Sunday, 20 July 2014

Thursday 17th July – The Completion

On Wednesday we booked up a B&B in Poolewe in the north-west corner of Scotland we were up at 5.45am and after a hasty breakfast we made a very short drive to the beginning of our final walk. We had left the best until last with A’ Mhaighdean considered to have some of the finest views from a summit in Scotland. It is also 12 miles from the nearest road! In our discussions we had decided that in actual fact we would climb Ruadh Stac Mor last, basically because it is easier to pronounce!

We walked into the farm at Kernsary then through a muddy forest trail onto the open moorland then worked our way for a further seven miles to the secluded bothy at Carnmore in the middle of the last wilderness in the UK. The weather at this point was fair but low cloud was shrouding the hills but the forecast was for an improving picture during the day.

Not that it was uppermost in my thoughts on this day it was quite good for birds, with Black and Red-throated Diver seen plus lots of Dipper and a Cuckoo being fed by couple of Meadow Pipits.

We crossed a man made causeway across the Dubh Loch then started a ascent on a good stalkers path until we reached the stream flowing out of Lochan Feith Mhic-illean. Unfortunately due to yesterdays heavy rain this was in spate and we had to remove our boots and wade across!

We then climbed to the col at 750 metres between our two final hills, it had taken over five hours to get this far and the cloud showed no sign in lifting. We then started to follow the path south-west up the slopes of A’ Mhaighdean and 40 minutes later we were standing by a cairn with another cairn 30 yards away. Neither were substantial and I was not happy, visibility was really poor so I headed off 400 yards to north-east to make sure we were in the right place, the ridge just fell away, I went the other way and it also dropped away. The others were convinced we were at the summit – I wasn’t entirely happy but well you can’t loose a summit can you!

On top of Ruadh Stac Mor looking a little chuffed, 10 minutes later it was a different story!

Ruadh Stac Mor

The view from the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor
Well it has taken us 20 years to get to this position, we descended to the col and started to make the short but steep climb to the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor, I have often wondered what would go through my mind at this point and to be honest it was just a case of concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. Then it was there, the climbing stopped and 40 yards away was the summit and the trig point. We joined hands and walked to the cairn and touched it together, that was it finished! Joy and Karen shed a tear or two, I felt a little emotional myself (didn’t cry though), I really did feel a sense of achievement, then as if someone from above had smiled upon us it cleared and we had some tremendous views. We managed to get mobile phone reception and we phoned our sons and parents. We took loads of photographs and after about 20 minutes we thought about our walk back out. At that point I took a photograph of A’ Mhaighdean for my records. I was horrified, as it came out of the mist I could see were we had been and off to the north-west was a obviously higher, outcrop with a cairn sitting on top of it!

Emotionally I am quite stable but I have never had them switch from elation to disappointment quite so quickly. What a cock-up! The look on the faces of the others when I pointed out that we had to climb A’Mhaighdean again was something else, Colin’s face resembled a startled Pollock! Joy nearly ripped my head of my shoulders pulling the binoculars to her eyes. The Munro’s were having a final laugh at our expense!

Surprisingly the climb back up A’ Mhaighdean wasn’t that bad and when we got there we realised what had happened we had just carried on climbing until we stopped whilst a faint path snaked off to the north-west. However, when we got there this time in contrast to 90 minutes earlier the views were absolutely stunning. I would be lying if it wasn’t an anti-climax and there was none of the emotion of earlier but in a strange way it was more satisfying. By now it was just after 3pm and we made our way back down to the col, half way down Joy just screamed out “Yes, we’ve done it!”

A’Mhaighdean with summit centre left and where we were the first time centre right!

The view from the summit of A’ Mhaighdean

The end!
As we descended from the col we met a walker on his way up with his dog, I had to resist the temptation to shout out we had just completed the Munro’s! We had to un-shoe again to cross the stream then made our way back down to Carnmore and the causeway. On the way down we met a German lad coming the other way, he had left Kinlochewe this morning without food, drink and a map. He was completely lost and was heading to the centre of the Letterewe which is the middle of nowhere.

Ruadh Stac Mor & A’ Mhaighdean in the late evening sunshine. (They are about three hours away)
He was in a bit of a panic and didn’t speak much English. We got him to join us back to Poolewe where he could stay in the hotel for the evening. He said he was ex German army and came from a village outside of Hamburg. After about an hour we realised he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything so we gave him a bottle of water and some sandwich’s and a Snickers. To say he was grateful was an understatement. Colin took Braun and went ahead dropping him off at the Poolewe hotel and driving the mile or so back up the road to pick us up. When we got back to the car it had taken us six hours from the summit of A’ Mhaighdean. It had been an epic 14 hour day but it will live in my memory for ever!

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