Thursday, 23 April 2015

Post Calderdale recovery.

Although I had persuaded Bob to try ultra running and the Runfurther series he did already have a commiotment to his own personal challenges to celebrate his 70th. All the Wainwrights were completed in the year but he still had 20 Munros to collect. Time for a trip to Scotland. En route we volunteered to help Jon at the Wainstones Hardmoors trail race as neither of us would want to run the day after Calderdale. I have to say we got the best of the deal by racing on saturday in reasonable weather and then marshalling on Sunday in gales and heavy rain.

We were on an exposed spopt where runners climb the road and head out over the moor. Not as bad as Blowith but we had to wind the awning after it threatened to disappear even with the heavy duty tie-down strap attached. The runners were all in remarkably good humour but obviously cold and wet. We dispensed food and drink and in between times sheltered in the van drinking soup!

As the sweepers passed and we returned to Chop Gate the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Then there was the long drive north which always seems to take longer up the east coast. Our hoped for layby was gated and locked so we settled for a less ideal one near Loch Lubnaig. We were too tired to drive further that night.  Monday dawned overcast but dry so we shot up to Tyndrum and headed out on a test run (of gear, snow and weather) along the big track towards Ben Lui but branching off at Cononish to go up Beinn Chuirn. 

There was quite a bit of snow and melt streams in places but we had the summit to ourselves. We returned via the old mines and then the West Highland way path. Bob reminised of his winter climb of Ben Lui and me of the Highland Fling a few years ago now.

We just made it back to the Green Welly for a coffee treat as the rain started. It then rained all afternoon, all night and all Tuesday. we sat in the van reading, drinking coffee and staring outside. I got very grumpy. We did manage a short break in Ballachulish to check the forecast, use the coop and to briefly walk and check the start of our first planned big walk.
We should have believed the forecast and set off a little later but we started in drizzle and the day improved.

  It was a steep pull up Sgorr Dhearg to begin our attack on Beinn a' Bheithir and chilly in the wind. I had all my waterproof gear on plus hat and gloves. The cloud did clear to give some great views and the ridge to  Sgorr Dhonuill was brilliant.

We dropped back to the col to descend into the forest and the only negative was a long walk back on the cycle track and road in big boots. Still two more done and only 18 left. I resolved not to wear my big boots again unless conditions got hugely worse and was so glad we had the katoolas with us so I could wear my fell shoes.
Next it was off to Fort William or more precisely to Glen Nevis. A good meal and sleep had us raring to go the next day.

 The decided on a ring in the Mamores starting with a stiff climb up Sgurr Mhaim, over Devils ridge, out over lesser peaks to Am Bodach and then back west to Stob Ban and lastly Mullach nan Coirean. The weather was kind and we had an great day out.

Stiff tiring climbs but wonderful views.

 And happy feet now they were back in mountain slippers.  Glen Nevis was quiet and we slept soundly before making taking the van up to the end of the road.

 We were soon at the Steall bridge and it was getting warmer and warmer. We got wet feet in the bog fest  before the steep path up An Gearanach but it wasn't cold. This time our loop was anti-clockwise over Stob Coire a Chairn and out to Na Grugaichean.

This last peak looked so simple on the map buit had a nasty sting in the tail! We sat on top admiring the blue skies and cloudless views of the Ben.

For it to have been like that for 48 hours seemed untrue. We descended by the valley and although it was fun exploring and we saw deer it might have been faster to continue over Binnein Mor and bag an extra Munro.
The forecast looked set to hold so the next stop was Kintail. We knew this would give us more than enough Munros for Bob to complete his challenge and I love the peaks on both sides of this valley.

 We camped near Loch Cluanie after checking the forecast at the Inn. The weather was getting even better. The bus timetable showed that we could start at the Inn and finish between Morvich and Shiel Bridge. There were not many buses but I was confident we could hitch anyway. Our last walk on these hills with Chris was NW to SE so it was nice to do it the other way round. First up was Sgurr an Fhuarail.

It was a stiff start and is not even a Munro. This ridge is awesome with rocky climbs, grassy curves and so much fun. We had the sun on our backs all day and caught it on our necks ears and calves. It was a delight to stop and grab some food on every peak and not rush off  in the cold.

 Half way there is respite from the climbs and people started emerging from the car parks down the valley. The last sisters of Kintail are clearly the most popular. I always underestimate just how long it will take to reach the valley floor in Scotland and today was no exception. We then had a mile walk to Shiel bridge to be at the bus stop just in case my hitching did not work. It is a fast road and most were not for stopping but I did get a lift back up to the van and drove back to collect Bob. Thanks to the kind German girl who stopped for me. 15/20 were now completed and all being well Bob would reach the landmark 70 total for the year tomnorrow.
We ate and ate and then slept. This time we decided not to rely on the bus or hitching and left a bike up at Cluanie Inn. We set off for the south ride and ticked them off from west to east so today we had the sun on our faces. From the 1719 battle site we entered the forest and made our way out onto the open moor. A path wound its way round the waterfall and into Am Fraoch-choire. From there we climbed to the col and dropped our sacks.

Creag nan Damh was a short out and back  with no gear to slow us down. This side of Glen Shiel had much more runnable paths and although we walked and the climbs were still big we made good time now we were up on the ridge.

Each peak had it's own character and the corries and crags of the middle section were amazing.It could not have worked out better. The 70th peak was Aonach air Chrith and definitely the best peak on the whole ridge.

 There were two more Munros left on the ridge and they were easier  to gain. Just as well because the relief of completing had done Bob in. At the next col we met a huge bunch of mountain bikers on 'fattys'. We were to meet again later.

Although it was not the most direct route we opted for the stalkers path off to the SW of Creag a'Mhaim and then the gated road back to Cluanie.

 I pushed ahead, ran the 7km of track and tried to hitch. After 5 minutes I gave up, grabbed the bike and cycled to the van. I arrived back at the pub just as Bob was finishing. He thought the bike was stolen at first.  Once we had grabbed yet more food we celebrated with a pint.  Here we learned all about 'fatty' bikes with a guy who had trye/wheel failure and was waiting for a lift. The same bunch had sung to Bob and congratulated him as he came off the mountain. So the challenge was complete. BUT Darren had taled of how many Munros can you do in a week. His first email said his record was 20? then the next text said 26? OK we now had a new challenge.
We drove to the top of Loch Loyne for the night and watched the most spectacular sunset. We agreed on Creag Meagaidh for the next day. We were last there 24 years ago and we skied! A good way to spend our wedding anniversary. The car park and centre at Aberarder were a bit more developed now but we were soon on our own.

It was cloudier but still warm. I nearly made a fatal mistake telling Bob Carn Liath was not a Munro- fortunately he ignored me and visitied the top anyway. These peaks were so much easier and the miles clicked away even though we had more snow to cross than on any other day. The butresses of Stob Coire Ardair were impressive and from the Window to the summit there was a full snow covering.

We were not sure of the best way off Sron a'Ghoire but the footprints made it easy and the snow gave us rapid descents.

It was our earliest finish, we were not trashed and we had time to shop when we got to Fort William. Now it was my turn to chose. I knew that we really only had one more day even though the forecast was good for another 3. I had to be back and rest before the Fellsman. Either my legs were going to be fit and ready or totally trashed. We will see.

 If we only had one day left we should go out with a bang. The 5 Munros at the end of Glen Etive lloked a great circuit so the plan was done. It was a long drive but worth it.

 Ben Starav seemed enormous and I was starting to worry abouit how little we had achieved after 2-3 hours but then once we were up it all came together fine.

 The cloud cleared the tops and you could see for miles. I was using my old LAMM map and having fun remembering our route. We made the long oput and back to Beinn nan Aighenan and just those two would have made a good day but we had 3 more to include.

Descending from Stob Coirean Albannaich got the prize of craziest descent and we were glad of katoolas and me of the ice axe.Meall nan Eun is a huge grassy mound but the fun was not over until we found a way off that was not snow covered, bog ridden or full of cliffs.  Glen Ceitlein was peaceful and a wonderful end to a wonderful week.

30 Munroes in 7 days. We were tired but happy. The weather and mountain had been so kind to us. We slept in Glen Etive again and had porridge in the suinshine the next morning.

 It was a shame to leave for home but it had to be done. What a week. Not ideal preparatin for a 60 mile run but I would not have missed it for the world

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