Sunday, 5 September 2010

Sutherland Adventure Part 1: The Pillar

I'm just back from 4 days incredible walking in Sutherland, plus an ace day climbing on Arran yesterday, so have a lot of blogging to catch up on.  I'm going to have to post this in bite sized bits as there seems to be so much that I have crammed in to the last few days. 
My original Sutherland plan, had been to roughly follow the route of the Sutherland Trail, first laid out by Cameron McNeish. My plan was scuppered early on whilst waiting for a bus at Tongue, where I had left my car, to take me to my start point Lochinver.  The bus never came. 
Plan B wasn't bad though.  I drove to Lochinver through some of the most gorgeous country I have ever seen.  Left my car in the village, and planned a 2 day walk in and around Suilven. Suilven means "The Pillar", in a mixture of Gaelic and Norse, and stands some 723 vertical metres above the sea, just like a great pillar of Torridonian Sandstone.  

The approach to Suilven (right) from Lochinver.
The weather was absolutely magnificent, and the 6 km walk to Suileag Bothy was filled with wonderful views, buzzing insects and flowers. 

Golden Ringed Dragonfly

I pitched my tent near to Suileag Bothy on the advice of estate owners, The Assynt Foundation, after contacting them to find out about stalking in the area.

Fantastic views of Suilven out of my bedroom window!

That evening I went for a wander around the surrounding moorland. I watched a blackthroated diver on a nearby lochan, and was wowed by the sheer amount of wildlife in the area, including lizards, toads, pipits, buzzards and lots of invertebrates. And everywhere there were spiders! (I guess they do well on the midges?)

The next morning dawned bright and fine.  There was a little cap of cloud on the summit of Suilven, which soon burned off. The light was wonderful, and spent a long time walking up the glen very slowly to the start of the climb, sidetracked constantly by flowers, insects and interesting things to look at.
Ling heather in full bloom in the morning light. 

Remains of a scots pine, eroding out of the peat in which it has been preserved for hundreds or even thousands of years.
 My route took me up the steep gully that leads to Bealach Mor. The path is eroded in places, and I had to pick my way to find the best route up (and down again). 

View down the gully from near the top of Bealach Mor.
I was soon on the ridge, with incredible views south across Inverpollaidh

Looking east along the ridge. 

The ridge itself is narrow and interesting.  There is some complicated scrambling to be had for a full traverse.  On this day I was cautious, and just went to the main summit Caisteal Liath, at the western end of the ridge.  This means I have an excuse to come back with Wally for a full traverse- perhaps winter?!

On the top!

After climbing Caisteal Liath, I returned by the same path, and headed back to my tent. I packed up, and instead of following my originally intended route on foot to Inchnadamph, went back to the car, to drive along the shores of Loch Assynt and arrive at Inchnadamph later that evening.
More to follow....

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