Saturday, June 6, 2009

Climbing Trip To Gairloch and The North West Highlands

azHaving walked over a great majority of the Scottish munros north of the great glen we decidee d on a trip to the west coast of Scotland to go climbing and to walk on classic peaks such as An Theallach and Beinn Eighe. For the visit Gairloch was an ideal choice. Gairloch(grid reference) is on the picturesque and rugged north west coast of Scotland there are excellent beaches in the area and a good place for camping holidays. We all agreed we'd be returning with our families, for our trip we stayed at Gairloch youth hostel

Our trip started with an ambitious first day with a traverse of An Theallach (wikipedia entry) (OS map ). We were very fortunate the weather was clear and hot. We followed a track starting from Corrie Hallie and at a suitable point headed up the south east flank of Sail Liath. Reaching the summit appeared the start of this wonderful traverse ahead was Corrag Bhiudhe after the initial flog we recovered some excitement in anticipation of the scrambling to come. It was just womderful we tried to stick to the crest making the scrambling more interesting we noted easier traversing lines skirting around the main pinnacles. The friction is excellent and on a dry such as this it was most enjoyable. One of the pinnacles near the end of the traverse is called Lord Berkleys seat and is shown below
We finally made it to the main summits of Sgurr Fiona and Bidean a Ghlas Thuil. The An Theallach ridge is shown belowlooking back towards Sgurr Fiona.

The second day started with fine weather once again and we set off with ambitions once again. This time starting from Glen Torridon and walking the 4 miles into Choire Mhic Fhearchair this is a wonderful choire in the heart of the Bheinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. We aimed to climb the eastern buttress (left as you are facing it).

A classic traverse of Bheinn Eighe is described here
The climb on bhein eighe is described here its interesting to read the comments.
By the time we arrived at the start of the route it was 1530 we'd made slow progess on the walk in, it's not to underestimated especially when your carrying climbing. We avoided the climbing on the first sandstone teir and traversed in to the foot of the quartzite buttress. It basically goes up the crest with the good weahter we were both happy to be climbing a quality route with excellent rock. As you can see Gordon is beaming a smile in the photograph below.
The views down the crag and into the choire were breathtaking. A short vertical corner is a fairly good crux. After topping out I walked to the summit of Ruadh Stac Mhor. A view of the triple buttress from Ruadh Stac Mhor is shown below.Various views of the triple buttress from the choire taken in the early evening are shown below.

We returned from our adventure rather late at 1200 we arrived back at the Youth hostel apparently the warde wanted to lock us out but our friend Gavin kept the door until we arrived back. Caked in the days grime and salt we silently went into the bunk room and crashed in our bunks! We'd earn't a rest day so we freshened up and spent time on the beach at Gairloch. We drove around to Badachro for lunch the harbour near the pub is shown below.

The weather outlook indicated that the current good pattern would continue but may break in a couple of days. Today we were walking over the remainder of the peaks of Bheinn Eighe. We wanted to traverse the Bodaich Dubh Beinn Eighe this translates as (Dark Men of Beinn Eighe) it also goes by the name the black Carls.

We started our traverse by walking in along the Coire an Laoigh path this is a much easier way in than the previous walk into Coire Mhic Fearchair. It wasn't long before we arrived at the summit of Spidean Coire nan Clach. The picture below illustrates the traverse to follow along to Sgurr Ban and Sgurr nanFhir Duibhe.

Scrambling along this ridge was good fun but the real excitement started as we descended Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe to traverse the Black Carls. These dark pinnacles break out of the unusual cambrian basal quartzite of the Beinn Eighe hills. The picture below shows the Sgurr nanFhir Duibhe ridge.

The black carls have quite serious drops, it's possible to scramble the crest directly there is also a traversing path which drops low. As the photograph below shows the pinnacles resemble dark guardians of the ridge.

We finished the traverse and finally sat near to glistening pools before walking into Kinlochewe.

The following day we were moving to Jerry's hostel at Achnasheen we took advantage of the low lying crags, we climbed at Ravens crag near Sheildag lodge just outside Gairloch (GR 796713) its marked creag an Fhithich. The crag guides are provided at the links below. There is a great range of crags in this area and its made me want to revisit the area.

It was good to arrive at Jerry's hostel again, Jerry provided his usual tutorials for using the hostel equipment, he also enquired about transport possibilities for a round of golf in loch carron.

Our final day was to climb the Patey/Bonnington classic rock route
Cioch Nose Sgurr a'Chaorachain. The weather forecast indicated that we should expect light showers by about one oclock. We walked in from the car park at the top of the Bealach na ba a good track leads transmitter station at the top. Instead we dropped into the coire a'chaorachain. It is necessary to walk beyond the corrie lip and walk a further kilometre beyond the lochain. This makes it possible to gain the terrace traversing into the start of the actual climbing route by ascending the gully separating the first pinacle and the nose.

We erroneously found the wrong gully and attempted to traverse all the pinnacles via the terraces as can be seen from the map there is a fair number of pinnacles and anyone attempting the cioch nose and contemplating the remainder of the ridge should remember this as it ands a fair amount of time onto the day.

We started the first pitch just as the showers arrived the friction is still excellent the v groove of the second pitch we found rather awkward. The following pitches were over steep ground on excellent rock at this point Pateys remark about it being just difficult is probably accurate. The best part of the route was sitting at the top of pitch 3 and looking straight down the steep face of the crag, below was the full arc of a rainbow, a beautiful sight. Gordon would be pleased to hear that I concentrated on my belaying and not photography hence there is no photograph of this wonderful sight, just a climbers memory.

The climb was excellent and made a great way to end a trip to Scotland.