Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Torridon 6

Wednesday 24th August

Ruadh-stac Beag NG 972 613 - about 9 miles - 9hrs!

I could see from the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) Corbetts guide that this could be a tough one. If the SMC even hint at any difficulty beware! I have met severe ridges and paths on Munros that don't get a mention, but in the Lake District would have reputations on a par with Striding Edge and the like. So I was off at 8.20 from the Pony Track at NH 022 628. It was a long hot walk, fortunately with some breeze to within a few hundred metres of its finish. I branched off keeping to the higher but pathless rough ground until eventually reaching some way up the river on the south-east of my hill. There was then a path which was narrow which often climbed quite high above the tumbling river with some quite exposed moments. The route then swings round to ascend by the south ridge. This is very steep composed entirely of boulders ranging from tennis ball to refrigerator and bigger sizes providing a really dicey and strenuous 200m ascent. On reaching the rim the summit is still half a kilometre away across an undulating boulder field, again hard going.

I lunched on the summit and views were superb but I was apprehensive about descending that steep jumble of boulders. I met a guy from Derby heading for the summit as I walked back across the boulder field.

I found the only way I could descend with any confidence was by reverse climbing, i.e. facing the rock and using boulders as hand and footholds. There was a sort of intermittent scree path but for me it seemed too steep for safety. At one point I managed to bash my shin on a rock which with my history is the last thing I can afford to do. The Derby guy then caught me up and he seemed to be able to descend fairly quickly on the loose scree stuff. Obviously he was younger than me and I now accept that I can no longer handle this kind of terrain competently. It took me a long long time to make that descent.

Rather than follow the tricky path just above the river I crossed the river and followed the higher ground all the way back to the Pony Track - the best part of three kilometres of concentrated boulder field with a number of ups and downs crossing ravines and streams. Halfway across this lunar landscape I managed to break one of my walking poles ( I do have a spare in the car).

Even then it took me another two hours to get back to the car. This has been one of the toughest mountain days I can remember - I know there have been many others, but the memory dims. From a stamina aspect I felt fine and fit, but on a route with such technical attributes I am not travelling quickly enough, or safely enough and I reckon in future I will avoid that kind of hill combined with that kind of distance. Any readers who are not familiar with mountain walking may think that nine miles is reasonably modest, but over that kind of terrain it becomes more serious.

I am writing this up in the caravan after downing a beef curry and tomorrow I may go on a nostalgic visit to the gardens at Poolewe - last time was with my late wife Ann not long after we were married and before our children arrived.

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TV here is provided by a booster aerial lead and is restricted to BBC1, BBC2 intermittently, ITV, and Sky News. Unfortunately for me many of the BBC1 programmes are in Gaelic, so I'm getting a bit of reading done; currently I've nearly finished The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart whose epic walk across Afghanistan in 2002 makes me feel like a real wimp, and shows us all how to write with continuous interest about such experiences, but more of that later when I have finished reading it.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

18 comments:

bowlandclimber said...

I can see between, and even in, the lines that that was a hard day. Well done! but be careful with your shins. I know what you mean about a small distance measured on the map in a day, once did 6K in 8 hours, it was at altitude and over the sort of terrain you describe.

John J said...

A tough one but a good one!

Going downhill has always been a problem for me, I'm just very slow. And incompetent.

Can you get the BBC iPlayer on your iPad?

Gayle said...

Well, surprise of surprises, I type this from a car park just north of Stirling. Sometime late Tuesday night, after an evening of looking at maps of the Welsh coast, the Welsh plan reverted to the Scottish plan.

Re: notes about difficulty in the SMC guide being taken seriously, I read a report of 'the worst tussocks I've ever encountered' the other day, about one of my potential hills of this trip, which I might have discounted on the basis of a presumption of the writer's lack of experience on pathless hills, until I read the next sentence: 'My 600th Marilyn'. I think I'll be planning for 1mph on that one and anything faster will be a bonus!

Gayle said...

Oh, and do be careful of those shins!

afootinthehills said...

I note that we did Ruadh-stac Beag in June 2005 and I remember the boulder field well. The SMC usually underplay difficulty in my experience so as you say Conrad, any suggestion of difficulty needs to be taken fairly seriously.



John J said...

BBC R4 on Long Wave - as long as the caravan's built-in battery charger and any neon lights are 'off', they play merry hell with a.m. reception.

Oh, and the pictures are far better on the wireless -type radio!

AlanR said...

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Well done on pushing the limits of what the body was telling the brain.

afootinthehills said...

Well said Alan.

Sir Hugh said...

All - thanks for your comments which all come from you who understand. Others may have said, stupid fool, you should know better at your age, I told you so, etc.

BC - another anecdote I've not heard before! I will request a detailed account when I see you.

Gayle - I thought my late wife was the all time champion of making sweeping decisions, but you are coming close. Looking forward to hearing more - it seems you have negated my theory that you were going for completion of the Welsh Ms.

John J - thanks for the advice, however I am enjoying the silence of TV and the pleasure of reading.

Afoot - hi Gibson. The SMC guide describes climbing together this hill and Meall a Ghiuthais (which I climbed a couple of days ago), and starting from Leitire, and gives 6 hours for the whole trip - that may be possible if you were a fit fell runner, otherwise quite unrealistic.

Alan R - well I have done many much more arduous walks in the past, but this one served to tell me something about my advancing years.

Sir Hugh said...

Sir Hugh has left a new comment on your post "Torridon 6":

All - thanks for your comments which all come from you who understand. Others may have said, stupid fool, you should know better at your age, I told you so, etc.

BC - another anecdote I've not heard before! I will request a detailed account when I see you.

Gayle - I thought my late wife was the all time champion of making sweeping decisions, but you are coming close. Looking forward to hearing more - it seems you have negated my theory that you were going for completion of the Welsh Ms.

John J - thanks for the advice, however I am enjoying the silence of TV and the pleasure of reading.

Afoot - hi Gibson. The SMC guide describes climbing together this hill and Meall a Ghiuthais (which I climbed a couple of days ago), and starting from Leitire, and gives 6 hours for the whole trip - that may be possible if you were a fit fell runner, otherwise quite unrealistic.

Alan R - well I have done many much more arduous walks in the past, but this one served to tell me something about my advancing years.





Posted by Sir Hugh to conradwalks at 25 August 2016 at 15:24

Phreerunner said...

Haha, caught up again. You seem to be enjoying yourself, Conrad. This brings back memories of going up Meall a' Ghiubhais and Rhuad-stac Beag in April 2008. I remember being quite tired towards the summit of the latter, despite there being no sign of a boulder field. I reported "I continued to the col, then endured a 30 minute thrutch through deep, soft, sugary snow up the steep climb to the deserted summit". I now realise that I probably had the easy option that day - a brilliantly sunny one that yielded a wide selection of images for future Christmas cards.
Happy Days!

Roderick Robinson said...

Congratulations. Straightforward descriptions of the objective problems intermingled with your internal dialogues about this and that, all relevant, all simply stated. You seem to have accepted the premise that there would be no need to over-egg things, that detached observation, devoid of purple passages, would best communicate the difficulties of this hard day. And so it happened.

Read this post again in two or three weeks. See if it stands the test of time. My guess is it will.

Roderick Robinson said...

PS: The date is coincidental but happily congenial.

Sir Hugh said...

Phreerunner - your own recent post has made the point that I repeat here. There is an eight year gap in actual years PLUS the difference between my 76 and your "whatever". Most of my Munroing was done early or late in the year, avoiding school holidays, but now granddaughter duties are forcing me into using those times; would that I had had the obviously superb conditions that you had on your trip. I was even a tad too early to hear the deer rutting in the glens below as one tackles a fine high up ridge - an unforgettable and haunting sound and atmosphere.

Your post identifies your date as 15th April 2008 On that day I was lodged in a b-and-b in Penzance prior to starting my Land's End John 'o Groats walk next day.

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RR - Perhaps when one has strong feelings and opinions (a bit rare for me) it comes out in what you write. At a younger age I would not have admitted to my frailties but I have got to the point where I can't ignore them and i felt it needed to be said.

I still believe in "having a go" as far as I can, but carrying on believing oneself to be invincible would likely lead to something regrettable.

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Belated MHRs

Phreerunner said...

I'm impressed by your exploits Conrad. Many of us will be hoping that we can emulate them in years to come. Well done.

gimmer said...

Your descriptions and posts, translated to another slightly different context, remind me of Kipling's phrase ' the savage little wars of peace' - an under recognised harsh terrain for both - hope the wounds heal quickly this time. Sounds good - I'm mighty impressed with your stamina and achievements - you must be tremendously pleased you did not have the other knee 'op'!
We are in the upper Aude area again and I have come down to camp on the Mairie's free wifi - long woodland walks but to be quite frank, it is too hot to walk at an angle of more than about 15 degrees 'up' for any length of time from about 8am to 6pm - either in or out of the sun - my excuse anyway.
We met two ladies from Ilkley who are cycling (this time - they walk as well) from Biarritz to the Med - 9 days to the our campsite, 10 days eta Collioure. Recommended your blog for discussion of lightweight kit and walking. Etc. etc..

Sir Hugh said...

gimmer - Too true about the knee op. when I think of what I have done since that decision was made. Interesting that you too are battling with wifi - still it's better than using telephone boxes polluted with urine.

Thanks for the puff for my blog.

gimmer said...

I simply have to add that I have found excellent wifi - free- at the local bar - sunny terrace, good chat and 'pression' - a rarity this remote - 5 mins steep uphill from the camp
l'annee prochaine peut-être ? !