Ben More Assynt - 998m
Saturday 17th October 2009
Weather/Conditions: A fairly nice day until the summit of Conival when a front came in. Rain and mist afterwards. Ben More Assynt was clouded in for a second time.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 16km / 940m / 8h 25m
Accompanying: Up A Mountain MC - with Dave, Colin, Diane
I travelled up with Dave on the Friday as is usual, and spent that evening having a quiet night in with Colin and Diane in our accommodation. On Saturday morning, we set out for Conival and Ben More Assynt. I had already climbed these mountains in August with Michael Coffield and Martin Forbes, but didn't mind a revisit. The weather was looking good in the morning and some summit views this time around would make the repeat journey all worth it.
We left the cottage and followed the track up towards Conival. We cut off the track into Gleann Dubh, the enclosed valley that leads to the bottom of Conival's slopes. This whole section took us far longer than I remember it to be. When I was here the first time, it seemed to take no time at all to get onto Conival although this was perhaps linked to being half asleep on the approach walk. With time, we got onto the boggy path leading up to the Conival bealach where the views opened out to the south. The wind was picking up a little too and some stags were around about. We were making progress and it shouldn't be far to the summit ridge.
At the top of the corrie, the wind picked up to a point where the waterfall at the top was being blown back over itself. This reminded me of the very same occurrence on the Campsies on the 23rd September 2007, although I didn't stay to watch this time. We headed over the top of the corrie and followed the path onto Conival's north ridge.
The intriguing thing about this walk was that the ridges of Conival and Ben More Assynt seemed a lot less 'spiky' than before. I attributed it to the presence of views and being able to tell the true broadness of the ridge. In this case it would be fair to say that the ridge is best climbed when the cloud is down, when all the sharp bits loom ahead out of the mist. There were a couple of sharper bits on Conival's north ridge, but otherwise it was all broad.
Colin and I had arrived at the summit first, so we sat in the windbreaker waiting for the others to arrive. As we sat, we could see the sunlit showers advancing northwards from the south. By the time all four of us were together again, those distant showers had developed into a full blown front, with wind and rain lashing across the summit. The ridge to Ben More Assynt was going to be rough, and the cloud had moved in too.
Ben More Assynt and Descent
Here was another example of those anti-climatic ridges. It was enjoyable to balance across the occasional knife edge, but able to see the terrain ahead, it was clear there weren't as many sharp bits as I'd remember. It's funny how my perception of this ridge changed so dramatically, and although it wasn't quite as I'd remembered, that's not to say I didn't enjoy it.
We arrived on top of Ben More Assynt in rough weather, so much so I took a couple of horrendous summit pictures. It was no place to have a camera out. While we'd thought about climbing a couple more tops on the way back, the weather had closed in and dictated to us our return route: the quickest possible way. The reascent across Conival didn't appeal, so we descended Ben More Assynt the way we came and then cut off to the ridge with the intention of traversing the side of Conival. In retrospect, it was a bad idea. The first sections were toughest to cross and boulder fields covered the side. Add to that crumbling cliffs and previous rock fall and you don't have a hands-in-pockets descent. Our intended route skirted the top of Coire a' Mhadaidh and the 735m lochan. Down by the lochan, the ground underfoot was easier to negotiate and probably less hazardous. More walking brought us back to the foot of Conival's north ridge, from where we could walk down into the corrie and into Gleann Dubh below.
Update 2017-08-24 - When I was last there in 2013, I noticed that our October 2009 descent route was between BMA and it's little west top that you cross. The Google map linked here shows differently, cutting off to the west of the west top - but then I think in 2009 I was pretty crap about drawing maps. So it's almost definitely in the little saddle between the two summits - which even in 2013 I realised was a tremendous lack of route findnig awareness in 2009.
The walk back to Inchnadamph took a long time, (it felt as long in August, too) but the evening light was nice to walk beneath. I arrived back at the cottage with Colin just as darkness fell and Dave and Diane arrived soon after.
Later on, we had a very chilled night in the cottage. Dougie also arrived and at some point, and we got to sleep on the wrong side of midnight, Dougie and I planning a 4.30am start in the morning to climb Glas Bheinn before my planned return to Glasgow.
(0.00) 8.50am Inchnadamph
(3.10) 12.00pm Conival
(4.40) 1.30pm Ben More Assynt
(8.25) 5.15pm Inchnadamph