An Teallach Minus Corrag Buidhe

5 03 2011

May 2008

No piccies for this one – sorry – forgot my trusty old Zenith camera that week and the walking and weather were superb all week! :(

One May Bank Holiday, I joined my University mountaineering club on their Ullapool meet. Some days I walked with them, some days I didn’t – depended whether they were doing any Munros I wanted/needed to do. The last full day we were there, the others were doing An Teallach and I said that, as they were going South to North (the usual way I think) which put the Munros at the end of the traverse, I wouldn’t go with them as I wanted to make sure of the two Munros when I did it. I really didn’t think I’d be able to do the whole traverse. Anyway, at the last second I decided to go with them. It being a last minute decision, I ended up going without a map (although the group had two). I was made to regret not nipping up and getting it but I didn’t want to delay our starting off as the group in general spend a lot of time faffing before going and I didn’t want to add to that. We were half an hour late setting off as it was.

We arrived at the Corrie Hallie carpark around 0930 and crossed the road to the track. The track is quite pretty in it’s early reaches but with no views of An Teallach until after a couple of miles. It becomes even prettier as it reaches the high plateau below An Teallach’s Sail Mor and above Shenaval bothy. It was a beautiful sunny and clear day too but with a nice cold breeze.

I was a bit dischuffed with the group on An Teallach… The day started off okay, we all slogged drearily up Sail Liath’s steep boulder-field which eventually levels out onto a gently rising wide, grassy ridge to the summit. Great view from the summit in photographic terms (but no camera!) but very daunting. It looked so awful one of the girls started crying and I was refusing to look at it much and chivvying people to set off and get on with it as waiting around makes me nervous.

Eventually we set off – the first thing was a very steep and loose descent followed by the ascent to Cadha Goblach. I hated this descent – it was everything I hate – just a steep dusty mountainside with very mobile stones – in fact, nothing anywhere had any firmness at all. Just the kind of thing to put me in a negative mood and make me more nervous. It looked a hell of a way down the back of the mountain to the valley from here! This was followed by an equally steep and dusty ascent to Cadha Goblach but going up is never as bad as you have much more traction somehow. The descent off Cadha Goblach is fine and grassy and not even steep so I liked that. Then it was up easy paths in the scree to the traverse (round the Corrag Buidhe pinnacles for the likes of me of course).

There were three of us doing the ‘coward’s route’ – one of the wives had made a last minute decision to join the scramblers on Corrag Buidhe. The traverse would probably be fine if you could find the b*** path but we got lost twice, having to turn back from some real horrors en-route. I suspect if you stick to the correct route there are no horrors at all. There was one point where we’d turned back once, gone on a lower path, got to an even worse bit and decided we were going back to the cars! Then I looked above and saw a shelf which looked like it should have a path, plus there was a really high shelf with people going along it just below the pinnacles. That was further up than I wanted to scramble up the mountainside but the shelf just above looked okay to get to – just we didn’t fancy having to come back down if there wasn’t a path on it. Just then, a jolly looking fellow came ambling along the shelf looking very relaxed so I shouted up to ask him if he was on a path. He said he was so I asked what it was like and he said it was fine. So we all scrambled up to his path and it was great – pretty wide – there were even 2 girls having a picnic on some grass on the side with the drop down the back of the mountain. I realised I even said ‘grand’ at one point which generally means I’m having a good time!

We then got to Sgurr Fiona which I’d been dreading – the side we approached from was great – all firm and rocky. The other side (the descent) looked awful! Really loose and steep again but much further down than before. One of our three, ‘P’, announced at this point she wanted something to eat. I asked if she couldn’t just continue to the col below as I believed all was okay after that point. She said no, she had to eat right now. Understanding low blood sugar perfectly I said okay but I was going down to the col as waiting would make me more nervous and I’d wait for them there. I hitched a lift on the back (not quite literally) of a group of girls just setting off as I didn’t want to go down on my own. They were really nice and went slowly for me.

Anyway, I waited on the col… and I waited… in all I waited 40 minutes and then started looking back up to see if anyone was coming down – they weren’t. I didn’t know what to do but had set a time limit and that had passed so I set off very slowly for the second Munro. I kept looking back but there was still noone coming down, only people doing the opposite direction going up. Everyone going our way seemed to have gone. I was a bit upset when I got to the summit of Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill and found again I wasn’t happy to wait there as I didn’t like the look of that descent either – very steep and loose where I was looking. I’d been ages taking my time up to the summit but still couldn’t see anyone following. I set off down to the next col and took absolutely ages – twice as long as everyone else as I found it loose and unpleasant. People coming up the end of the ridge said it was firm there but for some reason I stayed on my loose side descent until quite near the bottom. I carried on slowly up to the last top (Glas Mheall Mor – very easy), still couldn’t see anyone and descended back towards the Munro to wait for them in a nice, sunny spot.

After 20 more minutes I’d seen a couple of groups come down – one was too many for our group. The second was the right number and the right colours of clothing and they set off down into the corrie below my ‘top’ which wasn’t what we’d planned. I was a bit upset as I realised I was going to have to descend an unknown and in places fierce mountain with no map and insufficient knowledge of it as I hadn’t had a good read up the night before. I didn’t fancy the corrie at all – the route was blocked off with a cornice and people seemed to be descending crags to start which I wasn’t about to do. I wasn’t sure about the descent off the end of my ‘top’ either (but later heard it was steep, loose and horrid!). In the end I descended the side down a gentle slope to a path I could see in the valley north of the mountain. This was fine and got me to the road in great time. I then hitched a lift back to the cars as I thought they would be way ahead of me, having had less distance to go. A nice young lad gave me a lift to the cars but there was no sign of anyone.

I was a bit worried at this point that they were looking for me up on the mountain. I tried to ring P’s mobile (the only number I had) but it was ‘engaged’. I sent her a text saying I was back at the car. Even if she couldn’t get a signal I knew she had my number and so one of the others could ring my phone which I left on for a change. I eventually rang the Youth Hostel in Ullapool to ask if they’d been asking for me (they hadn’t) and left a message with them that I was back at the cars. I waited in total for two and three-quarter hours!! They then came back and ‘P’, whose fault I consider it was, never said a b**** word! They hadn’t been looking for me, they’d just been a very long time.

The nice couple I’d got a lift with apologised for being a long time and gave me loads of flapjack :D so I was happy with them. I was pretty mad with the group in general though for several reasons. They knew I didn’t have a map with me so I thought it was pretty bad they didn’t try to make contact with me between me leaving them on Sgurr Fiona to wait on the col and them arriving back at the cars hours later. I was especially mad with P as she had said she was just stopping for something to eat. The 40 minutes I waited were quite sufficient for that. She obviously changed her mind and decided to wait for the scramblers – fine, but what she needed to do in those circumstances (being one of the ‘leaders’ anyway) was to join me on the col and tell me the change in plan! Apparently she waited an hour and a half on Sgurr Fiona – I was hardly going to wait that long for someone to have a quick sandwich! I’m just glad I wasn’t a beginner with the group and that I know what I’m doing in the mountains.

To conclude, An Teallach is actually, if not attempting the Corrag Bhuidhe pinnacles, nothing like as difficult as it is painted and given a day or so to recover, I look back on it with fond memories and no fear of doing it again. The only thing I would suggest to the nervous is to do the opposite direction, that way you are going up the loose and steep bits and descending on mainly firm surfaces. The traverse path may be easier to follow in that direction too, although I wouldn’t guarantee it. When you get to the descent off Sail Liath you won’t be puffing up it for what seems like ages either – you will have to watch your footing while descending the boulders though!

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3 responses

7 01 2014
fedupofuserids

The pics I’ve come across look pretty good – shame again about the camera, and some of your walking companions for spoiling the day 😦

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6 01 2014
fedupofuserids

That’s one of the reasons I avoid groups & walk alone (apart from the dog) – I’d rather be left to my own devices, walk at my own pace, wander off to look at things, I also don’t usually stop for lunch – maybe I’m just a miserable bugger. Admittedly the dog doesn’t have a say in things 😉

Shame you forgot your camera Carol – is it comparable to Skye or a little tamer?
I’ll have a google and see what it look likes 🙂

Cheers

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7 01 2014
mountaincoward

Yeah, sorry I don’t have any photos for this – especially seeing as it’s such a spectacular peak and it was good weather. Having said that, I was pretty preoccupied on the day as it looked fierce approaching the Corrag Buidhe area so I might not have taken many relevant photos until after I’d passed all the ‘bad bits’.

It’s probably easier than the Cuilln except there is quite a bit of looseness on the paths – sort of dusty, grainy looseness with boulders sitting in it! Having said that, the Corrag Buidhe pinnacles are as solid as they come I believe…

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