walkhighlands

Some biblical weather on the Cuillin ridge!

Munros: Am Basteir, Bruach na Frithe, Inaccessible Pinnacle, Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh, Sgurr a'Mhadaidh, Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr Dubh Mor, Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Sgurr na Banachdich, Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr nan Gillean

Date walked: 03/09/2019

Time taken: 34 hours

Distance: 47.5km

Ascent: 5100m

After much deliberating over the previous months on whether to hire a guide for the In Pinn or for the whole ridge, I decided to go for the whole ridge. I didn't have any concerns with the scrambling elements (bar the In Pinn) or the route finding difficulties, but having walked most of the Munros so far on my own, I actually fancied being in a group - and for once not even having to worry about having to think or look at where I was going :) Plus, if the weather did turn (which of course it never does on the Cuillin :lol:), I'd have that support from the guide and, if the weather was pants, having paid for a guide would make me go out in it rather than sit in the hostel drinking tea.

Looking at all the reports on the site, my first instinct was to approach the legend Paddy, but he let me know he would be retired by the time was looking to do the climb... good on you Paddy, seems like you earned it! :D

I knew I couldn't afford private guiding for myself and had no friends who would commit to a 7-day round trip up to Skye... so after checking with a few providers and seeing if they had any spare places left on any 'open' sessions across a weekend, I chose The Highland Mountain Company (who do advertise on this site) and the 'Skye Munros in 4 days' course (https://www.thehighlandmountaincompany.co.uk/4-days-munro-course). I'll chat more on the guide(s) later, but I would just say that Dave Buckett (who is the Highland Mountain Company) and Caspar Mckeever (a freelancer), were absolutely superb! :clap: :clap:

Well anyway, once all confirmed, I booked into the Glenbrittle hostel (which, with no WiFi or phone signal was a joy to be in for 4 nights) and waited for the days to pass. As time ticked by, keeping an eye on the weather I was starting to feel very glad I'd booked with a guide. The course was run from a Saturday to Tuesday and as this weekend approached, the weather was going to turn on Sunday night... and boy, did it turn!

The drive up from Brum on the Friday was good - gorgeous weather, that I knew wasn't going to last - and, as I'd left very, very early in the morning I managed to fit in a quick journey up and down Bla Bheinn before heading to the hostel. As I started to descend along the B8009 from above the Fairy Pools, the phone signal disappeared... if there were to be any changes to the plans, I wouldn't know until meeting up with Dave in the morning...

Day 1 – Middle section 9km, 1000m ascent, Grade 2
Sgurr a'Mhadaidh and Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh


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Dave had emailed the plan for the first day earlier in the week - and we were to meet up at the Glenbrittle car park at the campsite at 8:30am on the Saturday with a view to tackle the southern three Munros on the ridge. Here I met the two other chaps who were booked onto the 4 day session - Harry, a lovely bloke and a no-nonsense builder from Cumbria (in his 60s and very fit) and John, another nice chap - a GP from Gloucester - quite a big chap, about 6' 3", he'd not managed to do many walks for a while and wasn't even sure if he'd last four days... uh oh!

As we met at the car park, the rain was bucketing it down (and had been throughout the night) and Dave advised the crossing of some of the burns would be a little troublesome early on, and so rather than get too wet so early on the first day - suggested we do the middle section of the ridge Sgurr a'Mhadaidh and Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh, which the group was happy to do, so we retraced out steps back to the youth hostel and parked up. The forecast for the afternoon, from about 2pm was apparently very good - but Dave didn't know whether he'd be able to get hold of each of us (definitely wouldn't have been able to get hold of me), so hadn't suggested it - and really, all three of us were raring to go and happy to start in the rain.

The side streams were high on the walk in, but passable and we made reasonable progress on to the ridge in the cloud:

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I'd definitely seen some mountains out there yesterday...

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heading up through Coire a'Ghreadaidh

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Dave leading the way up Sgurr a'Mhadaidh

With no views to speak of and the weather getting worse with an increasingly cold wind, we quickly completed the two Munros and started our descent back into the corrie:

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Harry on the first summit

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John, me and Harry on Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh summit

We were on ropes going across the bealach because of 'the bad step', but even in the very wet conditions, I can't say I even noticed it - probably being 6ft helped. This was the first time I'd ever been on a rope, so at times it was awkward to get used to (keeping the rope 'snug') and at times seemed more of a hindrance rather than a help - but it was it was all part of the learning for the later days when a rope would be required :wink:

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looking back up to the bad step

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heading back down with the weather clearing nicely :roll:

A gentle and easy day, with very little scrambling required and probably just the intro you would need if you'd not really done any scrambling before. So back to the hostel to make use of the drying room (a very good friend over this whole trip) and some beers and a look forward to the next day... which was to be the best forecast of the whole four days, so it was going to be the In Pinn regardless :D

Day 2 – The In' Pinn' 11.5km 1350m ascent, Grade 3
Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, The 'Inaccessible Pinnacle' and Sgurr na Banachdich


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We met again at 8:30am only this time, the short distance down the road from the youth hostel to the Mountain rescue hut. It wasn't a bad morning at all - quite warm, pretty dry - even some blue skies... fingers crossed it would last for as long as possible today...

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the walk up to Coire Lagan

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golden eagle

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views back out to Loch Brittle

We made steady progress into Corie Lagan and then onto the scrambling out to Sgurr MhicChoinnich. We didn't go up Great Stone Chute, but Dave said we'd be coming down that the next day, which would be fun :) The views up on the ridge were great... briefly... but then the weather came in just as we headed off the summit:

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into Coire Lagan looking to Sgurr MhicChoinnich

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there was definitely rain yesterday...

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Dave leading the way

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up on the ridge heading towards Sgurr MhicChoinnich

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up on the ridge looking back towards Sgurr Dearg (blocking the view of the In Pinn from here)

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group shot from Dave

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on Sgurr MhicChoinnich summit

From here we retraced our steps and started the slightly awkward scramble alongside up Sgurr Dearg along the slabs of very wet and slippery basalt. John had been struggling with the walk up to Sgurr MhicChoinnich and now was really struggling with navigating the slab. Dave decided to put him on a rope up the slab - and Harry and I kept very close behind him for when he slipped. Once we were up to the base of the In Pinn, John revealed to me and Harry that he wasn't going up the In Pinn today... he'd actually told Dave first thing in the morning that he didn't feel comfortable - and once we were standing staring up at the In Pinn, he said he was definitely not changing his mind. Never mind John - you'll get back up one day I'm sure!

So it was just the two of us going up, so Dave told us the plan and then we watched the route he took and waited for the tug on the rope (it was pretty windy so no way could we hear Dave shout). The scramble up was pretty simple - I think being in mist helped in that you had no idea it was an exposed climb:

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Dave preparing...

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and off he goes

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Dave snapping me and Harry

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In Pinn summit

At the top, Dave gave us the low down of how to abseil. "And remember, you're not going to fall off, so just take your time." Very reassuring words - cheers Dave! :D Harry had done a little bit of abseiling at a climbing centre before, but this was my first time. It took a couple of minutes to get used to pushing the rope upwards as my first instinct was definitely to just hang on to it tightly... but once you get the hang of it it was great fun. Just a shame it was such a short abseil!

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Dave leads the way

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me coming down

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Harry coming down

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well done Harry :clap:

Once down, we went and got John from where we went up and then after, it was a simple walk over to Sgurr Banachdaich in the mist to see our third Munro of the day:

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Dave leading the way

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Sgurr Banachdaich summit

I'll say one thing for John, no matter how much he seemed to struggle... when we were at the top of each summit he perked right up and would take a dozen selfies or so :lol: We followed the straightforward route down between Sgurr nan Gobhar and An Diallaid and as we got out of the mist, it was actually a beautiful day indeed. The views opened up right across to the Western Isles and I was quickly stripped down to t-shirt and shorts:

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come on down!

It always amazes me just how much activity can be going on in seemingly the smallest of nice fluffy white clouds...

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looking back up to the ridge

We finished back at the youth hostel where I was parked and Harry was picked up by his lovely missus Ang. I don't think John would have made it back to the hut for his car... he was absolutely shattered after today - so I gave him and Dave a short lift. So, back into the drying room and time to raid the stash of beers again!

Just before the finish, Dave explained that Caspar would be taking the next two days, as he would be in Glencoe... and also that the Monday promised to be the worst of the days for the weather... :crazy: Unlucky Caspar!

Day 3 – The southern peaks 13km 1400m ascent, Grade 2
Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr Dubh Mor and Sgurr Alasdair


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Well, as most of the hostel were woken up throughout the night from thunder and the constant pounding of the rain on the hostel's roof - I didn't know what to expect. If I wasn't booked onto a course I don't even think I would have left the hostel all day. I'd have probably started on the beer mid-afternoon and over-indulged on Cadbury's Miniature Heroes... but on this occasion - it wasn't an option! Lots of people couldn't get back to sleep from the sound of the rain and wind outside so even at 7am it was a busy breakfast... and as we were exchanging stories about the plans for the day, everybody (myself included) were half thinking that I'd get there and we'd call it a day. The weather was pretty, pretty terrible.

As this was the original plan for day one, we met in the campsite car park and had a good chat with Caspar about what the plans were... and I still had it in the back of my mind it might be called off... but no - on we went! You legend Caspar! :D This was one time I was glad I had my waterproof camera with me :wink:

The plan was to head up the normal path into Coire a' Ghrunnda and then to complete the out-and-back to Sgurr nan Eag first. There was a large part where we had to abandon following the path as the Allt crossings became increasingly difficult and so we headed up stream to find an easier route - one that everybody was able to navigate:

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meeting Caspar at the start

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Caspar looking for a crossing

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heading off piste...

Once back on the path, some of the falls were in full swing and were spectacular... you wouldn't have gotten this on a sunny day :wink:

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nice falls

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Caspar and Harry chatting

The two waterproof jackets, two waterproof bottoms and two pairs of sealskinz were holding up - but my word I was hot. Lucky there were a few spots in the air - a quick blast with the hoods down gave a turbo refreshment! Oh... and the waterproof gloves were completely sodden - so off they came. On we continued and soon we were at the summit:

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Sgurr nan Eag summit with Harry, John and Caspar

Apart from the weather making some of the steps tricky, it had been pretty simple so far today. I really would not have fancied navigating in this weather, so having a guide really, really helped today. Dave and Caspar, if I haven't said it already - you were legends! :clap:

We retraced our steps and began the ascent up to Sgurr Dubh Mor. We got about half way (just about to start the out-and-back to Sgurr Dubh Mor) and then came the first 'moment' in the group. John announced that he couldn't go on anymore :shock: He wasn't thinking straight at all - his years of medical practice just went out the window. "You guys go on to Sgurr Dubh Mor and get me on the way back". Caspar had seen it all before and reminded him about hypothermia and the like. "Well in that case we all have to finish" John said... Caspar suggested we all take a break... we all gave John some pep talks, made sure he drank plenty of fluid - and shared all of our carbs with him (brioches, protein bars, jelly babies) and tried our best to keep his spirits up. His fuel for the day was a bag of nuts and milkshake (honestly) - completely different to what he'd brought the previous days :? So after a while, and we were all fed and watered he'd had a good rest. "Right, I'll be okay to carry on - unless you two also want to stop" he asked. Caspar took it further: "Well you two, it's your day, if you want to stop we can." A brief glance into Harry's eyes from me and we both knew there was no way at all that we were going to stop. Caspar saw that glance too... and jeered John up once more and on we went. "Come 'ead John, you can do it lad!"

With John flagging a bit, Caspar decided to crack the ropes out early. It was a very good decision as it meant on even the shallowest of scrambles, Harry or I could, quite literally, shove John upwards by the feet or the bum!

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Caspar cracking the ropes out

After getting John through the ascent - at the top again, he perked up and became a selfie God once more :lol: Everybody was pretty soaked through now, including Caspar... I don't think anybody's clothes would have stayed waterproof in today's weather!

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what a beautiful day, me, Harry and John

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Sgurr Dubh Mor summit :clap:

From here we retraced our steps and headed onto Sgurr Alasdair. We stayed on the rope for this whole section - and there was one very fun scramble up some very wet rock:

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Caspar shows the way

But John managed this one again and before we knew it we were on the top of Sgurr Alasdair:

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Sgurr Alasdair summit

From here it was a simple drop down to the bealach between Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and time to have a fun skid down the Great Stone Chute :D

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quick rest stop before heading down the Chute

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looking back up the Chute

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remember to pizza John!

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Even with the weather, this was a cracking day out. I think the weather made it so interesting - plenty more rope work and more slippery basalt scrambling made for a great experience. Even with 'the moment' I think the group finished the day stronger as well... and Harry and I could taste that first beer all the way down the Great Chute. Once down the Chute, we followed a very well defined path which met up with where we started - with a murky view across a very waterlogged campsite... I am sure there weren't many happy campers!

Once we were back at the cars, John told me and Harry that he wasn't going to make the fourth day. Bit of shame, as it was probably going to be easier than the previous two days, but hopefully after a few more walks before heading back to the Highlands, he'll be ready to tackle the peaks he'd missed, especially as he was on 248 Munros!

Caspar gave us a quick itinerary for tomorrow and we'd be meeting at the Sligachan Mountain Rescue hut right by the hotel - another 8:30am start. Cool.

Day 4 – Northern Section 14km 1350m ascent, Grade 3
Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Basteir and Bruach na Frithe


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Sure enough, the group was one down. After the day yesterday took us nearly 11 hours, Caspar was hopeful that today, with the same sort of distance and ascent would take us no more than 8 hours - so off we went. It started off a cracking day indeed, but Caspar assured us that the rain would be in by 10am and that by 1pm we'd probably all be soaked through to the skin again... he wasn't wrong! :lol: I soaked up the sunshine while we had it...

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here comes the sun, little darling

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I can see a peak!

Our route took us up alongside Allt Dearg Beag, past some far lesser visited 'fairy pools' and underneath the very impressive Pinnacle Ridge, which Caspar detailed all of the climbs on. Sounds like good fun!

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fairy pools minus the crowds

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Pinnacle ridge

We were making good progress and then had our first scramble of the day, a down-climb on the way to Sgurr nan Gillean. I couldn't quite find the foothold at first but once you have it, a nice big step down. Caspar made it look easy... I think he's done it before...

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find the foothold

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Sgurr nan Gillean summit

The route from here to Am Basteir was easy. The slightly awkward down-climb was simple going up and before long, we were at the base of Am Basteir. Caspar filled us in on the scramble up and the abseil down and we cracked on :D

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about to head up Am Basteir

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I think Caspar might actually be Spiderman

Once we'd navigated this wet scrambly section, we spotted a big grey man keeping an eye on us :o - there was a wee window to go through... and then we were at the summit:

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the gatekeeper

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Caspar snapped us scrambling up, I think Harry was laughing at me...

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the wee window

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Am Basteir summit

We dropped back down from the summit through the window and Caspar clipped us on and recapped the abseil technique - and led the way:

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Caspar heading down

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Harry heading down

Once the abseil was done, we could take the harnesses off. I was struggling with my fingers being a bit numb, having decided not to get soaking gloves again so couldn't get the ropes off me... No nonsense Harry came to my rescue "giz i'tere, y'baby fingers o'wat?" :lol: You told me Harry... I'll try and harden my fingers up for next time!!

Then as it was a straightforward walk from this point onto Bruach na Frithe and then home. The rain wasn't letting up again at this height - but none of us could get anymore wet, so it was all good fun! With two layers of damp waterproofs I was absolutely burning up and I had to stop for a moment and take a layer off and cool down. I'd catch them up before they reached Bruach na Frithe:

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back to walking

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looking to the Bhasteir Tooth

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me cooling down, with Harry and Caspar heading to the last summit!

After a simple walk over rocky (and slippy) ground, the final summit (and a trig!) came into view:

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nearly there

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Bruach na Frithe summit

We had a little celebration at the top, but the rain was really coming down again, so we turned tail and went... Caspar pointed out another climb up Am Basteir at this point which I think he said was a V Diff or Severe :shock: but otherwise the going back down was on a very good scree slope, so some more skiing was to be had:

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nice cave to shelter in

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more french fry than pizza

And before you knew it, we were back on the route we came up and on the last leg.. Home James!

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home stretch

An excellent set of days in some very interesting terrain and testing conditions, with great company from John and Harry - and a couple of simply amazing guides in Dave and Caspar. Each night in the hostel was superb as well, with no phone signal or WiFi for distractions, there was a very sociable atmosphere!

I can't recommend taking a guide on this ridge highly enough. Cheers fellas! :clap:

Dave - https://www.thehighlandmountaincompany.co.uk/
Dave - https://www.facebook.com/thehighlandmountaincompany/
Caspar - http://www.casparmckeever.com/
Caspar - https://www.facebook.com/casparmckeevermountaineering/

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Comments: 9



Bla Bheinn before the weather turned over the next few days!

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Bla Bheinn
Date walked: 30/08/2019
Distance: 8km
Ascent: 990m
Views: 11


Slioch and the Fisherfield 5 - all to myself

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Attachment(s) Munros: A' Mhaighdean, Beinn Tarsuinn, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Ruadh Stac Mor, Sgurr Ban, Slioch
Date walked: 26/08/2019
Distance: 46km
Ascent: 3502m
Views: 18


Hey there Mr Blue, we're so pleased to be with you!

Attachment(s) Munros: Am Faochagach, Beinn Dearg (Ullapool), Cona' Mheall, Eididh nan Clach Geala, Meall nan Ceapraichean, Seana Bhraigh
Date walked: 25/08/2019
Distance: 44km
Ascent: 2975m
Comments: 4
Views: 343


A Fannaichs circular round from the A832 :-)

Attachment(s) Munros: A' Chailleach, An Coileachan, Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich, Meall a'Chrasgaidh, Meall Gorm, Sgurr Breac, Sgurr Mor, Sgurr nan Clach Geala, Sgurr nan Each
Date walked: 24/08/2019
Distance: 38.5km
Ascent: 3400m
Views: 144


A misty day in Knoydart

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Ladhar Bheinn, Luinne Bheinn, Meall Buidhe (Knoydart)
Date walked: 12/07/2019
Distance: 43km
Ascent: 3491m
Views: 33


Carn a'Mhaim from the Lin of Dee

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Carn a'Mhaim
Date walked: 07/07/2019
Distance: 22.5km
Ascent: 648m
Views: 28


A Misty Mullardoch round

Attachment(s) Munros: An Riabhachan, An Socach (Affric), An Socach (Mullardoch), Beinn Fhionnlaidh (Carn Eige), Carn Eige, Carn nan Gobhar (Loch Mullardoch), Mam Sodhail, Mullach nan Dheiragain, Sgurr na Lapaich, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, Toll Creagach, Tom a'Choinich
Date walked: 06/07/2019
Distance: 55.2km
Ascent: 4772m
Comments: 5
Views: 314


Completely clouded Cairngorms...

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn Bhrotain, Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Monadh Mor, Mullach Clach a'Bhlair, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Sgor Gaoith, The Devil's Point
Date walked: 03/07/2019
Distance: 53.1km
Ascent: 3213m
Views: 31


North Loch Quoich and the South Shiel ridge on a long day!

Attachment(s) Munros: Aonach Air Chrith, Creag a'Mhaim, Creag nan Damh, Druim Shionnach, Gleouraich, Maol chinn-dearg, Sgurr a'Mhaoraich, Sgurr an Doire Leathain, Sgurr an Lochain, Sgurr na Sgine, Spidean Mialach, The Saddle
Date walked: 02/07/2019
Distance: 50.1km
Ascent: 5218m
Comments: 8
Views: 610

goingforawii


User avatar
Location: Birmingham
Ideal day out: An early start and a long day walking, with a bit of jogging. If there's some scrambling too - even better! :)

Munros: 245
Wainwrights: 14
Hewitts: 62
Islands: 47



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Statistics

2019

Trips: 27
Distance: 993.2 km
Ascent: 64846m
Munros: 131

2018

Trips: 40
Distance: 822 km
Ascent: 61874m
Munros: 108
Corbetts: 2
Hewitts: 10

2017

Trips: 19
Distance: 303.5 km
Ascent: 21286m
Munros: 6
Hewitts: 32
Wainwrights 8


Joined: Nov 15, 2017
Last visited: Oct 09, 2019
Total posts: 150 | Search posts