Double centenary in the magic world of Sutherland
by BlackPanther » Thu Aug 13, 2015 11:44 am
Route description: Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh
Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn Spionnaidh, Cranstackie
Date walked: 02/08/2015
Time taken: 7.5 hours
Distance: 14.5 km
Ascent: 1040m1 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
I hit 98 in July in Glen Roy and when the first August weekend looked good for the far north, I convinced Kevin to visit the magic world of Sutherland to continue our Corbett journey
Because he is one C' in front of me, I was looking for a duo, so we could celebrate on the same day. Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh (which I call Ben Spinach ) looked like a good option. Forecast said the best spells of sunshine were going to be in the far north, with cloud & rain only coming late afternoon. We calculated, we had enough time to do the whole walk before the arrival of the weather front. Kevin mentioned Foinaven, but because the latter is a much longer walk, I preferred to stick to the Cran-Spinach twins. No damage done here The Foinaven fortress may still fall this summer, if we have a good day up north again (hope always dies last ).
Sunday morning was cloudy and I had a bad feeling about the accuracy of the BBC/Met Office forecast. When we travelled north across the weird world of Assynt hills, some were cloud-free, some were not. So it was a question of luck. We didn't seem to have any when we eventually arrived in Carbreck and parked in the old quarry. "Our" mountains were neatly hidden behind a large, gloomy cloud.
Not very encouraging...
We had a short deliberation in the car, what to do. We could always drop it, go to Sandwood Bay and enjoy the seaside instead, but I was in bagging mood and Kevin hoped that the clag will eventually burn off. So we decided to give it a go.
Our route follows the WH instruction from Rigolter up Calbhach Coire to the col between the twins, then up Cranstackie first, Beinn Spionnaidh second, down the Cioch Mhor shoulder. Simples.
Three days earlier I had a minor accident when cycling, nothing serious, but I cut my right hand (hence the bandage) and painfully bumped my right knee against the concrete. Ended up with a big, purple bruise. It was the same knee I had injured in 2011 and I was worried the nasty pain I had occasionally experienced since would come back with double strength now! So I told Kevin not to rush it, especially that the ascent looked rather steep.
Cut and bruised, but still desperate to climb... Must be hillwalking madness...
Kevin didn't mind a slower pace, he was in the middle of his hayfever season... Usually whatever he's allergic to flowers in June/early July, but this year, obviously due to cold summer, all flowers are a bit behind the schedule So I was limping, he was sneezing. What a duo of hillwalkers
Maybe just as well we didn't take on Foinaven... Especially that it looked moody to say the least:
The access to Rhigolter is easy and we were surprised to discover a new (or relatively new) track bulldozed about 150m up the slope. It ends with a metal gate (not locked, thankfully) and higher up it's all wild, no proper path whatsoever.
Looking down the track to Rhigolter farm:
The climb up to Calbhach Coire was wet, though after the waterlogged slopes of Glen Roy Corbetts, this was nothing drastic. I was more annoyed with knee-high bracken, knowing that this could be a tick heaven
We were relieved to reach the bottom of the corrie. From here, we had three options:
a. Go left and up Cioch Mhor to Spinach first, but we agreed to leave this as our descent route (it looked less steep and considering my bruised knee, I had to be careful).
b. Go right and directly up Cranstackie, which looked possible from below, but the upper cliffs of the Corbett seemed craggy...
c. Go up the obvious "window" to the col between the twins.
In the end, we followed the herd, going up the recommended route:
Because the bottom of the corrie was covered in peat hags and bog, we gained some height on the right-hand side and traversed at a rising angle to the steeper slopes below the "window".
I was glad we avoided the peat hag challenge this time!
The climb up the gully is only about 100m, but because there are a few small streams running down this slope, it is wet and quite slimy in places, we didn't enjoy it... At least it was green around and the cloud was burning off, there was indeed a chance for cloud-free summits!
Up the slippery gully:
It's getting rocky! I had heard words about the Cran-Spinach duo being very craggy and bouldery, now we entered the world of rocks
Having reached the col, we noticed that the cloud was gone completely and mother nature decided to give us a blessing We changed our mind five seconds later, when we were attacked by a swarm of midges... The only way to avoid them was to continue moving and hope that the summit itself would have enough breeze to keep the wee black b***ers at bay
Looking down the ascent "window":
A woman on a mission! Pushing up Cranstackie, Beinn Spionnaidh behind:
The cloud was gone and we could now enjoy the views to the full! It's the magic of Cran-Spinach route - as long as you are in the gully, the only views you have are to the west, a few Sub'2000 lumps and bumps and the road. The arrival on the main ridge is like a curtain going up in a theatre - let the show begin!
Ben Hope and Ben Loyal, what a pair... Showing their best profiles from this side:
A wider pano, the two mountains and the vast world of Sutherland around:
Up the ridge! So far so good but the final climb had a distinctive scrambly smell to it
We found a path for the last stage of ascent. The final 50m were on big boulders, but no proper scrambling - just hopping and jumping over big rocks, I found it entertaining:
Loch Eriboll from near the summit of Cranstackie:
The big pair again:
When we emerged on the flatter summit area, the cairn was only a short walk in front of us:
I slowed down to let Kevin go first and touch the cairn on his 100th Corbett. Congratulations, honey!
All right, so if we decided on a direct attack up Cranstackie from the corrie, we would have to go directly up this... Looks a bit iffy... Maybe the straight-on route is not a good idea after all
Cranstackie is a brilliant vantage point. The summit cairn is perched on the edge of steep cliff and views are great in all directions. To the north, the sands of Kyleof Durness:
To the west, the forbidden country of Cape Wrath Marylins... Shame that Sandwood Bay is not visible from this angle:
No. 99 for me, No. 10 for Lucy. She seems to favour Corbetts over other hills, she has already entered double figures!
But of course, the main attraction of Cranstackie panoramas is the undisturbed vista to Foinaven, a great view to the whole length of the ridge, every top and rocky outcrop. Earlier this year we climbed Meall Horn, expecting some good panos of Foinaven, but sadly the angle is wrong from there and the "biggie" looks less impressive. No such problem now. Enjoy the Foinaven show
I was gobsmacked and couldn't stop snapping photos...
Meall Horn and McDugaills Hill, much less impressive but they deserve their place on the list as well:
After our first celebratory summit break, we moved on to the second one The traverse between the two Corbetts is easy enough. After carefully climbing down the boulders, we met other walkers going up Cranstackie. One of them turned out to be a fellow WH member, Johnny Corbett, so we stopped for a quick chat Hope you and your companions enjoyed the views from the summit just as much as we did
The descent to the col was a formality, and now we could admire the shape of Cranstackie ridge as seen from the north:
The climb up Beinn Spionnaidh is much less steep, some large rocks higher up but easier than the previous boulderfield:
I shouldn't be getting used to the good weather
The true summit of Spinach is situated on the northern end of the summit ridge, about 400m of flat boulderfield. We hopped and jumped across this final obstacle and once we reached the cairn, I couldn't resist a bit of fun and games to celebrate my 100th Corbett! Yeahay!
Soon, I grabbed my camera and went on to lurk around and find the best spot to photograph the northern views...
Beinn Spionnaidh is just as good a viewpoint as its higher twin, but it's a completely different "set" of panoramas. Gone are the craggy outcrops of Foinaven, replaced by the vastness of the sea, the yellow sands, the green meadows:
The eastern pano, looking even better in afternoon sun, with details of the N face of Ben Hope well visible:
More rocks... the western cliffs of Spinach fall almost vertically:
Ben Loyal zoomed:
View south from the summit with the shelter in the foreground:
A man on the edge ?
...or a man with the golden camera ?
Before we left the summit, I posed with our faithful, wee companion Lucy for her 11th Corbett:
This tiny hill to the north of Spinach has formed it's own cloud, which was a sign for us that the weather was about to change and we better begin to descend back to Rhigolter:
Our descent route. It follows the ridge of Cioch Mhor, with lovely views all the way down. At least there was a refreshing breeze now and midges have gone wherever they go when it's too windy for them
We retraced our steps to the southern cairn and from there, we picked the best route down the western slopes of Spionnaidh. Higher up it's bouldery, but soon rocks give way to grass which provides pleasant walking:
Cranstackie looks steep from this angle:
We reached the 520m col, traversed just below the minor top of Cioch Mhor and aimed SW down the grassy slopes to the upper end of the track. We had to cross a fence on the way down, but it was low and not barb-wired, so no problem with this obstacle. Lower down it was back to high bracken swimming, but luckily this didn't last and we found the gate and the end of the track with no further adventures. We met hoards of frogs of different sizes, from wee youngsters less than inch long to big, fat adults too lazy to hop away
On the track, we enjoyed a lazy stroll back to the car. The cloud was thickening, but we didn't care, we caught the weather window in the right moment!
Cranstackie, Rhigolter farm and the track up to the corrie from below:
We returned home for a private celebration We are both now double ton baggers (100M + 100C) and Kevin is only 6 "ticks" away from another watershed moment in his life, reaching double ton of Munros. I'm one away from 180. I'm still pinching myself - how did we do it????
The following weekend we brought to life a cerian plan that has been cooking up for a while... We invented a new route for Ben Chonzie! TR to come soon.
by Mal Grey » Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:19 pm
by rockhopper » Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:25 pm
by Alteknacker » Thu Aug 13, 2015 2:33 pm
It's a wonderful looking part of the world - just a pity that it's an 12 hour drive for me
by jamesb63 » Thu Aug 13, 2015 2:51 pm
they really show the beauty of this area
by dooterbang » Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:45 pm
Usual great photos and write up.
by BlackPanther » Fri Aug 14, 2015 3:18 pm
I doubt that we will ever complete the C's, too many hills down south to tick off, but we would like to climb all Corbetts within reasonable driving distance from home. Not that many left I think 120-130 altogether is a reasonable number.
by SAVAGEALICE » Fri Aug 14, 2015 5:04 pm