Hill: Ben Wyvis
Date: 15th/16th October 2015
Company: Just myself
Distance: 23.7km, Ascent: 1570m

On arrival at the Ben Wyvis car park at 21:00 last night it was cold and dark. The weather forecast was excellent albeit the temperature was forecast to drop to -2C at low level. Given the loss of approximately half a degree per 100m of ascent, I was expecting the temperature at the summit to potentially reach -7C or -8C. I wasn't expecting any moonlight as I had checked out the current phase and position of the moon. I was therefore equipped with headtorch, spare headtorch and spare batteries. I also had my fingers crossed for some aurora as Aurorawatch had been reporting "Minor" activity.

I got suited and booted in the car park in the fog of my own breath. As ever, I had everything but the kitchen sink in my rucksack. As well as all my normal gear, I was also carrying my tent, sleeping bag and thermarest not to mention three litres of water, my DSLR and a tripod. The pack was uncomfortably heavy; nevertheless I set off walking towards the summit of Ben Wyvis via the standard 'tourist' route.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

I didn't take any photos during the ascent as it was as dark as pitch and I was keen to get to the summit and set up camp. Despite the weight, I somehow managed to walk all the way to the summit without stopping.

During the initial walk alongside the Allt a' Bhealaich Mhoir, a bird flew up out of the dark from right next to the path. I definitely got a fright! During the ascent of An Cabar, I listened to the bellowing of stags.

I reached the summit of Ben Wyvis around 23:45 and immediately set up camp. It was baltic up there so shelter and warmth took priority over everything else. After setting up my home for the night, I went back outside and spent around one hour admiring the views and taking photographs.

To the East, the light pollution of Inverness, Dingwall and various small villages was prominent. To the West, I could see various red lights atop transmitters and turbines. To the South, were stars in their plenty and to the North, unfortunately no aurora!

Looking towards the lights of Inverness from the summit of Ben Wyvis:

Cromarty Firth rigs from the summit of Ben Wyvis (zoom):

As there was no aurora, I decided to make my own colourful photographs by lighting up my tent using one headtorch and taking a long-exposure photo while running round my tent wearing the other headtorch. The run around the tent was also good for warming me up a little.

Running around the tent with a multi-colour headtorch (long-exposure):

Standing at the summit of Ben Wyvis:

I also decided to try writing my name using my headtorch. After the first attempt, I realised that I had to write my name in mirror image! Doh!

Headtorch writing (long exposure):

Before heading to bed, I could see very faint aurora to the North. However, on checking the Aurorawatch website on my iPhone, I could see that the activity level was back to "No Significant Activity".

Faint aurora and the plough, looking North:

Despite having a Rab down sleeping bag rated to -18C, I felt cold during the night. A hot drink would have been nice had I only packed a stove. I set my alarm for 05:30 as I was keen not to miss first light and the sunrise. Before going to sleep, I put my camera batteries and phone into my sleeping bag to prevent the batteries draining due to the cold.

On awakening at 05:30, I went outside and was astounded by the vast number of stars. I could also now see three planets close together.

Early morning view looking towards Inverness:

To the South, I could see possibly the most recognisable of all constellations; Orion.

Orion to the South:

Not long after 06:00, I ventured back out again to take some photos of first light. I also took a few pics of my frost-covered tent.

First light:

Frost-covered tent:

Looking towards the Cromarty Firth:

Early light:

Cromarty Firth (zoom):


Nice pre-sunrise red sky:

Around 06:30, after having some frozen breakfast, I set off to ascend Tom a' Choinnich and Glas Leathad Beag, two Munro Tops of Ben Wyvis, with a view to being back to the tent before any day walkers started to arrive at the summit. I was pitched around 20ft from the summit!

Looking towards Glas Leathad Beag en-route to Tom a' Choinnich:

Looking towards Glas Leathad Beag:

Lovely pre-sunrise red clouds:

It didn't take long to reach the summit of Tom a' Choinnich. The same could not be said for Glas Leathad Beag. Glas Leathad Beag is almost 5km distant from Glas Leathad Mor. It also has a drop of 132m. It very much felt like a separate Munro, not a Top.

At the summit of Tom a' Choinnich:

Heading from Tom a' Choinnich out to Glas Leathad Beag:

It was good to see the sun pop up from above a thin layer of cloud. The various shades of red were lovely.

Sun rising above the layer of cloud:

Looking North towards Carn Chuinneag:

Glas Leathad Beag:

Looking back to Ben Wyvis (Glas Leathad Mor) and Tom a' Choinnich:

Post-sunrise colours:

En-route to Glas Leathad Beag, I ascended the West top of Glas Leathad Beag. The West Top is a now-demoted, original 1891 Munro Top.

Looking towards Glas Leathad Mor from the summit of Glas Leathad Beag:

As I was keen to get back to the tent before anyone else arrived at the summit, I didn't hang about at the summit of Glas Leathad Beag. I opted to return via a slightly different route, allowing me to skirt round the rim of the coire.

Ben Wyvis (Glas Leathad Mor) and Tom a' Choinnich:

Ascending back up Ben Wyvis:

On reaching the summit of Ben Wyvis, I packed up camp and set off walking back towards the car park. I met the first walkers of the day near the summit of An Cabar. I was to meet dozens of other walkers during the descent. Ben Wyvis was busy today.

Descending past the erractic on An Cabar:

Looking back to An Cabar:

I got back to the car around 12:20. This was a really enjoyable way to ascend Ben Wyvis and also take in its tops. The grassy summit area is ideal for camping. Days like this stay memorable for a long time .