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May 2006 : An Teallach, pictures + tripreport

I arrived at Inverlael

after an overnight stop at Glen Nevis Youth Hostel. It was'n't noon yet so some distance could be covered before pitching my tent. My plan was a 3-day trip to bag the Inverlael Munros. My first camp would be near Lochan Uaine, on the col between Beinn Dearg and Meall nan Ceapraichean and bag Beinn Dearg in the afternoon.I followed the River Lael upstream and after emerging out of the forest the sight of Beinn Dearg being covered in snow was a bit intimidating, having no ice-axe and crampons. From the col it's quite steep uphill to reach the summit of Beinn Dearg. Gaining height in Gleann na Sguaib another problem became more obvious. At sealevelall was quiet be half way up the glen the wind became very strong. At an altitude of 500m it was almost impossible tomove forward, even with the aid of walkingpoles.No way I was going to pitch a tent in this storm so I turned and went back to the car. Seana Bhraigh and the other Munros had to wait to make my acqaintance. I drove to my next destination : The Fannichs.I parked my car next to the A832 and slept in the car that night. The next morning I walked to Loch a' Bhraoin and from there turned SE to climb Meall a' Chrasgaidh. Once again I was defeated by the strong wind and retreated to the car. This time I didn't spent the night in the car but instead drove to Camusnagaul Independent Hostel, 3km NW of the Dundonnel Hotel. This hostel wouldbe my rendez-vous point with my friend Jimmy Crawford and his son Colin for climbing An Teallach in a few days time.Instead of hillwalking I fancied visiting the Inverewe Gardens for a change the next day. the A832 coastal road to Poolewe is very scenic and the Inverewe Gardens are really beautifull. Although not hillwalking I enjoyed myself a couple of hours in the quiet gardens. On my way back I stopped at Gruinard Bay, one of those surprisingly beautifull sandy beacheson the westcoast of Scotland. I did some souvenir-hunting by collectting some rocks from the beach. The weather was improving.Back at the hostel I saw a route description starting at Gruinard Bay. I thought that would make a nice short walk for tomorrow.From the Gruinard Bay carpark a path follows the Inverianvie River in a southeasterly direction. The rocky outcrops in this glen are playground for scramblers and climbers and some nice waterfalls can be seen. Eventually the path disappears as you turn NE after 3km to reach the Gruinard River which leads you back to Gruinard bay. It had been a warm day and on my way back to the hostel I could see An Teallach, my destination for tomorrow. Jimmy and Colin arrived at the hostel shortly after me.The weatherforecast was good : 80% chance of cloudfree Munros in the northwest. Very little wind and just the right temperature for walking up Munros.We parked the first car at Corrie Hallie and drove back to Dundonnell where we parked the second, thus saving us a 4km roadwalk at the end of the day. The ascent to Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill via Meall Gharbh isn't the most inspiring one with Glas Mheall Mor hiding the spectacular eastern corries of An Teallach but gave us the opportunity to warm up the muscles. Higher up in the corrie the Allt a' Mhuillin was still covered with snow, the burn whispering underneath. 500m from the summit of Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill, the first of the two Munros of An Teallach at 1062m, the terrain gets more demanding giving spectacular views into Glas Tholl corrie. The eastern and southern edges of the corrie covered with snow.From the summit of Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill the really magnificent and grand ridge of An Teallach reveals itself. The serrated knife-edge ridge of An Teallach is the real fun part. Munrobaggers will move south for another kilometre to bag Sgurr Fiona, the second Munro, and return the way they came but real hillwalkers and lovers of mountains and scrambling would not be able to resist this challenge.At first the walk to Sgurr Fiona is quite straightforward but after Fiona's summit (1060m) the fun begins.Intimidated walkers will use the by-pass to avoid every vertigo sufferer's worst nightmare. Lord Berkeley's Seat is a pinnacle overhanging coire Toll an Lochan giving you a freefall of a couple of hundred feet. Lord Berkeley has been known to sit on top with his feet dangling over the edge. To be honest, I crawled on my belly to catch a glimps of the abyss. The little figure in the picture on the left is me, completely exhilirated. Again, if you've had enough you can return the way you came. My advice is to continue south from LB's Seat, either using the bypass on the westside or, like Jimmy and I did, scrambling over the Corrag Bhuidhe buttresses. The sandstone gives you lots of hand- and footholds and is a delight for confident scramblers. In winter however this is a very serious undertaking. The start is relatively easy but once you're on the buttresses properly there's a lot of ups and downs. All too soon we reached the southern end where a huge overhanging rock stopped our progress.A sling was attached to a rock making it clear you'd need rope and climbingharneses to abseil down. Alternatively you can scramble down a corner a few paces back on the western side. It's very steep and care has to be taken. Once back on the path the going gets much easier. Not having to look for handholds anymore there's time now to take in the stupendous views. The Fisherfield mountains to the south and southwest, the Fannichs to the southeast, the Inverlael hills to the east, Assynt in the far north and the Outer Hebrides in the Atlantic Ocean. Stob Cadha Gobhlach and Sail Liath were soon reached and we descended a huge boulderfield in an easterly direction towards the geological vault that forms the southern boundary of Coir' a Ghiubhsachain. If on a multiday backpack you can also descend southwest to Shenavall bothy. For us it was all the way down to Corrie Hallie. In our heads however we stayed high, remembering this day for the rest of our lives. At the carpark I said goodbye to Jimmy and Colin who were going back to Paisley and I drove to the Glen Nevis YH. I ended my holiday with a, almost traditional, walk down Glen Nevis and a drive east to visit the Inshriach Nursery and the Auchgourish Gardens near Boat of Garten on a scorching hot day.At the time I wasn't aware that I would be walking in this area towards the Lairig Ghru during the TGO Challenge the next year.

May 2006 The Northwest


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