STAC POLLAIDH The most technically difficult graham bagged
Our usual Youth Hostel weekend in Ullapool was swapped for two nights in the up market Arch Inn for 9 club members.
Dinner in the Arch was perfectly fine, although we had a substantial wait before being served.
The forecast was overcast with showers for the North West with the best day on Saturday.
A group of 6 of us had arranged the excellent local guide Tim (Hamlet Mountaineering) to take us over the tricky turrets of Stac Pollaidh.
At £30 each we thought it worth it to ensure we were safe and to enjoy the day.
The other three group members went their separate ways: one to bag a Corbett (Cul Mor and see the Knockan Crags), another climbed the Graham (Meall Doire Faid)
and finally the third enjoyed a stroll down Glen Achall to Loch An Daimh.
We met Tim and Keira (collie dog) at the car park below Stac Pollaidh and headed up the easy track in dry mild weather.
The stroll up gave us a chance to get to know Tim and Keira. T
im has vast experience of climbing and walking routes in Scotland, sea kayaking around the summer isles and is also a keen photographer.
On reaching the bealach we had a short scoot up the easy east top then back to the bealach to regroup.
By this time the weather had deteriorated and we faced into the mist with the predicted rain interspersed.
There being many different routes to the summit, Tim suggested we keep to the north side to minimise the winds from the South.
Waterproof jackets were required for the start of the tricky section and Tim gave us confidence as he led us over some slippery slabs and round craggy corners.
By 12 noon we came to the wall where again we were consulted on which side to tackle – we opted for ‘the squirm’. (On a previous outing this was as far as we managed).
Time for roping up and this was our first test – how to get the harness on! One of our group had never done any climbing before – the rest of us having completed our Munros with a guide on the
In-Pin – anxious excitement was focused on the task ahead and we all squirmed our way up the short but technical scramble to the easy path to the summit.
Keira by the way also came with us with just a little help up.
The conditions were decidedly dreich and we didn’t linger on the top – although we did get some cracking photos with the atmospheric Scotch mist as the dramatic backdrop.
The route down the squirm was slowly accomplished and Tim then took us down a steep gully which needed all our wits about us and we then traversed round to the main route
to complete the circuit of Stac Pollaidh. All agreed a very satisfying day out with thoughts of conquering the Cuillin ridge again.
Alison Paterson on the Squirm Descending from the top
Easter was spent in an over-heated, fart – filled bedroom, with our slumber disturbed by seismic snores. In contrast, our Mayday weekend featured quiet nights in cool rooms and a refreshed team rose on the Saturday morning. The rather distant Graham of Beinn nan Ramh was our hill for the day. With a lengthy , flat approach on a well surfaced estate track , this mountain was a prime hill for cycling into – so we walked! Did we regret making the day so much harder than it needed to be? Probably , but the logistics of getting seven cycles to the start was high on the hassle count.
It was chilly . A Northerly wind nipped at us and a thin coating of fresh snow was visible on the higher hillsides. An uneventful hour or so was passed in conversation as we ambled our way from the car park at Kinlochewe to the Leckie bothy at the base of the Graham. After some swift snacking we left the bothy via a decent stalkers track ,which wound its way nicely up to the Western end of Beinn nan Ramh. A shortish ascent of trackless toil soon lead us to the flat summit ; which we swiftly departed in search of somewhere more sheltered. Heading Westwards , our eyes were now treated to striking features of Slioch and Ben Lair as they plunged towards Lochan Fada. The team assembled for lunch on a level area of land adjacent to the stalkers path. Down the zig – zags ; back to the bothy and then the long trudge back to the car. The mountain rescue team were out searching for a guy who had been missing since Wednesday : not much chance now was their assessment of the situation.
Sunday was even colder. Some members ascended An Ruadh– Mheallan , before sneaking off to the tea room in the lovely little village of Diabaig. Willie and Steve went coastal. Mo and I made the long drive to Beinn Bheag and Groban from A832 at Loch a Bhradin. Pleasant enough walking along the lochside , before the short but steep climb to the icy top of BeinnBheag. Sheets of bare rock descending from the snowy summits of the nearby Fisherfield mountains. Lunch in the bealach. Compass bearing to leave the top of Groban and down to the loch in worsening weather. Wet off and on all the way back to the car.
We all would highly recommend the Carn Dearg Youth Hostel. The views from the hostel over the sea to the mountain and shore line were magnificent.
The club has stayed at Ratagan Youth Hostel many times – the setting is idyllic with many opportunities for sunrise & sunset photos over the mountains to the east. On the Saturday the two main groups split to walk over the brothers of Kintail while the others did the five sisters. These hill are well-known for being a strenuous and long day. A few others were happy to attempt the lesser Corbetts & Grahams in the area. The forecast was generally very good for the whole of the country, although the north west was, as is often the case, in low cloud. The day started with a promise of good views, but this was hit and miss depending on which hill was chosen. On the Sunday the weather improved considerably. While hills awaited keen baggers, others went to try out part of the well established Lochalsh trail, which was easy to follow via Suardalan Bothy. A special mention goes to Stuart who combined the two remote grahams An Cruachan and Carn na Breabaig these were summit-ed with the aid of a bike. By Monday the day temperature was very high for this time of year and a few stayed on to increase their mountain tally. Most club members went out on the Saturday night for a meal in the Kintail Lodge. A good night was enjoyed with no complaints about the standard of food & beers.
The first weekend of March saw eight Club members travelling to the excellent Corran Bunkhouse on the West Coast
for the first weekend trip of 2019. As per s*d’s law, after two weeks of very unseasonal glorious weather, the
Atlantic low pressure systems came back in with a vengeance at Saturday lunchtime.
Prior to that, three members had climbed the Graham Beinn Donachain en route to Corran on the Friday. They
reported a hard walk with much trackless going and climbing over locked gates and deer fences. Sounds pretty
much like a typical Graham then.
Saturday dawned and we knew that the weather was going to break about lunchtime so an early start was called for.
Two parties were formed and boarded the Corran Ferry.
The first (sensible) party had a good walk on the Graham of Beinn na Cille. They reported an enjoyable walk with
clear views and some good sightings of eagles and feral goats. Most importantly they were back down before the
rain started and were therefore nice and dry.
The second (not so sensible) party ascended the Graham of Sgurr nan Cnamh from the hydro track on the A861. The
ascent was very enjoyable in good weather – a clear and very snow free Ben Nevis was seen from the top. Five
minutes later the conditions had changed completely with a strong gusty wind and driving torrential rain
necessitating a need to get down off the hill asap. The descent was a battle against very poor conditions with the
rain and wind persisting even at lower levels and everyone getting drenched. The drying room at Corran was then
given a stern test.
A trip into Fort William was made on the Saturday afternoon for a coffee and a peruse round a very good bookshop.
Most opted for a tasty meal on the Saturday night at Inchree Restaurant.
When we woke on Sunday the rain and wind were still going strong. Most opted to return to the East Coast (where
typically it was a bright day) but a couple of hardy members were seen heading in the direction of Dalwhinnie in
search of better weather and a walk.
In spite of the weather, it was an enjoyable weekend with fine company and was good to get some walking done.
Now, I wonder if my boots have dried out yet?
There was a group of 10 on this walk. The conditions were ideal, by the time we reached Fochabers the snow had disappeared. The walk itself was relatively easy and there were excellent views out to sea and the mountains to the north and west. Everybody present enjoyed the walk and I intend including another section of the Moray Way in next years calendar.