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Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout


Postby dav2930 » Sun Mar 25, 2018 6:47 pm

Route description: Slioch, near Kinlochewe

Munros included on this walk: Slioch

Date walked: 04/03/2018

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 20.6 km

Ascent: 1150m

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This was the first walk that Karl and me did on our visit to Torridon in early March. Though it didn't yield much in the way of views, it was a great experience and I thought it might be worth sharing.

As described in my previous report on Beinn Alligin (link here), we'd booked places at the bunkhouse in Kinlochewe and arrived on the afternoon of Saturday 3rd. Considering most of the country was buried under a blanket of snow following the 'beast from the east', the snowline was surprisingly high. The North-west had escaped the worst of it. The weather wasn't too bad when we arrived, though the summits were hidden in clag. The forecast for Sunday wasn't that good - 40-50mph winds, cloud on the hills above 600m, snow showers, possibly some bright spells. Not good enough for any of the Torridon big three, but we were keen to get up something so we chose Slioch, which would be a new Munro tick for both of us. Another plus was that we could start the walk from the bunkhouse without driving anywhere. :)

After a hearty breakfast we walked straight out of the bunkhouse door and up the road, turning left for Incheril and the car park beyond it, from which the walk proper begins. A bit of extra walking, then, but it saved the hassle of piling into the car for just a km or so. Through the other side of the car park a gate gave access to the path leading to the head of Loch Maree. This was a pleasant, almost level walk. The weather was quite pleasant too, even with a bit of blue sky in places, but already with a gusty breeze.

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Above the Kinlochewe River approaching Loch Maree


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Loch Maree


It was great to reach the shore of Loch Maree and we soon came to a beautiful bay called Camas an Trusdair, where some wild goats were grazing peacefully. It was a shame to disturb them, but they didn't seem too bothered by us and decided to walk right past us along the shore.

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Goat passing by


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Another goat passing by


A few hundred yards past the bay we came to the footbridge which crosses the Abhainn an Ehasaigh coming down from Glean Bianasdail. On the other side of this the path heads uphill to begin the ascent of Slioch.

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Footbridge over the Abhainn an Ehasaigh marks the start of the ascent


We kept beside the burn, which was a delight, but we had to leave it further up to join the main path, which became very icy as we gained height.

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Waterfall in the Abhainn an Ehasaigh


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Bheinn a' Mhuinidh, an impressive Graham


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Loch Maree


We managed to dodge the ice on the path all the way up to the col beside Meall Each, but as we entered the corrie, big, thick sheets of the stuff were hard to avoid, so we put our Microspikes on. A chilly breeze was blowing so we put our wind-proofs on as well.

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Entering Coire na Sleaghaich


This was also where we entered the world of snow. Some of it was soft and creaky while other parts were firm neve.

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Looking down-corrie to Sgurr Dubh


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Down-corrie to Bheinn a' Mhuinidh


We considered going up to the col just past Sgurr Dubh but in the end decided to follow the standard summer route, of which there was no sign on the ground. There were no footprints to follow, but, with reference to the map, we could make out the crucial ledge-line where the path cuts back from the corrie to meet the ridge. The ridge above disappeared into the clag and looked pretty steep.

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Route out of Coire na Sleaghaich onto the ridge


We thought we might get away with crossing the banked-out ledge-line with just our poles and Microspikes, but as the snow-bank steepened towards the ridge we found the Microspikes inadequate, so we backtracked to a point that was safe enough to put our crampons on and get our axes out. No problem getting across then.

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The banked-out ramp-line leading onto the ridge


On reaching the ridge a frozen Lochan appeared before us, confirming that we were in the right place. It was blowing a gale though, and felt very cold, so we stopped to swap our wind-proofs for insulated jackets, and our normal gloves for thicker ones. It's not often I do that, but knowing that I'd have to stop a few times to take compass bearings I though it best to keep as comfortable as possible.

The ridge soon steepened, but was surprisingly devoid of snow on the steepest section, and was nowhere near as difficult as it had appeared from below. The only real problem was being buffeted by the very gusty wind, which almost knocked us off our feet at times. For that reason it would have been difficult to take photos, so I'm afraid I didn't bother trying until we got to the summit. Sorry about that! :(

It wasn't long before we were in the clag and couldn't see much in any case. Above the rocky section we met the snow and plodded up a broad ridge of solid neve where our crampons paid dividends. The ridge was just well enough defined to follow without a compass bearing and led us to a top marked by a cairn, overlooking the south face of Slioch. The wind was so strong we found it difficult to stand straight and impossible to communicate. But the map had to come out and a compass bearing taken; all very awkward with thick gloves on, and being careful not to lose the map!

Following the compass carefully, we descended from the little top onto a flat expanse of white nothingness. A tiny lochan is marked on the map but was nowhere to be seen, being frozen and buried under the snow. After a while the ground started rising again and before long we reached the trig point on the south summit, where Karl gave me a pat on the back for getting us this far. We couldn't hear each other speak even if we shouted at the top of our voices. :crazy:

All that remained was to take another bearing for the north summit, which is a metre higher. The straight bearing is virtually due north, but the cliffs to the west bite into the col between the summits and care is needed to avoid them. We kept slightly east of north to begin, then, once on the uphill, veered slightly west of north until we met the cairn on the north summit. And yes, it was a lot of hassle getting a summit photo! :roll: :lol:

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Karl at the summit


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Looking north - no sign of A' Mhaighdean


It would have been nice to have followed the ridge around the head of the corrie to Sgurr an Tuill Bhain, but with conditions as they were that would have been pushing our luck. In unspoken agreement we just followed the reverse bearing back to the trig point, then another bearing back down the ridge. We hit the path at the top of the rocky section bang on, and emerged out of the clag just above the big, frozen lochan. We'd kept our crampons on so we lost no time in crossing the banked-out ledge-line back into the corrie. Relatively sheltered from the wind now, we made our way down the gently inclined snowfields to a big boulder, where we stopped for food and a hot drink. We gazed back up at Slioch and saluted the mountain with a sense of satisfaction and respect. :D

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Back down in the corrie looking towards the Fannaichs


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Looking back up the corrie


Ice axes away and poles out, we headed off still with our crampons on until past the worst of the ice.

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Sgurr Dubh


Down the rocky path there were still some icy patches to avoid but some of it had melted away since earlier in the day. Loch Maree came into view and eventually we were back down at the footbridge again.

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Looking down the Abhainn an Ehasaigh to Loch Maree from the footbridge


In a happy and relaxed mood we began the long - but flat! - walk back to Kinlochewe, and were treated to many sightings of red deer around (and in!) the river.

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Deer crossing the river


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More deer crossing the river


It was a shame to have missed the views from Slioch, but that gives us a good excuse to go back in better weather! We felt it was a great start to our Torridon trip, but hoped the weather would improve. After two days of high winds, low cloud, blizzards and whiteouts, it did. :D


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dav2930
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Re: Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Postby Mal Grey » Sun Mar 25, 2018 8:13 pm

Proper winter day, that. Nice one.

I remember swimming up the back of the corrie in deep snow, but we had a nearly clear summit and no wind.
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Re: Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Postby BlackPanther » Mon Mar 26, 2018 4:36 pm

Looks frrrreezing :? Shame weather didn't cooperate. The ridge traverse to Sgurr an Tuill Bhain is a delight on a nice day. A good enough reason to return to Slioch!

We have done our share of walking in strong winds recently, and there is only one word I can find to sum it up. Madness. They call it madness. We are all proud members of the Bonkers Club. :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Postby dav2930 » Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:39 pm

Mal Grey wrote:Proper winter day, that. Nice one.

I remember swimming up the back of the corrie in deep snow, but we had a nearly clear summit and no wind.

Thanks Mal. It was good to get some navigation practice in adverse conditions. A return visit in clear weather definitely on the agenda though! :D

BlackPanther wrote:Looks frrrreezing :? Shame weather didn't cooperate. The ridge traverse to Sgurr an Tuill Bhain is a delight on a nice day. A good enough reason to return to Slioch!

We have done our share of walking in strong winds recently, and there is only one word I can find to sum it up. Madness. They call it madness. We are all proud members of the Bonkers Club. :lol: :lol: :lol:

Thanks BP. :D It was actually one of the coldest walks I've done in a long time; it's not often I feel the need to put my Rab Photon jacket on! We expected some rough weather, though it would have been nice if the clag had cleared off on the summit. Will definitely have to do the ridge traverse next time I go up on a clearer and less windy day. Yep, signed-up member of the Bonkers Club and proud of it! :lol: :lol:
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Re: Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:40 pm

So good atmospheric pics there, even if you disappeared into a white-out at the top! Congrats on the route finding :thumbup: . I have to admit that I find it very difficult in white-out conditions unless I've got something else, like topography (eg cliffs!) or clear up/down contours, or a fence, to help confirm the route.

If you were nearly blown off your feet wearing crampons, that must have been one heck of a wind.

I still have this one to do - so planning a few days in Torridon...
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Re: Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Postby dav2930 » Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:31 pm

Alteknacker wrote:So good atmospheric pics there, even if you disappeared into a white-out at the top! Congrats on the route finding :thumbup: . I have to admit that I find it very difficult in white-out conditions unless I've got something else, like topography (eg cliffs!) or clear up/down contours, or a fence, to help confirm the route.

If you were nearly blown off your feet wearing crampons, that must have been one heck of a wind.

I still have this one to do - so planning a few days in Torridon...

Cheers AK. Has to be said it wasn't the best of days for photos :(

I enjoyed the navigation challenge - it was down to me as Karl's a bit long-sighted so he can't see the map clearly enough to take accurate bearings! But must admit I don't particularly like whiteouts as you really can't afford to make mistakes. In my book a proper whiteout is where all you can see around you is pure whiteness with no features whatsoever. These are difficult to navigate as there's nothing on the ground to align with the compass bearing, so you have to keep your eyes on the compass all the time while walking. Fortunately there was only a short section like that.

The wind was extremely blustery above the big lochan and some of the gusts were violent enough to knock us off balance. We frequently had to stop moving and steady ourselves by crouching over our axes. All good stuff though!

Hope you get some decent weather for your Torridon trip AK :D
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Re: Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Postby rockhopper » Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:47 pm

That sounded challenging :shock: - as others have said, pity you weren't able to complete the ridge but still made for a good walk. Have only been up here once but even that trip had been delayed to avoid bad weather - nothing compared to what you had though ! - cheers :)
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Re: Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Postby dav2930 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:03 pm

rockhopper wrote:That sounded challenging :shock: - as others have said, pity you weren't able to complete the ridge but still made for a good walk. Have only been up here once but even that trip had been delayed to avoid bad weather - nothing compared to what you had though ! - cheers :)

Cheers RH. Yes it was a shame to miss out on the ridge, and the views! Slioch is such a fine mountain, and so superbly situated, that it should really be reserved for good weather. We were perhaps a bit too keen to bag it, though it did provide a great experience to kick off our Torridon exploits with. Will definitely have to return in decent weather and do the ridge! :D
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Re: Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Postby past my sell by date » Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:12 am

Nice one Dave - much too tough for me now. Slioch was one of my first hills aged about 15. It was misty and I reached a top but I think it was only Sgurr an Tuill Bhan. First time I encountered wild goats - a bit scary in the mist but they're very peaceful creatures :)
Incidentally in summer when the water is low, you can easily cross the heavily braided river due North of the camp site and save about 8km altogether
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Re: Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Postby dogplodder » Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:37 pm

When we met the Slioch goats they were up at the summit lochan standing in a line staring at us as if we were aliens from another world. :eh:
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Re: Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Postby dav2930 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 7:47 pm

past my sell by date wrote:Nice one Dave - much too tough for me now. Slioch was one of my first hills aged about 15. It was misty and I reached a top but I think it was only Sgurr an Tuill Bhan. First time I encountered wild goats - a bit scary in the mist but they're very peaceful creatures :)
Incidentally in summer when the water is low, you can easily cross the heavily braided river due North of the camp site and save about 8km altogether

Cheers Tony. I can imagine those goats could seem quite scary to a youngster when looming out of the mist! :lol:
Thanks for the tip about crossing the river from the campsite - worth knowing! :D
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Re: Slioch: goats, gales and a whiteout

Postby dav2930 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 7:54 pm

dogplodder wrote:When we met the Slioch goats they were up at the summit lochan standing in a line staring at us as if we were aliens from another world. :eh:

Ha ha I love those goats. To them I guess humans might as well be aliens from another world! :lol:
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