Finished on An Teallach!

20 06 2017

Thu 18 May 2017
The day of my Munro Tops Compleation arrived and I’d only managed to scrape two companions together and ended up, by the end of the walk, with just one! Maybe it was because I’d had to make it mid-week as I couldn’t get any weekend accommodation in the area? or maybe I’m just unpopular!


All photos Mark G except where marked – click on for full size

Right up to the night before, when I finally managed to get a MWIS forecast (mountain weather) for the area, I’d been ready to call it off. Two days before I’d had a terrible time on an easy, grassy Corbett with the ongoing severe gale (I reckoned it had been around 70mph on the summit plateau and it was impossible to stand up). My compleation choice of An Teallach with it’s exposed pinnacles of Lord Berkeley’s Seat and Corrag Buidhe to finish on, would be suicidal in such winds. The hotel agreed to print me off a forecast and I was relieved to see it was set to drop to sensible levels by the next morning – it did mention heavy showers and potential thunder though. The walk was on…

Richard and I agreed to meet Mark (who has kindly done the photos for this post) at the start of the Dundonnel path just down from our hotel at 0930. As I lay in bed the night before, traditionally worrying about everything, I thought back to my bit of an epic two days before – that was an easy and short hill but had taken me 7 hours. I was thinking An Teallach, by that reckoning, could take up to 12 hours – that would mean we’d miss our tea – I didn’t fancy going to bed hungry. Things have really changed with me fitness-wise – last time I did An Teallach, it only took me 5 or 6 hours and that was with 3 extra peaks to what was planned for the morrow.

The day dawned lovely and sunny and looked quite promising actually. Richard and I rushed a small breakfast down and I said we should set off straight away and, if Mark was already parked up, try to set off early. It turned out he was parked already but I’d say it was at least 0915 before we set off. Still, every extra minute could prove useful. At least it was calm…

There is a stalker’s path all the way up to the high plateau before the first of An Teallach’s tops (one I’d already done). I’d come down the adjacent river last time and thought it should be a doddle up this section.

We plodded up at mine and Richard’s pace – quite a bit slower than Mark’s – and seemed to be going well.

However, when we reached a flat area with large boulders and decided to have a short break, Richard said he was turning back. He wasn’t feeling fit enough and didn’t want to hold us up. I tried briefly to persuade him to continue but realised the sense in what he was saying and soon agreed with him. He waited in the sun on a nice boulder and watched our onward progress for quite a while.

There was a cairn above us on the col at the start of the plateau – I couldn’t believe how long it took to reach it – it seemed like forever. I plodded on upwards on the admittedly easily-angled path and kept looking up – nope, no nearer!


Richard’s photo from his turning back place to ‘never-ending cairn’

After what seemed like a lifetime, we finally reached the cairn. At least we’d had the magnificent crags on the nearer top to admire on the way – quite a dramatic peak from that side but a very easy walk – I didn’t have to re-do it though so we just continued on past on a nice path for the first Munro.

I did the round in the opposite direction last time but thought the summit looked pretty near and an easy climb. I found it harder than expected and was much slower than Mark up the ridge but eventually puffed up to join him on the summit.


My first top of Glas Meall Liath, the white peak at the end of an out-and-back ridge


Much slower than Mark!

From here we had to go out on the side ridge to pick up the unpopular but pretty quartzite peak of Glas Meall Liath. This had been where Richard was going to rest on the summit of the first Munro and then slowly make his way to the second one while we bagged the ridge.

The ridge looked to have a daunting start with a steep downclimb to a pinnacle which appeared to bar the way somewhat and other fierce-looking pinnacles along the ridge. I’d been assured beforehand however that all the pinnacles could be bypassed.

We clambered down a few rocky little steps to a col (me descending on my bum as usual) before the first pinnacle and, indeed, a path sets off along the right-hand side of the ridge and misses all the pinnacles. The corrie loch looked wonderful and glitterly blue from here…

It’s an easy walk to my easy peak at the end but further than it looks. The ridge, just before my peak, suddenly changed from sandstone to quartzite. People had made two lines of stones here – quartzite to demark the end of the sandstone section and sandstone to demark the start of the quartzite. Mark added another stone and we balanced our way along the quartzite blocks to the end. It was a bit windier along here and started to rain – as this would make the quartzite blocks potentially greasy, we didn’t hang around.

Heading back along the ridge (the rain stopped again somewhere along here) we wondered whether we could miss out re-climbing back up to the summit of the Munro by doing a traverse around the side of the corrie on the steep ground. Mark thought we could so we set off. While it started off okay, the ground gradually got steeper and a bit looser and the long slide down loose rocks way down to the corrie looked nastier and I became very unhappy – I’m not a fan of traversing anything really – I prefer to stay on a ridgeline.

In the end, I almost ground to a halt and said I couldn’t continue as the ground looked to get even worse – I said I’d try to get back up onto the ridge. The ground was loose, peeling turf and ferociously steep so I was panicking quite a bit as I scrabbled skywards. Eventually, I could see what looked like a vague upward path off to my left and clawed my way to it – I’m pretty sure other people had been up here.

I soon made it to the ridgeline where the descent from the Munro seemed dauntingly steep to start with and on loose earth. As I’d gone up this section last time, I hadn’t really noticed as I don’t mind going up things like that. With care though, I picked my way down to the waiting Mark on the col. He said that, just after I’d left him, a sort of goat-track formed and the way had become much firmer.

Unfortunately, having scared myself and having not being particularly confident at the start of this day anyway (too early in the season I think), I now felt very sick with nerves. Looking ahead to Sgurr Fiona and the famous pinnacles didn’t help me – I worried that I was definitely not going to make it to my final top!


My final Munro Tops!

While Sgurr Fiona looks very nasty on this side for ascent or descent, it’s actually fine and I found decent paths to plod up.

Mark took the traverse path which heads to the col for Sgurr Creag an Eich and then went up the ridge that side which he said was pleasant – it certainly looked it when I saw his photos and the path later in the day.

Again I was a long time behind Mark reaching the summit – I really hadn’t spent enough time getting fit before this walk and it was showing. I couldn’t remember Munroing being this hard!


Looking back to the first Munro and our pinnacly out-and-back ridge


Sail Mhor – a Corbett which eluded me on a previous An Teallach Top-bagging walk

I didn’t stop more than a minute or so on the summit of Sgurr Fiona but looked ahead to Lord Berkeley’s Seat – a leaning pinnacle over the huge void into the corrie.


From Sgurr Fiona to Lord Berkeley (merging in front of) Corrag Buidhe

I’d always thought, looking at the photos in the books, that Lord Berkeley’s and Corrag Buidhe were around twenty feet higher than the bypass path – I now realised how wrong I’d been. I don’t know how high Lord Berkeley’s Seat was but it looked like nearer 100 feet. I suspect it was at least fifty feet which is pretty high really – especially when the bypass path is above very steep ground indeed for over 3000 feet to Strath Sealga. I’d taken the lower bypass path around all this section on my initial visit to the peak around ten years ago and that had been pretty exposed really.

Lord Berkeley’s is an easy enough scramble but very steep. I didn’t spend any time thinking about it but, as soon as I reached the foot of it, looked for a feasible way up the steep rock and just got on with it – I certainly didn’t look down at all! I soon rounded a corner of rock over ‘the bad side’ (which I didn’t look down either) and found Mark sat atop the summit rocks. I tapped the cairn hurriedly and requested we leave immediately – good job he’d had a minute to savour the situation – I didn’t want one!

Feeling even sicker now, I headed off down the next side back to the bypass path. I have to say there weren’t any real difficulties but it’s harder to avoid the view of ‘the big drop’ going down.


The famous hole in the ridge which I think people walk across the bridge over the top of

I was now looking ahead to the much higher Corrag Buidhe pinnacles. There is some doubt about which of the next two pinnacles is the Munro Top so we decided we had to do both…

Somewhere around here the rain started again in earnest – as these pinnacles are sandstone though it doesn’t really matter so we ignored it…

I’m not sure who set off first up the next section but I’d decided to still just get on with it and headed straight up the large blocks. At least this peak had some sections of path interspersed between the scrambling. The summit block was large and narrow however and I was in the lead by now. I went around to ‘the bad side’ again but it didn’t feel too exposed and I hauled my way up the final blocks to the very top. Mark joined me straight after just as I was leaving again. I don’t hang around in places like these.

Somewhere just before we’d set off up here, Mark had said he’d brought a celebratory drink up the hill – I apologised but said there was no way I’d want to sit atop the Corrag Buidhe and drink it and could we postpone it until the col after Sgurr Fiona’s descent where I knew my nerves would finally settle down and I’d feel a bit more relaxed. We’d decided this wasn’t the Munro Top by now anyway so I set off scrambling back down, soon arriving once again on the bypass path which was now beginning to feel like an old friend…

I think it was between these two pinnacles (although it could have been before the first of them) I jettisoned my bag and camera as they were getting in the way. My camera is very large and I wear it on my front and it tends to push me off rocks when I’m scrambling and climbing. I left my pack in a hollow and belayed my beloved camera to a nearby rock.

We headed off on the path under the second pinnacle to a corner, Mark in the lead. He looked around the corner and then came back – he didn’t think we should go that way (possibly just due to my nervous state). I looked back behind me and thought I could see an easy-ish section which had loose scree between the rock steps so was probably where others had gone up. I suggested we try that. This went fairly easily but it was quite a way and I was leading. Suddenly, I reached the ridgeline and didn’t like what I saw…

The ridgeline had narrowed to a single rock width, there was a huge void beyond, and the facing rocks were too tall and smooth to get up! I had to climb over the ridgeline onto a little path of earth around 6 inches wide above the void – oooerr! I probably swore here but continued…


The bad side!

As soon as I could, I straddled the narrow summit ridge and was pleased to find a better ledge had appeared on the better side above the comforting bypass path. I edged along hoping there were no more nasty surprises and soon reached the cairn – phew!


Made it but not looking happy!

Mark told me well done and I cast around for a descent – I wasn’t really keen on going back the same way. Below me was a long gully which looked fine to me as I could wedge myself in – it was slightly side on to the drop anyway so didn’t look nasty either. But I worried about what Mark had seen around that corner on the bypass path – maybe I wouldn’t be able to get round it?

In the end, we both decided ‘better the devil you know’ and headed off back along the scary ridge for the nasty step. It was soon done and at least this time wasn’t a shock and I was soon clambering carefully back down to the bypass path and my bags. I was still feeling sick but knew we just had to get over Sgurr Fiona and I’d be fine (wherever it was as the mist had really socked in by now and it was hard to tell which wall of rock was which peak!) Mark had been shouting some confirmatory comments to two guys below who were wondering whether they were correct on the lower bypass path.


Lord Berkeley’s Seat on the return

It’s a quick and easy clamber back up to Sgurr Fiona and we bypassed the summit rocks on a traverse path which goes around to the other side of the peak. I admired the nice-looking path Mark had come up on and we set off down mine. I remembered that I’d gone down very close to the edge of the ridge last time (many years ago) and that it had been reasonably firm and fine – the path I’d come up had been pretty loose. Although the path looked nastily steep in the mist, it was fine and we had soon clambered down to the lovely col where the weather cleared.

Mark was allowed to produce his bottle at last – it was pink, and bubbly and very refreshing indeed. He’d brought two glasses up and it was nice to admire the spectacular nearby crag wall and relax with a nice drink. I stopped feeling sick and was happy at last – I was too knackered to be very elated though! Still, at least I was now smiling…

After a decent break and a good chat, we set off again for our first Munro – we’d decided it must be possible to traverse the side of this peak away from the steep corrie on the Sgurr Creag an Eich side.

Although I don’t like traversing, either it was completely fine or I was too knackered by now to notice anything and I clomped clumsily along behind Mark – I was too tired to co-ordinate my feet properly. I realised that it was a good job this was my final Munro-height set of peaks as I’ve suddenly become completely ‘past it’ for hills of this strenuousity and difficulty – sad but true I’m afraid. All I could feel was a sense of relief that I’d managed all my peaks just in time and that I never had to do another Munro if I didn’t want to!

We soon found a path on our traverse and it joined the one back to the skyline cairn and the route down. I plodded wearily down until we decided to have a break in the sun on the flat, bouldery area where we’d left Richard. He’d long since departed but there was a lovely herd of wild goats.

I told Mark my hip wasn’t doing great and that was why I was getting slower and slower. He offered me an Ibuprofen and I took one. Possibly because I don’t really eat on hill days until I get back, the pill didn’t really seem to have any effect until later that evening when I’d had a meal. I wasn’t in pain but my hip had deteriorated to the point where it was weak and I had little control over that leg. Not very helpful on a steepening and stony descent!

I got further and further behind Mark and slower and slower. I just concentrated hard on my foot placement and my poor good leg got a good hammering doing all the work. It had now got hot and sunny and I constantly swigged my water bottle as I descended.

Eventually I staggered onto the road, realising I’d come down a different path to the one we’d ascended on (Mark said he did too) and, barely able to move by now, somehow made it to the layby where Mark was helpfully pulling out into the road. I somehow bundled myself into his van for the 400 yards or so up the road to the hotel. I could hardly walk at all into the hotel and was by now in pain. I’d offered to buy Mark’s evening meal and drinks and he said he’d see us in half an hour.

I somehow dragged myself up to the room and the waiting Richard, informed him I’d done it but it had also done me! He went out to the car to get my walking pole so I’d be able to reach the dining room – I really was that bad by now. He even had to run my bath and help me in and out of it!

I was a sorry state arriving in the bar where the waitress and the hotel owner were slightly concerned for me. I’d told the owner that it was my Munro Top Compleation the night before while asking for the weather – he now congratulated me. Luckily, by the time I’d eaten the meal, I was miraculously able to walk again and the pain had gone – the pill must have worked now there was some food to work on. I left the pole and went out to have a look at the sunset and get a few photos which I’ll put up in another post with my photos from the day if they’re any good. Thank goodness it was all over.

I thanked Mark profusely for his help – I really don’t think I’d have made it round without his support – and he left to camp around the peninsula in the dying sun and we just flopped lazily in the bar reading old climbing magazines from the late ’60s/early ’70s. I was highly amused to see four climbing diagrams – three of which demonstrated good technique – the other completely wrong technique. We were very amused to see that the ‘wrong technique’ picture showed exactly my style!

Stats: 11 miles, 4788 feet of ascent, 9 hours

Postscript: well my final Munro Top walk really did appear to have done for me – my hip hasn’t been the same since and has deteriorated enormously. I’m often in pain sitting and lying on that side in bed and it doesn’t seem to want to do any hillwalking whatsoever – even easy stuff – and it’s over a month later!

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15 responses

24 06 2017
underswansea

Wonderful report and photos! Thanks to Mark, some photos of you in the mountains. Looked like a great day. Always nice to pop a top along the way. Congratulations!

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23 06 2017
treksandtors

Its a fantastic achievement however you look at it. Well done

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22 06 2017
Julie Watson

Congratulations lass… That is an amazing achievement you must be super proud of yourself…. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your blogs…. Some of which completely make sense as I suffer the same issues with heights and exposure… Look forward to reading your next adventure and I hope your ailments improve…. Well done x

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22 06 2017
mountaincoward

Thanks Julie. I’m not sure how adventurous I’ll be in the future as I won’t be following any ‘lists’ – I hope I can find things worth blogging about!

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22 06 2017
tessapark1969

Congratulations. That looked pretty scary at times. Too scary for me!

Good luck with the doctor and your hip – fingers crossed it just needs resting.

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22 06 2017
mountaincoward

I’ve tried resting it and, unfortunately, it hasn’t helped. In fact, sitting for more or less 12 hours at work makes it much worse. But even keeping it moving isn’t helping really – better than sitting but still not right.

It was pretty scary to be honest. Of course, when you do An Teallach, you can do it like I did the first time and take the bypass paths – they’re okay – just don’t look down from them!

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21 06 2017
footprintsacrossscotland

Congratulations, quite an achievement doing all the tops you must be very proud. Hope there’s an improvement with your ailments soon.
Best of luck,
Paul

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21 06 2017
mountaincoward

While I’m proud, I’m really glad I’ve finished now. I thought I’d be burning to take on a new list but I’m not yet…

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21 06 2017
Alan Bellis

Hi Carol,
Congratulations on being “complete” An amazing achievement for a mountain coward. Sorry I could not make it.
I hope you recover soon.
Alan

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21 06 2017
mountaincoward

Thanks Alan – I’ve certainly ‘come on a bit’ since I started – but I still have bad days nerves-wise and that wasn’t my best – good job Mark was there!

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20 06 2017
Paul Shorrock

Well done Carol! We were heading south on Skye on the ’70 mph’ wind day – it was fairly brutal!
Good to hear you completed – you now have the freedom to make your own ‘lists’ – enjoy!

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21 06 2017
mountaincoward

I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m going to be able to do ANY mountains the way my hip is going – it really has finished it off. Off to the doc’s for another x-ray but fear it’s probably replacement time now.

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21 06 2017
Paul Shorrock

Hope not, but I guess you have to do something – good luck!

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20 06 2017
markadams99

Congratulations! What a fine achievement! I did this the other way round. What a slog it was gaining the first peak with goats sneering at me. But it was worth it from then on. Best wishes for your hip.

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21 06 2017
mountaincoward

Thanks Mark – I’m going to try to get another x-ray as I think there’s been significant changes recently…

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