Hill: Eididh nan Clach Geala
Date: Sunday 17th January 2016
Company: Myself and Natacha
Distance: 17.5km, Ascent: 1025m
After much pondering over the weather forecasts, Natacha and I opted to head to the North-West Highlands yesterday for an ascent of one or two of the Beinn Dearg group, starting from Inverlael. The avalanche forecasts across Scotland were all showing 'Considerable' risk due to lots of unconsolidated snow and a lack of recent thawing and re-freezing. We knew ascending anything was going to be hard work.
On driving through Keith, the temperature dropped as low as -8C. However, that was nothing compared with the -12C reported by my car thermometer at Black Bridge near the Aultguish Inn.
As we passed Loch Glascarnoch, I pulled over for a few minutes to take some photographs of what was turning out to be a stunning morning. Beyond Aultguish, it was a case of admiring the roadside stags until soon thereafter reaching Inverlael.
After getting suited and booted, comparing the excessive weight of our rucksacks and taking some photos from the car park, we set off along the frozen track from Inverlael signposted, "Beinn Dearg".
The walk from Inverlael to Glensguaib passed in no time at all as we put the world to rights.
Looking back along the track towards Inverlael:
Before long we caught our first views of Beinn Dearg. We had yet to decide whether to ascend Beinn Dearg or Eididh nan Clach Geala.
First glimpse of Beinn Dearg:
Looking back along the track:
Beyond Glensguaib, the depth of snow increased and Meall nan Ceapraichean and Beinn Dearg were plastered white.
Meall nan Ceapraichean and Beinn Dearg:
Once the depth of snow on the track increased to the point of making it harder to walk on the track than not, we took to the hillside ascending onto the west ridge of Eididh nan Clach Geala.
Looking across Beinn Dearg's NW ridge:
We took turns breaking trail throughout the walk.
Natacha breaking trail:
Once onto the ridge, it was a case of ploughing through the snow for several kilometres; taking advantage of the odd exposed rock here and there to momentarily avoid sinking in snow.
Onto the ridge of Eididh nan Clach Geala:
Natacha ascending Eididh nan Clach Geala:
As the morning progressed, we could see that the Fannaichs and An Teallach were now capped in cloud. Our hills were still clear of cloud with the exception of a small cloud which seemed to engulf Beinn Dearg like a wave.
A cloud wave pouring over Beinn Dearg:
Despite carrying everything but the kitchen sink, most of what was in the rucksack remained in the rucksack with the exception of sunglasses and the odd drink. There was no need for ice axe, crampons or any of the additional layers of clothes.
Eididh nan Clach Geala ahead:
Great views back towards the Fannaichs:
Photo of Natacha taking a photo:
As we gained height, our views of the surrounding hills got better and better. We could see the hills of Coigach, Assynt and eventually, from the summit, even as far as Arkle and possibly Ben Loyal!
Coigach & Assynt Hills (zoom):
Coigach hills (Ben More Assynt & Stac Pollaidh):
Heading for Eididh nan Clach Geala:
The final ascent of Eididh nan Clach Geala was easier than it looked from a distance and before long we were standing atop the summit.
It had taken us a full four hours to reach the summit of Eididh nan Clach Geala. As it was already past 13:00 with at least a three-hour walk back, we agreed to return via the same route. Adding on another Munro would potentially have taken another two hours given the underfoot conditions.
Natacha at the summit of Eididh nan Clach Geala:
We had a bite to eat and a good drink at the summit and took plentiful photos. What an absolutely fantastic day with not a breath of wind up there.
Coigach and Assynt hills:
It was nice to look across to Seana Bhraigh, a hill I am looking forward to ascending again hopefully with an overnight at the bothy.
Seana Bhraigh from summit:
Beinn Dearg's NW ridge:
During the walk out, we stopped several times to take photos of the mighty An Teallach. It looked divine in its winter garb.
An Teallach (zoom):
We were fortunate to also witness a full circle rainbow above the NW ridge of Beinn Dearg but I didn't get a photo as it was very much into the sun.
Looking back to Eididh nan Clach Geala during descent:
Beinn Dearg Mor, a very fine Corbett, also looked fantastic sitting just to the left of An Teallch.
Beinn Dearg Mor & An Teallach (zoom):
Looking back to Eididh nan Clach Geala:
By the time I reached the car, I felt fairly knackered. Probably a mix of deep snow, heavy Sportiva boots, heavy rucksack and getting old!
Thanks to Natacha for excellent company on what will without doubt be one of my favourite walks of the year.