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Talk about birthday gifts... Thanks Assynt

Talk about birthday gifts... Thanks Assynt


Postby SummitStupid » Tue Apr 11, 2017 8:18 am

Route description: Cul Mor

Corbetts included on this walk: Cul Mor

Date walked: 30/01/2017

Distance: 10.7 km

Ascent: 660m

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For my first walk report on this site I thought I'd write about what I did on my birthday in Assynt at the end of January. I'd spent four days alone on Skye, and the day before my birthday I got the bus over to Inverness where I met my friend Rachel, who'd flown up from London to join me. In her hired car we drove up to a hostel a little way south of Ullapool, our home for the next four nights.

Our first morning dawned very clear, and very windy. I'd wanted to climb Ben More Coigach but, given that Rachel was largely untested with exposure, I felt it would be unkind to take her along the relatively narrow southwest ridge. Instead we headed up to Knockan Crag to climb the comparatively benign Cul Mor.

Immediately on getting out of the car we donned our waterproofs to block the icy wind, then surveyed the landscape. Every mountain in Assynt lay before us in crystal clarity, resplendent in a dusting of fresh snow, cloud free. Except for Cul Mor, naturally, which wore one of those rounded cloud caps which is clearly in no hurry to go anywhere. Nevertheless, this didn't dampen our spirits and we sallied forth in good spirits, pausing frequently to shatter icy puddles on the path beneath our feet. Small things...

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The path petered out on encountering the peaty, heathery slopes of Meallan Diomhain, a minor, flat-topped outlier. In warmer months this area is a bit of a boggy mess, but today the ground crunched and crackled beneath our shoes. Soon enough we reached the lochan at 600 metres, which was entirely frozen over. We tentatively stepped out onto the ice, though neither of us ventured too far from the shore. I've seen too many YouTube clips of icy lakes to ever fully trust a frozen body of water.

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The lochan sits in a shallow corrie, the northern rim of which is studded with outrageously-sculpted outcrops of Torridonian sandstone before it drops away steeply to the moor below. It was a fine spot to break for lunch, hunkered behind one of the outcrops for shelter, perving lustfully over at Suilven.

Being able to gaze at Suilven is perhaps Assynt's chief charm. It is the most beautiful mountain in Britain, I think, and endlessly fascinating. At once grotesque and stunning, forbidding and enticing. It stands in isolation, appearing from the west as some wrecked, ghostly galleon ploughing seawards. We would stand on top of it in the sunset two days later, but that's another story for another time.

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Our hunger sated, we began the slog up Cul Mor's summit cone. In Summer this is a simple exercise in rockhopping, but we had passed the snowline and the unconsolidated white stuff made things awkward for us, both in shoes rather than boots. The soles of my battered Scarpas had long since worn smooth, and my position as leader of the expedition looked under threat as I inelegantly clambered up the slippery slope.

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We were now in the cloud, though it did periodically break, giving pulse-quickening glimpses along the north ridge and back to Suilven. When we reached the summit area I gleefully started jogging towards the trig point, but another break in the cloud stopped me dead.

Sometimes your senses are assaulted so savagely that your body takes a moment to work out how to react. This was such an occasion. Banks of cloud were sweeping up from the south, soaring over the summit and plummetting down the other side, like an ethereal stampede; the pure white of the summit area contrasted starkly with the rich russet of the moorland below; in the distance, Conival and Ben More Assynt looked almost Himalayan in scale. But it was still Suilven, four miles hence, which stole the attention. As the cloud broke, it was framed in the gaps left, and where the cloud lingered a vivid Brocken Spectre hovered. It was sensory overload, and all I could do was laugh joyously at the ridiculousness of it all.

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I removed my gloves and spent half an hour wandered hither and thither like a dumb animal, spellbound, entranced, oblivious to the cold, firing off pictures almost at random. When I finally went to put my gloves back on, they were frozen almost solid.

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Finally, though we (or at least I) could have lingered forever, the cold began to seep through and we headed back down. Rachel negotiated the snowy boulderfield with somewhat more grace than I, and at one point I thwacked my knee so hard I momentarily thought I'd broken it. But I doubt even that would have spoiled my mood. That night we got drunk to commiserate my turning a year older, and the sense of ecological bliss from that day lasted all night.
SummitStupid
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 215
Munros:15   Corbetts:11
Grahams:3   
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:79
Wainwrights:55   
Joined: Apr 10, 2017
Location: North Wales

Re: Talk about birthday gifts... Thanks Assynt

Postby Beery Hiker » Tue Apr 11, 2017 9:16 am

Hope this is the first of many. Glad you got the view from the top - we did it a couple of years ago and the view was amazing, though the wind on the top was pretty fierce...
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Beery Hiker
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 55
Munros:77   Corbetts:13
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Joined: Mar 24, 2016

Re: Talk about birthday gifts... Thanks Assynt

Postby SummitStupid » Tue Apr 11, 2017 9:32 am

Thanks! This was actually my second go at Cul Mor, I camped in 50mph (at least) winds at Lochan Dearg a Chuil Moire in September, and after a very nearly entirely sleepless night of praying for the tent's integrity and keeping it propped up against my legs, and seeing the summit shrouded in immobile grey mist the next morning, I just had a weary wander up to the shoulder for a peek over to Suilven before heading down. Was great to finally get the views this time, though the view south and west was blocked by cloud.
SummitStupid
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 215
Munros:15   Corbetts:11
Grahams:3   
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:79
Wainwrights:55   
Joined: Apr 10, 2017
Location: North Wales

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