It was time to climb the Bookil! Ally and I had almost forgotten we had booked a few days off work to make the most of a bank holiday weekend. After our Cairngorms trip we were blessed with a high in the West side of the country. Off we went – the decision was unanimous – Buachaille Etive Mor.
A few weekends ago was one of my mountaineering club monthly meets, this time in Muir Cottage, Inverey, near Braemar. I was really looking forward to this weekend because it would be in the Cairngorms – one of my favourite places, Ally and I planned to climb our last as-yet unclimbed Cairngorm Munro, and the club hut had showers. Ah the joys!
Beinn Alligin was one of my first Munros, many years ago. I had gone on a walk from a guide book with a friend that took us round the back of Beinn Alligin (meaning the north), past the little lochans and effectively on a circuit of the mountain. Then when we reached the slopes leading up to Sgorr Mor, the book said it could be easily climbed if felt like it. We thought ‘why not’ and went for it. I remember clinging on the steep slopes with hands but enjoying the grassy climb. Sadly the views were not to be that day from the top, with extensive cloud cover, but we duly edged back down, not realising there were two Munro summits and that we could go back down via Tom na Gruagaich. From the bottom, the walk had us simply continue round the base of the mountain, except the pathless ground got rougher and rougher, and we took forever descending the tussocky heather. The sun came out and baked us as we slowly made our way back to the road, hot, sweaty and gasping for a drink, eventually collapsing in the Torridon Inn with relief and a pint.
Meall a’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr nan Clach Geala & Sgurr nan Each
Ally and I had booked a weekend at the campsite at Poolewe. It is a great campsite and a brilliant location – something we had booked a while ago to do something else that we ended up eventually not doing, but we decided to still go for the weekend anyway. We realised we were not too far from some of our unclimbed Fannichs so set off from the campsite on the Saturday to walk the middle three Munros of Meall a’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr nan Clach Geala and Sgurr nan Each. We had walked up the Western pair a few weeks previously, and had planned to backpack the seven eastern Munros on another weekend. Ah the best laid plans…this summer has been a wash-out and not enticing enough most weekends to make us want to get out and backpack. The whole summer has been woefully absent of camping and backpacking – I’ve really missed it. However, Ally was also two Munros away from halfway so he thought these hills would be a fitting way to reach it.
The day after our Galloway jaunt, the entire country was having a bath in a thunderous downpour. We had hoped to get out and visit some more Galloway hills but it wasn’t to be. There was one tiny forecasted window of opportunity however, in the Pentlands. The Pentlands are another range I had never visited until this weekend, and to be honest, not a range I would have gone out my way to get to, being low-lying, far from home and in the built-up Central Belt. However it was a shame to waste so much money on petrol to get down this far south only to go home again so we decided to make a day of it, and duly drove up to near Penicuik the night before and camped in the van.
The Merrick – Mullwarchar – Dungeon Hill – Craignaw
The weekend forecast after our hill holidays looked pretty grim right across Scotland, but Ally and I were desperate to get out again after such a good week. The only window of opportunity was southern Scotland which had a pretty decent forecast – the rest of the country was torrential rain, weather warnings and high winds. However, this presented an opportunity to go to Galloway. We had never been to any of the Galloway hills before and in fact we had only been to this area once before, to the excellent Wigtown book festival.
I was two Munros away from the halfway point and we had one day left of hill holidays. I really hoped to get a great Munro for this. My 50th Munro was Ben Macdui which was excellent. However my 100th Munro I was on my own, in the pishing rain and a howling gale, on Meall Chuaich, an unassuming and, some say unexciting (although I’d never go that far – all hills are exciting) Munro at Drumochter. It was hardly an occasion to remember. At least, not for the right reasons – I remember battling my way in a galeforce wind across the summit, taking a selfie in the lee of the cairn and getting the hell out of dodge. I had grand plans to climb Buachaille Etive Mor, but Glencoe weather that week was appalling and I had specifically taken a week off to reach 100.
I was looking for a pair of suitably memorable Munros to take me to the halfway point at 141. Well, what would you know – Torridon had a great forecast for the last day of our holidays 🙂 And I immediately thought of Beinn Eighe with its two Munro summits. It fit the bill perfectly.