It's been a long time since my last post and in fact I've just realised I still need to post some photos from May (which I will do very soon, and in such a way as it looks like they have always been there!). What have I been doing? Working ...
So along comes December and despite our best intentions all we have managed since May is 1 walk in the Pentlands. 2009 was a terrible year for our walking. But all that was about to change. With our legs having forgotten how to climb up hills we were about to set off to NZ to visit family and, in between, do some serious walking. It was tough, but we managed it and here are a few mountain pictures to prove it!
Without a shadow of a doubt, the best mountain I have ever climbed is Ben Lomond (Queenstown as opposed to just outside Glasgow). The views from the top are remarkable (pun intended).
View to the Remarkables from Ben Lomond
Surrounded by mountains wherever you look ...
Now many mountains in New Zealand are simply too big for the average person to climb, so I resorted to the good standby of getting close and photographing them!
The iconic Mount Aspiring at sunset
And the even more iconic Aoraki Mount Cook
But it wasn't all hard work
Surfer at Piha on Boxing Day
A Pied Shag
A final word of warning: "Avalanche Peak" is exactly what it says on the tin. Little did I think I would be in a blizzard in summer and restricted to the route I could take because of severe risk of avalanches. But then I forgot, this is New Zealand where place names can be very unimaginative, but generally very accurate!
Taking advantage of a quick break in the weather, but not being so brave as to venture up high (where I would certainly be blown off my feet) our last walk was a 4 mile loop from Lochinver, through Glen Canisp and back round by the river Inver. This took us 2 hours (with many stops for photographs and looking, in vain, for otters). We got back to Lochinver just as the heavens opened, and in time for lunch - for more of which see this post!
Suilven is a magnificent, hypnotic mountain. All the walks we did this week gave different views. It changes shape so much when you look at it from a slightly different angle - if you didn't know it was the same mountain, you'd find it hard to believe. For me it's almost as iconic as Buchaille Etive Mor - can't wait to climb it - perhaps next year?
After a rest day to recover from Ben More Coigach (and it was raining so what else could we have done!) we headed off to Cul Mor. Starting early at Knockan Crag, there is a well made stalkers path for a fair bit of the way. We climbed up the east side (pretty steep near the top) and headed straight for the magnificent cairn at the top for lunch. It was bitterly cold, so we took a few photos and then tried to get feeling back into our frozen dead hands before heading to the bealach and back to the car. The rain was coming in behind us and the short time we were at the summit was pretty much the only time the top was clear all day.
Perfect timing, and at a mere 5 1/2 hours there and back a stroll in the park! This climb gave great views of Suilven and Stac Pollaidh.
We had planned on leaving this walk until later in the week, once we had gained our climbing legs, but we quickly realised the week might be a washout and we needed to take advantage of what good weather we might have. So on the first day ...
Stac Pollaidh, Suilven and Cul Beag
Starting at the Dun Canna car park near Blughasary, we climbed up onto the Coigach range via Speicein Coinnich. The climb up gave us great views of the surrounding mountains, including Stac Pollaidh and Suilven, and even over to An Teallach. The weather wasn't great, but the rain always seemed to miss us. Nevertheless, there had been snow overnight and it was pretty windy, so we didn't linger for long at the top (just enough to get our breath back) before moving on to Ben More Coigach itself. From there our plan had been to go on to Garbh Choireachan but the weather was starting to close in so we came off down towards Culnacraig.
Scary push to the top ...
Our next part of the walk was meant to be a cliff-top stroll back to the car, but the path turned out to be more of a side of the cliff job, and by now the wind was picking up so we turned inland and headed over rough ground to Beannan Beaga and back to the car. Sound nice - in reality it was over 15 miles, nearly 6,500 feet of climbing and a long hard day. Luckily we had plenty of food and water, and for once I was glad we came prepared for the unexpected (as we always do)! I have to confess I was slightly disappointed when I realised that despite all that we hadn't even climbed a Corbett ... the mountains up here look (and feel) higher than they are! Still, at least we got some great views.
This time last year we came back from a week in Glencoe with a healthy tan, having climbed mountains all week (until it got too hot and we had to have a barbecue). What a great feeling it was to be over 3000 feet above sea level looking at a cloudless sky and wandering over ridges in a t-shirt (and trousers - no shorts - scared of ticks!) in Scotland. Not to worry - this year was back to form: cold (minus 17 in the wind on the hills), wet (sometimes very, very wet) and windy (gale force, with weather warnings in force!).
This was my first time staying in Ullapool - I've only ever been through a couple of times. We had a cottage on the Braes, near the top of Ullapool hill, with great views of Loch Broom. Anyway - here were the walks we did manage to do. I'll post each separately, and update this page with the links: Ben More Coigach Cul Mor Lochinver and Glen Canisp
And if you want to know where we were eating out then have a look here (One very good pub!)
In the meantime, some photos from the Corrieshalloch gorge:
This was not a walk as such, more an excursion in the tipping rain ... Corrieshalloch Gorge is stunning. A swing bridge takes you over the gorge which must be over 200 feet deep, and a viewpoint hangs out over the edge so you can take photos: you can even see the remains of the old viewing point ... A nice circular stroll takes you back along the other side of the gorge. A good way to spend half an hour or so and a very impressive gorge.
This is one very deep gorge!
Look closely - the viewing platform is top right on this picture
And finally ... just to prove we did actually get some sun (good job you can't see the wind!):
Now I start to remember exactly what walking up mountains is all about: first of all you need a great landscape; secondly you need great weather; thirdly you need the perfect corbett - not too high that you kill yourself, and near enough to stunning hills that you can enjoy the views from the top. Wow!!
Start from Lochearnhead, go up a good path through Glen Kendrum and Creag Mac Ranaich stands impressively on your right. What a walk!
Creag Mac Ranaich on the way in
I only wish my photos could do justice to a view that took in so many munros, including Ben Lomond (too hazy for my lens) and Ben Lui, as well as all the ones below. This truly was a 360 degree view of stunning proportions. I could have spent hours at the top drinking in the views.