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Sublime Subs of Sutherland

Sublime Subs of Sutherland


Postby BlackPanther » Tue Apr 24, 2018 5:41 pm

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Ben Griam Beg, Ben Griam Mor

Date walked: 02/04/2018

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 16.3 km

Ascent: 816m

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It's been a while since my last WH report, we have been busy climbing hills, taking advantage of some extra free time and reasonable weather. I'm so far behind with my diary that it will probably take me weeks to catch up... 9 routes to describe... :roll: Today I'm returning to our Easter Monday trip into the heart of Sutherland.

For some time, I've had an eye for Ben Griam Beg and Ben Griam Mor. They are both only 30m or so short of being Grahams and therefore not visited by many, but what they lack in height, they gain in shape and location. Weather on Easter Monday was going to be good in the far north but bad everywhere else, so our choice was simple. Let's do the Ben Griams!

It is possible to climb this duo from the east (Greamachary) but we opted for a route that we found more interesting (at least judging by the map). Our approach was from the west, from B871, just south of Garvault Hotel. We climbed Ben Griam Mor first, then traversed to Ben Griam Beg, returning along shores of two lovely lochs and then on anglers path. The route might look easy but there is a fair amount of steep ascent/descent, some boggy ground between the hills and a stream that may cause crossing problems if in spate. But overall, very pleasant circuit.

Track_BEN GRIAMS 02-04-18.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


There is a small parking area maybe for 3 cars at the start of the old anglers path. Ben Griam Mor dominates the view:
2018-04-02 ben griams 007.JPG

Because the land is so vast and so empty here, even from the road level we had fantastic views to surrounding hills. There was still decent amount of snow on higher ground, enough to make photos interesting. I was especially intrigued by Creag Mhor and Ben Armine, two remote Grahams across Loch Badanloch. They are our last two unclimbed G's in the far north and they look cracking! Probably a summer route, with bikes to make things easier :D
2018-04-02 ben griams 002.JPG

We geared up and started along the well-made anglers path. This leads to the boathouse on the shore of Loch Coire nam Mang. As we looked back west, it was a lovely morning over the far north of Scotland:
2018-04-02 ben griams 012.JPG

Ben Loyal and Ben Hope:
2018-04-02 ben griams 018.JPG

After about 400m, we left the track and headed directly up the western slopes of Ben Griam Mor. The hill is pretty craggy, but we noticed a good "ridge" that looked like the easiest way up:
2018-04-02 ben griams 026.JPG

Still beautiful and blue behind us, panorama from Kilbreck to Hope:
2018-04-02 ben griams 032.JPG

Loch Coire nam Mang and Loch Druim a'Chliabhain, the sea beyond visible on the horizon:
2018-04-02 ben griams 036.JPG

To begin with, walking was easy on grass and low heather, but at some point we entered the fresh snow zone and I quickly found out that fresh snow + frozen ground underneath = tricky conditions underfoot!
It's a bit slippery!
2018-04-02 ben griams 040.JPG

Views were tremendous as we gained height:
2018-04-02 ben griams 042.JPG

It didn't take us long to reach the summit of Ben Griam Mor. It's the higher of the two brothers albeit only by 10m and it offers superb vistas in all directions. I didn't care it was only a Sub'2000er. Neither did wee Lucy and we both posed proud by the big summit cairn. Sub' no. 30! :D
2018-04-02 ben griams 055.JPG

It was windy on the summit but the large cairn gave good protection from the cold gusts, so we unpacked our tea and cookies and spent some time gazing into the distance, admiring the surrounding landscape. There was hardly any sign of human occupation here, a single road and a few scattered houses, but mostly, just empty land: moorland, lochs, hills...
Ben Loyal:
2018-04-02 ben griams 052.JPG

Morven & Scaraben to the east:
2018-04-02 ben griams 047.JPG

Western pano:
2018-04-02 ben griams 044.JPG

Hazy cliffs of Orkney:
2018-04-02 ben griams 061.JPG

To traverse to Ben Griam Beg, we planned to descend the western side of the first hill. On the map, it looked doable but we knew there were crags in places and the ground was steep. Initially it all looked easy and Ben Griam Beg didn't seem too far away:
2018-04-02 ben griams 074.JPG

Views... Views... Weather still held:
2018-04-02 ben griams 076.JPG

Lower down, the ground got a bit more tricky and we had to slow down, carefully descending the more rocky sections. Thankfully, there was always enough grass and heather to walk on and no scrambling was required:
2018-04-02 ben griams 082.JPG

Looking back up the rocky section:
2018-04-02 ben griams 084.JPG

Once onto the flatter ground, it all looked plain sailing, just cross the bottom of the glen and climb the second hill:
2018-04-02 ben griams 092.JPG

It was supposed to be easy but when we reached the wee stream marked on the map as flowing out of Loch Druim a'Chliabhain and trickling down the glen, we discovered that it was not a stream but a substantial river, too wide to jump over and very fast flowing. It wasn't drastically deep and in theory, we could take boots off, pull up trouser legs and wade across the cold water, but neither of us fancied that particular type of mountain strip-tease :lol: :lol: We started to look for a suitable place to cross without stripping and, as our GPS file illustrates best, we spent over half an hour walking along the stream, maneuvering among peat hags and boggy stretches. We almost gave up! I was very angry in the end. Defeated by a stupid stream!!! :evil: :evil: :evil: Eventually, when Kevin was already murmuring something about heading back for the car, we reached the very start of the stream by Loch Druim a'Chliabhain, and to my delight, I spotted a shallow area with a few larger stones. They were submerged but not too deep and we could cross safely without freezing our feet off.
Ben Griam Mor and the glen fro the lower slopes of Ben Griam Beg:
2018-04-02 ben griams 101.JPG

Once across the river, it was easy if wet ground to cover to the bottom of the second hill. The first 100m of climb was steep-ish on high heather, but soon we reached an interesting wall and I ordered a stop for photographing:
2018-04-02 ben griams 107.JPG

The wall encircles the hill and it's part of a large fort. The highest hill fort in Scotland to be precise, most likely Early Iron Age. According to CANMORE website "The fort, as described and illustrated, occupies the flattish summit of the hill. Its wall is crudely constructed of slabs, and is of unusually slender proportions, though the steep rock-strewn hill slopes afford a good natural defence. The enclosures abutting on the west and north-east sides, and the crude wall extending southwards from the south-east corner before turning to the west, are of similar construction to the fort, except that the wall of the north-east enclosure is more slight. These appendages to the fort do not appear to be outer defences; they do not utilise any natural defence that may exist.
The extreme remote and exposed situation of the complex probably indicates a temporary refuge or man and beast under threat of attack, rather than a permanent settlement."

I can imagine this site being a refuge fortress. It would be easy to defend!
20180402145828(1).jpg

The wall seen from below:
2018-04-02 ben griams 135.JPG

Past the wall and remains of a few stone circles (possibly animal enclosures?) we climbed to the summit area, where we saw remains of a second wall:
20180402153554(1).jpg

On the rocks just below the summit:
2018-04-02 ben griams 114.JPG

Soon we were on the summit. As we climbed, weather started to deteriorate, high cloud pushed in from the south and we lost the beautiful blue sky above, replaced with fifty shades of grey...
The two lochs and mountains beyond:
2018-04-02 ben griams 123.JPG

Back to Ben Griam Mor:
2018-04-02 ben griams 122.JPG

The summit hosts sad remains of what once was a trig point:
2018-04-02 ben griams 132.JPG

Sub no. 31! :D And what an interesting one!
2018-04-02 ben griams 129.JPG

Zoom to Morven:
2018-04-02 ben griams 118.JPG

We found the summit of BGB very drafty and cold, so after a set of photos we descended a few meters to find shelter on the rocks below for another warming cuppa :D We still had a long walk back to the car and we hoped that the weather would not bring us any nasty surprises like heavy rain. So far, it was grey and cold but dry.
We needn't have worried. Weather held for long enough. We descended back to the glen, re-crossed the stream in the same place and began walking along Loch Druim a'Chliabhain, where we discovered a small path following the shore. It's a very tranquil spot and in warmer weather I'd probably risk skinny dipping, but on the second of April it was far too cold for that :lol:
2018-04-02 ben griams 142.JPG

Panoramic view of Ben Griam Beg and Loch Druim a'Chliabhain:
2018-04-02 ben griams 153.JPG

The path is wet in places but it can be traced across the strip of land between the two lochs, then along Loch Coire nam Mang to a boathouse. Kevin took some time to play with panoramic mode once again:
2018-04-02 ben griams 154.JPG

By the boathouse:
2018-04-02 ben griams 159.JPG

From the boathouse we followed the good anglers track back to the road and the car. I was in excellent mood. We spent 3 out of 4 days of Easter break hillwalking, visited some new, interesting hills and had fun despite cold conditions.
Happy Panther:
2018-04-02 ben griams 163.JPG

As we neared the road, we noticed very dark cloud coming in:
2018-04-02 ben griams 165.JPG

It was the forecast bad front pushing in from the south. We managed to finish our trip just in time. First drops of rain fell when we were putting our rucksacks in the boot...
........
i was very pleasantly surprised with these hills. They might not be Munros, but in such amazing surroundings, one does not need to climb very high to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Sometimes smaller is better :D
.........
My next story will be about two much underrated Corbetts. To be told soon.
Last edited by BlackPanther on Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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BlackPanther
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Posts: 3402
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Re: Sublime Subs of Sutherland

Postby Mal Grey » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:40 pm

That's some wild landscape up there, and the hills, which I'd never heard of, have very pleasing shapes.

The hill fort is fascinating, imagine what your life would be like if you felt the need to retreat to somewhere like that in times of troubles. It also shows there were enough people then living in the area to need such a substantial place.
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Mal Grey
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Re: Sublime Subs of Sutherland

Postby weaselmaster » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:42 pm

Jealous I am - you got there before us and on a great day. Like you I have had an eye on those two for a while, especially when doing Ben Armine where they look straight across at you. Good report :clap:
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Re: Sublime Subs of Sutherland

Postby Sgurr » Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:48 pm

Loved the Griams. We did them separately for various complicated reasons, but who could begrudge going back there? Your report really does them justice. No deer? They were strolling all around the road both times we went.
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Re: Sublime Subs of Sutherland

Postby jmarkb » Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:39 pm

Nice one! We did Mor one New Year then turned back when faced with the stream crossing (and a lack of daylight). Must go back and do Beg.
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Re: Sublime Subs of Sutherland

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Apr 25, 2018 9:01 pm

Thx all :D :D

Mal Grey wrote:The hill fort is fascinating, imagine what your life would be like if you felt the need to retreat to somewhere like that in times of troubles. It also shows there were enough people then living in the area to need such a substantial place.

Indeed it's hard to believe that this empty land was once buzzing with settlers! I'm not an expert on Scottish history, but this must be the area hit badly by clearances :( Sad to think that people had always been there, built settlements, lived off the land and even constructed forts on hill tops, and one day it all ended just because some rich guy wanted more space to graze sheep...

weaselmaster wrote:Jealous I am - you got there before us and on a great day. Like you I have had an eye on those two for a while, especially when doing Ben Armine where they look straight across at you. Good report :clap:

It's a rare moment of glory for us - we managed to get to the summit before the famous weasels :lol: :lol:
These are superb hills, I bet you'll love them :D

Sgurr wrote:Loved the Griams. We did them separately for various complicated reasons, but who could begrudge going back there? Your report really does them justice. No deer? They were strolling all around the road both times we went.

Ahh there were deer in abundance and they stayed close to the road (maybe they are fed and got used to wandering closer to human occupation, I don't know). I counted four large herds. I'm so used to deer now that I stopped photographing them :lol:

jmarkb wrote:Nice one! We did Mor one New Year then turned back when faced with the stream crossing (and a lack of daylight). Must go back and do Beg.

I wonder if the approach from the east is easier, but the way we did it is certainly more interesting :lol: Glad to hear that we were not the only ones who had problems with that stream. It looks like nothing on the map but when in spate, it's a pain in the (**). We almost turned back, too :lol:
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