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The days before lockdown: Slioch

The days before lockdown: Slioch

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Apr 22, 2020 5:20 pm

Route description: Slioch, near Kinlochewe

Munros included on this walk: Slioch

Date walked: 20/03/2020

Time taken: 9.5 hours

Distance: 21 km

Ascent: 1138m

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Another hill I always wanted to try in winter conditions. My first encounter with the Spear was on a cold day in early May, with the summit area still covered with snow. We even traversed the ridge of An t-Aon Cheum to the top of peak of Sgurr an Tuill Bhain (so I could later brag about my ice scrambling in Torridon :lol: ) but to be honest, I felt like it wasn't a true winter traverse and Slioch deserved more attention from us.
Now we had our chance!
Our route was the usual approach from Kinlochewe. After visiting the summit, we cautiously bailed out of the eastern ridge because it was covered with a lot of soft, loose snow and we were a bit worried about causing an avalanche. We had spikes and axes and had the snow been hard, we would have gone for it, but Kevin decided better safe than sorry, so we returned the way we came.

Track_SLIOCH 21KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

The day was gorgeous. Starting from thec car park in Kinlochewe, we were confident we could reach the summit :D
2020-03-20 slioch 001.JPG

Beinn Eighe across the glen:
2020-03-20 slioch 003.JPG

Sgurr Dubh and Beinn Liath Mhor:
2020-03-20 slioch 006.JPG

It's been a while since our last visit to this side of Loch Maree and we noticed how badly the path was eroded now, especially the stretch closest to the loch shore:
2020-03-20 slioch 029.JPG

One of many inquisitive locals:
2020-03-20 slioch 031.JPG

The path dried out a bit when we started the ascent proper. I am tempted to return to Slioch one day and scramble over Sgurr Dubh - doesn't look to bad from below - but on that particular day we stayed on the path into Coire na Sleaghaich.
A route for the future:
2020-03-20 slioch 036.JPG

With every metre of ascent gained, the view behind us was getting better and better. And this was only the beginning!
2020-03-20 slioch 047.JPG

Not much to say about the long slog up to the bowl of Coire na Sleaghaich, apart from the fact, that we were very relieved when we eventually reached it - now it was time for some proper mountain p*rnography :lol: :lol:
This is where we're going, babe!
2020-03-20 slioch 056.JPG

Looking south-east to the Fannichs:
2020-03-20 slioch 052.JPG

Sgurr Dubh from below:
2020-03-20 slioch 062.JPG

The flat bottom of Coire na Sleaghaich was wet and required some bog-hoping abilities. Once below the steep section leading to the shoulder with two lochans, we noticed that the line of the path was covered with very deep, soft snow. It would mean a long and tiring push and Kevin was all eager to reach the summit quickly, so... he abandoned the path and went straight up. As we soon discovered, he picked the steepest possible option :lol: :lol:
This photo (taken on the way down) shows the route we took (yellow dots) and where the path goes (green line):
2020-03-20 slioch 144.JPG

It might have looked benign from below, but the scramble-ish section was very wet and slippery and I didn't really enjoy it, cursing Kevin for making it tougher than necessary :lol:
On the little plateau with the two lochans we stopped to swap walking poles for ice axes, as from now on we'd enter proper winter conditions. The eroded path zig-zagging up the 933m top didn't look anywhere near as steep as the section we had just clambered over:
2020-03-20 slioch 068.JPG

Now I felt I was in business. Let the mountain p*rn begin!
2020-03-20 slioch 072.JPG

When on the path, there wasn't enough snow for spikes, but a steady hand was required occasionally on the eroded, rocky slope:
2020-03-20 slioch 087.JPG

A couple of snaps of Torridon in full winter glory:
2020-03-20 slioch 076.JPG

2020-03-20 slioch 075.JPG

A wider pano taken just below the 933m top:
2020-03-20 slioch 090.JPG

Sgurr Dubh looks so insignificant from above:
2020-03-20 slioch 094.JPG

We skirted just below the lower top where a set of footprints (probably from the day before) guided us easily to the middle top with the trig point. Only when on Munro height, we noticed the wind, it was now quite strong and still very cold. Well, mid March is still the middle of winter in the Highlands :lol:
This does look (and feel) like winter!
2020-03-20 slioch 097.JPG

Kevin overtook me on the way to the trig point:
2020-03-20 slioch 100.JPG

The eastern ridge - An t-Aon Cheum, the Fannichs behind:
2020-03-20 slioch 101.JPG

The Fisherfields peeking out from behind the eastern ridge of Slioch:
2020-03-20 slioch 103.JPG

Our previous visit to Slioch was on a very gray day with poor light for photos, so today, despite the freezing wind, Kevin wanted to take advantage of the beautiful blue sky and the good contrast between the white, the black and the blue. He spent some time wandering about and snaping pictures. Note the spindrifting snow in the foreground.
2020-03-20 slioch 107.JPG

2020-03-20 slioch 108.JPG

2020-03-20 slioch 111.JPG

You've got to love this view of the Fisherfield peaks:
2020-03-20 slioch 110.JPG

Lucy celebrated her 123rd Munro by the trig point...
2020-03-20 slioch 113.JPG

...but the true summit is about 200m further along the ridge, marked with a significant cairn, perched on the edge of the north-west cliffs of Slioch. Even though I had been here before, I felt a certain level of satisfaction :clap:
2020-03-20 slioch 128.JPG

Views from the summit - enjoy:
2020-03-20 slioch 134.JPG

2020-03-20 slioch 131.JPG

2020-03-20 slioch 118.JPG

2020-03-20 slioch 122.JPG

The eastern ridge turned out to be very unstable, a lot of soft snow giving way under our crampons, so after a few steps we decided we didn't want to tempt the fate. Sometimes when snow conditions are so unstable, it is better to stick to familiar ground. As we had walked this ridge before, it didn't really feel like a much of a defeat.
Till the next time, Sgurr an Tuill Bhain!
2020-03-20 slioch 143.JPG

We took time on the way back, carefully descending the eroded section below the 933m top. We stopped for a longer break by the frozen lochans. Several other walkers heading up passed us, but we only greeted them from the distance. There was already a lot of talking about social distancing at that time.
Beinn a'Mhuindich in the afternoon sun:
2020-03-20 slioch 153.JPG

Panther social distanced :lol: :lol:
2020-03-20 slioch 160.JPG

Sun setting over Beinn Liath Mhor:
2020-03-20 slioch 172.JPG

It wasn't our last day on the hills before lockdown (there are two more stories to come) but it was definitely the most memorable one. Slioch in winter conditions is really SOMETHING and I feel privileged we could give this truly magnificent mountain justice. We will come back of course - as soon as we are allowed to.

My next story may be less exciting, but it will still involve a nice Graham with great views. TR to come soon.

Stay safe, everyone!
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Re: The days before lockdown: Slioch

Postby Mal Grey » Wed Apr 22, 2020 8:25 pm

Wonderful, and its nice to still be getting reports so long after "lock down" :D

I've only done Slioch in winter, we had to swim up the corrie! :lol: No views, but we did visit both the trig point and the real top, thank goodness. Long time ago now.
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Re: The days before lockdown: Slioch

Postby Sunset tripper » Fri Apr 24, 2020 5:17 am

Great stuff BP. You can see Slioch (on a good day) from the road from Culloden Battlefield in Inverness. I always used to think it was An Teallach because it looks really jaggy but worked it out to be Slioch. A fantastic hill and looks brilliant in the snow. I was up there last autumn and had a great day. :D

On Slioch - late September 2019
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Re: The days before lockdown: Slioch

Postby dogplodder » Sat Apr 25, 2020 1:42 pm

I'd forgotten there was so much snow in March. You can't beat Torridon with snow on top! :D
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Re: The days before lockdown: Slioch

Postby Silver Bear » Wed Apr 29, 2020 2:16 pm

Very enjoyable report BP and great pics as well
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