Saturday, 3 August 2013

Scafell Pike from Wasdale

I have decided to join my brother in law Tim on his Three Peaks Challenge in the first weekend of August. In the past fortnight we have been trying to get fit. We have climbed a few mountains together, I've been returning to regularly footy as has Tim and he has also been out running most nights. I am struggling with my fitness which isn't being helped by the fact I am still recovering from my ankle injury and on a heavy daily dose of adrenaline stopping blood pressure control medication. So this weekend we decided to walk one of the routes we would be doing during the challenge and test our fitness by seeing how fast we could make it to the top and back down again.

Scafell Pike and Scafell across Wast Water, Lake District

The nation was still gripped in a heat wave though it was now mixed with spells of thunder storms. Saturdays weather forecast for the Lake District looked promising though with all the thundery weather staying down south and not moving north until later on Saturday night. The drive up was a good one with no problems. As with every trip round to the more remote Wasdale though, you forget just how far and tedious the drive round to that far side is. As the weather was good though the views made it an enjoyable experience. The outlying fell of Black Combe looked absolutely stunning as we passed. I really want to climb up it one day as I would imagine its close proximity to Morecambe Bay and the Southern Fells must make it a fine viewpoint.

My new car by Wast Water with the Scafells in the background

We turned off the main road and headed down the minor roads towards Wasdale Head. Wast Water look amazing with not a cloud in site and England's highest mountains dominating the skyline. Locals and holidaying tourists were swimming in the waters with the stunning Screes behind them. The perfect weather gave me a chance to pull over and take some great photos of Scafell and Scafell Pike that will be ideal for the websites walks pages as I've rarely had the chance to photograph them in these conditions before.

Scafell Pike and Scafell across Wast Water, Lake District

We pulled up at the lay-by opposite the entrance to the camp site road and were surprised to find a few spare parking spaces. We parked up there to save having to pay £4.50 at the National Trust pay and display car park behind the camp site. We kitted up and covered ourselves in factor fifty suncream. Setting off along the track past the campsite towards Brackenclose a large Grey Heron flew right over our heads.

Great Gable from Wast Water, Lake District National Park

We crossed the wide road bridge below Brackenclose then followed the path between the climbing hut and the gill to reach the higher bridge which we crossed to reach the northern side of the gill. The footpath was fairly easy going at the start, the huge western crags of Scafell Pike dominating the skyline ahead of us.

Tim walking up Lingmell Gill towards Scafell Pike, Lake District

We headed through another gate at the last wall and followed the path up the northern side of Lingmell Gill. The path was now starting to get a bit steeper. We crossed Lingmell Gill and made our way up the much steeper Brown Tongue. This short section up Brown Tongue is by far the most difficult part of this ascent route and I really struggled to get up it as I was getting chest pains and stomach cramps. I have to say I am really not looking forward to climbing this section next weekend on the challenge when I will already have struggled up Ben Nevis several hours before.

Wast Water from Lingmell Gill ascent path, Lake District

Finally we reached the section above Brown Tongue where the path finally flattens out for a while as it crosses the tricky boulder strewn section at Hollow Stones. The path disappears a few times over Hollow Stones which is probably why a few inexperienced people doing the Three Peaks Challenge get caught out here. I would imagine a fair few take the wrong way at the fork just before it too and end up on the steep scree climb up to Mickledore.

Mickledore col between Scafell Pike and Scafell, Lake District

The path climbed wide zig zags to reach Lingmell Col between Lingmell Fell and Scafell Pike. Tim took a few desire lines while I stuck to the path as it was easier. As we reached the top of Lingmell Fell there was a loud crashing noise to our right. Ourselves and several other walkers all stopped in our tracks and watch in amazement as a huge rockfall fell down the crags.

Tim ascending the path above Lingmell Col, Scafell Pike, Lake District

We started the final ascent to Scafell Pikes summit from Lingmell Fell. At the start of the climb I could see clearly the top of the Corridor Route that we were supposed to have found the fortnight before on our descent to Seathwaite. Then further up I saw the cairns that forced us to take the more difficult shortcut route.

Great Gable and Styhead Tarn from Scafell Pike, Lake District

At one point on the ascent to the summit the path climbs up some impressive looking slabs. Looking north from the ascent path the view was amazing. You could see as far as Skiddaw, Blencathra and Derwentwater, but what really impressed was the closer views to Great Gable and Styhead Tarn which were awesome.

Broad Crag, Ill Crag and Great End from Scafell Pike, Lake District

This is the fourth time I have climbed to the summit of Scafell Pike and the first time I have seen anything from its lofty summit. We climbed on to the top of the huge stone built platform at the summit. We took a great shot of Tim and myself and a few in each direction. The views were fantastic, particularly along the Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Great End ridge, though it was a little hazy. We had lunch and watched the swarms of people arriving as we ate.

Crowds on Scafell Pike summit, Lake District National Park

Scafell from Scafell Pike summit, Lake District National Park

Myself and Tim on Scafell Pike summit, Lake District

Scafell and Wast Water from Scafell Pike, Lake District National Park

Lingmell Fell and Great Gable from Scafell Pike

Tim stopped his stopwatch when we arrived at the summit. We made it to the top in an impressive one hour and forty eight minutes. We had read that the mountain should be done in four hours maximum on the challenge. This gave us an easy two hours ten minutes to get down.

Tim descending slabs down Scafell Pike with Great Gable beyond 

Tim started the stopwatch again as we set off on our descent. We were quick but by no means uncomfortably or annoyingly to other walkers. The only point at which we really rushed and started to  jog was right at the end after we reached the crossing of Lingmell Gill under Brown Tongue and Tim pointed out that if we got to the start in twenty minutes we would make the whole walk up and down in less than three hours.

Tim descending Hollow Stones with Wast Water beyond

We made it back to the National Trust car park in just one hour and eight minutes, meaning that we did the entire walk up and down in just two hours and fifty six minutes. We were really impressed, especially as I was struggling so badly up Brown Tongue on the ascent. This gave us great confidence in our ability to complete Three Peaks Challenge this next weekend.

Contrasting colours towards Pillar on Scafell Pike descent

Its going to be one of the hardest challenges of my life. I know I have a lot of hill experience, but at the moment I am really struggling for fitness. If you have a spare fiver please donate to my just giving page. I am doing the challenge with my brother in law Tim's and his friends from the Great British Food Festival and the Onion Ring website. We are hoping to raise as much money as we can for the fantastic Rainbow House. Rainbow House helps children with physical disabilities to become more active and independent through conductive education and early years services, aiming to achieve each child's goal in sitting, standing and walking and improve their social skills in eating, dressing and toileting, making integration into mainstream school and the community easier. Not only do they help children with disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, Metabolic and other genetic motor disorders, they also provide support for their families and carers...

Click here for my Just Giving donation page...

Tim descending Hollow Stones with Wast Water beyond

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Thursday, 1 August 2013

Moel Siabod from Pont Cyfyng

My friend Simon recently traversed the Crib Goch ridge on Snowdon and like most adventurous and outgoing people who experience the thrill of Crib Goch he wants more. He has discovered the fun, excitement and satisfaction you get from hands on scrambling. So when Simon arranged his next walk via Facebook it was no surprise that he chose a mountain with a ridge scrambling route. If you ask anyone the locals that live or work in Snowdonia what is their favourite mountain the name you will hear the most is Moel Siabod. It has everything the three main popular mountain massifs have yet it is totally over looked by most hill walkers. It has glacial cwms, disused quarries, ridges, geology, wildlife, stunning panoramic views and a high exposed summit. All this and the lack of people make it the locals favourite and their best kept secret.

Tim, Andrew and Simon heading towards Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

I wasn't lucky with the weather the last two times I climbed Moel Siabod. The first attempt was a disaster as the winds were incredibly strong. In fact they were so bad that there was a National Trust ranger at the lay-by warning people how bad the winds were on the summit. The second attempt was an enjoyable day out but the summit was shrouded in thick cloud so there were no views again. On that trip we ascended the steep unforgiving scree slope by the side of the Daear Ddu ridge instead of the ridge itself which wasn't the best choice. This time however we were guaranteed clear blue skies as the nation was gripped in a fortnight long heat wave.

Tim, Andrew and Simon walking past quarry lake below Moel Siabod

After a very easy drive along the A55 we parked up in the Pont Cyfyng lay-by and waited for the arrival of Simon and Andrew who arrived only minutes later. We crossed the bridge over the Afon Llugwy river which is stunning as it cascades through a chasm below the bridge. We turned right crossing the cattle grid and ascended the steep tarmac road towards Rhos. At the top of the road where it bends right we headed up the new footpath that now diverts walkers round the farm and is actually a much nicer route through bracken and heather. The footpath rejoined the track above the farm where we turned left and continued in the direction of Moel Siabod.

Tim passing huge quarry tips below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

I first walked up Moel Siabdod just over a decade ago as the Crow Act was coming into play. The popular guide book I used at the time showed a different route to this one and the maps I used at the time had no Access Land shading on them. Therefore when I wrote up the walk which was one of the first to appear on my website I hadn't realised that the farmer and council had negotiated the access land around his private land. This meant that the route I put up was now unfortunately no longer crossing designated open access land but the farmers private land. Unfortunately the farmer at the time decided to write to me with an immediately very negative and unnecessary attitude which somewhat effected the speed at which I chose to correct the page.

Quarry buildings below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

We crossed a few stiles and made our way left of the end of the mountain skirting the right hand side of  the dammed lake below the disused quarry. We explored the disused quarry buildings and Simon did his best impression of Gollum exploring an old tunnel.

Simon exploring quarry tunnel below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia 

We continued on our ascent, passing the huge disused quarry tips. We reached the small yet deep quarry now filled with water. Usually here there is a waterfall that runs down a slab chute but today after the last fortnight's heat wave there was not even a trickle.

Quarry below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales

After another easy ascent over grassy and slightly boggy ground we reached the stunning Llyn y Foel. This really is a magical place and one of the best wild camping spots you are likely to find. The lake had a surprising number of rocky islands and muddy beaches as its water levels were unusually low.

Approaching Llyn y Foel, Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

As we approached Llyn y Foel we got our first view of our ascent route, the Daear Ddu ridge. On both of my previous visits to Llyn y Foel the cloud base was a the same height as the lake and I saw nothing of the ridge. Today it however it was totally clear. I never realised what a huge amphitheatre Moel Siabod created behind Llyn y Foel as most photos are taken towards the lake and not towards the mountain and its huge cliffs.

Panorama of Moel Siabod from Llyn y Foel, Snowdonia National Park

We had lunch above Llyn y Foel at the foot of the ridge and slapped sun cream over our exposed skin. Simon attached his new GoPro camera to his chest and we were ready to go. Tim had never done any scrambling before and was looking a little apprehensive after looking up at the ridge.

Tim, Andrew and Simon below Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

The scrambling up the Daear Ddu ridge was awesome. The rock was so grippy it was almost impossible to make a wrong move.

Andrew scrambling up the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

I found it hard to concentrate on the scrambling as the photo opportunities of the guys scrambling and the views down to Llyn y Foel were endless.

Simon Daear Ddu above Llyn y Foel, Moel Siabod

The only thing I had to concentrate on at times was being Dad to Simon and telling him to be careful. He was like a small child that had been giving a giant climbing frame in his back garden for Christmas.

Simon scrambling up Daear Ddu on Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

Andrew taking a break on the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod

Simon high on the Daear Ddu ridge above Llyn y Foel, Snowdonia

Tim was by now loving the experience of his first proper scramble and said afterwards how glad he was that he had done it. He is really starting to see the benefits of the confidence and techniques gained from hill time. He is super fit at the moment and now watching him walk up and down mountains I can see him creating his own technical style and gaining confidence. Its amazing how differently and with more confidence someone handles things like rocky descents after they have had a few days out in the hills.

Tim ascending the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

Scrambling section on top of the Daear Ddu ridge on Moel Siabod

The scrambling wasn't constant along the ridge and at the half way point there the rocks gave way to a grassier easy going slope. Looking up from here the top part of the ridge looked pretty frightening, but apart from one hands on section the rest was fairly simple scrambling and we reached the top surprisingly quickly. The ridge tops out almost literally at the summit too so when the scrambling stops you are only a dozen metres from the top.

Simon on the Moel Siabod summit trig point pillar, Snowdonia

Snowdon, The Glyders and The Carneddau from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

The summit of Moel Siabod is most famous for its perfect panoramic views. It stands alone in an outlying position just south of Snowdonia's three main mountain massifs. There are three hundred and sixty degree all round views but the views that grab your attention are those to the Snowdon, Glyderrau and Carneddau massifs.

Tim at the Moel Siabod trig point pillar, Snowdonia National Park

Llyn y Foel and the Daear Ddu ridge from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia

We had a bite to eat, took dozens of photos and Simon and I took turns climbing up on to the trig point pillar for the standard arms out photo before descending north east along the mountains main ridge. There is an easier path to the left of the ridge crest but we took the far more exciting route along the ridge crest which consists of slanting grippy rock.

Myself on the Moel Siabod trip point pillar, Snowdonia National Park

It was great looking back down to the Daear Ddu ridge knowing that we had ascended the ridge. It is an awesome looking ridge with pointy slanted rocks and fairly serious cliff drops.

Daear Ddu ridge from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park

Llyn y Foel from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales
Llyn y Foel also looked awesome from above. It is a fantastic shape which really adds to its mystical reputation. I hope to come back one day and wild camp by the lake and head up the ridge at dawn to see the sunset from the summit.

Llyn y Foel from Moel Siabod, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales

Looking down from the north eastern end of the main north east ridge we could see our entire ascent route. The aerial view of the disused quarries was really interesting too.  The whole way down the ridge we had huge panoramic horizon views and blue skies.

Andrew looking down on our ascent route from Moel Siabod

The end of the ridge was quite strange as the paths just totally disappeared. I'm guessing we should probably have headed off to the left to that easier path. We met the track we ascended earlier and followed it back down to Pont Cyfyng. The Bryn Glo pub across the road at the start of the walk now has an outdoor wood fired stone baked pizza oven which I really wanted to take advantage of, but we had a family barbecue awaiting our attendance back at home. So we said our goodbyes, all agreed it was a great day out and set off for home along the A55 which was busy but not as bad as previous trips. Moel Siabod is a fantastic mountain and its no wonder the locals say it is their favourite.

Simon looks fetching in local wool hair piece

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Monday, 29 July 2013

Arkle, Handa Island & Kylesku Holiday

This years summer holiday with Steve, Elaina and Craig took me to the far north west of Scotland. The guys booked self catering accomodation in Kylesku just a few hundreds yards from the Kylesku Hotel. It was called An Cladah which is gaelic for a safe haven. The last two years we were based in Ullapool and visited Kylesku on our last night to indulge in their incredible seafood platter. Most people pass Kylesku over its most famous landmark, its bridge. In a high sweeping curved arc it impressively spans the narrows of Caolas Cumhann where the turbulent waters of the merging sea lochs Loch Gleann Dubh and Loch Glencoul meet the sea loch of Loch a' Chairn Bhain. The panoramic scene is truly breath taking with massive mountains, massive skies and massive sea lochs. The idea of a big concrete bridge being centre stage here would horrify most people, but somehow they made this bridge look like it belonged and won many awards for its stunning design. The bridge replaced an old ferry crossing that is no longer used. The ferry crossed the Caolas Cumhann at a slipway at the bottom of the sheltered fishing hamlet where there are just over a dozen buildings including our accomodation for the week. The views out of the front of the building were to the sheltered Camas na Cusgaig bay with nothing but mountains and big skies beyond.

Seafood Platter at Kylesku Hotel, Scotland
Friday and Saturday

I drove up to Ayrshire on the Friday night as Steve and Elaina put me up for the night which was great as it meant the long journey was cut in half. I'd not seen much of Ayrshire before and really enjoyed the drive along the A71 across Ayrshire. Loudoun Hill is certainly something I will climb up if I am ever on my way along that road again. That night we watched the weather and unfortunately it showed nothing but rain for the far north for the coming week. The next day we headed north, stopping at the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum for fish suppers as it would have been rude not too, then continued our journey north via Morrisons in Fort William and a cheeky half pint of An Teallach at the lovely Aultguish Inn by Loch Droma. When we reached Ullapool we got a bit of a shock. We looked to down to Loch Broom expecting to see the quiet fishing port and village front. However it was obscured by the biggest cruise ships I've ever seen. It turns out that the forty three and a half thousand tonne privately owned luxury residential cruise ship 'The World' had decided to visit Ullapool. It was huge and totally dominated the usually quaint picture postcard scene. Ben Mor Coigach looked as grand as it always does as we descended to the beach at Ardmair. We passed Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt then turned right to ascend the A894 over the bealach towards Kylesku and the wind and rain we would spend the week with hit us head on. After unpacking at An Cladah we made our way down to the Kylesku Hotel for Razor Clams, Seafood Platter and Red Cuillin ale. Craig and I left the table after our meals and made our way down to the jetty as we know from experience you are almost always likely to see Grey Seals in the water. We saw a few Grey Seals and then had the shock of our lives as we both looked right and saw a startled large dog Otter staring straight at us. As Craig raised his arm to point at the Otter it literally flew off the rocks and into the water like a life guard. Craig ran to get the others but it was already long gone.

The Split Rock at Clachtoll Beach, Assynt, Scotland


The next day I felt quite ill. It was only the second week of taking the new stronger Propanolol tablets I am now on for my high blood pressure so I just presumed it was probably the effects of these. Looking back now I think the seafood was probably to blame. We planned on an easy day on Sunday as the weather forecast wasn't great. We drove to Lochinver where we visited the Lochinver Pie Shop then visited the visitor centre where they have currently setup a webcam on a nearby Golden Eagle nest. We drove home along the scenic route via Clachtoll Beach where we had a great time walking along the beaches at Bay of Clachtoll and Bay of Stoer. On the drive home I felt very ill and by the time we got home I was sick and extremely low on energy so went to bed early. Unfortunately that pattern followed for the next three days and it was Wednesday before I felt like myself. Not great when you are sharing a house with others, I felt really bad as I wasn't myself at all.

Great Stack on Handa Island, Scotland


I was still not feeling well and the weather was not great, but there was the odd dry and sunny spell. We decided on a trip out to Handa Island with a chance of seeing Puffins, which I have never seen before. We drove down a scenic road with small hillocks and lochans to the tiny fishing hamlet of Tarbet. The weather hadn't been too bad so far but as soon as we got out of the car the heavens opened and a short sharp shower soaked us so I hid in the local phone box, only re-appearing after the rain had finished. The ferry out to Handa Island is a small rib. The trip across the Sound of Handa was very quick and smooth which pleased me no end considering my sensitive state. As we reached Handa Island the stormy skies cleared and gave way to blue skies. We landed at a sheltered beach on the south east corner of the island and it really did look like we hand landed in paradise. Artic Terns in their hundreds were swooping around the beach looking like a mix of a Seagull and a Peregrine. We were taken to a small shelter just above the beach where RSPB volunteers gave us a talk on the island and its wildlife. Most worryingly how not to be attacked by an angry Great Skua. We walked a four mile circular route that crossed the island to the north side then headed anti clockwise around the western side of the island. The path is an excellent wooden boardwalk most of the way which does a good job of keeping walkers to the path avoiding ground nesting birds. The Great Skuas were not to be messed with and were huge and scary looking things. When we reached the Great Stack on the northern side of the island we watched Puffins on the top of the cliffs and literally thousands of Guillemots below them. It was a brilliant day out that I will definitely do again one day. We had lunch on the far western side of the island looking out at waves crashing over the rocks. The views to the mainland were stunning with mountains making up a wide panoramic horizon. We had cake and drinks at The Shorehouse restaurant back at Tarbet then headed home. When we returned home I felt ill again and tired so went to bed early yet again. The others went what they called 'Otter spotting' or to the rest of us, five minutes staring at water then an hour in the pub.

Puffin on Handa Island, Scotland


Got out of bed at midday. Felt like myself for the first time since Sunday morning. Weather forecast was rubbish again so we decided to drive down to Ullapool. It was one of those eerie days when there is hardly any wind, its dark in the middle of the day and the clouds are dark but high and above the highest summits. For the first time all week we could see the summits of all Assynt's giants. Quinag, Ben More Assynt, Canisp, Suilven, Cul Mor, Cul Beag, Stac Pollaidh and Ben Mor Coigach all looked stunning. In the end this was probably the best day of them all weather wise. We had a look around the gear shop and gallery in Ullappol then made our way to the Ceilidh Place for delicious lunch of French Toast, Mushrooms, Bacon and Maple Syrup. Sadly I felt unwell again after eating. We drove home via the scenic road under Stac Pollaidh then to Lochinver via Inverkirkaig. That road is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. We had tasty burgers for dinner at the fantastic Caberfeidh restaurant in Lochinver before heading home through yet more pish weather.

Waterfall in Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland


Steve looked at a map the night before and asked how far north I had been. The furthest I had ever been was the Kyle of Durness at the point where the tiny ferry crosses the sound to the minibus that heads out to Cape Wrath. I had never been further than that, not been to Durness itself or anywhere beyond. Steve picked out a circular route that would take us up to Durness, across to Tongue, down to towards Lairg then back across to Laxford Bridge via Loch Shin. What a fantastic drive and a fantastic day to do it. The weather most places further south of Ullapool was cloudy with rain but in the far north it was a mixture of low cloud, blue skies and sunshine for most of the day. We headed north and stopped at the beach at Faraid Head which was lovely though I suspect its close proximity to the rather tempting Cocoa Mountain had a lot more to do with our visit to this wonderful little peninsula. Cocoa Mountain was heavenly, a quirky chocolate factory and shop in the middle of nowhere selling the most delicious chocolate truffles and drinks. We headed to Durness and Smoo Cave. I'd read about Smoo Cave many times and always wanted to visit. I expected a big wet dark cave with not too much to look at. I was so wrong. The cove beyond the cave is stunning enough, but inside is a waterfall and boat trip further into the cave. It was awesome and a bargain for a few quid. Visible fault lines, waterfalls, calcified rocks, geology, bird life, history, it had it all. After Smoo we made our way along the coast to another stunning beach, this one Traigh allt Chailgeag.

Steve, Elaina and Craig on their rock at Traigh allt Chailgeag beach, Scotland

Here I had fun scrambling along the rocky eastern side of the beach whilst the others made their way across the beach to a mini stack of rock they climbed and sat on for a while. After Traigh allt Chailgeag the road crossed extremely barren wild land then headed in land for several miles following the huge inlet of Loch Eriboll. After Eriboll the road crossed the River Hope outflowing from Loch Hope and as the road ascended from Hope we got our first sight of Ben Hope, the most northerly of all the Munros. We crossed another extremely wild expanse then the road reached the impressive Tongue Causeway. From the causeway there is a picture perfect view down the Kyle of Tongue to Ben Loyal. At Tongue we took the road to Lairg. This was now a different landscape again, extremely wild and barren but on a day like today with barely a cloud in the sky it was absolutely breathtaking. After passing Ben Loyal we passed through Altnaharra which Steve and myself being weather geeks loved as this is often one of the coldest spots in Britain as the Met Office has a small weather station here which we passed. We passed the huge Ben Klibreck which still had a patch of snow on its northern face, before stopping by at the somewhat unique Crask Inn. Unfortunately they had no food and some strange stuff coming out of their ale taps so we had to go elsewhere for dinner. We carried on and eventually stopped at the Overscaig Hotel by Loch Shin. This was a lovely place, the guy that owned the place was extremely friendly and hospitable. The food was excellent, I had Venison Lasagne which was to die for. The other people in the place were friendly too and it had a very relaxing feel about the place. The drive between there and Laxford Bridge passing Loch Merkland, Loch More and Loch Stack was awesome. Looking out at Arkle over Loch Stack that evening we just knew we had to come back the next day and climb it.

Arkle across Lock Stack, Sutherland, Scotland

After being ill for most of the week and putting up with some pretty pish weather I wasn't really up for climbing up anything huge, but I did want to try and climb up something spectacular if possible. Arkle seemed the perfect choice as it was only up the road and I had gorged over photographs of its narrow ridge and quartzite slopes in books many times. Steve had done most of the driving during the week and Elaina had been an absolute star and let me sit in the front to avoid me getting motion sickness which I tend to suffer from when sat in the back of cars. So today I decided to drive. It only took around twenty minutes to get up to Laxford Bridge then across to the parking layby at the far end of Loch Stack. Unfortunately the wind had picked up overnight and I could feel it moving the car quite dramatically so worried about how it would be up a mountain. I was right to worry as the wind did indeed end up stopping us from topping out on Arkle. We parked up and made our way along the track by Loch Stack. There were several tall, dark and foreboding clouds dotted around with curtains of rain hanging from them. One passed over Ben Stack on our left and the worst of it missed us just. As we turned the bend and headed toward Lone we looked up to see that the wind was so strong up high that it was blowing the Allt Eason an t-Siabaidh waterfall back up over itself. It looked as if the mountain was smoking. We crossed the bridge at Lone and walked through the huge split boulder at the entrance to the small forest by the Allt Horn. The track ascended zig zags behind the forest then a small cairn by the path side marked the start of the ascent. The going was okay for a while but the wind was picking as we climbed higher. In the shelter of the ridge on our left protecting us from the strong south westerly winds we could handle the gusts, but as we got higher and the path headed to the exposed crest of the ridge we started to struggle and it was very unnerving at times. The guys decided there was no way they would be able to make it to the southern summit of Arkle and I agreed but also had a massive urge to stand on top of a mountain. The guys turned back and I decided to go on by myself and instead head towards the satellite summit of Meall Aonghais. The ascent was fairly easy going until I hit the col between Meall Aonghais and the southern summit of Arkle. I struggled so badly to balance at one point that I gave up and instead got on all fours and clambered up the boulder strewn slope on all fours. The summit was wider than it appeared from below and was covered in fascinating examples of Pipe Rock, a kind of quartz sandstone with vertical burrows. I quickly took some photos towards Fionaven then sped down the southern slope of Meall Aonghais and met up with the guys at the main path back down through the forest where we sheltered from the rain eating lunch. The wind was so strong it whipped up the waters of Lock Stack into tornadoes on our way back along the track. Below are all of the photos from the walk. That night I packed and in the morning I was woken suddenly when Steve decided to burn the kitchen down and set the smoke alarm off cooking bacon. A week of pretty pish weather and feeling ill but I think you'll agree we all made the most of it. I was glad to be with the guys and delighted to discover lots of new areas.

Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Ben Stack and Loch Stack, Scottish Highlands

Arkle above Loch Stack, Scottish Highlands
Allt Eason an t-Siabaidh waterfall on Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Craig and Steve approaching Lone below Arkle, Scottish Highlands
Lone below Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Split boulder by Allt Horn forest, Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Ben Stack across Loch Stack from Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Looking towards Ben Hee from Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Ascending Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Pipe Rock on Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Pipe Rock on Arkle, Scottish Highlands
Arkle south summit from Meall Aonghais, Scottish Highlands

Ben Stack and Arkle from Meall Aonghais, Scottish Highlands

Slabs on descent of Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Looking south from descent of Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Waterfalls on descent of Arkle, Scottish Highlands
Waterfalls on descent of Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Scots Pines below Arkle, Scotland

Allt Horn, Arkle, Scotland

Steve, Craig and Elaina lunching by Allt Horn, Scottish Highlands
Craig leaping off the split boulder, Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Craig leaping off the split boulder, Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Craig leaping off the split boulder, Arkle, Scottish Highlands
Arkle, Scottish Highlands

Water being whipped up by wind on Loch Stack, Scottish Highlands
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