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Postby BaddidarrochBob » Wed Dec 12, 2018 8:46 pm

Route description: Suilven

Fionas included on this walk: Suilven

Date walked: 21/06/2013

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 20 km

Ascent: 750m

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When I heard about the annual mid-summer night climb of Ben Nevis I thought, no contest, a mid-summer night climb of Suilven to see the sun rise in the north would be much more demanding and the views far more spectacular. And I was right.

Four of us set off at 11:00pm in the gloom at the start of the path up to the Falls of Kirkaig, but our destination lay many kilometres and vertical metres further beyond. The path is initially well marked and, although rocky and rough, easy to follow. Our head-torches lit the way through the forest but once above the tree cover we decided that the light from the mid-summer night sky was enough to allow us to pick our way across the more open moorland that stretches to the foot of the mountain.

Beyond the Falls of Kirkaig, the approach to Suilven skirts the southern shore of Fionn Loch which stretches along the southern flank of the mountain and, for a while, forces you to walk westwards away from the mountain until you can cross the burn that drains the NW end of the loch. It was getting very dark as we picked our way across the rough ground back toward Suilven; the path is not well defined and difficult to follow in daylight but at night almost impossible to pick out, so we stumbled across open ground and bog towards the bulk of the mountain. Above us on the skyline we saw a herd of deer looking down at us wondering what we were up to. I must admit I did as well.

Things started to go wrong when one of us stepped not onto solid ground, but into a deep and cold bog, filling their boots with water. Despite this we pressed on towards the foot of the mountain, arriving around 03:00 when our mood changed from excitement at the challenge ahead to one of apprehension; although three of our party had climbed the mountain before in daylight, the massive looming bulk of Suilven in the gloom took on a very menacing air. The cold, which was creeping into our sleep deprived bodies, further depressed our spirits.

After a difficult discussion at the base of the steep climb up the southern side of the mountain, two of the party decided that this was as far as they could go and turned back to Inverkirkaig. So, we bade them farewell and just two of us started up the steep and unstable climb to Bealach Mor, the saddle between Caisteal Liath to the north west and the more inaccessible peaks of Meall Meadhonach and Meall Beag to the south east. Not only is the way very precipitous it is also very unstable with loose rocks and soil ready to break free and slide down the slope with every step you take. After a very tough climb we arrived at the saddle just as the sky started to lighten.

As sun rise was at just after 4am there was no time to rest. We cautiously picked our way along the narrow, exposed path and climbed up to the flat grassy summit of Caisteal Liath, which affords spectacular views in all directions. We were lucky that the weather was clear. We drank coffee with a nip of whisky as we waited for the sun to rise in the north.

The sky slowly brightened revealing spectacular views of the isolated mountains of Cul Mor, Cul Beag and Stac Pollaidh to the south, Ben More Assynt to the east and Canisp and Quinag to the north, using from mist filled valleys. As a bonus, the sun rose and repeatedly set behind the layered clouds providing multiple sunrises to enjoy. The pink light picked out the peaks of the nearby mountain tops before it crept across the land and sea spread out below us.

The steep descent was almost as difficult as the ascent, but once on the flatter ground at the foot of the mountain we made good progress, arriving back at the car park by 08:00. A great adventure on a great mountain.
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Joined: Dec 12, 2018

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