John was leading a bespoke event up some Torridon mountains. Here's his tale of the days....
I met Roy and Juliet at the pull-in on the road east of Glen cottage at 9am as planned, and after some car shuffling to avoid a walk at the end of the day, we set off for the anti-clockwise round of Liathach. We all agreed that it was unlikely we would need ice tools, and we made short work of the excellent path up to the bealach at Stuc a'Choire Dhuibh Bhig. The wind was abating as promised, and we had high hopes for a good traverse. Then we saw the snow!
There was around 30cms of new wet snow on the slope to Spidean a'Choire Leith, with even a small cornice on the SE aspect. Not what were hoping for at all. Maybe we did need the tools after all? At the subsidiary summit, we discussed just doing this one Munro, but all agreed to at least go that far. We did not want to be either scrambling over the pinnacles or making bypass traverses in gullies of wet snow. However, after some hard trail breaking, (for which we were thanked by the following group), we were delighted to see that it was clear once we descended from Spidean. Hoorah!
The descent to the neck before the first scramble was as grim as usual, made worse by the snow covering the loose rocks etc., but after 20 careful minutes, we were at the start of the fun. I coaxed Juliet up to the narrow first pinnacle, but she decided that wasn't for her, so we decided on a mixture of her on the bypass paths, and Roy and I taking some of the scrambles as we fancied. Then we all turned back up to the final pinnacle, taking some more challenging lines as confidence increased.
It was then the triumphant pull up to Mullach am Rathain, where we were finally enveloped in cloud at 1c. We really did feel we had snatched a route, as if we had not been able to see the pinnacles, it would have been hard to have imagined them clear of snow and dry when on Spidean. The descent has been improved recently by the path builders ('blessed are the path builders'), and we were back to the car by 17:30. Next stop An Teallach, after a poor day's forecast.
Thursday night was a continuation of the daytime front, with a gusty NW wind and heavy rain. We accordingly decided to leave our departure for An Teallach until 11am, hoping that this would give us the promised improvement. We left a car at Dundonnell, and set off from Corrie Hallie. It was wet and windy as we followed the Shenavall path and onto Sail Liath. We crossed onto Cadha Gobhlach in mist and gusts, and by the time we reached the foot of the Corrag Buidhe, we did not have much appetite for scrambling on wet rock in a crosswind, so took the bypass path.
The path has a couple of dead-ends, and one in particular forced a small back-track. You can see this is often done by folks by the worn nature of the path. It also has a couple of small step-arounds that required concentration in the conditions. What it does do is take you quickly to the foot of Sgurr Fiona, and we back-tracked to the summit for some now excellent views of Beinn Dearg Mor, Bidean a'Ghlas Thuill and of course the Corrag Buidhe and Lord Berkley's Seat. There was one party scrambling across bravely, and we winced as they took photographs on the precipitous edge. Well done to them, but not our cup of tea today!
The Munro of Bidean came next, and with it the low cloud again, and we dropped off towards Dundonnell in the clag, getting the visibility back around 850m. It was just a case of following the path (not shown on the OS 1:50k) down to the village. On the way we saw some impressive late snow patches on the SE flank of Meall Garbh, and an old crown wall that must have witnessed quite an avalanche. The debris looked like so many icebergs, and there was a large shallow landslip where it had scoured the hillside.
A very enjoyable two days with Roy and Juliet, achieving our objectives of the summits, and a little scrambling on the Wednesday. A shame the unseasonable cold and wind meant the full glories of these mountains couldn't be enjoyed, but as the very informative geologists/geographers that they are, Roy and Juliet know there'll always be there for the next time. The only regret I have to report is that my camera SD card corrupted the day after, and I lost all the photos, so a re-visit will have to be done - sorry!
More of John's photos are up on Flickr !
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