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Conival comeback

Conival comeback


Postby Torridon_snails » Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:41 pm

Route description: Ben More Assynt and Conival

Munros included on this walk: Conival

Date walked: 26/06/2007

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 14 km

Ascent: 1000m

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Some walks are special for the scenery, the air, the light, the scents or sounds. Or perhaps the history, or the flowers, birds, newts, deer... Or it might be an anniversary, or a place which already has strong associations.

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Or it might be something more subtle:

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Having thought so much about Torridon over recent times - writing reports on The WalkHighlands website (http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk) finishing and having a choir/oboe composition performed recently, our attention is now focussing on Assynt as our holiday is approaching fast.

Clare first went to Assynt on a school field trip, many years before we met. She was blown away by it. We spent most of our honeymoon there, based in Lochinver. Compared with some of our Highland trips, it was quite quiet. Our glorious day out was on Suilven, but we didn't ascend either summit: having climbed the north gulley, seen that there was an immediate just-as-steep drop on the other side, we freaked out slightly and found a bit of flat ground just up from the saddle to admire the views. That was enough frisson for one day. It was a fabulous walk: great weather, from the clearing mist on Suilven reflected on Loch Druim Suardalain in Glen Canisp, to the pure sunset over Inverkirkaig bay, and much in between. Perhaps the modest and off-beat walks, and the still moments of that trip, though, are what we remember most.

Eleven years later, in 2006, Clare was diagnosed with leukaemia. She walked into A&E on Maundy Thursday, and spent most of the next 5 months as an inpatient at the Leeds General Infirmary. A shock it was, but we had a lot of support, and still count ourselves very lucky. We try to take that outlook forward now that life is normal again.

Clare was determined in recovery. A few days after leaving hospital for the last time, we were off on the bus, then slowly but steadily up Otley Chevin. A couple of long weekends followed before Christmas: a walk along some of the central parts of Hadrian's Wall: we walked miles - Daniel doesn't know how she did it - he was exhausted! Then a few days on Arran. (One more day than we planned, as Ardrossan was too exposed, so the ferry went to Gourock, couldn't dock in the squalls there, so we went back to Brodick!)

The following Easter we bought folding bikes and took them to Braemar, but our Summer Holiday in Inverkirkaig was our first big trek away since it all happened, and Conival our first big walk.

Assynt, and Inchnadamph in particular, has other associations for us. Clare is the geological map librarian at Leeds University, and many of her colleagues have developed the understanding of how this iconic place came to be as it is. Clare did lots of work on a website on the geology of Assynt, which is used by many universities, and was one of the factors in the area being declared a Geopark. But you don't have to have any professional links with it: any interest in landscape, in geology and its history, will draw you to Inchnadamph...

Assynt is amazing, but it's also quite daunting, for us at least. It's huge, complex, sparse, rough, and, as Hamish Brown says, there are no "easy miles" here. It's easy for us to feel intimidated by the remoteness, the difficulty of the terrain, even the gradients on the roads and our sluggish cycling legs... Then there's Lyme disease and the like.

But whatever happens to us in this forthcoming, or other (hopefully) future visits to Assynt, Conival will always be a joyous achievement for us. This year we're staying about as close as one can to it, at Glenbain - a cottage many of you will know.

We did the walk from Inchnadamph, on the usual route. As we were staying in Inverkirkaig, we had to cycle into Lochinver, then pick up the bus. So we had between about 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to do the walk. 8 hours is a very short time for us to do a high walk, even one of just 8 or 9 miles. With the bus ride and the cycling, though, it was a suitably long day to do justice to what happened there, and indeed the perfect weather we had that day.

Here are some pictures from the day. We hope you like them...

The start point was the chalet right on the north side of Inverkirkaig bay. The chalet is at the centre of this photo

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Here's the other side of the bay:

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A secluded yet bright and captivating place to stay. We saw red-throated divers here. The road to Lochinver was no less beautiful; although it's less than three miles, it feels very wild in places, and felt unremittingly steep to us, unaccustomed to cycling at all, let alone here...

Loch Culag was a particular highlight of this cycle ride, which we did several
times during the week: none as luminous as this day:

Suilven and Loch Culag at the start of the trip:

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On the way back to Inverkirkaig - one of the higher sections through the gneiss wilderness, between Loch Culag and Strathan:

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Quinag, from above Loch Culag:

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Everyone on the minibus was friendly - the driver, various people going to school, and here and there. It goes on the main road from Lochinver, along Loch Assynt. There are tantalising glimpses of Conival from this road: here's one from three days later, on our visit to the Culag Community Woodland Trust's then very new acquisition of the of Little Assynt. (The Trust's website has more details: http://www.culagwoods.org.uk). Plus some other photos we've taken through the window of a fast-moving bus!

The east end of Loch Assynt: on the skyline is Breabag Tarsuinn (right) and Conival (with steep right-hand side left of centre:

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The same Inchnadamph hills under a roll of hill-cloud - a common occurence - perhaps this shows why Traligill is also known as Gleann Dubh (the dark glen):

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Some of the celebrated pine-dotted islands:

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Looking south to Canisp:

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A little further west: Ardvreck castle: Breabag is on the skyline with hill cloud above it:

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Incidentally, there's some very interesting and visible geology in the road cuttings along the Loch. That's for another report, hopefully soon. (It's hard to see from the bus, anyway!).

We took the usual route up Conival, starting from the turning to Inchnadamph Lodge and Field Centre: many of Clare's students stay at the hostel each summer, as a base for their training in geological mapping.

Here's the view south along the road at the start of the walk - limestone cliffs on left, glacial moraines on right:

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The track is very good for a long way up the glen, and after a mile passes the white cottage of Glenbain, where we'll soon be heading: we nearly stayed there on our honeymoon back in 1995, but decided on Baddidarrach instead.

Loch Assynt, and Glenbain cottage (right):

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There's lots of geology plain to see on this walk: thrusts, quartzite, pipe rock and igneous sills. All very interesting! On a clear day, one can easily see why Assynt, and Inchnadamph in particular, is one of the most important and appealing geological sites in the world - and that's without going into any of the subtleties. We were using the BGS Rockwatch Assynt Guide - it has a basic fold-out geological map, and a separate booklet, both in a handy plastic wallet, so good for taking on a walk.

Hidden below the track at Glenbain is a wonderland of caves, gorges, sinks and resurgences, colourful rockpools, beautifully waterworn limestone, and a carpets of flowers. It needs a separate walk to do it justice: we're hoping to write this up soon...

Conival and the river Traligill - afternoon:

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Traligill is full of complex profiles and impressive outcrops of limestone. And the river is a delight: the path gives you good views of it at various points. Higher up, the track became rather peaty, looking rather like chocolate cake, and having a bit of the same consistency!

Looking up the Traligill valley (Valley of the Trolls!): Cnoc nan Uamh, with its caves, behind the River Traligill before it disappears underground. Breabag Tarsuinn is on the right (skyline):

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It steepens and becomes rockier as you approach the bealach between Conival and Na Tuadhan. At this height we're away from limestone: most of the rock seems to be quartzite, though there is pipe rock around, too. The cliffs here are of quartzite (quartz arenites) with intrusions of dark brick-red porphyritic trachytes, according to "A geological excursion guide to the north-west Highlands of Scotland", by Kathyrn Goodenough and Maarten Krabbendam, published by the Edinburgh Geological Society, 2011. However technical this sounds, these dark intrusions are quite striking.

Near the top of the valley: intrusions of trachytes:

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Other rocks: limestone, lower down, above Glenbain:

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..and clear water:

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Pipe rock, below the ridge:

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The horizontal lines on this rock, just below the ridge, could be glacial scratches (striae)?:

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The stream is always close by, and there was plenty to draw the eye, easing the ascent...

The mossy mountain stream, Allt a' Choinne' Mhill, is always close by. It becomes the River Traligill lower down, even at which point it's not coming directly from the Bealach Traligill. What matter? It's a lovely companion...

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Cliffs on the west of Beinn an Fhuarain (Fuaran nan Each):

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It's always worth a look back, of course: we had a big sky from here, orographic cloud matching the massifs of Canisp (right) and Coigach (centre-left):

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Once on the ridge, suddenly the views to the east open out: a great panorama, with depth too: there's quite a slope on the other side. Turning right and up towards Conival, there is some steep, angular loose bouldery quartzite to negotiate, but fairly soon it gets easier. Just before the summit, there's a surprising bit of quite orange sandy soil: you can see it in the photo from the top which is looking to Loch Assynt.

Na Tuadhan, from a little way up the Conival ridge:

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Ben More Assynt (left), also from below Conival's summit: the south ridge of Ben More looks imposing from here:

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On the ridge, you look down to some lochs with a great range and vibrancy of colours, as in the photo at the top of this report. This was perhaps the most remarkable thing we've seen like this: shades of green and blue:

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..and a bit of purple:

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We made it! Our's first big hill since Clare's leukaemia, and a Munro! The weather was great, chilly and fairly windy but sunny and clear. There were spectacular views from the top: Ben More Assynt, Foinaven and others. Wonderful! We didn't attempt Ben More Assynt, as we were keeping an eye on bus times, and didn't want to push our luck re. fitness etc. So instead we sat on the summit for the best part of an hour. Out of the wind, and looking down at the bare bones of the seminal Moine Thrust. There is, believe it or not, a song written in French, about the Moine Thrust. It's as well we'd left it at home, as we were about to have company...

A couple of ladies arrived there just after us. One zoomed off to Ben More Assynt while the other sat in the summit shelter with us. It turned out that her friend who had zoomed off had had heart bypass surgery last year and she was just getting back to fitness. She was 66 and fitter than us and her friend, all of whom were in our 40s! We said how grateful and delighted we were that Clare had regained fitness after treatment for leukaemia.

The lady we were talking to turned out to be a Norwegian midwife. We had a very pleasant chat which included us explaining what we could of the local geology with the help of the BGS guide! The very green-blue lochan was a surprise to her: she said in Norway, those colours are usually found only in glacial lakes.

Here are some views from the top:

Coigach (right), and Loch Broom (left) [looking south west]:

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The vast peatlands of the Moine Schists, and the peaks of NE Sutherland [east of north]:

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The Quartzite folds of Na Tuadhan, and the Peaks of Reay Forest [north]:

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Ben More Assynt [east]:

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The southern end of Ben More Assynt [southeast]:

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Breabag and Breabag Tarsuinn - the Moine Thrust is clearly traceable from here [south]":

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"Canisp [west]":

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The Conival ridge (near), Loch Assynt and Quinag (right), outer Isles beyond [northwest]:

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Eventually we had to head back down over the white quartzite and the chocolate cake, and back to the bus. Glowing from the sun and wind. A magnificent day out.


We weren't quite done: a friendly wave from the bus driver as she stopped to pick us up. Then back to Lochinver. We had a rest in the sunshine in the village, caught up on a few groceries, then cycled back to Inverkirkaig. Back at the chalet, the weather was still smiling.

Finally, we fancied seeing what the evening light would do, so we dragged ourselves out of the chalet, soon very happy we did as we wandered along the strand. Then inland along the road, by the sylvan river, and a short but steep ascent to the plateau south of the Kirkaig and Loch Ardbhair. It must be all of 250 ft, but - well, we hadn't yet completely seized up - quite!

There was soft colour - a quietly beautiful end to a spectacular day.

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+ + + + Postscript: + + + +


We're now back from our stay in Glenbain, preceded by 4 magnificent days in Scourie. Glenbain and Assynt were great, of course... perhaps we worried too much... although we did find it pretty tough. We're hoping to post some photos etc. soon...

For now, we hope you've seen something nice on this page - perhaps giving good memories if you've been on this wonderful hill of the dog: a big, gentle hound, on the day we were there, anyway.

(Text and photos by Daniel and Clare Gordon. October 2012).

[This report (with a few more photos, links etc.), is also on our website: http://cdgordon.org.uk/photos/Suth/2007_06_Inverkirkaig/Conival/index.php)]
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User avatar
Torridon_snails
Wanderer
 
Posts: 108
Munros:22   Corbetts:9
Grahams:6   
Sub 2000:11   Hewitts:17
Wainwrights:2   
Joined: Jul 21, 2011
Location: Kirkstall, Yorkshire

Re: Conival comeback

Postby dalavil » Thu Nov 29, 2012 12:27 am

Really enjoyed the report and pictures. Well done on the comeback.
dalavil
 
Posts: 28
Munros:279   Corbetts:221
Grahams:72   Donalds:30
Sub 2000:52   
Joined: Jan 16, 2010

Re: Conival comeback

Postby morag1 » Thu Nov 29, 2012 5:02 pm

This is a stunning report and I was blown away by the beauty of your photographs :D

Well done to Clare on her fight against Leukaemia :clap: :clap: :clap:
morag1
 

Re: Conival comeback

Postby Torridon_snails » Sun Dec 02, 2012 10:56 am

dalavil wrote:Really enjoyed the report and pictures. Well done on the comeback.


Thank you very much dalavil. It was a great day out and felt like a real celebration!

all the best,
Daniel and Clare (Torridon_snails)
Last edited by Torridon_snails on Sun Dec 02, 2012 11:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Torridon_snails
Wanderer
 
Posts: 108
Munros:22   Corbetts:9
Grahams:6   
Sub 2000:11   Hewitts:17
Wainwrights:2   
Joined: Jul 21, 2011
Location: Kirkstall, Yorkshire

Re: Conival comeback

Postby Torridon_snails » Sun Dec 02, 2012 11:00 am

morag1 wrote:This is a stunning report and I was blown away by the beauty of your photographs :D

Well done to Clare on her fight against Leukaemia :clap: :clap: :clap:


Thank you Morag1. The weather really smiled on us and gave us a treat. We've been really lucky since I was ill. We're off to Torridon in a few days and will be in touch soon.

very best wishes,
Clare and Daniel
User avatar
Torridon_snails
Wanderer
 
Posts: 108
Munros:22   Corbetts:9
Grahams:6   
Sub 2000:11   Hewitts:17
Wainwrights:2   
Joined: Jul 21, 2011
Location: Kirkstall, Yorkshire

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