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Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool


Postby Cairngorm creeper » Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:47 am

Munros included on this walk: Conival

Date walked: 26/01/2018

Distance: 14.5 km

Ascent: 950m

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Thanks to our recently converted van, we can at last, explore the more northerly mountains in winter, providing we can find a campsite with electric hook up and is open all year. (I am not made of stern enough to camp without heating).
With so much choice it was hard to know where to start, but we decided to go for a winter ascent of Conival.
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The Route

We stayed at the Port a Braigh campsite, and our day started with a forty five minute drive through the almost unreal landscape of Assynt, to reach Inchnadamph at 08:30.
The Glen was mainly snow free, but there had been a hard frost overnight and in places some large patches of old hard snow covered the path. The snow patches were just enough to slow us up, especially where they were across sloping ground, as we needed to kick steps to avoid a slide into the River Traligill.
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Walking in Along the River

As the frost melted the path periodically disappeared into bog, but it was a pleasant walk-in, by the side of the river, with Conival visible in the distance to lure us forward.
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Conival Calling Us On.

It was 10:30 before we started the ascent up a loose and eroded path. As we climbed higher the patches of snow gradually turned into a more consistent covering and when the Coire headwall came into view it was a white cliff standing out against an azure blue sky.
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The Coire Headwall

We stayed on the left hand side of the stream all the way up the Glen and footsteps in the snow showed that walkers in front of us stayed on the left of the stream to scramble up the headwall, so we decided to follow in there wake. Care was needed as it was slippery/icy in places and very loose in others, but, it was easier than I had anticipated and neither crampons nor an ice axe was required. We realised from our descent later in the day that the route on the right hand side of the stream was even easier, :lol: .
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Scrambling up the Coire Headwall

The snow was well consolidated in the upper Coire and there was no real sign of a path so it was more a question of choosing a good line.
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The Upper Coire

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The snow made the route up Conival seem a lot steeper than I remembered, I am not sure if it was my memory that was ar fault or if it was the lack of paths making a difference, but it was good fun as well as hard work..
Initially the snow was soft enough to kick steps even on the steeper sections.
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Steeper than Expected

When the ground levelled out briefly it seemed it a good idea to don crampons whilst it was possible to do so in comfort,
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Crampon Time

and we were glad we made use of this opportunity,because, to our surprise, we found ourselves front pointing up the next steep slope. :lol:
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Me Swearing! Never

My crampons, which have a very short front section, not normally a problem on my short feet, did not feel very secure on the sustained steepness and as I tried to control my rising anxiety with calming thoughts (and periodic swearing) I resolved to buy some sensible crampons before going out again.
As we ascended Conival’s slopes the cloud swirled about beneath us, so at times we were looking down into mist and then a few minutes later we could see for miles.
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Firm Snow and Swirling Mist

By the time we reached a higher plateau we were seriously flagging. The dreaded lurgy and a few weeks of inactivity had helped us reach new levels of hill unfitnes. :lol:. We plod on, deceived into thinking the summit is only over the next slope, which of course it never is, but at last we reach the summit ridge and the hard work is behind us. As we stepped onto more exposed terrain the wind had picked up enough to create some spin drift and create a more wintery atmosphere, a distinct change from the balmy weather we had been enjoying so far 8).
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The Top Ridge

Although the ridge was not overly narrow there was a short rocky spine sticking out above the snow.
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Rime on the Rocks

We bypassed the spine on the way up but did have a balance along it coming down:D .
We could now see the real Conival summit ahead, looking very impressive with its row of crags.
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Crags Around The Summit

It was 13:40 before we reached the summit where the wind shelter was almost hidden under snow.
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Summit Wind Shelter is Almost Buried

Given the time Ben More was out of the question, and without shelter it was too windy to stop comfortably so we did an almost immediate about turn.
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About Turn from the Summit

Walking back along the top gave us plenty of opportunity to enjoy the views and a balance along the spine :lol: .
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From the Top You Can See for Miles

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Zoomed to Quinag

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Zoomed to Assynt

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The Mist Sweeps In.

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Looking Back at the Summit

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The Very Top of the Ridge

Then it is time to make tracks if we are to reach the main path by dark.
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Coming Down

As we were making our descent I was waiting for the steep sections that I had found exciting on the way up, but as so often happens, they never materialised and we were back in the higher Coire, removing our crampons and looking for the start of the scramble down.
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The Late Afternoonviews of Assynt take on a Magical Quality

We found the cairn at the top of the Coire headwall marking the route, which was no more difficult than a steep path the odd granny stopper.
The snow line had receded during the day so we were soon following the rough path down, alongside the gorge and when the path dropped down to the waterside we stopped for a break.
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Feeling a Touch Weary

We were nearly back at the green barn before headtorches were required and back at the van by 18:30.
Feeling peckish and wanting to celebrate our perfect day with some fish and chips we drove to Ullapool full of culinary expectations only to find all the fish and chip shops were closed and to quote Leonard Cohen ‘It was as dead as Heaven on a Saturday night’. Our only disappoint on an otherwise perfect day.
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby litljortindan » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:49 pm

Fantastic photos, enough to encourage me to think of a trip there. Probably not a good idea this time of year for me but maybe in the Spring.
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby Pastychomper » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:05 am

Thanks for that, you got some great pictures.

I did Conival a few summers ago and remember all those false summits on the way up! :shock: Worth it though, even in cloud.
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby Mal Grey » Wed Feb 14, 2018 12:51 pm

Great pictures, looks like a perfect day.


Until the horrific ending, you must be traumatised still. No fish and chips! In Ullapool! Outrageous. Ferry Boat Inn does decent grub these days, and was open mid-week last March, which doesn't necessarily mean its always open, but gives hope.
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:46 pm

litljortindan wrote:Fantastic photos, enough to encourage me to think of a trip there. Probably not a good idea this time of year for me but maybe in the Spring.

I hope you do make it there, well worth the trip, snow or not, and your photos have inspired me so often. :D
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:55 pm

Pastychomper wrote:Thanks for that, you got some great pictures.

I did Conival a few summers ago and remember all those false summits on the way up! :shock: Worth it though, even in cloud.

I am pleased you enjoyed it. The first time we went up Conival it was in a heavy clag so you couldn’t see all the false summits :lol: but as you say still worth it especially as the cloud cleared on the way back.
Mal Grey wrote:Great pictures, looks like a perfect day.


Until the horrific ending, you must be traumatised still. No fish and chips! In Ullapool! Outrageous. Ferry Boat Inn does decent grub these days, and was open mid-week last March, which doesn't necessarily mean its always open, but gives hope.

It was a perfect day, but still traumatised by our lack of fish and chips :lol: , we had been looking forward to them all the way down. To be fair we were looking for a take away as feeling a bit mucky to eat in. I think there must be one tucked away for the locals, I can’t believe the residents of Ullapool go all winter without chips.
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:36 am

Better no chips than half-digested salami! :lol: :lol: :lol:

I remember Conival - BMA route from summer time, its quite steep indeed, must have been a good workout in snow!

As for swearing, I do it sometimes on steep slopes, and to avoid offending other walkers, I have options in 5 different languages, including Russian and French. Maybe I'll learn Swedish or Bulgarian and swear in those, too :wink:

BTW we have cooked up a route up Conival that includes the 860m northern top and a visit to a plane crash site. There is a grave of the victims as well as scattered remains of the plane (I read somewhere that it's the highest burial site in Scotland). We hoped to go there last Autumn but weather wasn't great up north late in the year. Now, we're waiting for proper spring to visit the site :D
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby jmarkb » Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:06 pm

That's great! We had a tough but fun day breaking trail up there about 3 weeks earlier. Took us 4 hours to the summit, so we also abandoned the continuation to BMC.


BlackPanther wrote:BTW we have cooked up a route up Conival that includes the 860m northern top and a visit to a plane crash site.


That's definitely worthwhile. Beware of Beinn Uidhe, though, in case you are tempted, it involves endless boulder-hopping and needs a very good sense of humour!


Spot the person:
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby ancancha » Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:18 pm

Looks like a fabulous ridge to Ben More Assynt from Conival; the longer days needed for safety.
Nice scenery :clap:
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby malky_c » Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:49 pm

Looks just lovely on the high ridge between the summits 8) . Got some interesting plans for returning to these from some unconventional directions.

BlackPanther wrote:Better no chips than half-digested salami! :lol: :lol: :lol:

You don't need to keep bringing it up everywhere :wink:
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby ancancha » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:19 pm

malky_c wrote:Looks just lovely on the high ridge between the summits 8) . Got some interesting plans for returning to these from some unconventional directions.

BlackPanther wrote:Better no chips than half-digested salami! :lol: :lol: :lol:

You don't need to keep bringing it up everywhere :wink:


Groan :lol: :clap:
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Fri Feb 16, 2018 11:30 pm

BlackPanther wrote:Better no chips than half-digested salami! :lol: :lol: :lol:

I remember Conival - BMA route from summer time, its quite steep indeed, must have been a good workout in snow!

As for swearing, I do it sometimes on steep slopes, and to avoid offending other walkers, I have options in 5 different languages, including Russian and French. Maybe I'll learn Swedish or Bulgarian and swear in those, too :wink:

BTW we have cooked up a route up Conival that includes the 860m northern top and a visit to a plane crash site. There is a grave of the victims as well as scattered remains of the plane (I read somewhere that it's the highest burial site in Scotland). We hoped to go there last Autumn but weather wasn't great up north late in the year. Now, we're waiting for proper spring to visit the site :D


Perhaps there are worse things than no Chips :think: Although I didn’t think so at the time. :lol:
Fortunately most of my swearing happens in places other people are not usually daft enough to be found, :lol: but perhaps I should start practicing some other languages just to be on the safe side. :lol: I hope you get a good day for your route up Conival I always think it is interesting exploring different routes and aspects of the same mountain.

malky_c wrote:Looks just lovely on the high ridge between the summits 8) . Got some interesting plans for returning to these from some unconventional directions.

Good luck with your plans, look forward to reading about them. We have been eyeing up some of the scrambling routes for the summer.

ancancha wrote:Looks like a fabulous ridge to Ben More Assynt from Conival; the longer days needed for safety.
Nice scenery :clap:

It did look very inviting, hopefully the snow will not disappear too soon so that there is a chance of trying it in winter conditions. :)

jmarkb wrote:That's great! We had a tough but fun day breaking trail up there about 3 weeks earlier. Took us 4 hours to the summit, so we also abandoned the continuation to BMC.

I can imagine that would be very hard work, I hope you were well rewarded for your efforts. We were really lucky with the snow conditions.
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby Alteknacker » Fri Feb 16, 2018 11:56 pm

A cracking hill, and some absolutely superb photos. :clap: :clap: :clap: This is one mountain I will most definitely do.
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:36 am

Alteknacker wrote:A cracking hill, and some absolutely superb photos. :clap: :clap: :clap: This is one mountain I will most definitely do.

Thanks, a cracking hill indeed and now you have the time you really should visit the magical landscape north of Ullapool.
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Re: Perfect Snow On Conival but no Chips in Ullapool

Postby spiderwebb » Sat Feb 17, 2018 12:59 pm

Stunning photos, what a day :D :D Some time since I've been up there, but had a fantastic memorable day, and I recall a sting in the tail heading over to BMA, as there is a drop and reascent before the summit, which isn't obvious from Conival :lol:
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