|Conival from Ben More Assynt|
Wednesday, 17 August 2016
Ascent: 1360 metres
Distance: 20 kilometres
Time: 7 hours 28 minutes
Conival 987m 2hrs 40mins
Ben More Assent 998m 3hrs 29mins
The sun was beating down at 6am so I wasted little time in breaking camp and getting on the road from Durness. I had originally intended to climb the two most northerly corbetts, Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh, but decided this would leave insufficient time for Conival and Ben More Assynt later in the day. I could have climbed Canisp instead of Conival and Ben More but I wanted to take advantage of fine day for the two munros. The drive south on the A838 passes some of the most spectacular scenery in the highlands including Foinaven and Quinag. They had a mesmeric pre historic presence in the early morning sun. It was 8:30am before I set out from the Inchnadamph car park that served as midge central so I wasted no time starting the walk up Gleann Dubh.
After a couple of kilometres up the path I met a walker coming out, he had started his walk at 4am. It is an easy start to the walk on a track and then a grassy path beside the river. After 4 kilometres the path begins to ascend steeply as it climbs into the corrie on a path that oscillates between mud and a quartzite staircase that every so often became a gushing drainage channel. The day was heating up and I had to stop to fill up with water a couple of times. I can seldom remember days as hot as the last three in the Scottish hills and wished that I had worn shorts now that I was out of the long grass and heathers and away from the ticks. Conival looms over the corrie to the right, on previous visits I have made direct ascents up the crags in my impatience to reach the summit but today I kept to the path.
There is a scramble through a rock band before reaching the ridge that climbs southwards to the summit of Conival. The final section levels out and provides a wonderful airy promenade with the enticing white quartzite ridge to Ben More Assynt to the east and views to Canisp, Suilven, Cul Mor and Cul Beag to the south west. It was a dazzling spectacle that made the walk a festival of gawping. I had a brief stop at the summit of Conival before beginning the two kilometre walk over the sparkling ridge to Ben More Assynt. There is not a big drop but several descents and ascents over exposed quartzite blocks. Just before the summit I met a walker beginning the return and we chatted for a while. He told me of a route off Conival to the north that passed the site of a crashed airplane and said that there was a good stalker's path back to Inchnadamph. It added a few kilometres but avoided the need to descend the jumbled boulders and mud of the corrie.
I was on the summit of Ben More Assynt before noon and decided to eat my sparse lunch whilst enjoying the panorama of the northern highlands. There are two summits both with cairns so I visited them both before returning across the ridge. Time was on my side as I had decided not to bother with another hill but to head home instead, I had accomplished the objective of 8 munros in 3 days and the corbetts could wait. They would be a good excuse for a visit next year. It allowed me to try out the route that had been mentioned to me. Instead of descending down the corrie from the cairn I continued northwards, climbing to a small lochan at the foot of a quartzite scree slope, the water was crystal clear. The other walker was about a mile ahead and I watched him as he headed over the plateau of Beinn an Fhurain. There were ninety or so deer grazing on the short grass and an easy gentle descent to the north that involved some dodging of the water courses. More deer watched my approach and moved a couple of hundred metres to allow me through.
I came upon the site of the aircraft crash that occurred during a training flight in 1941. It was an Avro Anson used in coastal reconnaissance. The six crew had survived the crash but died on the remote plateau as they sought to find a way down. They were found by a shepherd several days later. A grave had recently been erected at the site and the two Armstrong Siddeley engines were both on view as was some of the undercarriage. I had watched the other walker disappear into the rock strewn terrain ahead and found a couple of cairns that led me down a steep descent. The narrow Loch nan Caorach was ahead and I began the scramble over the boulders on its southern shore. A herd of deer were watching my progress from the slopes opposite and I was surprised to hear several loud whistles. I could see nobody so decided to keep clear of the deer, it may have been a stalker, and made for what was a deep ravine ahead. It was too steep and rocky to descend with confidence so I climbed back up to the shoulder of Meall nan Caorach and found a skittish route down to the river below. It looked as if there was a stalker's path on the other side.
After threaded my way down the crags, I crossed a boggy area and then waded the river and found a narrow path that was cairned. It soon disappeared as I headed towards Inchdadamph and there was a tedious half hour of battering down the heather pleased that I had not worn shorts. Little did I know that the real path was 30 metres above me. Eventually I did happen upon it as I made the final descent to the track along Gleann Dubh. I had a good view of the new house that sits hidden from the glen and appears to have been designed to imitate the conical summit of Quinag.
I arrived back at the car before 4pm and changed and scavenged some food from the cold bag in the car. I was about to leave when the other walker appeared and told me I had taken the wrong route down and that he had been whistling me to stop me going down the ravine. He was relieved that I had made it down and we reflected that it would have been near impossible on a winter's night after an aircrash.
The three day unadulterated munro bash was over and I drove down to Ullapool to buy a cold drink and then onto Aviemore to visit a large family group who were holidaying there. It was 11pm before I made it home.
|Gleann Dubh path|
|Heading into the corrie below Conival|
|Looking across to Qunag and Silvan from Conival ridge|
|Loch Assynt and Quinag from Conival|
|Beinn an Fhurain and Quinag from Ben More Assynt|
|Ben More Assynt from Conival|
|Loch Assynt and Quinag from Conival|
|Ben More Assynt from lochan|
|Deer above airbrush site|
|Avro Ansell engine|
|Loch nan Cearach|
|New house imitates Quinag profile|
|Looking uo Gleann Dubh to Conival|