Mon 16th Ascent of Beinn Damh
I was very aware that the last time I visited Beinn Damh I was with Stephanie Roberts, when low visibility and horizontal rain led us to retreat from the first bealach. This time Tracey and I set off towards a misty mountain, walking through a snowstorm across the moorland. Nearing the cloud level as we ascended the steep difficult going track over two rises we maybe had second thoughts. By the time we set off from the Toll Ban Bealach the clouds had lifted, the ground did not seem so steep and the snow underfoot was much more inviting, especially as impressive views of the surrounding hills began to appear. The final summit could be seen ahead. We stopped below the subsidiary top (Beinn Damh itself) for a break before continuing traversing on old snow covering the rocky ground. The final snow ridge to the summit (Spidean Corrie an Laoigh) was the only place where the wind appeared in any strength and it was a joy to go up the final 150 feet on firm snow with big drops each side. Views of the surrounding hills and lochs were stunning so we lingered a while before heading back down. A welcome stop in sunshine for refreshment followed before heading over Beinn Damh and scrunching down the snow. We traversed across to avoid the steep broken path and happily made our way to the river to view the waterfalls. A memorable winter day walk, great views, navigation interest, good companionship. Stephanie would have loved it.
Friday 20th Solo ascent of Moel Chearn Dearg
The day promised some wind on the tops, freezing level 800 metres, cloudy summits and snow showers. All of these duly appeared. I set off from the hostel, knowing there was a good warm up – a mile of tarmac then several miles of gently rising path, reaching the newly fallen snow at 400 metres. The dull light and snow cast the hills into a kind of greyness and Loch Uaine took on an eerie appearance, especially as the promised wind had not appeared. By the time I had walked round to the south side of the peak there were several inches of snow on the ground and the now rising track became slippery and steep. The clouds were misting down from the summits and the wind duly arrived. I sat sheltering behind a rock below the start of the summit ridge and suddenly the mist rolled away and a patch of blue sky allowed a brief welcome blast of heat from the sun. The first pull up was steep with knee-deep snow then the clouds came down, the wind intensified and stinging particles of snow and hail drove from the sky. Visibility reduced and the final steep snow covered boulder field had to be negotiated carefully. No views, cold wind, a be-rimed summit cairn and a careful descent over the steep ground followed. Varying the return, I struck off the path towards Beinn Damh, finding my way across a mile of boggy drumlins to the path from Loch Damh to Torridon and enjoyed spectacular views of the Beinn Damh cliffs in the mist before a serious hailstorm hit just before I waded the river and descended the wooded path to the road. An eight hour day and time well spent.