Friday, September 16, 2011

Ben Wyvis

Ben Wyvis is sometimes dismissed with adjectives such as "dull" or "featureless". Such derision from the guide-books is perhaps one reason why I have never climbed this Munro, despite its straightforward route of ascent, and ease of access. The road from The Black Isle across to Ullapool is one I have travelled many times for family holidays and hill-walking trips, and while I have stopped and walked in the Wyvis areas before; woods, lochs and waterfalls had been the backdrop for my walking, rather than the Munro which overlooks them.

Yesterday I discovered that the withering criticisms of the guides are wrong, and that I had missed out on a thoroughly enjoyable mountain walk. The path which leaves the A835 at the marked car-park is well-maintained, and follows the Allt a Bhealaich Mhoir first through woodland, and then out into open country, before leaving the stream to ascend the steep slopes of An Cabar. Measures taken to restrict footpath erosion are usually not easy on either the eye or the feet - and the huge rocky steps built into Wyvis' flanks are no exception. These 'big-striding' steps lead to the first top, An Cabar. Once beyond An Cabar the wide mossy ridge leading to the summit is gained.

Dr K. and I stopped here for some lunch, sheltering from the cold wind inside a small circular stone-wall; sharing the moment with a curious little Buddha statue perched in its walls. The walk along the broad ridge is wonderful, while the soft, springly moss provides welcome relief after the bruising rock-path, the views in all directions were stunning. The Cairngorms loomed large in the South, with the distinctive 'notch' of the Lairig Ghru just visible through the haze, the Black Isle and Dornoch Firth were laid out to the South East with Norbord's belching smokestack at Nairn clearly visible beyond it. The most dramatic views (and the ones which make the whole trip worthwhile, were those to the North and West. Mighty An Teallach filled the Western skyline beyond the Ullapool road, while the Fannaichs beautifully caught alternating sun and shade in and out of all their rolling switchback ridges. Beyond them, remote Fisherfield and fortress-like Slioch could be picked out, while to the North the unique shape of Suilven domed upwards.

A clear day spent in the Scottish Highlands, can be bettered by few things. One of those things is a clear day spent in the Scottish Highlands in good company. It was great to be in the hills with the legendary Dr K. again. The business and complexities of life have meant that we haven't climbed a hill together since our trip with The Rogers Character to Gerry's Hostel in the Spring of 2009.

Great Days!

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