One of the main topics for discussion with Scottish hillwalkers is the weather. It has been said that we don't have a climate here in Scotland - we just have weather! It is such that we can have four seasons in one day from sunshine to wind, snow and showers in the space of a few hours. It makes for more interesting hillwalking and means we have to always be prepared for all weather conditions.
Personally, I love the quirky weather as the same hills can be very different in their changing moods largely dictated by the prevailing weather conditions at the time. If we had sunshine all the time, Scotland would not be the green and beautiful place it is. The changing weather makes the Scottish scenery more dramatic and interesting.
I am going to describe two enjoyable hillwalking days in Ratagan - on the same weekend but in wildly contrasting weather, Although I had been to Ratagan in the North West of Scotland, there were several Munros which had previously eluded me due to bad weather conditions.
I had the opportunity of going to Ratagan with the Glasgow HF Walking Club at the May holiday weekend and decided to take it to bag a few more of those elusive Munros. On the Saturday we decided to walk most of the South Cluanie Ridge also known as the South Glen Shiel Ridge which has seven Munros on it. Once the 3,000 feet has been climbed it is a long but relatively easy ridge walk for fourteen kilometres over the seven Munros. The weather forecast was for dull, wet weather and four of us set off to do a bit of bagging. We expected it only to be a day for exercise and fresh air but were pleasantly surprised. Under cloudy, threatening skies we headed up to the third Munro, Aonach air Chrith, on the ridge as we had decided against walking the whole ridge. If we had known the weather would turn out to be fine, we probably would have done the entire ridge but we opted for a shorter day given the weather forecast.
Starting from a mid point on a ridge is not always an easy way and to reach the ridge we were confronted by slabby crags but a bit of scrambling assisted by John M. and Ian P. saw Noreen and I safely on the first top. Suddenly, the weather cleared and we were in warm sunshine with very little wind for the rest of the day! The traverse along a narrow part of the ridge to Maol Chinn-dearg was a pleasant stroll. Onto Sgurr an Doire Leathain where we could see Ladhar Bheinn on Knoydart and Beinn Sgirtheall both of which I have previously written on in the diary. The views were magnificent and we lingered on the top for a spot of sunbathing. To the north running parallel to the ridge we could see the Five Sisters Ridge which we intended to walk the following day.
On the next Munro, Sgurr an Lochain , we could see the lochan in the corrie which gave this mountain it's name. We dropped to the lowest point at 2,200 feet on the ridge at the col leading to the last Munro Creag nan Damh. From there we continued down reaching the Glen Shiel Forest and onto the road where a second car was parked as we were now about 10 kilometres west of our starting point. Shuttling cars can make life so much easier on a a long ridge walk. It had been a day of fine weather which was unexpected.
The following day was a walk on the Five Sisters Ridge. Despite the name there are only three Munros, the others being classed as tops. The weather forecast was for showers with a clear afternoon. Five of us set out in misty, humid weather and reached the first Munro, Sgurr Nan Spanteich (peak of the Spaniards) where the showers started. This peak was only declared a Munro a few years ago so if you are a purist you may not consider it a Munro as it was not on Hector Munro's list. From here we walked the ridge in a thick mist without any views. Navigation was easy as there was a well defined path on the ridge. We knew from previous experience that there was no easy descent from this ridge until after the last Munro, So it was head down and onward in the hope the forecast would be right and the weather would clear.
At the second Munro, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, which was reached by steep stony slopes, the wind blew up and we descended to Bealach na Carnach losing a lot of height. We were blasted by a high wind, the only benefit being that the wind occasionally blew the mist through giving glimpses of the mountain tops. It was a steep climb to the third Munro of Sgurr Fhuaran and a long descent in very wet and windy weather to the Kintail Lodge Hotel where a change of clothes was necessary before having dinner. The weather forecast had been wrong - the weather had not cleared in the afternoon! Most of the weather fronts come in from the Atlantic Ocean and it seems to be difficult to predict the timing.
So there you are, two good walking days but very different due to the vagaries of the Scottish weather!
As ever, keep e mailing me at [email protected] with all your comments on the diary and any mountain chit chat.
Coming attractions are the US Canyons and Yosemite, walking in the Bernese Oberland, return to Arran and a weekend in Glen Nevis.
Thanks to Tom Addie for the never ending supply of photos.