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Borrowdale trip report

  posted by Dom Cozzi on 2014-02-04

After the copious amounts of cheese, wine and other gastronomic fancies combined with the inevitable laziness of Christmas, what a joy it was to be back in the beautiful Lake District. Especially after 4 weeks in the flat and frankly unhikeable Cambridgeshire countryside! It was time to kick off our packed Lent Term calendar with our first hike of 2014 and where better to bust those January blues than the stunning Borrowdale Valley. Recently, I've been trying to tick off some of the lesser known Wainwrights and so teamed up with Harry to tackle 4 peaks I'd scarcely heard of... splendid!

I'd got some new boots over the holidays and couldn't wait to break them in and so after munching up my habitual pre-departure pork pie, the day began. Starting our day from Rosthwaite, we headed South to tackle our first peak of the day: Eagle Crag. Although a mere 503m, it rises dramatically up from the landscape and walking along the valley, the imposing fell looked almost impossible at first, but a winding ascent through the crags afforded us a scenic route to the summit. The weather was surprisingly kind to us, and good visibility at the top was greatly appreciated by all, especially by Harry who got to give his new gadget, some binoculars, a try. As we rested for a moment, Gregory pensively reminded us that some of the world's greatest thinkers, writers and artists were all taken by the beauty of the fells and the words of Wainwright sprang to mind...

"Eagle Crag is so splendidly situated, so nobly proportioned and of so arresting appearance that it is a far worthier object than the parent fell (High Raise) rising behind"
After a quick break, we stayed high and continued South along the ridge to reach our second summit of the day, Sergeant's Crag. Despite only being at 571m, this is the highest we would reach all day! We had a decision to make over lunch as to our routing for the rest of the day. We could either immediately descend into the valley to head back North or stay high and walk all the way around the ridge along a slightly trickier route just below the snow line. In the end, we decided on the latter and carefully made our way around to the other side of the valley. We continued past the path up Ullscarf, where the other group would eventually end up, crossing over very boggy land, with several of us getting quite soggy feet, a good test for the new boots! Eventually we reached the third summit of the day, Great Crag. It was at this point, that I decided to put what I've learnt from Emma into practice... it was the perfect time to share out the Fuzzy Peaches, delicious Canadian sweets courtesy of Marguerite! They went down quite a treat and gave us the last burst of energy needed to bag the fourth and lowest summit of the day, Grange Fell.

There was the tempting proposition of possibly nipping up Castle Crag (The shortest of the Wainwrights at 290m), however with the ever fading darkness and tiring limbs, we resigned ourselves to the pub for a well earned pint... always the best way to end the day! Overall, a fantastic start to the new term, with some new hills to tick off my Wainwright map. Thanks to Harry for leading, Ivar for driving and everyone else for their sparkling company. VP: Over and Out.


Glenshiel Winter Trip report

  posted by Jim Heath, Richard Thorpe and Sam Harrison on 2014-01-17

It's unbelievable that a week of rain, wind and generally bad weather could be quite as fun as last week's Winter Trip to Glenshiel, but I don't think there was anyone on the trip that didn't have a thoroughly good time. Here are some accounts of the week from Jim, Richard and myself.

Jim: The Forcan Ridge (eventually)

The week had started with good navigation practice in a white out on Sgurr nan Conbhairean, having been less willing than the others to get out of bed early enough to beat the bad weather. Day 2, a very pleasant touristy day around the Applecross peninsula, was made more entertaining by Ben's boot blowing open at 50 mph (and some interesting cornering, not to mention somewhat novel sunroof repairs). Admittedly by the 3rd day, the moist conditions had turned the Falls of Glomach into a sight almost spectacular enough to justify an 8 mile trudge through a swamp in torrential rain. However, by Wednesday, we were impatient for some proper winter mountaineering... the weather, on the other hand, was not. So, after a 500 m slog in the rain revealed a vague view of a black and soggy Forcan Ridge, we decided to run away, over the summit of Biod an Fhithich and along its undulating north ridge, bringing us back to Shiel Bridge via a bog/heather bumslide and another swamp. That only left the problem of how to get back into the house - soon solved by shoving Calum head first through the bathroom window. At least the 1000-piece jigsaw got finished (after some slightly worrying semi-naked antics that ended with an upside-down bed, a sabotaged ice axe, and the construction of a "man trap" in the attic...).

The mighty Falls of Glomach
Day 5! This had to be the day... Repeating the previous day's slog with dry clothes was surprisingly pleasurable, and this time the Forcan Ridge looked well covered in old refrozen snow, with a fresh dusting on frosted-up rocks. For the route itself, the numerous guide books say it all. And in good condition it's a very fun winter scramble, with sufficient length, exposure and slightly tricky bits to give it something of an "Alpine" feel. From the summit of the Saddle, rather than the usual bagging of Sgurr na Sgine, we decided to carry on along the West ridge, which has some more scrambling and sections of narrow-ish snow arete, followed by a long ridge walk northwards with impressive views down into Coire Uaine... some winter climbing potential there? Also finally got some views over towards Knoydart and across to Skye. With plenty of bouldering opportunities on the way and 1600m of ascent it also gives a pretty full day out (though admittedly not as long as some of the nearby bagging options!). Great compensation for a week of wet weather, and well worth waiting for.

Richard: South Shiel ridge

With the forecast looking good and tomorrow looking wet and windy once more, this was looking like our last good chance for a long day out in decent conditions. With one space free in the car I jumped in with Calum, Laura, Matt and Dan to traverse the South Shiel ridge. Laura dropped her car off at Cluanie Inn while Dan and I were dropped off at the car park by Mark. When Mark returned with an empty car to tell us we were at the wrong car park we were slightly confused, as we were definitely at the right one. We headed up the valley to the next car park where the rest where waiting, Calum definite that his was the right one. So off we set, the South Shiel Ridge with the "Ross variation", the path quickly petered out at a deer fence we had to climb, then straight up a steep unrelenting slope, to another deer fence, then more slog till we finally reached the top of Sgurr a' Chuilinn, a lump sticking out on the north side of Creag nan Damh. Hitting snow we put on the crampons and got the axes out to ascend the steep ground to the summit. Reaching the summit we regathered and headed east, towards the distant Cluanie Inn, 1 Munro done, 6 more to go. Skirting around the side of Sgurr Beag to save time the next four Munros came thick and fast, Sgurr an Lochain, Sgurr An Doire Leathain, Maol Chinn-dearg and Aonach air Chrith. The ridge stayed high and narrow, though never technical, with the winds at our backs we made fast progress, Calum estimated one Munro per hour, and the weather stayed fine. Though the occasional cloud would overtake us it was often followed by large clear patches with views forward and back along the ridge, down to Loch Quoich and across to the cloud shrouded Five Sisters. Upon reaching Aonach air Chrith, our highest point of the day at 1021 meters we could see the remainder of our route laid out before us. Cluanie Inn just poke out past a shoulder, invitingly close, but we still had two more peaks to bag, Druim Shionnach across a broad, almost plateau like ridge and just beyond it the lower Creag a' Mhaim, the connecting ridge hidden to us. With light beginning to fade we set off, climbing almost unnoticeably to the summit of Druim Shionnach and eager to reach the end of the ridge before dark, we took a bearing and set off to Creag a' Mhaim. We were almost immediately surprised to find that the ridge narrowed to a rocky arete, far more exposed than the rest had been, made more precarious by the cornice that had built up on the northern side, masking the true edge. We picked a careful route between cornice and the steep rocky slopes to the south, enjoying the unexpected excitement and thankful we hadn't come across it in the dark. The final Munro of the day was climbed in twilight, the sun had faded and the moon shone brightly just above the summit, there was no sound but our footsteps and the wind as we reached the cairn atop Creag a' Mhaim. After a brief stop Calum and I took a bearing down the South east nose to pick up a stalkers path. As we left the summit the weather finally broke and it began to rain. Picking up the path as the last of the light left us, we followed its zig zags down the mountain. Leaving behind the last of the snow we took off the crampons and got out the headtorches and while the rain continued to fall we followed the boggy path. Eventually we reached the bottom of the stalkers path and had to face our last challenge, 7km of tarmac track back to the Cluanie Inn, before we could finally collapse into Laura's car, wet and exhausted, but very happy. 7 Munros, 24km, 1800m of ascent in 9 hours 40 minutes. The return journey took 8 minutes by car.

Me (Sam): The Five Sister's of Kintail

Whilst Jim, Ben and Stephen retraced their steps from the previous day up to the start of the Forcan Ridge, and as Richard et al. were enjoying the "Ross Variation", Lorna, Imogen, Darren and myself were tackling the relentlessly steep slope running at an average angle of 35 degress from the A87 to the summit of Sgurr nan Spainteach, the first top on the popular Five Sister's ridge that forms the northern backdrop of Shiel Bridge. The snow was frustrating at best; at first it appeared solid on top, but every couple of steps you'd sink right through to knee-depth (or deeper!). That being said, I do love a good snow slope and I definitely enjoyed the 900m of ascent we polished off in under two hours.

The steep slope up from the A87.
Unsurprisingly, the views were non-existent, except for a few breaks in the cloud here and there. The complexities of the ridge made up for this however; complexities not because of technicality, but rather because of the devious route it took, embracing everything from super-steep snow slopes (usually in descent) to twisting rocky passages. The descent from the third of the three Munros it passes over - Sgurr Fhuaran - was particularly steep and devious, and looking back at the summit from Shiel Bridge on a clear day, you can see why!

Loch Duich and Sgurr an t-Searraich.
Fortunately, the cloud level was high enough so we got a great view out over Loch Duich on the descent, a view which we couldn't help thinking reminded us of the view of the Pap and Loch Leven from Sgurr nam Fiannaidh.
Glenelg on the final day of the trip


Munro bagging in Killin

  posted by Darren Axe and Sam Harrison on 2013-06-20

Apparently, the last time the club went to Killin was ten years ago! I think this is mainly due to campsites in the area not being open over the winter period. A few weeks ago, we took the risk of being eaten alive by midges and dared a summer visit to the Highlands.

On Saturday, Jim, Calum and me had the epic eight-Munro Ben Lawers ridge with Meall nan Tarmachan added on (because it was a choice of either 5 miles down the tarmac road or 6 miles over Meall nan Tarmachan - the latter being much more preferable!). Photos of this can be found in the photos section.

An amazingly still Loch Tay on the Saturday
Darren, Imogen, Lorna and Mouse also had a bagging mission on Saturday. Thanks to Darren for this trip report:

Munro bagging is indeed a strange pursuit. However it's appeal is incredible. Having not been out on a big ticking mission in a while, the prospect of a sneaky last minute trip to the Killin Hills in fine summer weather was very appealing.

The fine warm weather that had prevailed in Lancaster for the previous week promised to hold through the weekend so it was following a frantic packing session on Thursday evening, I was all set and stoked for another LUHC weekend in the north. The campsite at Cruachan Farm lived up to good expectations of comfortable toilet blocks with hot showers. Our reserved area was on a rather sloped section of the field, however it mattered not as it meant we were could spread out over a wide area, well away from any potential interruptions from late night BBQ's or snoring.
The dome shaped Carn Gorm (1020 m). Photo © Darren Axe.
Saturday's bagging excursion saw myself, Imogen, Lorna and Mouse getting dropped off in a lush and green Glen Lyon at the small settlement of Invervar. We were sharp out of the blocks and soon found ourselves well above the forested valley pounding up the beautifully grassy slopes of Carn Gorm. We remarked at the novelty of finding ourselves on a reasonable path on the ascent which (for Scotland) made short work of the 800 or so meters to bring us to the summit of the first hill of the day; Carn Gorm, a fine concentric dome of a summit with great views of the west highlands, Rannoch Moor and Cairngorms to the east. The route following took in a collection of Tops and 3 further munros. With the weather being so fine, we took a leisurely stroll from one to the next with Mouse taking time for all important quick kips on some of the summits - 'it's surprising how comfortable lying down among the boulders of a Cairn can be'! Our descent from Meall na Aighan, the final Munro for the day was an efficient trot down a fine nose down into the wooded waters of the Ivervar Burn. Given that we had completed our round of the hills around 2 hours quicker than expected, we had time to kill prior to our minibus pickup. Finding a picturesque deep pool in the Burn, we took time out, and I took the opportunity for a refreshing plunge in the pool. For our return journey to the campsite, we were treated by chauffeur Ivar to a trip up over the Tarmachan road weaving up and down steeply among the high hills of the Ben Lawers range.
Taking the plunge in the Invervar Burn. Photo © Darren Axe.
Saturday evening turned out rather damp and still on the campsite. This brought the midges out. We had come well prepared given the time of year and after all the cold weather of the spring, they were certainly far from their worst.

After a clearing of the sky by the end of Saturday evening, it was a rather cloudy start to Sunday morning. There were signs of brightness around, and we knew the sun must be streaming down elsewhere in Scotland so it wouldn't be long before the mist gave way to clear blue skies. It was up and over the Tarmachan road once again, this time dipping into the cloud briefly at the top of the cloud, as we headed over into Glen Lyon. We were off to the dam at the end of Loch Daimph for a quick 'bag' of Stuc an Lochain. The cloud wafted around, with the sun making its best efforts to create a clear view for us as we rounded the corrie rim to the summit. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be until we were well on descent back down to Loch Daimph that the skies did their magic and the sunglasses once again

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