Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Missing in Action

I have been rather busy of late and although I have been over to Shustoke a couple of times there hasn’t been much around. It should however, start to get a little more exciting. I think it will be a rather poor autumn for waders with the water level higher than I can ever remember at this time of year. There were in the region of 100 Lapwing the other night but little else in the way of waders, normally there would be at least a few Common Sandpiper. Anyway if you have been missing my posts I have to have a few more up over the coming weeks.

I am not long back from two weeks birding and hillwalking in Scotland, here is a quick summary. We managed to climb eleven Munro’s ten new and one we had to redo as we couldn’t find the summit in very poor weather. The plateau was flat and about the size of Birmingham and my compass was playing up. Anyway as a result we had a 22 mile walk to redo.

We managed to complete the Glencoe Munro’s by climbing Bidean nan Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach on the Saturday in reasonable weather. Then on Tuesday we climbed Stob Dearg and Stob na Broige. The path works its way up the corrie on the the ridge then there is a couple of hours walk over a couple of other hills to the far end and Stob na Broige. The picture was taken late on when the weather had cleared but it was shrouded in cloud when we climbed. We encountered a group of eastern europeans on the top who were completely lost and me managed to direct them to the path off the hill (there are only two). Strangely we saw very few birds with just a couple of Raven, Wheatear and Meadow Pipit.
Stob Coire Sgreamhac from the Lost Valley in the centre is the way down!

Stob Dearg and Stob na Broige at the end of the ridge seen far right.

Then on Wednesday hopeful of a bit of birding we climb Beinn Mheadhoin in the Cairngorms. We have climbed nearly all of the Cairngorm hills and usually encounter a few good birds Scottish Crossbill, Golden Eagle, Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting to name a few. I actually took my proper bins with me rather than my compacts but saw very little.
On the summit of Beinn Mheadhoin.

Also in that week when not climbing we had a day out in Angus at Montrose Basin and the coast down to Arbroath. We didn’t see much with a male Surf Scoter in Lunan Bay the pick. The basin had Barnacle Goose and Greenshank and some commoner waders but little else – wrong time of the year.

We then relocated to Loch Carron where on the Saturday we travelled up with my brother and his wife and climbed Slioch. We arrived in the car park and it was tipping down, but we decided just to go for it. Fortunately within ten minutes it started to clear and the weather got progressively better all day although the hill was shrouded in cloud for the duration. It was also Joy and I’s 33rd wedding anniversary, who says I don’t know how to treat a lady. On the way down we encountered a large group of around 30 people making there way slowly up the hill. We found out that it was the last Munro for one of them and he was taking all his friends and family with him to celebrate. We wished him well and dwelt momentarily that hopefully next year we would be in the same position.

On top of Slioch on our 33rd Wedding Anniversary.

Did a bit of birding on Sunday, but saw very little then on Monday two of the hardest and most difficult to reach Munro’s Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhor were on the agenda. We were up at 5.30am and walked in from Craig for four miles to the river crossing, it was pouring down the whole way and I was beginning to question why I was doing this. The river crossing is two wires that you have to shuffle across to get to the other side. We had used this crossing a couple of years ago doing two other hills. Unfortunately the bottom wire had snapped and after spending 15 minutes trying to locate a safer crossing there was nothing for it but to take off the boots and wade across using the top wire to steady ourselves.

We were joined by another walker who had camped out overnight, Charlie was good company and witty. He worked at Durness power station and he was soon acquired the nicknamed “Homer”. His blog name on Walk Highland is Trekker53 and he does some good reports.

It was then a stomp up to the bealach, then up a Corbett (2,500ft to 2,999ft) then descend to another bealach then the north face of Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich (or Cheesecake) confronted us. It was scary! There was a faint path which we followed then we had to scramble up a 50ft high crack which had water pouring down it. Then we were faced by a massive cliff, I managed to find the gully that you have to use to gain access then we were there just a 500ft climb up to the summit. We then dropped down to the col where at last there were around a dozen Ptarmigan.

We left our rucksacks here to climb to the top of Lurg Mhor arguably the remotest of Munros, it is certainly one of the hardest to get too. We dropped into Glen Monar then traversed across the aforementioned Corbett back to the bealach down to the river – boots off. We left Charlie at his tent, gave him the Zulu wave before we disappeared from view then it was back to the car – 13 and a half hours later. We then when down to the pub for a few well earned pints.
The north face of Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgach

The next day feeling brave we climb Liathach which contains two Munro’s Spidean a’ Choire Leith and Mullach an Rathain. This is regarded as one of the most difficult and exposed of the mainland Munro’s and I was a little worried how the wife’s would react, especially when I read that an experience woman climber had fallen to her death just a couple of years back! So to protect my ears I kept that to myself!

It was a steep climb for a couple of hours until we hit the ridge, but this was probably the best day weather wise and the views were simply stunning. We hit the first Munro in good time and the next section was the tricky bit across the pinnicles. It actually turned out to be a lot easier than I was expecting and after an hour all the difficulties were over and we had a pleasant ridge walk along to the second summit of the day Mullach an Rathain. It was a steep descent and after having walked three days out of four I was looking forward to a rest.
Liathach – the pinnacle ridge with Spidean a’ Choire Leith behind.

Mullach an Rathain at the other end of the ridge.

Ben Alligin from Mullach an Rathain with Upper Loch Torridon and the Hebrides beyond.

Our day off found us birding the Applecross area. This contains the highest road in the UK where it is possible to see Ptarmigan. I though great, I will take my photographic equipment and get some photographs. Well I nearly had a first, we parked up and headed to the mast on the hill we scoured the area for 90 minutes we got caught in hail and rain and after 85 minutes and nearly back at the car, I hadn’t seen a single bird! Now that has never happened to me ever, then I was rescued by a single Meadow Pipit.

At Applecross it was really crowded so we didn’t stay long but there were a group of eleven summer plumaged Black-throated divers just off-shore.

As we were heading home on Friday – Thursday was our last day walking and we chose another remote hill Maoile Lunndaidh this was the same starting point, the hamlet of Craig but instead of crossing the river we followed the track further up the glen. It was very steep going but soon we reached a large plateau and for a change there were a lot of birds.

I am 99% certain that I saw an immature Snow Bunting but I never got great views plus my bins were covered in sweat droplets and by the time I cleaned them the bird was gone. My brother who was ahead of me, spotted the bird and he was reasonably sure it was one as he was closer to it than I was at first.

However there were loads of Golden Plover and Meadow Pipits all around the summit. I now haven’t seen Golden Eagle on the hills for a couple of years and I am getting desperate, but still I have a few more hills to do this year just 46 left to do!!!

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