Big Gorse Bush Pages

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Stuchd an Lochain

Rafe - at the start of the walk by Loch an Daimh (Giorra) dam with Creag an Fheadain beyond

It's been ages since we've been up a hill!

Work commitments (mostly Jim's) and poor weather on the days we have been free, have kept us at home more than we'd have liked over recent months - so we grabbed the opportunity to get out and about, as soon as it looked likely.

Looking west along Allt Conait (NN510463)

Feeling a bit on the flabby side of fit, we decided to go for a shorter walk to ease ourselves back into the harder stuff - and Rafie's getting on a bit now!

We chose Stuchd an Lochain at the western end of Glen Lyon, short with not too much ascent - shouldn't be too much like hard work - and the weather forecast was reasonable, and it should improve as the day went on.

Jim and Rafe
crossing the Allt Conait below the Giorra Dam (NN509463)

We set off in the late morning, bags fully laden with winter gear - it was bright with the occasional spike of sunshine - the tops were shrouded, but we were confident that the cloud would rise and we'd get some views. It looked like there was a reasonable amount of snow up there

We crossed the bridge over the Allt Conait, just under the Giorra Dam - there was a locked five bar gate at the far side. Rafe did his grumpy suitcase impression as we lifted him over (the south side of the burn was well fenced!).

Loch an Daimh and Giorra Dam

It was a short walk through the wood on a good track up to the dam - the views opened up, along Loch an Daimh. We were here 18 months ago, when we climbed Meall Bhidhe on the north side of the loch - it had been high summer then, green and pleasant. It was very different now, harsh and bleakly beautiful.

Jim and Rafe on the track on the south shore of Loch an Daimh

Only a couple of hundred metres along the lochside track, the expected cairn was located and we headed off, up the hillside, on an obvious, if rough and sometimes boggy path.

Jim - the small cairn marking the start of the ascent (NN408460)

Jim and Rafe - ascent of Creag an Fheadain

There had been heavy rain the night before and added to the snow melt, everywhere was very wet - the path itself had become a watercourse for quite a bit of the way.

Looking back (NE) over Loch and Daimh from ascent of Creag an Fheadain

The 350m, or so, of ascent from the loch to the ridge were pretty steep - hard work!

Looking west along Loch an Daimh from ascent of Creag an Fheadain

As we ascended, we were soon wending our way through patches of snow - wet and heavy.

Rafe and Jim - ascent of Creag an Fheadain

West along Loch an Daimh from ascent of Creag an Fheadain

Once on the ridge, the expected line of fence-posts appeared in front - and were our companions to the summit! Despite the increasing mist and decreasing visibility, navigation wasn't going to be any sort of issue today.

Into the mist - ascent of Creag an Fheadain

Rafe's new coat - Creag an Fheadain

The clag was definitely down! Drizzle was blowing in from the south - it was driech. Waterproof trousers were donned (it wasn't bad enough for hardshell jackets!) - and Rafie tried out his new coat. It wasn't really necessary for him - although damp, it wasn't really cold - but we wanted to see how he liked it. He didn't seem bothered one way or the other!

Jim and Rafe - between Creag an Fheadain and Sron Chona Choirein

We continued on, wading through wet snow, avoiding it when we could.

There was a short very steep bit near the summit of Creag an Fheadain, there was ice on the rocks and the snow was deep between them - we could see that there was steep drops on all sides - so the ice axes were briefly deployed for safety - and stowed away again on the summit.

Rafe and Jim - descent from Sron Chona Choirein

The wide ridge continued between the minor summits, undulating through snow and bog - we had no views and the distances seemed longer than the map would suggest. We bagged the Munro Top of Sron Chona Choirein (MT 195, 927m), and followed the fence-posts around and above Coire an Lochain with the reputedly lovely Lochan nan Cat nestled in its depths - but we could have been anywhere, the fog was complete!

Jim and Rafe - Stuchd an Loachain summit (Munro 197, 960m)

There was a short, steepish, snowy slope to the day's objective - Stuchd an Lochain (Munro 197, 960m), marked by a cairn, just to the north of the line of posts. Our first Munro of 2017.

We took photo's, trying to get the best of the non views. We could see that there was blue sky, through the grey clouds above - would it clear out?

Stuchd an Lochain summit

The white stuff was deep and dry here, at the summit. We dropped off the top, just to the north west and dug some seats in the snow out of the wind. It was a lovely, quiet spot, surrounded by the winter, for lunch and a cuppa - and to wait for a while to see if the fog would clear.

Stuchd an Lochain summit

But no - the clag remained - thick and stubborn.

Descent east from Stuchd an Lochain summit

We descended by the same route - it suddenly seemed easy - after something to eat and mostly downhill!

Instead of avoiding the snow, we jumped into drifts and waded through the deep stuff - good fun - Rafie chasing rolling snow.

Jim and Rafe - mist finally clearing on descent from Sron Chona Choirein

We gradually descended and the mist began to dissipate - the views started to open up. As we watched, the hills around us appeared on by one and Loch an Daimh appeared below.

Lochan an Daimh from bealach between Sron Chona Choirein and Creag an Fheadain

Unfortunately, by the time the very tops cleared, we had dropped behind Sron Chona Choirein and Stucd an Lochain was out of site - we never did see it on the day!

Looking back (west) to Sron Chona Choirein

But it didn't matter...

Looking west along Loch an Daimh to a distant Rannoch Moor
Stuchd an Lochain still in the mist to the south

Creag an Fheadain (888m) summit
Views east along Glen Lyon

Rafe - views south over Meall Dubh to Meall Ghaordaidh

Descent towards the Giorra Dam from
Creag an Fheadain

We managed to bypass the rocky/icy/snowy bit on Creag an Fheadain now that we could see where we were! We just ploughed down, through soft snow.

Descent from Creag an Fheadain

Glen Lyon from descent from Creag an Fheadain

It was warm in the watery sunshine - waterproof trousers were removed and Rafe's new coat was stashed away.

Views south from descent from Creag an Fheadain

We were heading off the hill too soon.

Meall Buidhe over Loch an Daimh from descent from Creag an Fheadain

Meall Buidhe, the Munro across the glen was now completely clear - it didn't look like there was much snow up there. Remembering our walk up there in the summer of 2015 and the amount of bog to be negotiated then - we wondered how wet the going would have been today!

Rafe and Jim - views north over Loch an Daimh 

Once off the snowfields our descent to the loch was quick - the path really was quite steep!

Descent to Loch an Daimh

We could see that there were lots of cars (at least eight!) in the car park by the dam. We hadn't seen anybody on our hill all day... were they all bog trotting on Meall Buidhe?

Views west along Loch an Daimh from near Giorra Dam

It was a gentle saunter back to the car.

Ben Lawers from Giorra Dam

We had another cuppa and our last sandwich whilst sitting on a couple of rocks near the car park. Rafe had found a stick and wanted it thrown for him - so much for being an old fogey!

A large herd of red deer stags flowed across the glen bottom - making he most of some hay left out by the keepers - lovely to watch - and a great end to our day.

Red deer in Glen Lyon

 Car park just before GiorravDam on Loch an Daimh (NN512463), road to foot of dam and across bridge (NN509463), track to south end of dam and continue for 200m, S on rough track, ascending steeply to line of fenceposts east of summit of Creag an Fheadain (NN501453), W to Creag an Fheadain summit (888m), SW following fenceposts to Sron Chona Choirein (Munro Top 195, 927m) W then NW around Coire Lochan nan Cat, continuing following fenceposts to Stuchd an Lochain (Munro 197, 960m), return to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 9km  Ascent: 750m  Time: 5 hours

Map:  OS Explorer 378 Ben Lawers & Glen Lyon

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Glorious Autumn in Glen Affric

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness...

River Affric (NH200230)

It started off rather grey - but the autumn colours still shone out in Glen Affric. And as the day improved...

Mostly taken on the north shore of Loch Beinn a'Mheadoin

River Cannich in Cannich village

In Cannich village woods

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Bla Bheinn

Great forecast. Go west...

Bla Bheinn and Garbh-bheinn over Loch Slapin from Torrin

We set off from the car park beside the Broadford to Elgol road beside Loch Slapin, taking in the glorious views of Skye about us - seriously excited about the prospects for an excellent hill day.

And what an excellent day it turned out to be!

Bla Bheinn from the car park beside the B8083

The path was good, recently improved by The John Muir Trust's dedicated volunteers, towards Bla Bheinn, through the gold and umber autumn grasses - easy walking.

Bla Bheinn from the path at the start of the walk

The Allt na Dunaiche tumbled across the moor, through gorge and over waterfall and the path followed its course, a gradual and comfortable ascent.

Waterfalls on Allt na Dunaiche

Looking back along the Allt na Dunaiche

Waterfalls on Allt ns Dunaiche with Bla Bheinn beyond

Rafe and Jim - Nearing the start of the ascent into Coire Uaigneich

The crags of Bla Bheinn got gradually nearer.

Rafe has a plodge in Allt na Dunaiche

There was a short steep pull up Coire Uaigneich right under the crags - it was here that the improvements to the path were most appreciated, easy steps - and we were soon stepping out into the grassy bowl of Fionna-choire.

Looking back from the ascent into Coire Uaigneich
Views to Loch Slapin and Beinn na Caillich

Jim - Ascent into Coire Uaigneich - views to An Stac

Jim and Rafe - Coire Uaigneich

Views back (east) into Coire Uaigneich to The Red Cuillin

Views south over Loch Fionna-coire

We could see other walkers ahead of us, heading across the coire floor, making a bee line for the zig zags visible at the far western end.

That wasn't our route today - as soon as were were past the steep rocks on our right, we took an indistinct path, up, beside Bla Bheinn's eastern crags, marked by a little cairn.

Jim - Fionna-choire - views west to bealach between
Slat Bheinn and Bla Bheinn

We stopped for a first lunch, sitting on some convenient rocks, not far above the coire and took in the breathtaking arena around and above us. We didn't stop for long, we wanted to get on...

Views south east from the start of the ascent out of Fionna-choire

Jim - ascent of Bla Bheinn out of Fionna-choire

The path soon became more obvious - initially there were zigzags through fairly steep scree.

Jim - ascent of Bla Bheinn

Once bejond the initial scree slog, we kept towards the edge of the crags, undertaking a bit of easy scrambling when it was offered.

Views back (south east) from start of the ascent out of Fionna-choire

And the views! No words...

Views south east over Loch Slapin, from ascent of Bla Bheinn south east face

Clach Glas from ascent of Bla Bheinn

The Great Prow, Garbh-bheinn and Clach Glas from ascent of Bla Bheinn

Craggy bits - ascent of Bla Bheinn

Loch Slapin from ascent of Bla Bheinn

Beinn Sgritheall, Loch Hourn and Knoydart from ascent of Bla Bheinn

Views back down our route into Fionna-choire and over Loch Slapin

Views east over the Red Cuillin from ascent of Bla Bheinn

Jim - beside the Great Prow

The Great Prow and Garbh-bheinn from the ascent of Bla Bheinn

Views east from Bla Bheinn

Clach Glas from the ascent of Bla Bheinn

Jim - Ascent of Bla Bheinn

Bla Bheinn's eastern cliffs and Loch Slapin

Views north over Red Cuillin and Garbh-bheinn from ascent of Bla Bheinn

Rafe - ascent of Bla Bheinn

Jim - ascent of Bla Bheinn

Views north as we near the summit of Bla Bheinn

There's not many hills when you don't want the ascent to finish.

Jim and Rafe - the final pull to Bla Bheinn summit

North from the ascent of Bla Bheinn

There was a bit of whispy cloud hanging over the summit as we climbed the final few metres, but this soon took itself off to hang around the rugged summits of the Black Cuillin instead.

Jim nears the summit - Bla Bheinn

There were a couple of glossy ravens on the summit, looking to share our sandwiches...

Raven near Bla Bheinn summit

We took about one hundred photographs...

Black Cuillin and Glen Sligachan from Bla Bheinn

Bla Bheinn (Munro 252, 928m) is the most amazing viewpoint!

Over the Sount of Sleat to Knoydart from Bla Bheinn

We got tucked behind some rocks, out of the rather chilly wind (it is the end of October!) and had a second lunch. The Black Cuillin loomed precipitously over Glen Sligachan in front of us - we watched the cloud wending its way around the summits whilst we tried to identify the different points.

Bla Bheinn summit (Munro 252, 928m) - views north

Black Cuillin, Glen Sligachan and Red Cuillin frmo Bla Bheinn

We wandered on, west across a minor bealach, with more wonderful views. This time, to the Small Isles.

Rafe and Jim - Bla Bheinn summit - views to Bla Bheinn South West Top

The Black Cuillin from Bla Bheinn

The Red Cuillin from Bla Bheinn

Rafe and Jim - descent from Bla Bheinn - views to South West Top

Loch Slapin and Sound of Sleat from Bla Bheinn

Sleat with Knoydart beyond from Bla Bheinn

Jim - scrambly bits on Bla Bheinn South West Top

There was a bit of a scramble up to Bla Bheinn's South West Top - up a ledge and round a boulder. This would have been fine if we didn't have our four legged friend, but even with his harness, we couldn't quite get Rafe around the boulder.

Rafe has a bit of a scramble on Bla Bheinn South West Top

Jim had to take Rafie back to the bealach and find another route - there was a handy shute just below the ledge - but Rafe still needed a helping hand up the steepest bit.

Eigg, Rum and Soay from Bla Bheinn South West Top (Munro Top 196, 926m)

The Black Cuillin and Glen Sligachan frmo Bla Bheinn South West Top

More expansive views from Bla Bheinn South West Top (Munro Top 196, 926m).

Jim - Descent from Bla Bheinn South West Top -views south over the Sound of Sleat

The descent into the bealach to the south was a long scree and boulder hopping slog. I'm really glad we didn't ascend that way.

The views were never ending though.

Bealach between Bla Bheinn SW Top and Slat Bheinn

We were soon down in the bealach. Rafie had the obligatory plodge in the lochan.

Looking back (north west) to South West Top and  Bla Bheinn

We just weren't ready to head down yet. We decided to pop up Slat Beinn, the minor top (a Sim) to the south.

Views south west from bealach between Slat Bheinn and Bla Bheinn

Jim and Rafe - ascent of Slat Bheinn

It really wasn't very far. And once again the views were far reaching.

Rum from Slat Bheinn

Jim - Slat Bheinn - views east

I wandered about on the summit of Slat Bheinn (624m) taking more pictures, back to Bla Bheinn, across to the mainland, of myriad islands - whilst Jim sauntered across the summit...

Bla Bheinn from Slat Bheinn

...before running back towards me gesturing to hurry. Just over the bank, on the rocky eastern slopes of Slat Bheinn, was a golden eagle standing on a boulder, just 10 metres or so, away from us.

Golden eagle - Slat Bheinn

We all (including Rafie) stood and watched in awe. S/he sat there, surveying her domain - particularly interested in walkers coming down the zigzags from Bla Bheinn on the other side of Fionna-choire (the way we had gone up). S/he seemed unaware that we were there and we were able to watch for several minutes before s/he decided to take herself off, to soar above the coire, then away to the east.

Bla Bheinn and Loch Foinna-choire

Jim and I continued our descent into Fionna-choire with big grins on our faces. It really put a cap on an already great day.

Bla Bheinn from descent from Slat Bheinn (zig zag ascent route right of centre)

We stopped for a bite beside Loch Fionna-choire - a mirror for the sky - and watched the shadows move across the mountains of the mainland.

Third lunch by Loch Fionna-coire

We dropped into the upper gorge of Coire Uaigneich and followed the burn east for a while, until the we neared the path.

Descent via Coire Uaigneich

Clambering out of the gorge, we took the easy route back, across the moor, past the waterfalls and the golden autumn back to the car and a welcome cuppa.

Back on the path - descent from Fionna-coire

What a day...

Beside the Allt na Dunaiche - descent towards Loch Slapin

Route:  John Muir Trust car park by B8083 Broadford/Elgin road (NG560215), fp back to road, N across road bridge over Allt na Dunaiche, immediately W along good fp along N bank of burn and ascend into Coire Uaigneich, once into Fionna-choire, just past the crags (NG536212), turn sharp N at a small cairn and follow zig zag very rough path above cliffs and crags to Bla Bheinn summit (Munro 252, 928m), W to Bla Bheinn South West Top (Munro Top 196, 926m), descend SE steeply on scree to bealach (NG533209), SE to Stat Bheinn summit (624m), E then N avoiding crags to Loch Fionna-choire (NG537211), NE picking way across gorge to path at NG538213 approx, return E to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 9km  Ascent: 1050m  Time: 6 hours

Map:  OS Explorer 411 Skye - Cuillin Hills