Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
6th September 2016
Ben Hope from around the back.
My first visit to Ben Hope had been a bit of a straight up and down affair with a half hour lunch spent at the summit hoping in vain that the mist would clear. The outlook today was much brighter although the higher hills had not yet cleared early morning mist. It was a warm day but with a very strong wind I was a bit unsure if my planned route would be a good idea. With backup plan in mind I headed off from the normal starting point at Muiseal near Alltnacaillich. I had noticed a couple just above the falls when I arrived and was a bit surprised to see them not too far ahead as I reached the same point. I had taken my time before starting out enjoying tea and a biscuit. The lady seemed to be really struggling and moving just a few paces before taking a pause. I branched off before I caught up, after turning west and climbing above a line of craggs I then left the path and headed north taking a line running parallel with Allt a’ Mhuiseil. The impressive western cliffs over Ben Hope soared steeply upward on my right hand side, well adorned with shrub and bush. Keeping to the higher ground and along the base of the cliffs the walking was mainly over grass and never to arduous. Eventually Dubh-Loch na Beinne was reached although I stayed slightly up the hillside on a shelf but think it would have been easier going along the loch side. The way turned east along Poll a’ Chleirich and toward Loch na Seil and again it would have been better to have reached the loch shore before starting my ascent. As it was I battled over some rough ground to gain the start of the Carn a’ Ghallaich ridge. This was my intended ascent route but with the very strong winds still blowing across the airy higher sections that I believe are a tricky scramble I decided to fall back to plan B. So instead I crossed toward Coir a’ Ghallaich and then started up a grassy rake toward the broad eastern ridge were I thought there would be little chance of being blown off. Before making the ridge proper I stopped for a bite to eat anticipating that there would be little respite from the wind once on the ridge proper. The walking along the ridge was pleasant enough and I remained out of the full force of the wind all the way up. Indeed even as I made the summit as the last of the mist cleared there was surprisingly little in the way of wind. There was maybe some strange aero dynamics going on deflecting the wind upward and preventing it crossing the summit area. I wasn’t complaining as It was indeed very comfortable sitting at the windbreak taking in the expansive albeit misty views. The ground out to the east looked particularly interesting and worthy of some further exploration. Fed and watered I started my descent down the south ridge. I passed a couple and their dog being pushed up hill by the still strong wind. Keeping over toward the western cliffs lower down I come way from the main path that had cut a little inside. It was at this point as I looked over toward the path that I spotted the couple I’d seen much earlier. He was waiting a little below the lady who was still making painfully slow progress. I guess they must have aborted there attempt and turned round. Leaving the ridge now it was just a case of working down alongside the waterfalls to reach the parking area. It was still pleasantly warm so I was enticed into the river for a refreshing swim before heading along to take a look at Dun Dornaigil Broch at Alltnacaillich. The drive south was very enjoyable especially when climbing out of Strath More and crossing over the wild open moor land around Loch Meadie before dropping to Altnaharra.
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