Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Forge - An Teallach In Winter

Approaching the weekend the forecast seemed the best in months so I knew I was going away but was unsure where. One option was to try to meet others that were in the west but I had left it too late to organize anything with them and decided to take myself to the North west. After travelling up on Saturday morning i had an unsuccessful attempt on the A'Chioch ridge of Ben Bhan due to a couple of factors but mainly due to the totally unconsolidated snow. I still had a good day out and done the lower ridge up until the tricky down-climb at the final col.
The A'Chioch Ridge

The next morning I decided to chance a drive round to Dundonell with the idea of a winter traverse of An Teallach. An Teallach is one of the finest mountains in Scotland and I hoped that given its greater height combined with a colder air temp forecast I would find better conditions than I had the previous day. I sat in a lay-by for about half an hour to see if the brief spell of good weather that was forecast would prevail as the nights showers had so far continued into the morning. It began to look like my luck had held and I finished my journey down to Collie Hallie.

Fisherfield

I left the car about 0945 and headed up the track. At the top of the pass the view was superb with blue skies and a distinct snow line on the mountains of fisherfield, although An teallach itself was still in cloud. Leaving the Shenavall track I headed up Sail Liath, the snow on which was in great condition. As I reached the top the massif ahead of me began to clear and it looked impressive to say the least. The sheer volume of snow combined with its good condition and then also considering there were no tracks, made conditions for a traverse perfect, even the window of weather that was forecast for midday to mid afternoon was punctual.

Ben Dearg Mor
Upon reaching the next top on the ridge I turned around to notice another guy coming up behind me also soloing. We ended up moving pretty much at the same speed for the rest of the day, he was from Ullapool so The Forge is basically his doorstep. Following the fantastically corniced arete we approached the start of the pinnacles.
The ridge up to the pinnacles
The First part up to the pinnacles was probably the hardest bit of the entire traverse with some nice steps between sections of snow. The final section before the start of the pinnacles was over hanging, the other climber chose to go right which looked steep and the snow was far worse on this side. I opted to go and have a look to the left by traversing along a narrow ledge until reaching the bottom of an ice chute which took me back to the crest. The conditions really were and would continue to be totally different form what I have experienced this year, least of all yesterday.
Another climber on the crest with Sail Liath behind
I waited on the crest for the other climber to appear which he did after some time, the way he had come up was obviously considerably harder probably due to the lack of consolidation on the East side of the crest. we continued a long the ridge from there, taking it as direct as possible and climbing some fantastic short steps and some incredibly built up sections of arete with South American style cornices. The pinnacles went on for longer than I remember from summer but given the lack of wind and mist this was certainly a bonus.
On the ridge with the Munro's behind

After we passed the first Munro summit, the weather seemed to close in and we were battered with strong gusts and spindrift. It seemed like it would be in for the remainder of the day but to both our surprise and relief it passed through as quick as it had come in although the remaining wind was certainly stronger than it had been earlier. We carried on over the next Munro and could see another pair of climbers far behind us on at the start of the pinnacles. They had left it very late but should have been fine provided they moved at a decent speed although finishing in the dark would be almost inevitable.
Part of the crest
Upon looking down to the next col we elected to go over Glas Mheall Mor and down off that ridge reaching Corrie Hallie at around 1715. My day wasn't over however as driving home as darkness crept in I realised that both my headlights were out and had to wait for recovery. Ended up getting home at 2330.

A photo opportunity that couldn't be missed!