Thursday, August 26, 2010

Conival & Ben More Assynt

Achmelvich Sunset
Achmelvich Beach
Day two of a two day North West Munro Marathon..

Munros 39 & 40
7 hours

(More, and larger photos available in my flickr set at:

Day 2 of my NW Highlands expedition (Day 1 here) and my feet had recovered sufficiently to contemplate another walk. Taped up my heels and the worst blister with some zinc oxide tape, made up my lunch and set off North from Ullapool. It was a cracking morning, the temperature already in the 20's:

View of Coigach from the A835. Beinn an Eoin, Stac Pollaidh and Cul Beag.

Arrived at Inchnadamph and parked up in the car park, got kitted up and made time for a couple more photos before setting off:

View of the summit of Canisp from the Inchnadamph car park.

View of Quinag and Loch Assynt from the Inchnadamph car park.

So, up the main road, across the bridge and then a right turn to get onto the track for the start of the walk. The track narrows to a path after a holiday cottage but still good underfoot. Watch out for the fork in the path. If you take the right path you'll cross the river and end up at the bone caves. Stay left and the path drops down to follow the left back of the river. Conival begins to loom large ahead:

Conival from Gleann Dubh. The Inchnadamph caves are on the right hand side of the River Traligill.

The views behind begin to open up:

Suilven & Canisp from the lower slopes of Conival.

Eventually, the path leaves the river and starts to head up the slopes of Conival. Others have mentioned much bogginess at this point but fortunately for me the heatwave had dried it all up. As the path gains height, it becomes much less distinct and involved a lot of randomly picking my way up between the tussocks of grass and rocks, and the occasional stream. The river is eventually crossed and a short walk takes you to the scramble at around 750m:

A short scramble is required at 750 metres.

In the good visibility it was a doddle to pick a simple route up which really was no more than a set of rocky steps. At the top of the scramble there are a couple of cairns to help you find the way down (I went up & down at the cairn nearest the waterfall). The cairns aren't obvious from right below the scramble.

From here there is a faint path over scree which takes you to the 775m col between Conival and Beinn an Fhurain. Turn right and then head up Conival. At this point the col was covered in cloud which I soon climbed out of:

Looking back at the cloud rolling over the bealach between Conival and Beinn an Fhurain. Taken from the shoulder of Conival.

I found the shoulder of Conival a pig to ascend. The choice was either scree or a very sandy/gravelly path. I settled for the path. Two steps up and 1 back until the steep slope levelled off and I gained the summit ridge of Conival:

Path leading to summit of Conival.

Now, here was a great path and it was a joy to walk along the the summit shelter and the rather curious Trigpoint which just seems to consist of a square of concrete flush with the ground, almost like if you dug down, there would be a whole Trigpoint there.

Me in Conival summit shelter.

Had a bite to eat and was soon joined at the summit by Harry and his family, who I had passed earlier in the walk. Harry's son had just bagged his first Munro. Well done that lad!

Time for a quick photo before tackling the ridge:

Beinn an Fhurain from Conival summit.

I was a bit wary about doing this ridge. I suppose I had been psyching myself out all the way up too. Should I wait for the cloud to cover it so I couldn't see the drop or just go for it? In the end I just went for it. It really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. One narrowish bit near the start. The rest was plain sailing, apart from a sting in the tail at the end - an unexpected steep descent and reascent:

At the lowest point on the ridge, looking back towards Conival. The summit is shrouded in cloud behind the ridge.

Looking back to Conival from Ben More Assynt.

A quick GPS check to establish the true summit, and a trip over to the South summit just to make sure, and Ben More Assynt was in the bag. Harry and family soon arrived. We exchanged cameras for our respective summit snaps and then Harry broke out the Grouse minature for a mini celebration:

Me on summit of Ben More Assynt. Silly hat mandatory. And yes, I made sure that I got the correct summit. Photo by Harry - cheers for the nip!

Time to head back. More confident on the ridge, I was much quicker on the return journey to Conival. Some hazy views from Conival:

Inverpolly from near summit of Conival. A hot and hazy day.

Quinag. From near the summit of Conival.

A pretty uneventful descent of Conival, apart from the aforementioned gravel path on the shoulder, which was torturous. Passed several groups who were on the way up. There's something satisfying about passing people still on the way up when you've done all the hard work for the day isn't there? Back on the path through Gleann Dubh:

Path from Conival through Gleann Dubh to Inchnadamph.

Arrived back at the car, just over 7 hours after setting off. I've never taken my boots off so quickly and driven off. Imaging a scene from Starship Troopers - but with clegs! I was eaten alive. Time to head for my overnight stop at Achmelvich:

Canisp, Suilven & Cul Mor. Taken from the viewpoint on the B869.

Meeting up with my brother and some other guys who were on a bike tour. Achmelvich Youth Hostel is excellent and I can't recommend it highly enough. Brilliant hosts. Pizza for tea, and an impromptu barbecue with freshly caught mackerel. Then down to the beach, and a fire and beers to round off an excellent weekend:

Achmelvich beach - looking towards the Youth Hostel, Suilven on Horizon.

Watching the sun setting on Achmelvich beach.

A final photo. It sums up the whole day for me. and deserves to be viewed large. Click on it, select All Sizes and view it large!

Taken from the shoulder of Conival. Ben More Assynt on the left, Conival on the right with the ridge in between. 4 images stitched together.