It's been a strange winter so far. Very little snow, some frost, but generally warm and wet. Very similar to the infamous "winter" of 2016/17, when we climbed multiple Munros in January with next to no snow on higher ground. Thankfully, it is changing now, weather turned cold and some decent snow has fallen in the last couple of days, but is it going to last? Hopefully! I'm dreading another "winter" full of grey skies, rain and high winds.
Nearly two weeks ago, when snow was still nowhere to be seen, we decided to re-visit Ben Klibreck. It had been Kevin's 100th Munro back in 2011, so he was a bit sentimental about it and very happy to give this route another go. I remembered the approach via Cnoc Sgriodain was wet and squelchy (something just right for Black Panther ) but honestly, in current weather we could expect boggy bog and muddy mud everywhere, so just as well cross it on the way up a nice Munro!
Our route was the usual approach to Klibreck from Vagastie Bridge and over Cnoc Sgriodain:
We left home in the middle of the night (or so I thought judging by the total darkness around). The rest of the village was still snoring loudly, as it was a lazy Sunday morning for anybody but us
It's quite a drive up to the center of Sutherland and by the time we arrived by Vagastie Bridge, we witnessed the first rays of morning sunlight over the hill awaiting us:
Two other cars already in the small parking area, we managed to squeeze in. There is another place to park, a few hundred metres back down the road, if this car park is busy:
Just opposite from the small car park, a very boggy atv track starts towards the lower slopes of Cnoc Sgriodain. It leads, through a metal gate (not locked) and over squelchy ground, to the steeper, more heathery southern side of Cnoc Sgriodain. As we climbed, we enjoyed the sunrise:
Looking back down to Strath Vagastie. Kevin wasn't happy when he noticed that the air was unusually hazy. No chance for good quality photos today, he said, let's just enjoy the ridge and snap enough for you to put together a decent report.
It didn't take us long to reach a substantial cairn on the top of Cnoc Sgriodain (actually there are two large cairns here, surprisingly, as this is a very minor top).
Very hazy Ben Loyal, another superb ridge for a nice day!
Still a long way to climb before we reach the summit but we took it steady, we had plenty of time. We spotted people both in front and behind us, but we didn't really feel like racing anyone or try to prove that we were the fastest hillwalkers on this particular mountain. Better to do it at enjoyable pace and sink in the views. Especially when conditions are quite unusual as for early January!
We crossed the col between Cnoc Sgriodain and Carn an Fheidh. This is the squelchiest part of the route, but a sketchy path can be followed all the way. I didn't remember any path whatsoever from our previous visit in 2011, but I imagine that thousands of people have visited this mountain since and the countless passing boots did the job.
View back down to the peat haggy area:
The sun was up now but light conditions didn't improve much, still hazy and Kevin was moaning constantly about too much haze in the air
The path traversing below Carn an Fheidh, which used to be narrow and almost overgrown by heather, is now almost like a yellow brick road:
I stopped half way through the traverse, having spotted something moving nearby... Guess what?
It was a small flock of ptarmigan. Strangely, they just looked at us indifferently, and didn't even move. Used to people passing by, I guess:
I felt a bit sorry for the poor ptarmigan, fully prepared for winter, yet no winter in sight!
The path emerges on the next col (688m)...
...from where it's a simple matter of climbing steeply to the summit. There is an obvious, well worn path all the way:
It was a new Munro only for Lucy, but an exciting one. No. 99! The next one will be her first ton! How did she manage to reach 100 Munros with us? She is a real hillwalking sheep hero!
As you probably noticed, the trig point has recently fallen joining the remains of its older brother. Ben Klibreck is now the only mountain known to me that has two overturned trig points on the summit
This is how it looked in 2011. More snow as well and it was much later in the year!
Back to present time, it was a nice, relatively warm day, so we spent some time on the summit, eating lunch and enjoying the views or what we could see of the views for the haze.
Back south to the lower tops of Klibreck:
Loch Naver and Ben Loyal:
The only two hills we haven't done yet in this area - Ben Armine and Creag Mhor:
Due north - very hazy:
On the way down, on the steeper section just below the summit, my knees started to ache slightly so we decided we would not run down like crazy, rather walk at a slower pace:
The summit of Ben Klibreck from the peat-haggy col below Cnoc Sgriodain:
Light conditions have improved slightly since we left the summit but it was still hazy:
Ben Loyal and Ben Hope:
On the final descent from Cnoc Sgriodain:
One last look at Lucy's 99th Munro - back from the car park:
So this was it. Our second Munro of 2019. No heroics, but a decent time of 5.5 hours (decent for us old farts!) and a bonus meeting with tame ptarmigan Shame about the lack of snow. Thankfully, the days of bare slopes are now over. Even Beauly is covered in white (not a huge amount, but enough to make Panther meow). So expect more cat stories from snowy hills very soon
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.