMC in the backdrop
ImageDSC02911 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Mor Coigach
ImageDSC02912 by Al, on Flickr

On the track, Beinn Deargs ahead
ImageDSC02915 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02916 by Al, on Flickr

An Teallach
ImageDSC02921 by Al, on Flickr

Deargs, Chlaimhaidh beyond
ImageDSC02922 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Dearg Bheag
ImageDSC02924 by Al, on Flickr

An Teallach
ImageDSC02926 by Al, on Flickr

We reached the small concrete bridge over the Allt Loch Ghiubhsachain and - without crossing it took a right up the adjacent hillside. The SMC book suggests following the Allt up for a km or so - but this would mean crossing the river and didn't seem to confer any particular advantage over our route. We climbed heathery slopes, boggy in places to reach Creag Mheall meadhonach where we stopped for food. Our next objective was to reach the stalkers path which skirts north round Creag na Sgoinne - this was a faint but serviceable path with the Toll a'Mhadaidh burn to cross - Allison complained that there was one stepping stone too few - write a letter to the estate, I suggested. There's a curious, solitary wooden chalet - presumably for stalking- lower down the slopes of Frith Mheallan.

Off the track
ImageDSC02927 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn a'Chaisgen Beag on right
ImageDSC02928 by Al, on Flickr

The top of our hill was unfortunately in clag. we reached the bealach with Frith Mheallan and had a clag bound 180 metres to the summit of Beag, with snow underfoot. We discovered one of the stone "circle" sculptures we've found on a few hills, mostly in Torridon. Allison decided it was a portal to another dimension. I decided she needed a snack :lol: We made the trig and (higher, slightly) cairn then about turned and followed our tracks back. Loch Toll a'Mhadaidh looked beguiling and most definately worthy of a visit, with its solitary tree and general air of mystery. A place for a future wild camp, I think. Typically as we retreated from our hill the clag lifted. Ah well... The walk out was very pleasant, with great views of the western spurs of An Teallach and the large hump of Sail Mhor. A splendid day's outing, capped off by some more breathtaking views on the road home. Virtually all of the overnight snow had melted away - our target for the morrow, Beinn Ghobhlach, bare as a baby's bottom now. Weather was pleasant enough to allow us to sit outside for our meal drinking in the scenery.

ImageDSC02930 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02931 by Al, on Flickr

Loch a'Toll Mhadaidh
ImageDSC02935 by Al, on Flickr

Clag lifts - after descent
ImageDSC02939 by Al, on Flickr

Ba'CB and Beinn na Sgoinne
ImageDSC02940 by Al, on Flickr

an Teallach
ImageDSC02942 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02946 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02947 by Al, on Flickr

A good day out
ImageDSC02950 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02951 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02952 by Al, on Flickr

Less snow now on An Teallach
ImageDSC02956 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02957 by Al, on Flickr

Loch Broom vista
ImageDSC02959 by Al, on Flickr

Sunday - Beinn Ghobhlaich

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Sunday saw a return of high winds and had a generally unsettled feel. We had a short day - just along the road from the campsite lies Beinn Ghobhlach. We'd agreed to add the Marilyn of Cnoc a'Bhaid rallaich which would allow a return straight down the hillside back to the campsite. Wandered along the road west from the site, passing the old phone box (a real Local Hero feel about this), past a wooden eco house with turf roof I envied and onto the track to Sgoraig. There had been a large wildfire along the southern slopes of Beinn Ghobhlaich back in mid February, stretching at least 2 miles along the coastline - the heather had been burnt back and the ground charred - but the first shoots of new growth were just starting to return. It made walking easier, I will add. We progressed up the blackened slopes of Ghobhlaich for around 300m til we saw the two beautiful lochans at the foot of Ghobhlaich. Passing over the isthmus there's a large balanced boulder that makes a good rocking chair.

Setting out
ImageP1150078 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150079 by Al, on Flickr

Charred earth
ImageP1150080 by Al, on Flickr

Ghobhlaich ahead
ImageP1150083 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150087 by Al, on Flickr

Infinity loch
ImageP1150085 by Al, on Flickr

Isthmus
ImageP1150089 by Al, on Flickr

Rocking stone
ImageP1150090 by Al, on Flickr

Onwards up the steep slopes of Ghobhlaich, the wind becoming ever stronger as we near the summit. Skies across Loch Broom becoming wilder with surges of brilliance, white horses on the loch surface. Past some wind blasted sandstone shapes up to the summit cairn, nearly blown away. The wind-shelter really wasn't offering much protection as we rapidly headed down the north-east slope towards Cnoc Bhaid-rallaich. Scampering down to the bealach we followed a natural cleft in the hill upwards to the eastern top of the Cnoc. Plenty of opportunity for little scrambles up the wind sculpted stone blocks. The views we'd hoped for from Ghobhlaich's top but were denied by clag - namely Beinn Mor Coigach were visible from here -a great slab of mountain ridge. Across to the south, An teallach and Sail Mhor didn't look too bad either. We descended steeply over grassy slopes, following the burn that comes out right at the campsite. Another fine, if windy day.

View across Loch Broom
ImageP1150093 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150094 by Al, on Flickr

Windy Ghobhlaich summit
ImageP1150097 by Al, on Flickr

Cnoc a'Bhaid Rallaich
ImageP1150098 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Mor Coigach
ImageP1150102 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150103 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150109 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150110 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150114 by Al, on Flickr

Ape Head
ImageP1150116 by Al, on Flickr


ImageP1150117 by Al, on Flickr

Campsite
ImageP1150123 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150124 by Al, on Flickr


We ventured into the bothy at the campsite - this is available at the princely sum of £8 pppn and has log burner plus kitchen with running water and fridge. It also has a fine selection of (sadly empty) whisky cartons round the walls. We thought we might "upgrade" from the tent given the forecast was for rain and more winds overnight. It also meant we could get the tent packed away dry for our final night. We'd just dissembled the tent and moved our gear into the bothy when a car arrives at the gate. However, the couple inside were staying at the stone cottage next door 9also run by the campsite) so we didn't have company after all. A more ambitious curry was cooked than could easily be managed in the tent and we enjoyed a wee nip by the glow of the log burner. True enough, hailstones rattled off the roof for much of the night, so it was a good call to move.

in the bothy
ImageDSC02963 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02965 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02968 by Al, on Flickr

Relaxing by the fire
ImageDSC02971 by Al, on Flickr

Monday - Carn Loch nan Amhaichean & Beinn nan Eun

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Up early on Monday for another long walk -this time to Carn Loch nan Amhaichean and Beinn nan Eun to the west of Wyvis. I had looked at options for the route - the nicest I'd come up with was a circuit clockwise but this involved twice crossing the Abhainn Beinn nan Eun - given recent snowmelt and wetness this was of some concern. Eventually we settled on the SMC out and back route which crossed the river higher up - probably wise. We parked at the start of the track to Strath Rannoch, across from the inchbae Hotel. It was a far more pleasant track than I'd expected, with lots of new native tree planting and the waters of the Abhainn Strath Rainich gushing alongside. We spotted the white tops of the Beinn Dearg Munros to the north, then the long back of Meall a'Grianain and Beinn a'Chaistell. We approached the farm buildings after 6km and could finally see our first hill, Carn Loch nan Amhaichean, up ahead. The route description took us onto a grassy path on the west side of the Allt a'Choire Rainich, which we had to cross after passing a gorge. Then onto easy heathery slopes up the whaleback of our hill, aiming for a huge boulder perched there. The top was wind blasted and the weather rapidly alternated between periods of sunshine and clag/hail showers. We needed to link arms to battle against the wind at the summit, again making a hasty exit northwards to reach the shore of Loch nan Amihaichean. We sought shelter in a peat hag for lunch before setting out over trackless bog/tussocks along the north side of the loch, then following the outflow down til it reached the Abhainn Beinn nan Eun. Fortunately this was easy to cross, although deep and fast flowing - we found a narrowing that allowed a single step over the water - no wet feet!.

Track
ImageP1150126 by Al, on Flickr

Deargs (L) and Beinn a'Chaistell (R)
ImageP1150127 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150129 by Al, on Flickr

Amhaichean
ImageP1150133 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150134 by Al, on Flickr

To the Boulder!
ImageP1150135 by Al, on Flickr

Strath Vaith Hills
ImageP1150137 by Al, on Flickr

Summit Amhaichean, Carn Chuinneag in backdrop
ImageP1150140 by Al, on Flickr

Loch nan Amhaichean
ImageP1150142 by Al, on Flickr

Carn Loch nan Amhaichean - water devils over the loch
ImageP1150148 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn nan Eun
ImageP1150150 by Al, on Flickr

Chuinneag
ImageP1150151 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150152 by Al, on Flickr


Our route now involved ascending the northern slopes of Beinn nan Eun, again using a boulder for reference. There's a way to go after reaching Cul Beinn nan Eun and the wind was ever stronger - this hill being some 50m higher than the last one - glad I wasn't trying to go up a Munro today... Snow and ice on the approach to the summit, quite challenging in the wind to get to the cairn and remain there in any upright position. We retraced our steps down, found the same place to cross the burn and went back along Loch nan Aimhaichean, somewhat higher up to avoid the wetness. We aimed for a tiny lochan just north of Carn Loch nan Aimhaichean and from there down into Coire Rhainich where we picked up the furthest reaches of our outward stalkers path once again. A sense of relief as we walked down the track that we'd managed to get these two done - would have been a different matter under deep snow.

View back to Amhaichean
ImageP1150154 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150155 by Al, on Flickr

It's windy
ImageP1150159 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150160 by Al, on Flickr

Descent into Coire Rhainnich
ImageP1150161 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150166 by Al, on Flickr

By the time we reached the car it had gone 5pm. We were both tired and had decided to head to the Riverview campsite in Contin, which appeared to be open when we'd passed by last weekend. However when we got there it was not open. Irritated - I'd have wild camped on the Strath Rannoch track otherwise - I decided just to head down the road, maybe hitting Comrie croft once again. It wasn't particularly good weather to drive, with more hail squalls coming in then darkness falling and it was after 9 by the time we got pitched at Comrie. Didn't take long to get to sleep that night. i was wakened in the small hours by Allison battering the roof of the tent. Snow - lots of it!

Tuesday - Sgiath a'Chaise

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We wakened quite early to a white soggy world. Wet snow every where. Our plan for the day had been to visit Sgiath a'Chaise down by Loch Lubnaig. As we drove along Loch Earn we could see how much snow had fallen during the night - the hills were loaded - although the high winds left some areas blasted. We parked up at Ardchullarie More and took the track we'd used to get to Beinn Each previously. The start of the track is in bad nick, with a number of fallen trees across it - man with a chainsaw required please. Once on the track the snow was several inches deep and dazzling in the sunshine. We had a look up at the heavily laden slopes of our mountain and picked a suitable route upwards, aiming just south of Creag a'Mhadaidh. hard work ploughing through soft deep snow, over knee deep - haven't done much of that this winter. Once on the ridge the wind was fierce, spindrift necessitating the use of goggles. The snow underfoot was less deep, much of it having been blown next door to Beinn Each, although there were deep drifts in places - enough to swallow you up. We could see the outline of a path, following fenceposts to the summit of Sgiath a'Chaise. Some good views to the mountains west. We returned along the same route, following our tracks down the mountainside a lot quicker than we'd come up and back along the track to the car - the sky to the south an ominous black.

ImageP1150169 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150170 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150171 by Al, on Flickr

sgiath a'Chaise
ImageP1150174 by Al, on Flickr

Up to Creag a'Mhadaidh
ImageP1150177 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Each behind
ImageP1150178 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150181 by Al, on Flickr

Summit, looking to Beinn Each
ImageP1150183 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150184 by Al, on Flickr

View west
ImageP1150185 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150187 by Al, on Flickr

Descent
ImageP1150190 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150191 by Al, on Flickr

Black sky to the south
ImageP1150192 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1150194 by Al, on Flickr
Last edited by weaselmaster on Wed Mar 22, 2017 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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weaselmaster
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Re: The chicken's way to Stac Pollaidh's summit

Postby basscadet » Wed Mar 22, 2017 4:21 pm

Another good haul there Al :)

Your photos of Stac Pollaidh look terrifying - I remember it as only being one move to get up and a scary yet protected (and obviously very graceful in my case) descent via 'the squirm' :lol: Oh how the weather changes everything eh?
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Re: The chicken's way to Stac Pollaidh's summit

Postby Mal Grey » Wed Mar 22, 2017 4:28 pm

A grand few days, loving the contrast with the snow at the end!

We headed up the Gruinard track to the loch on bikes before driving south at the end of our week. Nice valley. Our views were somewhat worse though, and we didn't linger long before turning round and heading back. It did prove its a good way into the hills.

Some of the maps seem to be out of sync with which part of the text they go with. Easy enough to understand though.

The bunkhouse looks pretty much unchanged since we checked it out in the early 90s...
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Re: The chicken's way to Stac Pollaidh's summit

Postby weaselmaster » Wed Mar 22, 2017 7:30 pm

basscadet wrote:Another good haul there Al :)

Your photos of Stac Pollaidh look terrifying - I remember it as only being one move to get up and a scary yet protected (and obviously very graceful in my case) descent via 'the squirm' :lol: Oh how the weather changes everything eh?


Yes, I think the first move after getting off the ground is the challenging one going up, but the squirm round the corner on the way back down would have been the one that got me :lol:
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Re: The chicken's way to Stac Pollaidh's summit

Postby weaselmaster » Wed Mar 22, 2017 7:32 pm

Mal Grey wrote:A grand few days, loving the contrast with the snow at the end!

We headed up the Gruinard track to the loch on bikes before driving south at the end of our week. Nice valley. Our views were somewhat worse though, and we didn't linger long before turning round and heading back. It did prove its a good way into the hills.

Some of the maps seem to be out of sync with which part of the text they go with. Easy enough to understand though.

The bunkhouse looks pretty much unchanged since we checked it out in the early 90s...


Cheers Mal - have been thoroughly enjoying your North West trip reports. The Campsite is now run by a Herbalist who is branching out into various kinds of weirdness in the bothy.
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Re: The chicken's way to Stac Pollaidh's summit

Postby Sgurr » Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:43 pm

Well, if you are chicken, so am I. Husband's bad knee would not allow an ascent of the penultimate step on Stac Pollaidh, and he'd climbed it happily in his thirties, so as I had acquired a rotary cuff tear in my shoulder from showing off on Skye, I hired a guide too: Ken Keith, whom I would heartily recommend as well.
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Re: The chicken's way to Stac Pollaidh's summit

Postby Jaxter » Sat Mar 25, 2017 12:08 am

You guys are going to run out of hills to climb at this rate :lol: :lol:

Some smashing photos so thanks for helping me decide where I'm spending my Easter holidays (one week to go, not that I'm counting :lol: )

I'm short so can't reach the hand holds on the scramble! Been up and down the "squirm" a couple times though. Can highly recommend it :D
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Re: The chicken's way to Stac Pollaidh's summit

Postby Alteknacker » Sat Apr 01, 2017 12:23 pm

Wow - another mega report! Made a great read, though I am very envious of all that snow at the end.

I see that you seemed to be running out of super hero fuel on this trip (maximum speed only 38.7 kph... :?: )

I think I'd have been a bit star-struck with Paul - first man to do the Cuillins - including the Inn Pinn - with a mountain bike (decades before Danny McCaskill); Cuillins both ways in a day; etc. etc. Seems like quite a character!!! :crazy:
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Re: The chicken's way to Stac Pollaidh's summit

Postby TRG318 » Wed May 15, 2019 2:16 pm

Great report!

Just one little quibble: the Sgiath a'Chaise that it's linked to is in the Trossachs. It's a little unfortunate that the most praised report listed for that little Graham (yours!) isn't about that hill at all!
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Re: The chicken's way to Stac Pollaidh's summit

Postby weaselmaster » Wed May 15, 2019 3:26 pm

TRG318 wrote:Great report!

Just one little quibble: the Sgiath a'Chaise that it's linked to is in the Trossachs. It's a little unfortunate that the most praised report listed for that little Graham (yours!) isn't about that hill at all!


Cheers. The way i write my reports is to include all those that have been done in a single "trip" away from home. Usually they're in one area, but sometimes we end up doing hills distant from the main clutch of summits on the way up or back from where ever we've been. I appreciate that writing reports in this way can contain a lot of spurious information if you are interested in one specific hill rather than a report hill-by-hill.
However, Sgiath a'Chaise does get a (brief) mention and a few photos in the last bit of my report - maybe you fell asleep before the end :wink:
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Grahams:76   Donalds:89
Sub 2000:367   Hewitts:31
Wainwrights:15   Islands:28
Joined: Aug 22, 2012
Location: Greenock

3 people think this report is great.
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