Tuesday, 8 March 2011


5th February 2011.


Hiya all.Still working through the backlog of our trips since New Year.Nothing much on the telly tonight until nine pm  so  here`s the next one.This is from a trip a few weeks back.Another outing tagging along with our much  bolder " Jeune Ecole" mountaineering club for us toothless, semi incontinent older guys.

This time to the frozen north of Scotland at Dundonnell near  the seaport town of Ullapool.We were staying at the Smiddy,a climbing hut which sits under the magnificent bulk of An Teallach,one of the finest hills in the UK and in many peoples top ten British mountains list including mine.As we arrived it had a dusting of fresh snow on its soaring ridges and spires.

Its a fantastic area however the weather conditions that weekend were for strong gusting winds and further snow showers so my original idea of climbing this peak for views and photography were ditched for something lower and less life threatening
Fortunately our master bagger Alex had a cunning plan.As several of us had been up the areas Munro's and the Jewels of Assynt in the dim and distant past  crafty uncle Alex swayed the gullible, now reclining happily pissed and stuffed with grub in the hut on Friday evening, by damp sock hypnosis and other mysterious black arts into climbing the lesser known Breabag across the road from Suilven and Canisp.

A carload of four of us,Alex,John,Scott and myself, set off from the hut Saturday morning to do battle with the elements,driving in and out of occasional mist and snow flurries towards the soggy bowels of Assynt.
In good weather this landscape is truly stunning,a rugged plain of low ridges studded with a myriad of interlinked lochans which sparkle and dance in the sun,more water than solid ground.From this boggy wonderland soar isolated sandstone monoliths,thousands of feet into the air in a dazzling array of  shapes and sizes...the Jewels.

Stone pyramids,squat cubes,multi pinnicled ridges and even  mighty sugarloaf Suilven with its comets tail arete flowing gracefully behind.

This sign summed up the weather aptly enough.Bleak gun metal skies with a bitter bone peircing wind once on the heights.On the same day an intrepid pair of younger guys in the club attempted  the traverse of An Teallach but were beaten back before the sharp middle section seen above in  second picture started..A high jaggy ridge is not the best place to be in a near gale in midwinter.However a keen, and frankly bonkers, select few managed eight  Munros over the course of their hut stay,no mean feat given conditions on the summits that weekend.

An uneventful ascent up the lower Breabag with one  final steep climb  up slabby rock onto the broad summit ridge seen us grab our prize then we were off at a canter down  easy snow slopes to the west.A combination of high winds and painful hailstone showers meant the summit was not a comfortable place to linger.Did manage to get these few shots though.Breabag ridges...Stac Polly..Suilven and Canisp from Breabag.

Although I enjoyed the summit in the same reluctant way I always look forward to my bath of ice cubes before breakfast :o) it was also a pity it wasn`t better weather as the views around here are so special and different.I`ve not been up this way for years,Ah well,maybe next time we`ll get the sun as well.
I soon perked up again down at the caves where it was slightly less polar and fingers, face and toes came stubbornly back to life.

Now this was more like it.

No wind,a sudden painful return of body heat in the extremities and dark holes in the ground to explore.A few of us went off in search of bones up back passages so to speak.Having been keen on this for years I had a wee exploration of the interlocked cave system but alas age never sleeps.I don`t remember crawling and squirming through tight holes being so painful in the past but I gave it my best shot anyway, thrusting ahead protected from wildcats by my trusty wraparound caving balaclava and thick gloves.I`m no first time mug me! (wildcats have been known to use these northern caverns from time to time.) Meeting an angry wildcat in a confined space is not to be recommended for a good looking boy like myself.

Sadly I ended up rather grubby for the pub later as I didn`t bring a change of clothes just my ever present sun lotion and  dark glasses so my chances of impressing the local girls were diminished somewhat.
 Well, you  never know......

A good weekend  spent in good company and a cracking warm hut.Shame about the blue skies but then you cant have everything.


Dunno about Bob but I thought it was a tremendous day on the hill.Bit of everything thrown in weatherwise....typical Scottish winter day :)

Some more pics and a video.An Teallach from the old bothy at Fain on the Destitution Road .....

John on the walk in...


In the bone caves....

Finally,just to cheer Bob up,here`s a wee video of the best/worst part of the day :)


Anonymous said...

Great stuff from an amazing part of the world!

I still curse myself for not stopping at that bothy on Destitution Road the last time we were up - for a photo only I may add - the way the sun was hitting it was stunning that day - mind you the sun had nothing else to hit Pretty bleak.

Great black and white minstrel shot Bob - oops sorry - it was a balaclava - my mistake!

The Glebe Blog said...

Very intrepid gentlemen and great pictures.I never realised we had so much unique landscape till I started reading your blog.Too long exilled.

blueskyscotland said...

Thanks guys.This is one of my Favourite areas in the UK but if anyones going to go there..... For God,s sake please go in the spring...April, May or June when its at its most beautiful outstanding best.Going in winter, unless its perfect weather,(you,ll be lucky!) is like visiting a theme park when its all closed down for repairs.Well thats how I feel about it.Alex may have a different point of view.
Its taken me a long time to work out but I think a lot of folk genuinely dont mind poor weather on the hills.Give them a choice of a big mountain in grim,grey conditions or a lesser hill in Mediterranean temperatures and sunshine and they will pick the mountain every time. I have to be honest..that baffles me??? I sometimes feel like that little cartoon penquin on its iceberg forever paddling to the warm sunny south among polar bears and greenland sharks all intent on pulling northwards.
However,Perversely,if I lived in a really hot dry country I,ve got a sneaky feeling I,d probably be an avid rain and cloud chaser after a while.Such is life... said a disappointed man who had his legs shot out from under him while wearing a homemade metal jacket:0)

Anonymous said...

As soon as the current round of Hebridean visits is done, I'm off to Assynt. But not in winter. I like a winter day or two in the hills, but not on jaggy, exposed ridges in the teeth of a hurricane, thanks.

Have you seen Kirsty Shirra's book, 'Scotland's Fifty Best Small Mountains'? She rightly points out that what some hills lack in stature, they more than make up for in grandeur. A fair few of Kirsty's hills are in Sutherland and Wester Ross, unsurprisingly.

I like the penguin image, Bob.

Neil said...

Braebag is a much underated hill; it's years since I climbed it (on a not particularly good day if I mind right) but after reading your report I've put it on my "to do" list.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Neil. I imagine it would be a great hill if you could see anything from the heights. They all are up that way.Hope you get a good day for it.
Pete.Yet another book I,ll need to look up.Maybe one day We,ll have read the same thing.Dont tend to read many outdoor books nowadays.Last good one was the factual account by Nick Heil.Dark Summit about the high altitude circus that takes place on Everest every year.Never seen the attraction of hills above 20,000 feet myself.Too much pain and suffering for any glory gained.Going up to glen nevis soon and taking up Wicked..Gregory Maguires book,a modern prequel to the Wizard of Oz that the hit musical of the life and times of the wicked witch of the west was based on.Read half way through it and thought this is good I,ll save the rest for the hut in case its grim weather.Its mad, bad and brillant so far.Cant see the musical (a slightly toned down affair I,d imagine) featuring an uncaring nympo mother and a little girl with teeth like a polecat that bites anything she manages to catch in the garden:0)