Oh Yeah, Brothers
by yokehead » Wed Feb 09, 2011 4:40 pm
Route description: Brothers Ridge - Sgurr a Bhealaich Dheirg
Munros included on this walk: Aonach Meadhoin, Saileag, Sgurr a'Bhealaich Dheirg
Date walked: 07/02/2011
Time taken: 8 hours
Distance: 8.5 km
Ascent: 1095mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Some days you just have to go for it. I had planned on the Brothers Ridge and was parked up in the layby nice and early at 8am. The weather forecasts I've tried (quite a few) have been rubbish for Glen Shiel, today was supposed to be sunny spells and snow showers. But the cloud was well down on the tops and it was raining. I sat hoping for it to brighten up and wondering whether to abandon, but I wanted a ridge today and there wasn't any other walk that would do. So about 45 minutes later, and only drizzling now, I booted up and set off.
Sorry about all the grey photos but that's how it was, I didn't use b&w!
Reports highlight a steep climb to the bealach and it is as can be seen from this photo. The path goes up to the left, just this side of the forestry then turns above it.
The path eased the ascent, wet though it was, and it didn't seem to take long to get to the corner of the forestry. It now heads east and I followed, the idea being to go along this way for a short distance then head on up again. Great views open up very quickly, and I was pleased to see the cloud was lifting - maybe I'd be lucky yet.
But I went too far east, it's Paul's fault. In the walk description for the Five Sisters, it says leave the main path and head uphill on a fainter path. But this gem isn't mentioned in the Brothers walk, which has the same start, so I carried on too far. Tut tut you just can't get the staff these days! I knew I'd gone too far of course so just turned uphill eventually, soon reaching the snowline, the snow was soft. I might let Paul off, actually no, since my next post has another moan for him as well! It was hard to tell what was path, stream, animal track anyway.
This is where the plod began, finding the most helpful (or hopeful?) route on this now pathless terrain. Helped a little by the views once more.
Since I'd come so far and was actually ascending the slopes of Saileag direct, I made life a little easier by making a rising traverse a bit to the west. I could actually see the bealach below the height I was now at. Then woe, just short of the ridge the cloud came down and it started to snow, along with a - how shall I describe it - keen wind. What great timing! And it stayed much like this for the rest of the day. I finally reached the ridge proper, spotted by the small cornice. I dropped back down a few paces to get the waterproof trousers on and kit up with ice axe and crampons, and had a quick munch of trail mix. Goggles went on and proved to be somewhat of a necessity for at least the first couple of hours. Snug and prepared I started to head up, pleased to be on the ridge at last. The next photo shows the usual type of view for the day. Visibility probably was mostly around 50m, but I did get a number of small improvements just at the right time to get a few photos and to give me some scale and layout of the ridge, so I'm not complaining!
I moved on up and with my head start up the ridge it didn't take long to get to the first Munro, Saileag. Keeping on the (safe!) edge of the corniced snow gave some superb neve to ease the way, but visibility was at its worst so no views. I checked the compass bearing and continued without a pause. From what I'd read about this ridge I hadn't expected the number of interesting sections, the first surprise was to find there were some nice narrow bits.
Down into a dip and over a couple of bumps, about 1km on from Saileag I got my only view downwards, and just after that a glimpse of the ridge to come. I'd chosen the west-east traverse to have the wind behind me, but was finding blasts from the south and the north, even in my face at times.
I was keeping to the ridge crest throughout, not that I'd have seen any other path even if there was one. I then came to a kind of ramp, if this was the path then it must be some rocky steps, as it was it was banked out with snow of course. There was a nice drop on both sides.
This required a face-in descent, kicking steps. Just the kind of thing I'd come for.
Just beyond this there was another narrow section, then looking down I could see a short rocky section to clamber over, after which the ridge began to rise to the 1030m point of Sgurr a Bhealaich Dheirg. This ridge was proving to be immense fun, with so much interest the weather didn't seem a bother at all.
I was beginning to feel very hungry now, but thought I'd wait until after getting to the summit cairn and possibly finding a spot that had a bit of shelter. At 1030m visibility improved slightly and I could see the end of the wall, but not the route beyond that. Snow was banked to the right of the wall at first so I kept on its left, then it was covered completely. Finally I could see the cairn.
Again I kept left where it wasn't quite so steep, around a couple of large blocks that sit across the ridge, and finally around some boulders and a small climb to stand right next to the cairn. I touched the top, just. I headed back right away, now walking on the snow on the top of the wall where I could. Brilliant! What possessed someone to build a wall along here, and why? And how perversely marvellous to find such a well built cairn astride, and blocking, the ridge! Why again? Does anyone out there know?
I headed down a few paces and stopped for food and drink, thoroughly enjoyed when you've been looking forward to it so much. Cheese sandwich with a cheese and onion sandwich filler spread over it, the strong taste proved just the job. I didn't stop for long and the visibility improved a bit once again so I could see the next section and get a couple of photos as I went along.
A bit further on I spotted a small rock fin in a dip in the ridge, just seen in the centre of this blurry photo.
When I got there I could see the trace of the path, it passes this section to the right. But it was better going over it - it was a narrow series of thin rocks placed on end (a bit like the earlier wall). I took a photo looking back over it.
That fun over, the ridge ahead could be seen once again and I fair zoomed (it seemed from looking at the photo times) up the final part to the summit of Aonach Meadhoin, where there were plenty of rocks and a couple of steepish sections to continue the enjoyment.
It was getting a bit late now what with my delayed start so I decided not to continue to the top Sgurr an Fhuarail. On WH I'd seen MC's report of the approach up Coire na Cadha and decided to descend this way (thanks MC), down the south ridge of Aonach Meadhoin first. I headed a bit too far to the east to some small cliffs, after looking down upon a huge wind-scoured drift on the right I headed to the left where I was able to face in and kick steps down a lovely near-vertical slope. Once down I kept next to the rock cliff and worked back to the right to take a look at the drift. It was about 2m high and the wind had created a channel between snow and rock, amazing.
Zooming down, I got below the cloud to find just a glimpse of sun on the ridge opposite. Crampons and axe away, poles out.
The wind was still strong, gusts blowing up spindrift on the knoll just below.
I went over the knoll and just beyond found a long slope for a sitting glissade (ok bum-slide!). Further on I did the same again, there was less snow but I was able to steer around grassy outcrops - very fast descent! Below I could see my route to the road and headed for the sheepfold at the head of a track. I kept turning around to look back up at the ridge, typically the cloud had cleared now and there was a blue pink tinge to the sky which the camera couldn't properly capture.
I was soon at the road, quite a ways from where the car was parked. It's some years since I've waved the thumb but I started to walk and I got lucky after having gone only about 200m! The second car stopped and I was whisked down the glen in 5 minutes. A big thanks to the chap who was returning to his home on Skye after having had an interview for a job in farming, I hope you got the job! This rounded off a superb day, shame there were no views I'd have loved to have seen the ridge but the experience more than made up for it.
by ChrisW » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:23 pm
by rocket-ron » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:30 pm
by Paul Webster » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:35 pm
Great detailed report by the way - good to see you back in Scotland
by yokehead » Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:51 pm
I've realised now that the onward path to the east has been made by the haggis, you know the rare branch of the species that has its right legs longer than the left so can only go round the hill anti-clockwise as opposed to the more common clockwise variety. Thought I'd seen something dashing behind the trees but couldn't be sure.......
by kevsbald » Thu Feb 10, 2011 8:38 pm
by Merry-walker » Thu Feb 10, 2011 8:45 pm
Thought I was going a bit mental... I was sure I had posted on this earlier today, but I hadn't, it was your other one
by dooterbang » Thu Feb 10, 2011 9:50 pm
I'm doing these on Saturday with perhaps ciste dhub and Am Bathach.
Lovely area is Kintail.