Saturday 8th August 2009
Weather/Conditions: Morning climb, so we started in the dark. Climbed into cloud at around 3-400m as it got light, and then came out of cloud at the summit where we saw the sun rise. Beautiful place to be, although the wind was rather cold.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 6.4km / 920m / 3h 25m
Accompanying: Michael C., M, Michael K. (from MunroMagic.com forums)
I took the train to Edinburgh on the 7th where I met Michael Coffield. The ticket was just £1.80, which I could only take advantage of by boarding the 9am Penzance train from Glasgow Central. Once at Edinburgh, we took the A9 north and picked up two hitch hikers who we dropped off beneath the Cairngorms. We travelled up through Inverness and Lairg, finally following the single track road that took us to the north coast. Some showers passed as we passed Ben Loyal, but had cleared by the time we arrived in Tongue.
The schedule was to meet Michael K. and Martin at the foot of Ben Hope where we'd establish a campsite for the night. Michael C. and I had plenty of time before nightfall so we drove as Durness in time for dinner before backtracking to Ben Hope where we arrived in darkness.
We met Michael K. first and Martin pulled up some time later. When he suggested we go for a night climb, we essentially all agreed on the spot. It had been on all our minds. We put the tents up for the night, but the alarms were set for 3am.
Having caught a few hours sleep, we packed away and headed south down Strath More to Ben Hope's starting point. The planned route was up the southern flank, although we might had opted for the steeper north ridge had it not been dark. Getting to the start was problematic in itself, because a van parked half way off a single track road did not want to move without a fight. Michael C. and I spent at least twenty minutes trying to get it going again. By the time we were moving, we'd lost a substantial amount of tyre to the road and carried out a seven point turn (Or more...). The joys!
When we finally arrived at the car park and got walking, we followed path up alongside a river with waterfalls tumbling to our left. It was quite a steep climb at this point, but only while we had to get onto the southern flank of the hill. In the valleys around about, the cloud spilled over the surrounding mountains, hinting that we could have the kind of conditions for a cloud inversion. Equally, this could be thicker cloud moving in and we may not see anything at all.
The darkness of night disappeared to morning as we ascended, and by the time we arrived on the south flank, we were in a sort of half light with cloud shifting around about. The wind came from the south east, so at this point the mountain blocked any views in that direction. We couldn't tell if any thicker cloud was to come, but we'd heard that the weather would not be good today and guessed that the prospects were not looking up. We were so wrong...
We began to climb northwards in the direction of the summit, but it would be a long, gradual ascent. We went into cloud and climbed onwards with the summit in mind. It was hardly the most inspiring climb, but I was into the way of plodding onwards, doing this until just beneath the summit where the cloud began to clear. First of all we only had a brief glimpse westwards, but it cleared completely just as the summit trig point came into view. Beyond, the sun was rising and to be caught in this unexpected moment was very beautiful indeed.
I had anticipated some kind of reward for getting up early - there always is payment for getting of your arse and doing something. But this sunrise was absolutely astonishing, and as the wind blasted the clouds around about us as well as beneath in the valleys, the sun illuminated everything in a golden glow, with hints of blue where something was in shadow. The sun reflected off the sea and silhouetted the land in front of it. I've seen a few inversions and sunrises now, but they never fail to impress just the same as the first time I saw them. Such things are always wonderful to sit and take in...
Michael C. and I had arrived first, but Michael K. and Martin joined us soon after. We had an extended picture taking session before deciding it best now to go down. The wind was very cold and the windbreaker wasn't big enough to shelter four people. Having been up for half an hour, we headed back to the cars.
The descent took a while and with the sun now up, there was less to capture interest. We followed the path south for a long time, before it turned right and dipped down into the valley. A final steep ascent brought us back to the car, where we arrived 1 hour 20 minutes after leaving the top.
We then drove south to Ben Klibreck, which was next on today's agenda. On the way, we stopped at Dun Dornaigil, and as we went on, the weather continued to look good. Instead of having the expected low cloud, it would turn into a very nice day.
(0.00) 4.25am Muiseal
(1.35) 6.00am Ben Hope
(2.05) 6.30am Ben Hope (left)
(3.25) 7.50am Muiseal