Far North Munros August 2008


Helen Rose Hill Diary

Although I have completed the Munros and I still can’t believe I did it, I like to go with other Munro baggers hill walking so I returned to the far north Munros recently. These are Ben Klibreck and Ben Hope, the latter being the most northerly Munro.  We travelled from Glasgow in good weather and had a very long drive to Tongue on the north coast of Scotland. The route was up the A9, the main artery to the north of Scotland.  This road is a disgrace as it is mainly one lane in each direction making overtaking dangerous. There is a campaign to have it upgraded and I fully support it. Stepping off my soap box and back to hill matters, we arrived at Tongue on the far north coast and stayed at the SYHA Hostel. This is the most welcoming hostel I have ever stayed in and thanks to Hanne, the Warden. It is in a beautiful location and is warm and comfortable.

The next day we climbed Ben Hope on a very good path. The path runs alongside a burn with waterfalls and is very pretty. Unfortunately, the midges were out in full force as it was ideal humid conditions for them.  We kept stops to a minimum to avoid the midges as they appear as soon as you stop walking. July and August are the worst months for midges as the biting season and they hang about in clouds. However, the slightest wind keeps them at bay.  Being mid week, the path was fairly quiet but we met a family with a four year old daughter who was doing her third Munro and she did the hill in the same time as us! The summit ridge was misty so we needed the compass to find the top. This is the second time I have climbed this mountain and in similar conditions. I still don’t know what the view from the top is like. It is a pleasant walk and I would like to climb Ben Hope in clear conditions to take in the views out to sea. On our way back to Tongue we drove out to the sandy beaches on the peninsula to the west of the causeway into Tongue. This is an interesting area historically as many of the clearances took place here. The local people were cleared from the land to make way for sheep in the eighteenth century.

The following day we set out to climb Ben Klibreck and considered several routes finally settling on the route in the SMC Munro book as it offered the most gradual climb onto the ridge. Many Munro baggers climb both these mountains in one day but I just cannot walk at that speed. On Ben Hope, we met a couple who had climbed Ben Klibreck in four hours in the morning and were now about to climb Ben Hope in the afternoon making a total of 6,000 feet of ascent in one day! There are not many sheep in the area now and the grass is long and difficult to walk through. We had very good weather but it did take some time to reach the ridge at the lowest point and the ascent to it was fairly steep making it a tiring climb. However, there was a good path on the ridge contouring below the crest and we reached the summit ridge fairly quickly. It is a steep, long summit ridge and was misty again but there was a path to follow so no navigation was required. On the descent, we considered coming down the steep part in a direct line to the car but decided to err on the side of caution so retraced our steps although this time we skirted round Loch nan Uan  to the north and picked up a path avoiding the long grass.

The next day we climbed Seana Braigh in good weather. I have already written about this hill in August 2006. Although we had planned to walk in the Strathfarrar Hills the following day, we decided to have a tourist day and went to the village of Portmahomack near Nigg. I shall certainly return to Tongue and I would like to visit the other villages in the far north such as Durness. We were lucky with the weather that week as the north east had the best weather in Scotland all week.

Coming Attractions; Arran again, the Mournes in Northern Ireland and Picos de Europa.

Contact me at helenrose52@hotmail.com

Thanks to Frances Rickus for the photos