Ten of us spent a fabulous week at Mol Mor bunkhouse, a building owned by the National Trust for Scotland that the club haven’t previously visited. It is part of a converted farm steading located in a superbly peaceful spot at the head of the Loch Torridon and has doorstep parking, ample storage for bikes and a delightful picnic bench for evening refreshment after long hill days. Varying winds kept the midges at bay and apart from one day of drizzle, the weather was dry, sunny and warm – just perfect for a fun-filled week of biking, hill walking and climbing.
During our week, the Munro baggers ticked an impressive 10 new hills (Chris, JohnB, Steve, Michael, Dick and Shirley), the Corbett baggers ticked an equally impressive 9 new hills (Flo, Martin, Sylvia, Wardy, JohnB, Dick, Shirley and Steve), and our only Graham ticker ticked 6 new hills(JohnB in case you hadn’t already guessed)!
In no particular order, ascents included Slioch from Incheril, Moruisg and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean from Glen Carron, Beinn Tarsuinn and Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair biking from Incheril, Maoile Lunndaidh, biking from Craig, Maol Chean-Dearg from Annat, Fionn Bheinn, Sgorr Ruadh from both the Ling hut and Achnashellach, Mullach an Rathan, Sail Mhor and A’Choinneach Mor from Coire Dubh, Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe from Cromasaig, Beinn na-h Eaglaise and Ben Damph from the Torridon Hotel, Ruadh stac Beag , Fuar Tholl from Strathcarron, Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine and Sgurr Dubh from the Ling (2 cars), An Ruadh-Stac from Annat, , Beinn an Eoin, biking from Am Feur-loch and an amazing close up siting of a sea eagle soaring near the ridge in the mist, and Baosbheinn.
Michael and Dick spent an excellent day climbing on Laithach, firstly tackling the 250m Diff North ridge to Meall Dearg, then on to the Northern Pinnacles finishing on Mullach an Rathan summit.
Steve did a couple of impressive road biking trips…. to Diabaig and back from the bunkhouse and the Applecross Peninsula loop from Shieldaig which passes over Bealach na Ba, the UK’s highest tarmac road. On route, he stopped for a siting of John and I who were having an adventure on the Cioch Nose …a route that’s been on my tick list for so many years and was well worth the wait…. more about that to follow!!
Arranging a mid-week communal meal proved tricky with everyone arriving home at different times (and differing states) but on the final evening, it all came together with a mixture of leftover ingredients and the 6 of us remaining had a delicious mushroom risotto followed by bread and butter pudding prepared by Steve and Flo.
Thanks to everyone who joined in to make this another very enjoyable hut meet. We were especially fortunate to have such fabulous weather and I’m sure that it’s a bunkhouse we’ll return to in the future. ShirleyE
…. and now sit comfortably for John’s amusing account of our day on The Cioch Nose
The Cioch Nose on Sgurr a’ Chaorachain, above Applecross, was first climbed by Tom Patey and Chris Bonnington in 1960. Viewed from the road approaching the Bealach na Ba, it presents a striking prospect and it’s rumoured that Patey “imported” Bonnington for the hard climbing that was likely to be encountered, but found it much easier than expected and declared it “the Diff of all Diffs”. For a long time it has lurked in my peripheral vision as one of those must do routes, but without ever forming a plan to get on it. Well, the CMC Torridon meet gave me the chance to put that to rights, so on the Friday of the meet, I teamed up with Shirley and we set out in search of it.
Unusually for a mountain route, you can park at the top and descend a steep track that winds its way down and round to the base of the crag (not unlike the upper approach to Baildon, although some may say that the view is slightly better). Shirley’s unerring sense of direction proved invaluable in keeping me on my navigational toes, but despite taking a faultless line, we were being overhauled by two young lads who’d set off after us. Shirley was convinced that they were lost and merely following us, but wanting to check out the competition at close quarters, I suggested a tea break, something that’s becoming an increasing feature of my climbing now that I’m in my 7th decade. In fact they knew exactly where they were going and we felt it prudent to give way to the exuberance of youth by letting them go first.
By the time we’d finished our tea break, the leader was halfway up pitch one, so we congratulated ourselves on judging them to be the speedier team. On approaching the gearing up spot the second advised me that there was plenty of room for me and my wife (!). Just as I was putting him to rights, Shirley appeared and clarified matters by stating that if we were together we would undoubtedly kill each other. Not realising that I’d teamed up with a partner of such murderous intent, I resolved to be on my best behaviour for the rest of the route.
The first pitch starts up a wide crack where the guidebook advises that a Hex 10 or 11 would be useful. Having just had a garage clear-out, said heavy metal items are no longer in my armoury, so I launched up the leering fissure with a sense of apprehension. Smaller gear is available to those with an inclination to look for it, and at the top of the crack you’re rewarded with a threadable wire placement. However, in my enthusiasm to take advantage of this kind offering, a Rock 9 went spiralling down the crag in the general direction of my belayer. Mindful of her earlier comments I feared that if it hit her then ghastly reprisals would ensue, but thankfully the offending item landed by her feet, thus saving my bacon and the cost of a replacement piece of kit – a Yorkshireman’s life and wallet being inextricably linked of course. The route continues via a series of tricky corners, the final one of which involved a rather tenuous layback that caused me to cast doubt on Patey’s judgement of grading, if not his parentage, but then I suppose he was rather good. Shirley confirmed my assessment of the pitch’s difficulty and handed back the Rock 9 with neither comment nor a stab to the heart with the dirk that may well have been concealed about her person.
Pitch two climbs a short V-chimney with an undercut base, and after a further short tea break, we felt sufficiently fortified to inspect it. Shirley declared that it looked much nicer than pitch one, but I feared that she had donned her rose tinted glasses and was underestimating the challenge that lay ahead. Clearly the boys, who were by now completing pitch three, had gone this way, at least judging by the copious amount of chalk that had been used. This proved to be something of a clue as to the difficulty of the pitch, especially as my light is right strategy had seen my chalkbag stowed firmly at home. Nonetheless, fearing an appearance of the dirk, I kept quiet about my reservations and set about the pitch. After several attempts I returned to ground level having been impeded by the undercut base and the fact that all the holds pointed downwards (Diff indeed, if Patey was still around I’d be tempted to take a dirk to him myself). Abandoning my rucksack I tried again but still couldn’t make it past the undercut base which was making the footholds virtually unusable with my excessively long legs, and the downward pointing holds were no more accommodating. Retreating to base I resorted to grovelling tactics by asking to borrow Shirley’s chalkbag, which she kindly supplied. However, I couldn’t get my hands in it as it was tied up with an elaborate system of knots – being a rather fetching shade of pink maybe Shirley sees it as a fashion accessory rather than a functional item? Eventually I gained access to the chalk, and suitably armed, I managed to levitate my way around the undercut base and so to the top of the V-chimney. What the club’s resident chimney specialist would have made of this performance I’m not sure, but it had taken so long that the sun was now off the east facing crag and we were consigned to the shade for the rest of the ascent. I now set up an intermediate belay and hauled up my sack, but being fearful of the dirk, a sense of self preservation obliged me to act in a gentlemanly manner and do the same with Shirley’s. Once upon the pitch, the tint rapidly drained from Shirley’s glasses as she complained of a lack of holds, but despite the loss of her much valued fashion accessory, a determined effort saw her through to the mid-pitch belay. An easier ramp then took us to another capacious belay ledge, where we made the most of things by taking a further tea break.
Pitch three is reported as the crux, which was a little alarming given the effort that had gone into pitch two. There was neither sight nor sound from the team in front, which left us feeling rather alone, and at this point Shirley chose to announce that she hadn’t brought a headtorch. Maybe this was a ploy to speed me up, but with time ticking and a long way to go, it did seem like a rather optimistic omission. The pitch starts with a rising traverse beyond the belay ledge, where the exposure increases dramatically and the best climbing on the route is found as you weave an intricate line to the next capacious belay ledge. The open style of climbing was much more to my liking and it was big grins all round when Shirley joined me at the ledge. Needless to say we celebrated completion of the crux with yet another tea break while soaking up the view, which just gets better and better as you progress up the climb.
Pitch four is something of an anti-climax giving easier climbing up left trending grooves to the summit of A’ Cioch. Just beyond here you have the option to descend South Gully, but we chose the continuation ridge which gives very enjoyable scrambling over a series of summits with sharp gaps in-between that eventually takes you to the crest of the corrie and for us, evening sunshine. A team hug ensued, which gave me confidence that I would survive a little longer. Overall, the route gives a really enjoyable outing in a magnificent setting, and although it now gets a grade of Severe, it’s certainly no pushover and you also get a Classic Rock tick for your efforts.