Ben Wyvis & All His Tops

21 03 2015

9 September 2010 (Archival Post)

During a week at Ullapool, Richard wanted a day off after our ascent of Conival & Ben More Assynt the day before so he went off to do his own thing and I went for an ‘easy’ day on Ben Wyvis. However, at that stage, I wasn’t sure whether I was going for the whole thing (including all 3 tops) or just An Cabar to Tom a’ Choinnich. I was determined at least to do the full main ridge though. It all depended on the weather and how I was feeling when I got there.

I set off in gleaming sunshine and sped rapidly across the Dirrie More – what a superb drive that is from Ullapool! Despite it being 25 miles, I was parked in the Wyvis carpark within half an hour – round our way it would have taken an hour! I’d had a good lie-in so it was 1130 when I arrived.

Heathery Ben Wyvis
An Cabar – Ben Wyvis

It was pretty warm going up the great new path through the forest and I soon ended up zipping off my legs (trouser legs that is). I was feeling pretty tired to start and soaked my buff in the burn (take that how you want 😉 ) – sticking it cold and soaking back on my head made me feel miles better. I soon reached the foot of the steep path up An Cabar. I was a little waylaid on the first part of this section as it contained the best bilberries I’d seen all year – I was soon looking like a heart-attack victim with blue lips…

An Cabar

There were people ahead as I started to ascend the massive stone-pitching – the steps are about a foot tall – quite big for stone pitch steps! This ensures reasonable progress but is quite tiring, even for someone with my leg-length. I soon caught up another couple having a rest – she was finding it hot – she should’ve soaked her buff too! There was a lone figure further ahead making rapid progress but I soon saw this involved cheating by missing poor ol’ An Cabar out and taking a path below it straight for the main summit! (I met her later however and had to forgive her as it was her local hill so she probably did it most weeks).

Ascending An Cabar
Massive Stone Pitch Steps!

Halfway up An Cabar
Halfway up An Cabar
Looking down An Cabar

Little Wyvis fm An Cabar
Little Wyvis

The climb up to An Cabar is pretty strenuous and I was a little unhappy near the top where the new path goes on the right-hand side over the craggy bits! I would have preferred the old route up the middle of the ridge myself – another lady at the summit later said the same thing. By the cairn of An Cabar I was now in thick mist but the way is obvious so I plodded off along the gentle and pleasant ridge on one of the paths.

I soon came across another cairn on what appeared to be a summit but decided it was much too soon – getting the map out confirmed I was only partway there as it is a couple of miles along the ridge. I plodded sightlessly on along the easy ridge… The map indicated that, to my surprise, there were crags over the right-hand side – I peered over and there was some broken crag and steep slopes. Soon the summit cairn appeared with three people and a dog. I sat for a short while and had a coffee and ate half of the slice of Richard’s wonderful tealoaf I’d brought and joined in the conversation a bit but the others were all dog-owners so had much more in common.

Ben Wyvis's Craggier Side
Ben Wyvis’s Craggier Side

After about 5 minutes I’d zipped my legs back on as it was getting pretty cold, taken a bearing along the rest of the ridge (I needed NNW), saw a path setting off in that direction, put my compass back down my t-shirt and set off along it. I keep making that mistake!

After about 5 minutes descent of the ridge I popped out of the mist. What I saw ahead was completely wrong! Instead of the ridge curving left and going up to Tom a’ Choinnich, it gently petered out on a slight downhill and some rocky ground – hmmm… I fished my compass out and checked it – I was heading east! I went across to the other side of the ridge and peered back into the mist – I could vaguely see I was over a valley with more mountain the other side – totally wrong. Further study of the map showed I’d come along the short eastern spur of the mountain – duhh!

There was nothing for it but to go back to the summit cairn where the others were just leaving – I felt really stupid! I took another NNW bearing and set off along it – soon another path materialised. I decided to follow it but keep my compass in view and check it continued NNW… It did and I soon re-descended out of the mist to the correct view – Tom a’ Choinnich rising to my left across a col. I noted that the tops out the back of the mountain were out and in full sun. They’re a couple of miles away so I debated for a while whether to go for them or not. In the end I decided I really wouldn’t want to do them separately, they were in lovely weather and that I should go for it and not be so lazy!

Glas Leathad Beag & co
The Top of Glas Leathad Beag

It was best to first ascend to the shoulder of Tom a’ Choinnich on a narrow trod and then set off across the back of the hill for the ridge which takes you out on the long walk to the tops. It was good going so I ran all the downhill bits and some of the flat bits.

Just before the top, there is another hill – this is the steep bit. It was short but quite a grunt up it – I was glad to get to the top and continue the gentler ridge across a dip to the top.

En Route to Glas Leathad Beag summit

The top came much sooner than I thought and I touched the cairn and turned round to see spectacular weather forming over the main Wyvis ridge. The sky had gone very black and the crags looked magnificently brooding – I took a few photos while heading back to Tom a’ Choinnich. On the return, there was a superb corrie below me on the right above Wyvis Lodge and its loch – looks a beautiful valley going past the lodge.

Tom a' Choinnich from Glas Leathad Beag
Tom a’ Choinnich from Glas Leathad Beag

Glas Leathad Mor
Glas Leathad Mor (the main summit)

I was soon puffing up the back of Tom a’ Choinnich – the ascent of which seemed to go on forever…

Returning to Tom a' Choinnich

At the top I briefly surveyed the long route back to the An Cabar path. The Forestry Commission sign had assured that there was a path back along the forest edge but I couldn’t see one – I could see it was very rough ground however and quite a few miles. I thumped rapidly straight down the ridge on the rough, steep hillside. Even my legs felt the strain – not my knees (they never do) but the roughness was giving my feet and ankles quite a bashing and I felt like I was getting shinsplints!

Ben Wyvis from Tom a' Choinnich descent
Ben Wyvis from Tom a’ Choinnich descent

I reached the bottom of the ridge and crossed the peat-hagged col looking for the path coming from the little hill next door. By the time I started to ascend the slight hillside going up to the forest I knew there was no path. I couldn’t decide whether to just follow the edge of the forest (where the path should run) or follow the burn through the trees to the forest road about a mile away… but first I had to get to the burn where I knew walking would be much easier along the bank.

The peat hags and tufts seemed to go on for ages until I finally reached the burn. I then found there was a nice deer path going along the far bank – and more juicy bilberries! When I reached the point where the burn disappears into the forest I still couldn’t decide whether to try to follow it or just to continue along the forest edge. I saw a gate back on the far river bank but couldn’t see an obvious path leading from it into the woods – the river had become wider and more awkward to cross by now too. I wavered for a while, climbed up the bank along the forest edge (seemed quite a climb as by now I was pretty tired) and had another look. I still couldn’t see anything useful so decided it was the forest edge walk.

Shortly after I’d ascended quite a bit more through various bad bogs, I looked back again and could see a faint path across the river running under the forest edge heading for the gate. Never mind, I’d gone this way now… I squelched on…

After a short while I saw a stile over the deer fence into the forest – that must mean a path, I thought… I climbed over it and saw a slight path heading into the trees and a firebreak. The firebreak continued but the path gave up immediately. Never mind, the firebreak would do, despite being very boggy indeed…

A few minutes into the forest I noticed a dark shape ahead which made me feel uneasy… I looked up to see a large stag looking challengingly at me and not too many yards away – oo-err! I know that mostly stags are afraid of us but thought he’d probably see this as his territory and me as a threat or a competitor. I started to worry… It was too far for me to run back to the stile and was uphill anyway – I can’t run uphill… and I’m damn sure I can’t outrun a stag! We stared at each other… I thought my only chance if he charged was to run round and round a tree – it would look funny anyway 😉

I thought if I hid briefly, he might take the chance to leave so bobbed into the trees. After quite a few seconds, I peeped my head out to see the firebreak was clear. I still had to pass where he’d been though. Filled with trepidation I set off creeping down the firebreak. As I got closer I heard his high-pitched warning bark to the others – he was still very close indeed… I continued even more cautiously and after another minute or so was relieved to hear more barks but much further away – phew! But the whole ride stank strongly of deer which continued to make me feel uneasy all the way down it (sorry, no photos of the stag – he might charge!)

After about a mile vehicle tracks appeared in the soft ground. The firebreak then headed back under Ben Wyvis in completely the opposite direction to where I wanted to go! I assumed though, that the vehicle tracks meant I must be heading towards the forest road proper. I also knew I hadn’t reached the burn I was following earlier so hadn’t lost too much ground.

Luckily in about half a mile the firebreak did reach the forest road where it was only about another mile back to the carpark. I had another quick coffee, got quite midged, then plodded wearily back to the car. I was surprised to see the whole walk had only taken just over 6 hours.

Stats: 17.5 miles, 4293 feet of ascent, 6 hrs 15

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20 responses

27 04 2015
fedup

On my never shrinking to-do list! I’ve made the same mistake with putting away the compass too early. Cheers Simon

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27 04 2015
mountaincoward

It’s amazing how easily you can drift off route if you’re not staring at your compass!

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5 04 2015
bob

Only climbed it once but I remember it being a long day and a big mountain. Six hours is a good time.Not a hill I’d rush back to do again.

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6 04 2015
mountaincoward

Yeah, I can’t believe my time was so quick – but it is good going. Don’t think I’ll ever be matching those kind of times again though as my legs are finally starting to crack up this year 😦

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31 03 2015
McEff

Hi Carol. I have a mental image of you being chased round and round a tree by a mad stag. I’m glad it didn’t come to that, though.
Ben Wyvis was my 60th Munro and I took exactly the same route as you, except I followed the burn down into the forest to pick up the forest road. It’s a great mountain and a great walk.
Alen

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31 03 2015
mountaincoward

That’s actually happened before – a guy was chased round and round, and finally up, a tree by a stag and someone filmed it from a distance. It was quite serious though and help had to be summoned before he could come down! The stag didn’t go away…

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31 03 2015
McEff

Blimey. I wonder if the stags refer to the activity as “man stalking”.

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31 03 2015
mountaincoward

that’s a hilarious way to look at it!

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23 03 2015
Paul Shorrock

Great trip report Carol – your advice re soaking your buff will remain with me 😉

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24 03 2015
mountaincoward

works a treat 😉

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22 03 2015
razzah

Ben Wyvis was my first Munro – I was 15 and camping with a bunch of mates. I just remember a long pull up through the forest and then a seemingly endless path. Ally hasn’t walked it though so I want to go back and do it with him and refresh my hazy memory. I’m looking forward to it, especially after reading your report.
How do you remember walks from years ago in such detail – did you take notes?

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22 03 2015
mountaincoward

I only really write up the memorable ones 🙂 It wasn’t that long ago though…

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22 03 2015
razzah

I know, but I have trouble remembering even last years walks! Actually it’s the main reason I started a blog so I could record my memories and not have them fade so fast 🙂

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22 03 2015
mountaincoward

I have to admit that I spend a lot of time down memory lane re-reading posts on my blog 🙂

Liked by 1 person

21 03 2015
smackedpentax

Looks a fantastic walk Carol…glad you didn’t get chased by the Stag 🙂

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21 03 2015
mountaincoward

and me… I’ve tried the disappearing for a moment with snakes and other wildlife and it generally works – I think they prefer not to have a confrontation.

Liked by 1 person

21 03 2015
chrissiedixie

I’ve never given any thought before to charging stags….. Maybe I need to!
Might try soaking my buff on a hot day, as well. 😀

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21 03 2015
mountaincoward

You just can’t beat soaking your buff in a cold stream on a hot day 😉

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21 03 2015
tessapark1969

I also didn’t like the top of the An Cabar path – it seems to go much closer to the edge than it needs to! Not my favourite hill tbh.

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21 03 2015
mountaincoward

I actually did like the hill as I like a nice, long ridge walk. The tops out the back are the best bit for sure though…

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