Ben More Mull & A’ Chioch

26 11 2011

March 2008

Mull mountains – Ben More range in snow behind…

In March 2008, Richard and I decided to take a trip to Mull to polish off the single Munro there and also scout out what other great hills were on the island – quite a few beauties! Our hotel on Mull was the Glenforsa Log Cabin Hotel near Salen – somewhere I previously stayed at in the 70s. It’s right next to the Mull airstrip (grass) and the hotel was full every night with flying types, all of whom had flown in with their own aircraft – even one couple with a helicopter! They mostly seemed nice people but one did feel a little inferior, although I myself was nearly up to the standard of the PPL (private pilot’s licence) holders 20 odd years ago but then had to give it up as money became too tight (it’s a very expensive hobby). We palled up with a couple of cyclists who were more down to our level.

The chosen day dawned fairly clear and we could see the top of Ben Talaidh across the road from the hotel. We opted to do Ben More first and continue the round to A’ Chioch… that was completely the wrong way round as the descent from the summit of Ben More was absolutely hateful – on really loose rock down a near-as-dammit vertical side with a drop of well over a thousand feet. I’d far rather go up something like that!

We parked up at Dhiseig on a grassy area by the roadside where other cars were accumulating and walkers booting up. A path sets off from the carpark following the east side of the Abhainn Dhiseig.


Ascent burn and route – Beinn Fhada to the left

The route starts off okay until it passes the house of Dhiseig and then it starts to get very wet. We sloshed along the boggy ground where the path became a bit sketchy – its saving grace however, was the waterfalls on the way up the burn. Not huge and spectacular waterfalls but very pretty and a nice diversion from thinking about increasingly wet feet.


Ben More ascent falls

Just before the ground steepened, we swapped to the far side of the burn where it became wetter still. By now we were clambering up collapsing mud and peat steps and I felt very sorry for the further erosion we were all causing, especially as, in such circumstances, the path gets wider and wider as people attempt to find solid footing. I imagine that section is a bit like the famous vertical bog on the side of Mount Kenya!

After much grumping from Richard who really hates that kind of thing, and much stoical plodding from me, we eventually reached firmer ground and the angle slackened. We had by now gone into cloud (as usual) and were just part of a long procession plodding uphill through the mist. The hillside was now a bit scree-ridden but the path was good and had a nice zig-zag to aid progress. We were soon on the summit where the cloud luckily cleared quite a bit to allow us to see the surrounding views – they were pretty great… In fact, the only direction I wasn’t keen on was the one we were planning on heading!

We sat for a few minutes and had a quick coffee and a slice of malt loaf (this was before Richard’s famous tea-loaf baking) and I hesitantly took a couple of photos of A’ Chioch. I say hesitantly as I hate taking photos of the next part of the route only to find that I then chicken out and don’t manage to do it – the photos then only serve to remind me of my cowardice. At this point I was very unsure about getting down what looked like a vertical drop from Ben More. I sent Richard off to scout it out… He shortly returned and said he could see a way he thought he could get me down. I looked very unsure but headed off after him.


A Chioch from Ben More Summit
(our later descent from A’ Chioch down the steep l/h ridge)

In retrospect, I think it would have been better to go down the actual arête than where we went as it would have been more solid but, when you looked over the edge from the summit, that bit looked vertical. Our route didn’t look much less than vertical and was extremely loose and crumbly. It did have the ‘advantage’ of slight ‘ledges’ of firmer rock where I could rest briefly while I calmed down. We would go down a loose bit, along a bit of firmer rock, down more loose scree and so on. Richard stayed in front and below me as that always gives me confidence – not sure why really as I’m sure he wouldn’t be able to stop me if I set off down out of control. I’m sure if it was me on some loose stuff and someone came sliding towards me, I’d probably move unless I thought I was on a very firm stance!

It quite literally took Richard half an hour to get me down that bit and I had to be talked down all the way. Luckily we were absolutely the only people going that way as the rockfall and my language were absolutely terrible (as were the whimpers I’m afraid). We eventually reached a slight path across to the start of the arête – this was absolutely fine as there was only a drop down one side and the ground was much firmer. I quite enjoyed the walk across to A’ Chioch…


Following Richard onto the Arete


A’ Chioch hiding…

Although the ascent of A’ Chioch had looked pretty scary from the summit of Ben More, it was actually fine and on a great path. I was a bit worried about the angle to the left though which was again horrendously steep, again looked loose, and was where we would be descending. I started looking for escape routes… Down the back (to our right) looked okay but of course was the wrong side of the mountain – maybe straight on would be okay – I knew there was a high pass between us and the next mountain.


View from A Chioch

We didn’t stay at the summit as I hate stopping when I’m nervous. We continued on and looked to see where the path went. Straight on turned out to be a horrifically steep drop so that was also ruled out. Oh well – would have to be the path then… The route looked again to be more or less vertical – I told Richard I didn’t think I could get down it. He told me not to be silly and that he could see a path zig-zagging down the steep scree and he set off.

I set off tentatively down behind him – the start of the path looked awful but I found when I got on it, it was fine really and went down in little clambery, rocky steps – far preferable to loose scree! It went down like that for a few hundred feet and then the angle started to lessen – by now we were meeting people coming up and I managed to smile at them. I even managed to start admiring Beinn Fhada next door and wondering whether we could include that in our walk.

In the end I decided against Beinn Fhada as that would mean missing the walk down the Abhainn Uamha which is famed for its beautiful waterfalls. I was glad we didn’t miss them – apart from the usual bogginess lower down, the whole walk was really beautiful. There were superb waterfalls and even a little rock bridge in the middle of one set of falls.


Abhainn Uamha Waterfall & Basin


Abhainn Uamha Arch

Even more fascinating was the gorge which formed suddenly towards the end of the descent. One minute there was a burn, the next it was down in a huge chasm!


Abhainn Uamha Gorge


Abhainn Uamha Gorge Exit


Sheep Pens and Cave

Anyway, to sum up the walk, I’d say people of nervous disposition would be best to do A’ Chioch first and then up onto Ben More – always nicer to go up loose stuff than down!

We decided to take the route back round the coastline in the other direction as the road is really scenic and in places clings just between cliff and sea…


Anyone fancy that little path up the left-hand side of this waterfall?


Ben More from the back

I had to laugh at us Brits coming back on the Mull car ferry. We all parked our cars on the car deck and, with lorries still rumbling onto the deck towards us, went looking for the stairs to the main decks. We turned into the first doorway and found that there was only a lift there. Without hesitation, absolutely everyone turned away and went looking for the stairs please… made me proud to be a Brit! We’d all rather get run-over by a lorry than get fat or unfit!

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15 responses

31 05 2014
Derek Orbison

Hi, great post Carol, and awesome pictures too. It’s helped me decide what to do this summer, thanks 🙂

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1 06 2014
mountaincoward

There’s lots of other great hillwalking on Mull too – the mountains next to A’ Chioch/Ben More for a start. Also there are some lovely and interesting coastal walks – check out my Fossil Tree post (you can search for it on the home page) – longish but great walk.
Carol.

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20 03 2014
fedupofuserids

Nice to see what the A’ Chioch looks like 🙂 , had a wander up last summer but it was too misty to see anything so descended back down to Dhiseig!!

Thanks Simon

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20 03 2014
mountaincoward

I’d really like to do the walk again but in the opposite direction – I’d rather ascend the tricky part up the arete onto Ben More than descend it again!

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2 12 2011
fedup

Still to do this (among many more!). Great pics of the arete & a nice short report. The ferry I was on had a nasty list (and even nastier toilets) from the off – no way I would have gone by lift !

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2 12 2011
mountaincoward

I’ve never been in a lift on a ferry – been up the side of the funnels though 😉 My friend and I were regulars on the Uist ferries and we used to rampage all over the boat. Once we went up to the bridge and were peering in the windows to see what kind of radar displays they had (we were ex-radar operators) and they came out and invited us in to look round! 😉
Carol.

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29 11 2011
bob

Nice photos Carol.Mull,s a cracking Island.If you are back there again anytime the Treshnish Isles,( Lunga and Staffa boat tour) is worth doing on a calm day as is the Carsaig arches coast walk..
At this rate you,ll have done the Munro,s in Jig time.

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2 12 2011
mountaincoward

Thanks for those suggestions Bob – I’ll definitely be back there again as I like the look of a lot more of those hills! 🙂
Carol.

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27 11 2011
seekraz

I agree with Paul, it’s a great post and has wonderful photos. Being as foreign as I am to the Isles, I don’t know where everything is, which island, which “country,” etc…but I do enjoy the stories of your travels and the lovely photos…I especially enjoy the waterfalls. You might have seen some of them on my posts, as well. I absolutely love the water pictures…something so refreshing about them after having lived in the desert so long. We had two “rivers” running through the Phoenix metro area…but they were dry river beds for probably ten months of the year. Thank you for the great post!

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27 11 2011
mountaincoward

Mull is just off the west coast of Scotland. It’s a mere half hour on the ferry so very easy to get to. I’m really hoping to get many more hills done on that island when I finish ‘Munro’ collecting. I might be putting another post out from Mull about a ‘fossil tree’ I went to visit once with a group of friends. There was a lot of columnar basalt on the route and so it made for very interesting photos.
Carol.

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28 11 2011
seekraz

Thank you for your orientation on the geography or location of your hikes, Carol…and I’ll look forward to the upcoming photos of the basalt rocks and fossil tree. Should be interesting.

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27 11 2011
mountaincoward

Thanks Paul. I was supposed to be up in Scotland right now doing some more Munros but, what with the hurricanes, and a silly flu-type bug I’ve picked up, I’m stuck at home instead 😦
Carol.

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27 11 2011
Paul Shorrock

Hi Carol,
I don’t think you would have got much done this weekend with the gale-force winds. Hey ho, it will still be there when you are feeling better. 🙂
Remember your ice axe, though – everyone keeps saying it will be another cold, snowy winter. Bring it on 😀

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27 11 2011
mountaincoward

Yeah, you’re right Paul – it would have been way too windy. I hate high winds in the hills anyway. I will have to start taking my ice axe and crampons now though I think as I believe the snow has started in earnest.

I’m hoping to try again to get up to Scotland soon – I need one more trip before the end of the year really.
Carol.

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27 11 2011
Paul Shorrock

Great post, Carol, with some really good images. Keep ’em coming!
Paul.

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