From sunshine into darkness on the big grey hill
by dogplodder » Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:18 pm
Route description: Beinn Liath Mhor, Achnashellach
Munros included on this walk: Beinn Liath Mhor
Date walked: 12/10/2011
Time taken: 10 hours
Distance: 14 km15 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
To be honest there aren't too many non remote ones now that don't require a long drive. What I came up with was Beinn Liath Mhor. I remembered from doing Sgorr Ruadh there's a good stalkers' path going right up Coire Lair. The plan was for us to walk up to the small lochan together then for me to nip up and bag the summit and down again to walk back via stalkers' path with him. Well that was the plan.
He doesn't have quite my enthusiasm for early starts where hills are involved, so I relented and said we'd leave the house at 8.00ish rather than 7.00ish. On reflection that was a mistake. So we parked in the layby opposite the phone box at 9.30 and were on our way shortly after. Not many minutes into the walk the dramatic prow of Fuar Tholl loomed up before us which got my juices flowing for the day ahead - and probably filled him with quiet dread.
We started at a good pace up the track, turned left at the wooden post and stepped through the so called dog gate along with the dogs. So far so good. But when the gradient increased the pace slowed right down. He just isn't used to walking uphill. Half an hour into the walk he was feeling faint and needing to eat which I didn't feel boded particularly well. But I'm an optimist and so much wanted to climb this hill I didn't let myself question whether we could do it in the time we had.
A couple passed us who were out for a flat walk and a guy who was planning the round of Liath, Ruadh and Fuar Tholl. Our pace was so slow I didn't expect to see any of them again! So we plodded on and reached the wonderful sculpture-like rocks where the path levels off at the lip of the corrie. At this point things were looking good. Pete was feeling okay again and we even discussed whether we should tackle Beinn Liath Mhor by the Walkhighlands suggested route going up the east end and walking along the ridge to the summit. But we decided to stick with our original plan - which might have been another mistake.
Sgorr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mhor
Sgorr Ruadh looking impressive
Love the way the rock strata is so clear
We followed the good path up into Coire Lair
We were accompanied by this majestic chap - perhaps eyeing up the dogs as a potential meal
We stopped for a while to watch two rival stags staging a stand off high on the slopes of BLM. By the way the hinds were slipping quietly away as the boys roared, it was like they were saying "Here's our chance girls!"
In the shadow of Sgorr Ruadh
I kept looking for the lochan at the top of the corrie and it wasn't in the dip I expected it to be in, but when we got there the dogs were happy just because they're labradors and have a thing for water. Tess wanted me to throw a stick in for her to retrieve but there were only stones about and she's learned it doesn't work so well with stones so wouldn't play
This was the point I should have asked Pete what he wanted to do. My original idea had been to leave him here for a snooze in the sun, go up to the summit as fast as I could and down again to join him. But it was good having his company and I guess I didn't want us to split up. So I just went right on up the path that started climbing up to the ridge and he followed. To start with the path was okay - steep with a few hands on bits but okay.
Path traversing up to ridge
Looking back into Coire Lair. Seem to remember that lumpy effect is to do with glaciation - the lumps called moraines.
The path was indistinct and a couple of times I lost it completely. When in doubt I tend to go higher but in this case that wasn't the best thing to do as we were traversing a knoll that we'd have to come down from to get on to the ridge proper. If I'd studied the map more closely I'd have seen this but just at the point I was about to lead us up the gum tree the very nice man we met earlier who was doing all three appeared, having done Liath and on his way to Ruadh. He assured me that although the path wasn't visible now if we kept going at this level we'd pick it up again. That was really helpful and kept us on the straight and narrow, so to speak, traversing round to where the path wound its way up through a break in the crags.
Path (on extreme left) winding its way up through the crags
We passed the second small lochan from which point we got our first view of the sea to the west. That was exciting but I was beginning to feel anxious about how long this was taking and didn't immediately see the path going up from there. It was Pete who spotted it and on we went until we reached a level pavement area with all these blocks of rock that are probably something else to do with glaciation.
When we reached the start of the steep rocky climb to the summit Pete suggested I go up and he wait for me. But by this time I was wondering if the best option might not be to complete the ridge rather than return the way we'd come. So I encouraged him to keep going to the top.
It doesn't look it in pic but this bit was steep
He did it and I was very chuffed for him!
This was Pete's 7th Munro - and his last. But he's said that after every Munro he's done!
The rest of the team
Loch Torridon from summit of Beinn Liath Mhor
The rest of the ridge
North to the mighty Liathach
Spot the ptarmigan adult and juvenile - so well camoflaged and the right edge of pic is cut off in post
I always give the dogs a carrot at the summit cairn as their reward and to distract them from what I'm eating. But it was so rocky at the top Jack carried his carrot around and wouldn't eat it. Tess ate hers and lost some of it down the rocks. He must have sussed that would happen. Clever hound.
Jack mooching for food scraps left by other walkers. As far as he's concerned this is purpose of climbing hills!
Looking east to Loch Coire Lair
I really wanted to walk the ridge and I didn't want to go back. But our pace was slow and it may have been wiser to turn back given the time it was taking us and the sun due to go down at 6.30. So we pressed on, me arguing with myself that it was a shorter distance than turning back.
Pete was enjoying the scrambling bits and was doing well. But our pace was very slow and I was feeling anxious about losing the light before getting back to the car and I hadn't even had the foresight to pack a torch!
Can't leave the tale hanging in the air at that point so will finish in a post!
More to follow....
by dogplodder » Fri Oct 14, 2011 10:02 pm
Looking back at the ridge we'd walked
But we still had a way to go
I tried to distract myself from the sinking sun by thinking how colour co-ordinated Jack was with that hill down there - Beinn Liath Beag?
The dogs did very well on the rocky terrain and at only one point did Tess have to be coaxed up a scrambling bit.
Mountain dog in his element
I wanted Pete to walk faster but he was tired and he had done very well, walking much further than he'd bargained for!
But it was time we were off this hill!
Last look at Loch Coire Lair before the steep descent
When we got to the high cairn at the east end of the ridge I looked for the path over the rocks but I couldn't see it. I didn't want to waste any more time or worry Pete that I couldn't find the path so I chose a line which avoided rocks going down slightly west of the line of the path. We side-stepped down the steep grassy slope to below the worst of the rocks then traversed to the right picking up the path further down.
That section had been slow so I was relieved to find the path, thinking we'd be faster now. But the path was steep and eroded and Pete's legs turned to jelly causing him to topple over. He hurt his face with grazes just above his eye and mouth and cut his wrist on a rock. I was out of his sight when this happened and kept yelling at him to keep going as it would soon be dark. I feel a heel now as it must have been horrible for him to hear me yelling at him to hurry and him feeling so shaken up. He said later he'd actually enjoyed the whole walk up until the horrible descent. He was just too tired to cope with that steep path and I wished then I'd done things differently.
We eventually reached the cairn on the stalkers' path and walked as fast as we could. No roaming in the gloaming for us. I was angry with myself for not packing a torch. It's amazing how well your eyes adjust in the failing light but by the time we reached the trees I was struggling to see and there was an eerie moment hearing the rapids from the river so close and wondering if we'd walk right in there! I was glad of my poles to feel the way and pale coloured Jack was a help walking ahead as I could see him.
It was such a relief to reach the dog gate and then on to the vehicle track and seeing the light from the station was a real hallelujah moment! We were careful as we crossed the road and reached the layby in pitch darkness to find unsurprisingly our car was the last there. It was 7.45, a good two hours later than I thought we'd be.
Pete's fine now and is determined to buy me a head torch before my next foray out!
by snodland » Sat Oct 15, 2011 12:50 am
by kinley » Sat Oct 15, 2011 9:02 am
Head torch certainly takes some of the pressure off, although as you say you can walk quite a while after sundown without one.
Descending that way off BLM would certainly be very steep.
Cheers - entertaining stuff.
by HighlandSC » Sat Oct 15, 2011 9:34 am
by pigeon » Sat Oct 15, 2011 9:49 am
by dogplodder » Sat Oct 15, 2011 9:54 am
snodland wrote:This was the best type of report for me. As long as I have ben walking the hills - not that long actually, just 6/7 years - I have had my eye on this mountain and Sgorr Ruadh in a day. I found your report really enlightening about the terrain at the ridge of Beinn Liath Mhor. It looks a lot more accessible thanb I had thought (always looked bouldery before) and for that aswell as the excellent pictures of Liathach and Coire Lair - Thank You. Now all I need is a dry, wind free spell of weather to walk and enjoy them - maybe next summer
Thanks snodland, glad it was a help in your forward planning! It's a great ridge to walk and it was only the worry about losing daylight that put a slight dampener on things. Apart from that we had a perfect day.
by dogplodder » Sat Oct 15, 2011 9:57 am
Descending that way off BLM would certainly be very steep.
Yep. I think once again WH has it the right way round.
by dogplodder » Sat Oct 15, 2011 10:01 am
HighlandSC wrote:Great report. Reminds you of the importance of decision making and planning. We started a walk to a bothy late last week and progress was slower than thought due to rivers in spate to cross but thanks to having packed headtorches we knew we'd be fine. Turned out we only put them on for 15 mins but would have been fine without.
I should have had a torch. The fact I've never needed one doesn't mean I won't ever! I always carry a survival bag and never used it so why not a torch? Duh.
by dogplodder » Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:43 am
pigeon wrote:Great report and pictures ,well done ,hope Pete is ok ,i'm off out to buy a head torch
Reckon there'll be a run on head torches now.
by b-illie » Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:59 am
by steven65 » Sat Oct 15, 2011 12:03 pm
Very nice !
by ChrisW » Sat Oct 15, 2011 12:08 pm
by dogplodder » Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:45 pm
b-illie wrote:Great dogs you have - they must be wonderful companions, I always wish I could have one!
They're great companions and I dread not having them. They're both rescue dogs and adapted very well to coming out with me. They're 8 now so hopefully a few more years yet!
If you wish you could have one you should go for it - and consider a rescue!
by dogplodder » Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:48 pm
steven65 wrote:Well done for pressing on in the darkness!
I was half expecting a row from the hill police but folk on this site are so understanding and nice!