Back to Assynt

I get knocked down, but I get up again - Chumbawumba


After a great (but somewhat windy) trip to Assynt last year, we were keen to reacquaint ourselves with the Inchnadamph hotel and the local hills - hopefully with better weather.

Some of that worked out.

As previously the five of us flew up to the bustling international airport of Inverness and headed up to the glorious northwest of Scotland. Having learnt the previous year that being in the hotel for the last weekend of the year was rather a lot of fun, we had booked to do the same and it was great to see Richard, Jamie, Rowan and of course the unusually hirsute and silent bar man - Storm

Despite being blown off the top of Suilven last year, we’d decided not to do it on this trip and had our eye on both the set of peaks collectively called Quinag round Lochan Bealach Cornaidh - Spidean Cornich and Sail Gharbh and Ben More/Conival . True to form the forecast was for wind…
After a suitably high calorie evening in the bar, the odd game of cards and a ‘light’ breakfast we piled into the car for the short trip to the car park below the lochan. Whilst the skies were bright and dry, perhaps we should have taken note that we didn’t see a single human being the entire day.
The climb up to the first Spidean Cornich was up a broad grassy slope which increasingly turned to boulders at the top. From there you follow a narrow ridge up to the second top and then head down a very narrow airy section to the bealach between that and the ascent up to Sail Gharbh.

Not a ridge to be done whilst windy but we were suitably lucky that early in the day.

Looking back at Spidean Cornich

After a quick break for lunch and photos, we headed diagonally up the slope to towards Sail Gharbh.

We were sheltered from the worst of the wind but could hear it picking up as we climbed towards the broad ridge that led out to Sail Gharb.

On reaching the ridge it became apparent how strong the wind was (again!).

The wind was blowing a gale and once point dumped all five of us on our back sides at the same time. There was no risk of being blown of as the top of the ridge is wide, we were being bowled over and bounced off various rocks. As we were increasingly adopting the position of simply lying down to stay attached to the mountain, we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and retraced our steps back to our lunch spot and then headed out past the loch to the car. Despite the abortive attempt on Sail Gharbh, it was still a great days walking and Spidean Cornich is a great little ridge with brilliant views. Definitely type 1.5 fun (see the bottom for the explanation of classification of fun). 11km.

The view back to Spidean Cornich on the left and Sail Gharbh on the right.

Back at the hotel Richard had decided that, as the weather forecast for the next day was for constant rain, the traditional end of season bonfire would take place that night. Another magical bonfire on the shores of the loch listening to the bellowing of the stags with a whisky in our hands, rain soaking our backsides whilst our jeans melted on our fronts - a perfect Scottish evening.

The following day we were aiming to head up to Conival and Ben More - a walk that had the advantage of starting from the hotel. The only disadvantage was the weather - starting off grey and then sliding downhill to wind, low cloud and heavy rain. The first part of the walk follows the path of the river through a narrowing valley.

After about 6 km you break out of the valley and start a slightly steeper ascent up to the bealach below Conival. This was one of those deceiving climbs with new tops appearing every time you think you’ve made the bealach. The climb up is broken by a short band of rock which provides a variety of easy scrambling routes to get through it. The ascent to the bealach was interrupted by two momentous events. Firstly as we strained our eyes to see a stag on the hill ahead of us, Mr F pointed out the rather magnificent stag strolling across the hill not far behind us.

Secondly Tav’s boiler had broken down. Now normally a boiler breaking down is not a problem on a hill walk but as, in the Tav household, he is the certified plumber, it was his fault. The rest of us simply left him on the phone and took a slightly more leisurely approach to climbing up.

Tav on the phone to his wife/plumber/counsellor...

From the bealach, it was a zig zag path through a boulder field up to the top of Conival. By now the cloud had rolled in and the rain was just starting so after a chilly lunch we decided to head back. As we descended, the weather validated our decision as it simply got colder and it p**sed down. The thought of warm showers, hot food and cold beer enticed us back down the valley as we trudged through the ever deepening puddles. Practically Type 2 fun due to the weather. 16km.

From there it was another night in the bar before we headed back on our favourite single track A road to the bright lights of Inverness airport. Another successful and enjoyable trip. One day we’ll go to Assynt and it will go according to plan. But where’s the fun in that?

Follow up: the boiler is on it’s way to recovering.

Explanation of fun


Type 1 fun is fun the entire time you're doing it. It's never bad and just want it to keep on going.

Examples: Perfect weather on the perfect ridge, skiing in powder snow, drinking great beer in a great bar, feeling you could go on for ever walking, running, riding, whatever

Type 1.5 fun is not fun at some point, but actually turns out to be alright and is all smiles later on, usually when you are heading home.
Examples: That tricky exposed descent, that sudden rain shower or gusty weather, home brewing beer

Type 2 fun sucks the entire time you are doing it, but you are excited to either boast about it at the bar later or look back on it and value it as a character-building episode.
Examples: Mountain running, Tough Mudders, when it rains the entire day on the hills, when your boots start rubbing immediately.

Ernest Shackleton practically invented Type III fun during his failed 1914 expedition to cross Antartica. Here, he and several members of his crew land the 20-foot rowboat they used to cross 720 miles of open ocean in 80-foot seas to reach the backside of an island that had a whaling station on it, portending a rescue. Unfortunately, they were on the wrong side, and had to cross 32 miles of glaciers, mountains, and ice that had never been mapped before, including a finish in a glacial creek, before reaching civilization. Serious Type 3 fun.
Type 3 fun is never fun while you're doing it, you often feel your life is threatened, certain doom is usually at hand, and half the time it ends in a harrowing rescue. Afterwards, you swear to never attempt anything similar ever again.
Examples: Failed polar expeditions, Apollo 13, sailing around the world solo