Suilven On Ice

Date walked: 02/01/2018

I have passed Suilven many times, and always stopped in awe at this icon, that whilst short on height in the great scheme of things more than makes up in sheer wonder.

So having been on my list for a good while, I had always wanted to get it on a good day. Although not one to be put off by too much wind, too wet, too hot (does that happen ?) or too cold, this was one that I was looking forward to photographing in all its splendour :D

A small window of opportunity presented itself on the last day of the Christmas break. The forecast was not perfect, a front was moving in mid-afternoon, but prior to this it should dawn clear and fine….. famous last words :lol:
I set the alarm for 0400hrs, planning to be away for 0430 and at Glen Canisp Lodge for 0730hrs, the intention being to be at the base of Suilven, or thereabouts by sunrise ish.

As it turned out I was awake at 0300hrs :shock: and gathered the gear and away.

The journey was relatively uneventful except for the road through Elphin, clearly a little cold spot as the road was icy, and this early, before the gritters had been through. With the full moon the road glistened so a couple of hard braking manoeuvres (at dead slow obviously) to test the ground, had the ABS kicking straight in… caution being the word from here on in :(

I was at Lochinver earlier than the original plan, which was great, up the Estate road but not for long. I encountered a section in a little dip, only a few hundred yards from the cattle grid, it was completely covered in ice both sides of a small burn overflowing the road. I carried on over but couldn’t make any headway up the far incline and stopped with the front of the car sliding sideways. I was now diagonally across the narrow road. Nothing for it but a cup of coffee whilst we think this one through, cripes :crazy:

I had decided that even if I could get over this part, it could be worse further on (it was a lot worse), and given the position of the car, I was somewhat concerned, given my rear wheels were off the road heading towards a morass, whilst the front were on sheet ice. I donned boots and crampons given I couldn’t stand upright on this stuff, and pushed/slid the front of the car so it was facing back downslope, in the hope that I could at least drive back out. It worked, surprisingly easy, with little effort, as long as it didn’t carry on sliding.

Boots and crampons back off I drove back out and parked in the Visitor Centre Car park, which was also sheet ice, but at least I was parked, phew :wink:

This wee escapade cost me at least 45 minutes, my earlier advantage had slipped (literally) :lol:
After some skating on ice to get out the car park I set off up the Estate Road and donned crampons for the aforementioned section that wasn’t negotiated in 4 wheels and as I was getting the gear together one of the Estate 4wd vehicles went past complete with trailer, I was missing my old Landrover :(


I was only missing it for a minute as the Estate vehicle hit the same incline and as it slipped back the trailer went for a bit of off roading. Trailer unhitched, the 4wd still couldn’t make it and ended up in the opposite side, down a small slope into the bracken, with half still on the road of ice :shock:


The trouble with being a Knight is that we live in a world where Knights no longer exist, and Damsels, have their own agendas, not to be confused with being in distress :wink:

Now the gentleman concerned was no damsel, but between us we tried to get the 4wd back on the road, but to no avail. He had to try and cut a few bits of tree that the 4wd was now sitting against, whilst I tried to apply the necessary heaving, the crampons working well, but 4wd Toyota with all Terrain tyres were no match for ice, but then again nothing is short of chains or studs.

This second escapade cost another hour as I left the poor chap, awaiting his colleagues who apparently would be coming through shortly.

The walk in to the Lodge was entirely in crampons. Now I can’t recall ever having used then before on a tarmac road, but needs must. Maybe I’ll keep this pair for roads and the newer pair for the proper stuff.
On the walk in Suilven started to reveal itself and in the breaking dawn looked superb. I took many photos but on arrival home the camera clearly had issues, maybe with the low light aaarrrgghh :( :(



Just prior to reaching the Lodge, the road cleared and crampons went away, I wish I hadn’t, as within a hundred yards up slope to the Lodge the road was back to ice aaarrgghh :roll:

I did my best dancing on ice and managed to get to the far end where the now path/track was slightly easier, but progress was still slow, on top of the time already lost, I was having my doubts :(

The beautiful dawn, the clear skies on the drive in with full moon for company, were soon replaced with a grey sky and Canisp directly ahead started to gain a cloud top, this was not good. Suilven still visible.


By the time I reached the turn off for the bothy I had made up my mind today was not to be. A look back towards Lochinver revealed increasing cloud, was this the late afternoon front arriving at 1030hrs !!!
I turned off the Suilven track for the bothy, at least I could have a break inside, as now the wind was picking up too, from the completely still start. I would be turning back.


Fed and watered in the bothy, well ok hot coffee all to meself, I headed back to the main track, Suilven still visible but not for long as it gradually hid behind cloud cover, and then the rain started, waterproofs out.
Suilven fills the window.


Going, going,




The walk back to the Lodge was easier, clearly a thaw had been initiated sufficiently to make better progress. Could the road also be clear ? :D

On arrival back at the Lodge I met the Estate worker who told me he had managed to get the 4wd out only to pull into a layby to let another vehicle pass and ended up in the ditch ! Not so good :shock:

I took shelter from the rain and wind in the small Honesty Shop, what a blessing, equipped with kettle for hot drinks, also available (although not needed), cold drinks, snacks and memorabilia. I put a few quid in the box as a thanks for the shelter on what was now turning out to be a wild day.

I donned crampons once again for the walk out, although the road had now been thrown a few spades full of grit here and there it was still too difficult to walk on. The previously ice covered loch, now looked like the tide was coming in, the ice broken apart with the wind driven waves.


Crampons on ice and tarmac.


It was heavy going, but soon came upon the stranded 4wd, only a hundred yards from where we had tried to extricate it earlier, the trailer visible beyond. Could have been me :(


All in all, it seemed a long day for now gain, but it wasn’t for no gain. It had been a useful recce, and a day in the wilderness, but I will return and get my pristine blue sky winters day, but not yet.
Last shot from Elphin on route home, teasing me with a clear summit, but not for long


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Comments: 13

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Location: Miltonduff, Elgin
Interests: Mountaineering, Landscape Photography, beer & whisky
Activity: Mountaineer
Pub: Old Brig
Mountain: An Teallach
Place: Inverpolly
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Ideal day out: Winter anywhere, ridge walk, priceless.
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