Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
6th December 2008
A perfect high on the Island Of Mull
One advantage of trying to fit a long walk into a short winter day is the joy of watching the sunrise and invariably the sunset. However with sunrise still a little way off the millions of stars bright in the dark sky did little to illuminate my way as I negotiated the frost speckled single track road across the Ardmeanach peninsula. A Barn Owl swooped ghostly white from its roadside perch to remind me I was not the only one up and about at this early hour. Further on a couple of deer strayed across the road before a number of cattle provided a temporary road block. The trickiest navigation of the day was to be finding the start point for the walk but a wooden sign confirmed my position at Dhiseig. As I walked along the shore of Loch Na Keal the starlight faded as the sky began to brighten with the promise of a fine day. I crossed the bridge at the bottom of Gleann na Beinn Fada to reach a second that forded the Scarisdale river. Leaving the road and keeping the water course on my right I made my way across the ice crusted boggy ground. Following sheep tracks up the hillside I was soon above a deep gorge carved out by the river which I forded easily above the waterfall.
Early Morning Glow over Loch Na Keal
Hard patchy snow made for difficult progress until it became a more complete covering on the lower west ridge of Beinn nan Gabhar. The way eased although the incline increased just as the sun started to catch the adjacent tops of Beinn Ghraig and Beinn Fhada.
Beinn Ghraig from Beinn nan Gabhar
After negotiating a few crags I was soon on my first top of the day. The views were now opening up across Mull and in the distance Ben More's upper ridge showed brilliant white against the deep blue sky. A curved ascent across snowy slopes soon saw me gain the col between An Cruachan and Beinn Fhada.
A' Chioch and Ben More from Beinn Fhada
Glorious views of A' Chioch and Ben More opened up and held my attention as I made my way easily over firm snowy slopes before a short rise up a rocky knoll signalled the top of Beinn Fhada.
The north west ridge of Beinn Fhada leading down to Loch Na Keal
Looking at the route ahead the ridge lines looked steep, sharp and testing in the bright sunshine but the superb weather was helping to calm my slight trepidation.
A' Chioch and Ben More
After dropping off Beinn Fhada and negotiating the broader lower slopes of A' Chioch I paused to don crampons and replace walking poles with ice axe. An exhilarating climb with some exposure followed as I negotiated the ridges of A'Choich.
Ben More from A' Chioch
A gentle slope and then a steeper clambering decent brought me to the col between A'Choich and Ben More.
Ben More's North East Ridge
I began the climb and found the untouched snow occasionally knee deep along the narrow Arete. There were one or two awkward scrambles to be negotiated along the way calling for the aid of my axe and a bit of nerve, my gloveless hands glowing red after pawing at the snow. Approaching the upper limits I could see the northern rock face of Ben More was spectacularly frozen white. After reaching the top with its windbreak cairn there were amazing views all around, the other mountains of Mull and the mainland to the east and Loch Na Keal and the sound of Ulva to the North West.
A' Choich from Ben More
After lunch and a wee dram from the Tobermory distillery to celebrate completion of my first round of Munro's it was a time to head down.
A wee dram of Tobermory
The steady decent back down to Dhiseig had none of the drama and excitement of the way up but I wasn't complaining I'd had my perfect high for the day.
Ben More from Dhiseig
Road to Dhiseig and Loch Na Keal
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