Originally, this was to be a blog about my preparations to enter the TGO Challenge in 2012. For a variety of reasons that didn't happen, so this has now become the repository for my outdoor musings.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Ardgour and Ardnamurchan

Last week I was in Scotland. Seven of us set off from Cheltenham to stay at Bun Allt Eachain on the shores of Loch Sunart. None of our party had been to this bit of the Highlands before and we were completely taken with it. Certainly the "cottage" we were staying in helped with the general "This Is Awesome" ambience, but the whole area was absolutely stunning. A general overview of our week can be found here, read on for more walking-specific stuff...

The weather was a mixed bag early in the week, so it was Tuesday before we set out to do any hills. We didn't have to go very far for our first fix, as soaring up from behind the house was Beinn Resipol.

Beinn Resipol from the west.

I was keen to climb this mountain as Chris Townsend considered it worthy of a mention in his tome on Scotland, and also I had recently seen it mentioned in the TGO article about Corbetts. It would seem rude not to give it a go!

The weather was still looking a little random when we set out on Tuesday morning. Pete, Sym and I walked along the A861 towards the campsite at Resipol. There we headed upwards, following the course of the Allt Mhic Chiarain up through the woods. A little navigational faux pas (I hold my hand up here) meant we lost the path and had to heather/bog stomp to get back on route. At this point Sym's feet were really giving him some gyp in his new Scarpa boots, so he decided to head back down. Rather unpleasantly, this pain wasn't blisters but some sort of nasty tendon/ligament type thing in his instep. Two visits to Fort Bill A&E (a 60 mile round trip) and some very strong painkillers would be required before he started feeling anywhere near human again. Not knowing this at the time, Pete and I waved him farewell and looked upwards. Not before trying to don our waterproof layers in a very sudden and gusty squall. Suitably ensconsed we carried on. The summit wasn't looking particularly endearing at this point, in fact we couldn't see it as the cloudbase was down to about 600m, maybe lower in the rain.


We felt that perhaps a spot of luncheon might be in order, to give the weather time to show it's hand. Possibly on a full stomach we would feel emboldened to press on in to the murk. Time to use my portable 2-3 person bothy thing. Very interesting it was too. Maybe the "2-3" designation is actually a mathematical description and this particular bothy was designed for -1 people as it was very, very cozy. I mean very.

Lunch in a very small bag.

However it was better than having lunch in the wet snow shower that now blew through. After eating our fill, we took stock of our situation. 1. The summit was still completely obscured, and one of my reasons for climbing to the top was to see the extensive views that CT mentions. Beinn Resipol is the highest point before the sea, so the views of the Ardnamurchan peninsula and the islands beyond are apparently awesome. To slog to the top and not have that reward seemed a little perverse, summit bagging for the sake of it. 2. Pete hadn't fully appreciated what an undertaking BR would be so felt a little under-equipped. I hate pressing on when you don't feel suitably prepared so I wasn't going to push the issue. Therefore we made the decision to head down to the cottage, making use of the opportunity to practise some navigational tricks and tips, and enjoying the views whilst we did so.

Loch Sunart

Skirting the two Lochans na Cuthaige, we crossed the Allt Eachain (three times?) before hitting the road about twenty metres from the drive to the cottage.

Lochan na Cuthaige

We needed to scratch our Beinn Resipol itch. Rather than heading further afield to climb something on Thursday, as had been mooted earlier in the week, we decided to retackle BR. Thursday dawned, and the weather looked a lot better. A good frost sparkled in the early light as we set off again.

Frozen Stream

Following the same route as Tuesday (without the navigational error) soon had us gaining height. Lunch today was taken in the sun, with just a baselayers and fleece keeping us warm.

The lunch time view.

Not bad for a Scottish mountain in January was our considered opinion. Soon the breeze picked up, so we donned shells and headed on, skirting round to the southern side of the summit cone. Here and there were little patches of frozen snow so we had a bit of fun cutting steps up one, although we could have walked round it in about 30 seconds. Interestingly, we spotted mini avalanche spore on this little slope. Right where it was at it's most convex, the snow had broken away to a depth of maybe ten centimetres and perhaps two metres across and slid four or five metres.

Pete cutting steps.

The going started becoming a little more "hands on" as we picked our through rocks and ledges. The views east to what we guessed were the Glen Coe mountains were stunning. We were above the cloud that lay south and east, and the snow-capped summits of these mountains poked through and caught the light beautifully. Unfortunately as we climbed higher, we realised that we weren't going to get above the wispy cloud that was draped over the top of Beinn Resipol. When we reached the oversized cairn that marks the summit, visibility was down to about 50m, so no views of the Ben for us. After a quick breather, we now headed north, down towards Glac Gharbh. This side of the summit was much more icy and had a lot more lying snow. Nothing impassable, but enough to make you use that little bit more caution as you picked your route. Some ice axe arrest practice had me pass Pete, before we cleared the worst of the snow and ice and headed back down to the cottage, following the path we had climbed up hours earlier. The low afternoon sun made everything look golden, and the views continued to take what breath we had away.

We hadn't seen a soul on the hill all day (apart from four people walking their dog just above the campsite) and when we thought about the numbers you could expect to pass on the "honey pot" hills, we were glad we stayed local. Beinn Resipol may not be a Munro, but it's all the better for that!

We didn't "do" any other hills during the week, but from other trips out it became clear to us that this area has tonnes of potential for exploration. We'll be back!

Loch Sunart Sunset from Bun Allt Eachain

(If you haven't followed the link already there are some other pics from our week on my other blog, and here too. No pressure.)

1 comment:

  1. I've just happened upon your blog and I see you are getting in early on the 2012 TGO scene like me. I haven't read anything more than your blog description yet - it's too late! So I'll have look through tomorrow and maybe comment again.