Retro walk: 7th August 2004
An Teallach 07/08/04
Munros: Bidein a Glas Thuill, Sgurr Fiona
Now that our appetites had been whetted, the decision was made to use a weekend to head to the West coast and get a couple more munros under our belt in the shape of An Teallach. Nothing quite like going in at the deep end!
We set off as early as possible on Friday night hoping to get up to Ullapool in time for the chippy before bed. After driving round looking for a decent parking space we got out of the car to get changed and were immediately engulfed in midges which wasted no time in sinking their jaws into my arms. This resulted in us retreating to the nearest pub and spending as much time time there as we could listening to a ropey duo with their hi-tech keyboard tunes before returning to the car and suffering a miserable night being eaten alive by imaginary midges.
After rising early and hunting for a shop that was open to stock up on refreshments, we found ourselves ready but not quite raring to go in the layby near Dundonnell House by 8 o’clock. After a brief excurison up the wrong side of the Garbh Allt, we began winding our way up through the rhodedendrons until the trees began to thin out. Eventually, the slopes of Glas Mheall Mor and Glas Mheall Liath revealed themselves, with the last of the morning’s cloud clinging to the side as it was burnt off by the sun.
The sun was also having an effect on the two Stella-fuelled mountaineers making their way up to the waterfall at the confluence of the Allt Coir a Ghiubhsachan and the Allt a Ghlas Thuill. A lovely site to spend some time in less hungover circumstances. However, the mission at hand and the ever present threat of midges kept us moving as we turned to the west to follow the lesser burn up to the corrie of Glas Thol. My pounding head made this easy going climb up the decent path a lot less pleasant than it should have been and the usual promises never to drink again were made, to be forgotten at a later date.
Finally, the corrie opened out in front of us as we looked to our right to see the best place to begin the first real slog of the day. It all looked to be of a similar steepness, so we began zig-zagging our way up to the top of Glas Mheall Mor, giving ourselves plenty of breathers and trying not to fall all the way back to the corrie. I eventually lost my head and ran up the last stretch to get it over with, whereas Paul was a little more pragmatic, opting for the slow and steady approach. One look at the view from the top was enough to make the effort worthwhile, with the beauty of the west coast opening out on one side and the hazy mountains surrounding the others.
After having a wee chat with a lady who’d come up the sensible way from near the Dundonnell hotel, we set off to claim our first munro of the day, Bidein a Ghlas Thuill, which lay on the opposite side of the corrie. Upon crossing the col the path took a slightly indirect route to the summit, offset from the ridge’s prow, making the going less steep until turning for a final push to the summit trig point.
After a quick stop for a bite to eat and to take some photos of the upcoming pinnacles and the deep green waters of Loch Toll an Lochain, course was set for Sgurr Fiona, the day’s second munro which lay a short distance across next col. Here the ridge began to narrow slightly, not that the goats grazing halfway down the slope seemed to be bothered. Another pull to the summit and we were on another munro in a little under 40 minutes, a wonderfully exposed place, with views of Lord Berkeley’s Seat to set the pulse racing. Dehydration was beginning to take it’s toll, however, and Paul had used the last of his water already. There was only so long that the remains of my water could keep us going.
A sketchy descent from the summit along the crest of the ridge followed by some hands on scrambling brought us to the narrow connecting ridge before the next ascent, with Lord Berkeley’s Seat towering impossibly above us. A tiny silhouette on the very peak was enough to convince us this was the way to go and we were soon enjoying some real scrambling as we made our way to the best vantage point of the day. The feeling of space on the summit was incredible, especially when standing, which was not too stressful thanks to the complete absence of any wind.
After reluctantly descending from our lofty vantage point, the Corrag Bhuidhe pinnacles stretched out ahead of us. As we debated the wisdom of taking the high route over the lower path, a couple flew along the top in shorts and approach shoes, jumped down and carried on over the Seat. This made the decision for us – so up we went. The going along the top of the ridge was easy enough until we came to the end of the Corrag Bhuidhe Buttress and saw the downclimb that was required to regain the broader ridge below. A fall from this side would take you pretty much to the floor of the corrie below and having read about walkers falling to their death at this very spot, it was an easy decision to backtrack slightly and regain the lower path at a less exposed spot.
After a bit of hairy downclimbing, with not much margin for error, we reached the path without careering down the steep mountainside and continued on along the crumbling path. We descended down a loose path towards the col from which we were supposed to make our way down to Toll an Lochain below, as all thoughts of climbing Sail Liath had disappeared along with the last of our water. Even as we approached the ‘path’ we were a bit dubious as to whether we had the right one, but this was it and no amount of nervous looking over the edge was going to make it any less steep. We took the plunge and started slipping our way down what was to all intents and purposes a run-off for snow melt. The going got easier and firmer as the slope eased and eventually we even managed to get some water at a handy burn halfway down. Sigg bottle water never tasted so good!
Recharged and rehydrated, we made light work of the rest of the descent to the lochan and were soon walking along the quartzite slabs at its head and back down the Coir a Ghuibhsachain, with excellent views of the impressive escarpment on the opposite side. Our route took us down from above the waterfall we passed earlier in the day, rejoining the path through the rhodedendrons and returning us safe and sound to the car. This mountain would be a hard one to beat.