Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Long weekend January 27th-30th 2011

My birthday weekend! Yet again we chose to spend it in the Kintail area, with the extra bonus of having Friday off as well as Monday.
Friday we had a good long day doing a winter ridge, Sron na Lairig, in Glencoe on our way up to Dornie, taking advantage of the lovely weather. We weren't directly in the sun for long, due to the north easterly aspect of the ridge, and by the time we topped out it was playing cat and mouse with us! This did however involve some fabulous veil-like cloud effects; my photos don't do it anything like justice.

Sron na Lairig is centre right

After the exciting narrow ridge with precipitous drops on either side!

Lovely cloud effects veiling our view down to Loch Etive

Hills to the south encircled by mist

On the slope up to Stob Coire Sgreamhach

We then went to the nearest munro top, Stob Coire Sgreamhach,  to extend the day, then back by moonlight! Two hours later we arrived at our B 'n' B, the lovely 'Old Schoolhouse' in Dornie; our 9pm arrival not leaving much time for our eagerly anticipated relaxing evening, however what a fab trade off we'd had for it!

Saturday dawned fairly grey but, all importantly, totally dry and with a hint of brightness!! We decided to go up A Ghlas Bheinn, a short drive up the loch from where we were staying.  A lovely walk in with Ben Attow looming on our right (for another day!) and A Ghlas Bheinn on the far left (unfortunately despite taking the camera, the SD card was still in the lap top so this photo was taken on Monday:

Only one other couple were on the hill and they turned round at the bealach. From there on we plodded, sinking our way through rather hard going soft, slushy and slippy snow, and after the previous day's exploits it felt like rather hard work - it must have had about 8 false summits! Towards the end I shouted to Stuart 'is this some kind of sick joke?!'...and then there was another! On the extended lead up to the summit  the snow was delightful and crunchy, or creaking and groaning (LOVE the noises, textures and feel of snow underfoot!). The descent had some very steep sections and it was a 7 hour day, as we had to retrace our footsteps coming back to 'ground level' - we totally missed the very obscure path leading to a bridge and started along a much longer route back, then realised and retraced our steps, then eventually realised we'd gone too far so resigned ourselves to another 4 or so kilometers going back on the longer route, then, in the dusk, eagle eyed Stuart spotted an insignificant path and that was us!! So our planned lazy evening was somewhat curtailed but still mightly enjoyable!

Well a mere stroll on Sunday!!! We were feeling it somewhat after the last 2 days and the forecast wasn't brilliant, so we enjoyed a lie-in in our very comfortable surroundings. But lo & behold when we finally stepped outside it was really bright, sunny & blue skied further north (looked stunning!) so we decided to drive over to Skye and into the Cuillin to look at some climbs for the summer. About  40 min drive, and alas although we saw plenty of sun we didn't actually see it around where we were  (much to our disgust, further north towards Ullapool we could see fabulous pale blue sky and wall to wall sunshine)! None the less, it was lovely to walk along a trail thru a pass with lovely mountains on either side...and not go up them!!! never been on Skye in the winter myself, so that was nice too. Not that there were many high tops for us to see due to cloud.  
A fairly flat trail for less than a couple of hours led us to the crags on the side of Marsco, then back again. Much further on we'd have eventually come to Loch Coruisk... one for another day! Anyway, the forecast had been very pessimistic and we had a dry day; the pinky cliffs foretold of good climbs ahead...and Monday's forecast was amazing!!! Sun and blue sky all day! 
Sgurr nan Gillean and Sgurr a Bhasteir, opposite the climbs on Marsco
 The lovely pink crags in close-up
The climbs are on the right; the south west of Marsco. We're drooling at the thought of climbing here in sun...with no may not be this year!!!

Unfortuantely no lie in on Monday as the weather was just as forecast and instead we had a marvellous day on Ben Sgritheall. Drove over to Glenelg (Gavin Maxwell country) - a remote peninsular with a single track road very steep up and down! Then up the fairy sounding mountain Bein Sgritheall (pronounced Screal and probably meaning scree -nothing faerie about it then!) which rises out of the sea practically at the end of the road there. A steep climb but a very attractive looking mountain and yielded amazing views too. Skye to the West; Rough Bounds of Knoydart to the south and a sea of snow clad mountains to the east.
The road that takes you to the base of Beinn Sgritheall leads in from the east, upand over a steep peninsular and down into Glenelg, Gaving Maxwell country. Here's a view of the north-eastern corries of the mountain

Lovely rich colours in the morning sun. Beinn Sgritheall rises very sharply above the tiny and remote hamlet of Arnisdale - almost at the end of the road. We were wished well by a local who informed us of a casualty the previous day who'd fallen head first in the snow  and gashed his head. On our return another local expressed pleasure at our safe return and told us that the casualty hadn't been too badly injured.

These two characters were somewhat unsettled by our approach and kept a safe distance...

...While this old guy was totally unperturbed, contentedly chewing away in the sunshine...I wouldn't have wanted to move either!

View east from just above the bealach


The long descent ridge, heading west; below you can see Skye

View out west; southern reaches of Skye to the right

The lovely long descent

View up Loch Hourne with the Rough Bounds of Knoydart to the right and the start of our route round the coast to the left.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Another Torridon weekend

Trying to make the most of the remaining good weather, we got it wrong and spent a photo free day (often with no views due to the mist then rain!) on Beinn an Eoin, a lovely hill near Stone Valley. Despite the inclement weather, I was perfectly comfortable wearing shorts all day, and this held the advantage of less wet clothing! Coming back off the long walk in to the hill though, we were a little disappointed to see that the weather was clear and the sun setting to the west. We chose the wrong spot for the day!

Not to be out done, the next day we set off from cloudy Loch Maree to sunny Gairloch. What a contrast - no midges and we were able to breakfast bathed in sun on the quayside. Then off to Aztec Tower, always at its best with the sun illuminating its fascinating red sanstone, for some new routing and old favourites.

Aztec Tower as it should be, bathed in sun. The unusual rock is partially metamorphosed sanstone, with a strange, shiny patina, very very lovely!

Stuart's  hopefully new route submitted as:
Texcoco 15m HS 4b. S. Macfarlane, J. Northover. 2nd October 2011.
Climb up Warrior God to the middle ledge of that route then follow the obvious left diagonal crack which joins the upper part of Conquistador. 

Jeanie on a new route Stuart put up earlier this year, Coatlicue. Yes, it still felt the same grade!

Inca Trail (or Coatlicue) 15m HS 4b. S. Macfarlane, J. Northover. 5th June 2011.
Start at the base of Warrior God and follow the left diagonal crack out to the arete of Conquistador and then continue up the arete.

Jeanie's new route:

Another new route? Sacrificial Stone 10m S 4a. J. Northover, S. Macfarlane. 2nd October 2011.
Between Sun God and Infanta is a vague crack line leading to the top. The crack is attained by a tricky move to gain a ledge with a large clump of heather. Easier climbing up crack line leads to the top.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Gairloch - 2nd and 3rd July 2011... more mid summer madness (and midges)!

Yet another fabulous weekend in this very special area. By now, no adventure at Stone Valley would be complete without some new routing...this time we put up 4 of what we think are new routes! And of course enjoyed the crag classics once more!

Saturday evening culminated in a spectacular drive along the coast past the beautiful wooded coastal havens around Badracho then onto the more exposed, wild and windswept West coast. The road ends spectacularly at Red Point, with beautiful reddish golden dunes, resulting from the surrounding red sandstone. Having forfeited dinner in the pub at Badachro for the opportunity to spend the evening outdoors we dined from our camp stove at the viewpoint at Redpoint, feeling as though having just completed one day, climbing, we were now being treated to a second bite of the apple: sightseeing. Thanks to it being close to the longest day, the evening seemed to go on forever in a glorious golden haze radiating out from the setting sun. And what a situation, with the north of Skye out west; the Cuillins to the south west and further south and east the Torridon mountains.
Walking down the last section of road from the viewpoint we passed an old house being renovated. Despite no occupants to be seen, there was a sign selling eggs and an honesty box...overseen by a peacock and a curious horse! A bit further on was another curiosity: a postbox, here in the middle of nowhere, set into a large boulder by the roadside. Charming!

A little further on and we had the beach to ourselves without a footprint to be seen, other than those created by birds. We enjoyed photographng the lovely effects of sunset over sea and sand ripples, while trying to avoid treading on literally millions of tiny sand hoppers, little gleaming golden nuggets leaping about in the magical light. Further on we found various large starfish, and their scattered dismembered limbs. Finally, as the sun was setting and the light fading, above the high tide line we came upon two oystercatcher eggs sitting in a slight hollow in the sand; amazingly exposed, but again with no human footprints anywhere to be seen.

 Stuart on Round the Block ... this gave us a good view of the delectable but thin looking slab to the left

Jeanie went on to on-sight this apparently new route - now submitted as: 
FarNorth Slab 15m VS 5a. J. Northover, S. Macfarlane. 2nd July 2011.
Just to the left of 'Round the Block' there is a slab with a corner on it's left. Climb the slab, which widens with height. Climb using the slab only and do not use the holds of the corner on the left or the higher holds of 'Round the Block' on the right. Corner used for gear lower down.

Another new route crying out to be climbed! Jeanie on-sighting, submitted as:

Game of 2 Halves 15m Hard Severe 4c. J. Northover, S. Macfarlane. 2nd July 2011.
To the left of the route above and to the left of the corner climb a steep rib to a platform. The start of the route involves a tricky bouldering move. From the platform avoid finishing left and climb the face to the right and up using bridging moves

Evening sun at Red Point

The little specks aren't all sand - sand hoppers were frenziedly leaping around

A very exposed nest for these Oystercatcher's eggs

Sun setting over the Uists

Back to the campsite after dusk had descended; very late at this time of year, but who cares, after a day and evening like that!

Stuart on his own new route, which just had to be called Cheesewire, sitting as it does to the left of an established route called Cheesegrater! Details:
Cheeseslice 10m Very Difficult. S. Macfarlane, J. Northover. 3rd July 2011.
To the left of 'Cheesegrater Slab' is a prominent crack. Climb the crack.

 While seconding Stuart on Touch and Go, Jeanie decided there was potential for a new route taking in some old favourites higher up: 
Albatross 25m VS 4c. J. Northover, S. Macfarlane. 3rd July 2011.
A wandering and anti-social route. Climb the crack on the right edge of the slab of 'Touch and Go' and veer left up steps at the top of the crack to finish at a niche with the main slab. Traverse scross the main slab of 'Open Secret' to the finishing corner of 'Inside Information'. Climb this awkward corner (crux).

Cheesewire to the left and Albatross on the right

A Game of Two Halves on the left; FarNorth Slab to the right

Midsummer at Reiff - 24th to 26th June 2011

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Loch Etchachan camping - 10th to 12th June 2011

A boys weekend in the Cairngorms. The plan was to camp high on the Friday & Saturday at Loch Etchachan and climb multi-oitch granite slabs. Unfortunately a crash on the A9 caused hugh traffic problems and the organiser, John, took ill and had to abandon the trip. After plans were discussed in the Bridge Inn we headed up to Coire an t-Sneachda and camped just short of the coire. We the headed over to Loch Etchachan in worsening weather. Howere, after camp was set up in Loch Etchanan and the rain subsided we went for a walk up Beinn Mheadhoin in the late evening. The Sunday morning was glorious and we headed for Gray Man's Crag in Coire Sputan Dearg to climb Grey Slab. On the walk out we also bagged Ben Macdui.