The Naismith Hut at Elphin, around 15 miles north of Ullapool was the venue for the Club’s June meet. The Hut sits just off the main road and has stupendous views west towards Suilven. It has recently undergone a makeover and with mains electricity and running water it provides a degree of comfort not found in several other huts. The capacity is fairly small though – and with two spaces reserved for SMC members we were able to accommodate only eight members. As it happened quite a few members were unable to attend for various reasons so everyone was happy.
Raymond Evenden, James Fraser, George Henderson, Susan Henderson, Rowena Hepple, Ian Pollock, Norrie Shand and Alastair Shaw.
The forecast for the weekend was promising with a possibility of decent weather in the west on Friday – and a very confident prediction of blue skies and sunshine on Saturday.
George, Susan and Norrie were first to set off on Friday. After some debate they elected to tackle on their way north the two most westerly Munros in the Fannichs range – Sgurr Breac and A’ Chailleach. The hoped-for sunshine was reluctant to appear as they set off on the track towards Loch a’ Bhraoin and then up the stalkers path to the east of the mountains. At the head of the glen a westerly turn saw them head up the steepish but straightforward path to the summit of Sgurr Breac. By this time, the clag was down to around 2500 feet so there was no opportunity to enjoy the views which would have been no doubt magnificent. Wasting no time, they plodded on over a subsidiary Top to the 2nd summit, A’ Chailleach still shrouded in cloud. A long descent towards Sron na Goibhre and back to the outflow of the loch was tussocky and mostly pathless but helped to work up a healthy appetite for a jumbo fish supper in Ullapool.
Raymond and James also headed off on Friday morning with the intention of getting in a walk. Having initially considered Ben Wyvis, they eventually decided to emulate the earlier group by tackling the same two hills. Starting a few hours later, they headed up the Druim Reidh ridge which leads to the subsidiary Top and the main ridge. Their later start saw them enjoy marginally better conditions – but certainly not the glorious weather that had been forecast.
As the not-so-famous five relaxed back in hut later in the evening, Ally and Rowena arrived followed by Ian “nae mates” Pollock who had journeyed up on his own. A couple of SMC members had also booked into the hut so a relatively quiet though convivial evening was enjoyed – although it possibly wasn’t quite so quiet during the night when the Kilsyth Brass Band aka Ian Pollock tested the effectiveness of the others’ ear plugs with his snoring.
Rowena and Ally had brought their bikes with them and on Saturday planned to drive up to Corriemulzie Lodge in Strath Mulzie, then cycle up to the northern flank of the delightfully remote Seana Bhraigh. It was an inspired decision; the weather was glorious as promised and the bike ride was fairly easy going. Striking up the prominent north ridge they were rewarded with stunning views over Loch Luchd Choire to the Munro summit. A visit was to made to the extensively refurbished Magoos Bothy on their way back – a tribute to a fallen RAF pilot. A well-deserved – or at least well-enjoyed beer was taken on the way back to Elphin.
James and Ian had their sights set on the twin Munros of Conival and Ben More Assynt from Inchnadamph. This is a popular walk for visitors to the area and a well-trodden path leads up Gleann Dubh before ascending the flank of Conival. The highest hills in the area provided an extensive vista in all directions and the opportunity was taken to capture some superb images of the landscape and also some macho posing. On their way back down they took in a visit to the caves of the Traligill Basin. Some “grade 1” nosing about in the caves was enjoyed but in the absence of ropes or climbing equipment they declined to attempt lowering their svelte forms down into the larger caverns.
With Suilven’s iconic form visible from the hut it proved to be a strong magnet for the remainder of the group. Raymond was dropped off a few hundred yards down the road so that he could undertake the complete traverse of the undulating ridge from SE to NW whilst George, Susan and Norrie drove round in the car to Lochinver so they could tackle this little gem from the west having previously traversed it from the other side.
Raymond was travelling (and dressing) light so made quick progress along Cam Loch before ascending the SE ridge. The rocky and undulating profile of Suilven is not obvious from most angles but great care is needed to scramble down and up along the ridge. No problem for Raymond though and he reached the “notch” in the ridge where the Lochinver track ascends just as George and Susan clambered up the top of the path. Following some exchange of banter as they waited for Norrie to pech his way up the path, Raymond scampered ahead to Suilven’s summit, his sights set for a return to Elphin back over the neighbouring corbett of Canisp.
The tumblers in George’s head had been clicking into place on the ascent and – subject to Norrie agreeing to head back to Lochinver for the car – he and Susan would likewise traverse Canisp on their return to the A837. A broad track up the SW flank of Canisp unmarked on their old maps was all the additional encouragement that was required.
Norrie was more than happy to amble back for the car in glorious sunny weather and take some photos – so after the three had spent some time on Suilven’s summit drinking in the spectacular 360 degree views, George and Susan bounded off towards Canisp. Norrie meanwhile set his internal drummer to “slow beat” and commenced the long return to the Car Park near Glencasip Lodge.
Raymond initially, then George and Susan had an enjoyable ascent of Canisp – a corbett that would be held in much greater esteem if it wasn’t surrounded by even more spectacular hills.
Norrie took the time on his return to make a detour to the famous Suileg bothy. This is definitely a cut above most bothies – despite the presence of a lager swilling fisherman with an ATV listening to some very dodgy music on his radio.
Like a well drilled military plan – actually pure luck – Norrie’s return to the car coincided nicely with George and Susan’s descent to the A837 and he was able to pick them up on the way round.
Contact couldn’t be made with Raymond though and he had to ascend the longer and direct route back to Elphin – but that wasn’t such a hardship on a beautiful sunny day.
Back in the hut, during the evening the party made their usual good job of replacing spent calories – and then storing up a few more for future use. The two SMC members had decided that they wouldn’t be spending the Saturday night in the hut after all, so with the curfew lifted a few songs were belted out taking the group into the early hours. Even more entertaining was the visitation from a group of young stags on the hillside above the hut and the glorious sunset over Suilven.
Once again nobody dropped off so the McGrandles Cup was withheld – along with the blue flipper and wooden compass where no winners were claimed. With Jim Aire not present there was a distinct lack of unwanted trophies to present!
On Sunday morning George, Susan and Norrie headed down the road while Raymond stayed up the North west for a few days R&R.Rowena and Ally though headed (on their bikes once again) into Fannich Lodge and on up the Eastern Fannich Munros of Meall Gorm and An Coileachan. The weather was less kind on Sunday but nevertheless they enjoyed their scoot up these two hills – bring them both ever closer to completion of their Munros.
In the meantime Ian and James, flushed with the joys of their walk the previous day, decided to have a murky stroll up Ben Wyvis as they headed down the road. They wasted no time in climbing the staircase to the summit trig point. Their ascent was briefly halted as they were met with the sight of two other club members (who hadn’t made the Elphin trip) Bill and Deb Dallas skipping down the hill. Those 45 Degrees members get everywhere!!