The Jacobites Mountaineering Club Hut at Inver near Achnasheen was the venue for the Club’s October meet. Situated a few miles south west of Achnasheen in Glen Carron, the Hut sits in glorious isolation a few hundred yards from the A890 and a hundred yards from the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh railway line. The hut has recently undergone a bit of a facelift – and with ample sleeping accommodation, a large and well equipped kitchen and an open fire in the lounge it was perfect for a club meet in this part of the country. Best of all, a splendid walkway has now been built from the road to the hut thus avoiding what previously must have been a very boggy tramp into the accommodation.
The October weather had been exceptional in the run up to the weekend and hopes were high that this would continue during our stay – we were not to be disappointed.
Jim Aire, Raymond Evenden, James Fraser, George Henderson, Susan Henderson Rowena Hepple, Ian Millar, Alan Orr, Ian Pollock, Norrie Shand and Alastair Shaw.
An early start was made by George, Susan and Norrie on the Friday morning as they scooted up the A9 and headed into the hut with the first load of essential supplies. The Munro of Moruisg lies just a few miles away and, following their unloading, this was their target for the day – along with its neighbour Sgurr nan Ceanneachean, formerly a Munro but now, re-surveyed at 913 metres in the list of Corbetts.
Moruisg is a fairly unfashionable hill and the three had ascended it between them six times previously – with not a decent day between them. Today was to be different though as they set off up the pathless slopes in the warm autumn sunshine before finally emerging on the stony plateau where a couple of cairns a hundred yards apart mark the summit. The views across to Torridon and over to the Maoile Lunndaidh group were stupendous and the three left the summit much better disposed to Moruisg. The continuation to Sgurr nan Ceanneachean is a fine ridge walk, hugely enjoyable in these conditions and its summit has an equally great vista.
A trek back down to the car via a boggy and muddy path couldn’t dampen their mood and the sight of a reeking hut lum signifying the prior arrival of Ian and Ian (and their first task completed) cheered them up even further.
As the darkness descended, James, Jim, Alan and Raymond arrived together followed a bit later by Rowena and Ally. Soon, over a small tipple, plans for the next day were discussed: James, Alan, Ian and Ian opted for Beinn Eighe. Raymond and Jim were up for a high speed hike over Fuar Tholl, Sgorr Ruadh and Maol Chean-dearg. Ally and Rowena were also making for Sgorr Ruadh but intended to climb Beinn Liath Mhor first. George, Susan and Norrie had ambitious plans for An Ruadh Stac, Maol Chean-dearg, Sgorr Ruadh and Fuar Tholl – accepting in advance that they might need to be flexible!
Before the guitar was brought out to be battered into submission, George regaled the group with the first instalment of his ode to the 45 Degrees MC. No member’s reputation was left intact as the verses unfolded with reference to, amongst other things, previous disciplinary proceedings, dictatorial route finders and flatulent retrievers. This resulted in much mirth round the table – those who escaped most lightly need only await the next instalment.
The sky outside was clear and bright – with the outstanding feature being a deep red fingernail moon. Amateurish attempts to photograph it were made but only Ian Pollock – the man with the trusty tripod – was able to capture a decent image
In due time, songs were being sung and the supply of Tormore Malt began to be depleted. The wisest and most experienced knew it would be a good idea to avoid Ian Millar’s cask strength Navy Rum with a big day ahead – but not everyone was able to resist the cajoling of the little demon on their shoulder.
Rumours of deteriorating weather proved to be grossly unfounded as Saturday broke – it was cold, frosty and a thick mist enveloped the hut and the vegetation but there were clear signs that the sun would soon burn it all off. Bags packed, the group soon began the misty march to the layby where the cars were parked and they enthusiastically headed off to their destinations.
Beinn Eighe via Coire Mhic Fhearchair had already been climbed at different times this year by those meet attendees walking elsewhere, but with President Fraser leading the group there was bound to be an element of originality in the ascent by the fearless four. Sure enough, after following the excellent path round into the Coire, James announced that today’s version of Fraser’s Way would be a straight ascent from the throat of the Coire up one the gullies heading directly to the Munro summit of Ruadh Stac Mor – gully No 3 as it was unofficially named. As it turned out, it was a sound decision – the tortuous scree slope at the head of the corrie was avoided and opportunities abounded for mountaineering poses on the huge boulders and rocky outcrops.
Having overtaken those walkers who had ascended the scree slopes and with the smugometer at 9.5 they continued the excellent ridge walk round to the second Munro – Spidean Coire nan Clach. A short retreat back along the ridge led them to the descent path back down to the road. Half way down the slope, Alan Orr suddenly morphed into a pint sized Kip Keino and sprinted off ahead of the others just in time for him to cadge a lift along the road to pick up his car and return for the rest of the group. His MVP award was well deserved.
A successful climb was celebrated in the Kinlochewe Hotel where a beer was enjoyed and the Hotel’s legendary curmudgeonly service tolerated.
A few miles further south, Ally and Rowena headed up from Achnashellach Station alongside the River Lair continuing their quest, now well over half-way through, towards Munro completion. Beinn Liath Mhor was tackled first and the landscape opened before them as they trekked the switchback ridge to the summit. The horseshoe was then completed with a descent to the head of the corrie followed by a gradual climb up to the higher Munro of Sgorr Ruadh. No doubt there were covetous glances towards the magnificent Corbett of Fuar Tholl on the descent but this great wee hill would have to be enjoyed some time in the future.
A phone call from “45 Central” revealed that George, Susan, Norrie, Raymond and Jim were already enjoying a cool beer in the Ledgowan Lodge Hotel after their walks. With the option of joining them – or heading into the hut to get the fire going – the pair wasted not a nanosecond in electing to meet them in the hostelry.
Jim and Raymond had set off from the same point as Ally and Rowena – but they were heading initially for the Corbett of Fuar Tholl. At 907 meters this, one of the gems of the Corbett list, is only just short of Munro height but it boasts the magnificent cliffs of the Mainreachen Buttress and extensive views. A steep drop-off northwest towards Sgorr Ruadh followed and before long they were drinking in the vista from the Munro summit.
Raymond and Jim would never get jobs with an Estate constructing their stalkers’ paths – and a “route 1 rules” approach saw them plunge straight down to Loch Coire Fionnaraich sitting between Sgorr Ruadh and Maol Chean-dearg. From there they scaled the steep eastern slopes of their 2nd Munro of the day right on to scabby scalp of the “Bald Red Head” where there are breath-taking views down to Loch an Eion. George, Susan and Norrie had been there half an hour or so before them and as they scampered gleefully back down towards Coulags they managed to catch up with Norrie about one and half kilometres from the road with George and Susan already back at the car enjoying the hillwalkers staple diet of cider and cheese piece. Having established that there were no shops open within reasonable distance where supplies could be replenished the decision was taken by the five to head for the Ledgowan Lodge where dry throats could be treated in appropriate fashion – soon to be joined by Ally and Rowena.
George, Susan and Norrie had set off from Coulags shortly after 9 o’ clock and headed up the glen alongside the Fionn Abhain and past the Coire Fionnaraich MBA bothy, which despite notices to the contrary appeared to be open even though the stalking season had not quite finished. The great stone of Clach nan Con-fionn (where the giant, Fionn tethered his hunting dogs) was a photo opportunity not to be missed as Wild Norrie Hickock and Calamity Susan clambered aboard the trusty rocky steed.
A good path soon led them up to the bealach between the Corbett and the Munro. Norrie had previously enjoyed great days on both these hills but George and Susan’s previous ascents had been in fairly horrendous conditions. Today was perfect though and a short descent to the lochans below An Ruadh Stac was followed by an entertaining scramble up the angled slabs of An Ruadh Stac – a truly remarkable lump of rock. At this stage of the day George’s tormoritis (see Note 1) was causing him to slow his pace almost down to Norrie’s level and a decision was taken to enjoy the fantastic weather and limit the day’s walk to An Ruadh Stac and Maol Chean-dearg only – leaving Sgorr Ruadh and Fuar Tholl until another day.
The pressure now off, they retreated down the Corbett and commenced their trek up the slopes to the summit of Maol Chean-dearg where the Munro was not the only Bald Red Head in evidence. This is one of the best viewpoints in Scotland with an extensive panorama of all the Torridon giants, down to Loch an Eoin and across the Beinn Damph Forest. Having lingered at the summit for some time the trio eventually turned for home. George’s cider walk was soon in evidence and he and Susan quickly made it back to the car leaving Norrie to be caught up by Raymond and Jim.
Beers having been consumed in Kinlochewe and Ledgowan everyone eventually sauntered back to the hut. Darkness was descending as they headed back with yet an another opportunity to photograph the stunning West Highland landscape in all its glory. Very quickly fires were lit, gourmet meals prepared (and scoffed) and refreshments taken.
George’s poem received a second reading and in customary fashion the guitar made an appearance later in the evening. Gentle melodies were carefully plucked in a cathedral-like atmosphere – well, maybe it wasn’t quite like that. Norrie’s over enthusiastic caterwauling eventually needed a rest and the song books were passed around giving everyone an opportunity to air their vocal chords. The highlight was undoubtedly a powerful and passionate rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” by James – standing tall to give his diaphragm maximum opportunity to project his voice across the room and over the moor to Achnasheen.
Alan’s percussion skills were once again in evidence – keeping perfect time on the Tormore Tube and Heroes Tin simultaneously whilst dancing the Gall Bladder Gangnam.
The elation from the day’s walking meant that no one fell asleep before midnight and ensured that the McGrandles Cup would remain unpresented. Jim and Raymond’s experience, timing and mutual bonding were superbly displayed as they achieved simultaneous slumber less than five minutes after twelve o’clock. In the absence of any navigational errors (almost impossible in those conditions) and any unfortunate river crossings, everyone was spared the ignominy of being presented with either the wooden compass or the blue flipper.
Next morning there was some half-hearted talk of possible hills to be climbed that day – but there was no way that the highs of the previous day could be replicated so everyone took the sensible decision to head off down the road and commence training for the November meet at the Cabin.
- Tormoritis: An ailment which may include headache, drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, absence of hunger, sweating, nausea, hyper-excitability and anxiety. Normally caused by a higher than recommended intake of Tormore Malt whisky. Can be treated by a can of Strongbow cider – in serious cases the dosage can be repeated several times.