Manny Gorman and Gareth Evans led 3 days hiking into the remote Munros south-east of Ullapool. He's Manny's take on the event...
Rain, wind, cloud, thunder, lightning and plague was the dire forecast, and so after introductions we let the group know of their pending doom, and to take extra chocolate rations just in case! As it turned out our Saturday long walk to Seana Braigh from Inverlael was clear and dry virtually all day, other than a very minor shower!
Orion, Catherine, Paul, Robbie, Margaret, Joyce, Duncan, Sam, Dave, Jon and Victoria were all keen to make the most of the clear weather for as long as it lasted and make swift and steady progress all the way out to our first goal, the dramatic craggy summit of Seana Braigh. The cliffs and corries looked spectacular from the top and a young D of E party reaching the summit at the same time, made this remote top incredible busy! Duncan found a patch of scarce Cyphel near the cairn and described to us to watch out for. On the way back we opted to bag Eididh nan Clach Geala, in case the threatened weather materialised on Sunday and perhaps make things difficult. Duncan and Victoria having already done it chose the quicker walk back on original route up. The extra hours walking, and dodging between the 2 tops, was worth the effort for the group, knowing that tomorrows huge day was now just that little bit easier. Most folk would have paid good money for a bike back down the last 2 miles of track return to Inverlael, but all thoroughly enjoyed the day, and even if the weather turned nasty now, we had a great bonus today! Sam pondered that the area looked familiar…mmm?
Remarkably Sunday morning dawned dry again. Duncan, our group botanist, was having a day out and we were now joined by Isobel and Cathy, everyone once again keen to get going to at least start off in the dry. Our walk up beautiful Gleann na Sguaib was fantastic, surrounded by dramatic cliffs and red deer watching us suspiciously from all sides. At our first nibble stop Sam caught us up and admitted why she knew why the area had been familiar to her – she had done these hills before and forgotten – she retreated to the fleshpots of Ullapool and it’s cafes for a relaxing Sunday! Near the Lochan in the heart of the corrie we got clobbered for 20 minutes by some huge gusts of wind, magnified by the wind funnelling into the glen. There was some staggering about and falling over until we escaped over the corrie rim onto the flat ground at the foot of Beinn Dearg. Cathy got the vote for best amateur dramatics, resembling a drunk late on Saturday night at closing time !!
Cona’ Mheall’s top was clear and we made this our first target, making the top in good time up her greasy, rocky slope. Our brief stop on top was rewarded with a reasonable view across to the enormous cliffs of Beinn Dearg and Corrie Ghranda. Back to the coll, and now the big one – the Beinn, up the steep sides of its famous Destitution Wall, the weather amazingly still dry!! A steady grind up into the mist and walking across carpets of Mountain Cyphel and Moss Campion we all found the huge cairn at the top for a round of photos without delaying too long in the cold wind. As expected the descent was slippy and slow on the stepped rocks and we enjoyed a break at the foot of the hill to refuel. At long last the rain had started and the wind got up, but we only had the short climb over Meall nan Ceapraichean to crack our day and everyone climbed it strongly knowing the end was in sight. Freezing and wet on top we didn’t hang about, instead heading north down slippy slopes and small snow patches to the bealach separating us from Eididh nan Clach Geala. Isobel and Cathy still had to bag this hill which the majority had already topped the day before, and Gareth chose to lead them over whilst I took the remainder of the party down the fantastic mountain path past Lochan a’ Chnapaich . We moved just slowly enough to allow the other three to catch us up again, which they did just before we got back to the forest, and we all tramped the weary walk back out to the car park – oh for a bike! Two 10 hour days in a row had everyone looking forward to dinners, beers and early beds!
Not to disappoint, Monday broke clear yet again, if not a good bit cooler. We all regrouped at the Torrain Duibh car park near Loch Glascarnoch, Isobel had left us, but Sam and Duncan rejoined us, with George joining us anew for this single hill. Nobody really cared what the weather did now since we had already escaped Grim Reaper predictions for Saturday/Sunday, but it was lovely start to the day in sunshine and a tail wind. The potential tricky river crossing proved great fun (rather than hazardous if it had been heavy rain!) but Orion was an unlucky faller as we all rock-hopped across the water, getting slightly soggy on his breeks and feet! The group climbed remarkably well considering the two previous big days and made the broad ridge in good time in a now strong cold wind. Dave had ants in his pants and blasted off to bag a wee top and to get to the summit well ahead of the rest, but missed seeing the family of Ptarmigan that Cathy near trod on! George kept a steady pace with me over the terraced solifluction lobes to the top (you were correct Orion!) and there was a celebratory atmosphere about concluding 6 Munros in the weekend. However I had spotted ominous clouds heading our way from the west and it wasn’t long after we left the summit that it arrived in the form of a freezing shower and thick mist. We regrouped at the coll and quickly dropped into the glen and the rain passed allowing us a final picnic stop in relative warmth. Unfortunately our return river crossing took another victim with Robby landing with a cold splash despite Gareth’s heroic attempts to hold onto her, instead landing in beside her! It was an unfortunate end to the walk but Robbie’s bunkhouse at Aultguish was only minutes away for a hot bath and red wine recovery!
All in it was fantastic weekend of walking in dramatic mountains with a miracle of relatively dry weather, despite the forecast. We hope the group enjoyed it as much as Gareth and Manny enjoyed the company and determination of the group ,and look forward to meeting them again on future walks.