Saturday 14th December 2013
Weather/Conditions: Rough, harsh winter conditions, Very little snow (it had all thawed!) but huge winds, very difficult to walk in, a high cloud base giving heavy and at times torrential rain. Wild!
Distance/Ascent/Time: 10.7km / 800m / 3h 50m
Accompanying: James Seaman
On first getting out the car, my feeling was dread - it was going to get grim soon. But once you're out in it, you cease to notice the rain somewhat and some enjoyment was picked up on the walk through An Caorann Beag. This is the little valley behind the Cluanie which eventually leads to a triple bealach. Beyond that, Ciste Dhubh rises to the north, shaping into a fierce little arête before the final summit.
The views this day were pretty phenomenal - if only for their grimness. The cloud base was high, so the mountain walls were exposed, streaked in white veins, with little corners of snow clinging to the highest edges. The wind was erratic and powerful. It sometimes stopped us all together and I felt a very real fear that 1) we might not get to the top (trivial), and 2) that we might have an issue getting off if it becomes much stronger! (less trivial)
But we made the cairn and I staggered about trying to catch a 360 panorama. The images came out so dark I had to stitch it by hand, which is a rarity. But it shows the environment off well, the powerful intensity of the north-west Highland mountains on a dark December afternoon.
We returned by our route of ascent, and myself, unable to maintain heat, steamed ahead of James and into the valley below. It was to keep warm, but I was quite content with walking alone, and James was understanding enough to know that I wasn't just being ignorant. I really had to keep moving! I couldn't hang around or the cold would grip me. With that, I plodded back to the Cluanie alone where I arrived, darkness fallen, with a glow of light coming from the Inn. They were shut due to storm damage, and James, some distance behind, had the car key. I would have given anything to stand inside, even in the hallway, for the warmth it would give. But the girls staying inside weren't to know my discomfort and the front door remained securely locked. Some time later, as I stood around the back and out of the wind, James arrived and we headed back to Kintail Lodge Hotel together, for heat, a social night and lots of lots of drink...
The following day was home time, another wet day but the winds even higher. Squalls were being picked up on Loch Cluanie and swept skyward, the gusts shook everything.
I was really, really hungover, and almost didn't make it to the Fort without throwing up. On the drive through Glen Coe, innumerable waterfalls fell down the north flank of Aonach Dubh, some to be grabbed by the wind and shot horizontally. It was a day best left for the drive home. One constant of our Kintail trips is the truly wild weather we get to see.
(0.00) 1.00pm Cluanie Inn
(2.05) 3.05pm Ciste Dhubh
(3.50) 4.50pm Cluanie Inn