The Ben Wyvis car park is clearly signed on the A835.
20 November 2016
Maja had posted an enquiry on the Talk Highlands group page on Facebook, asking for information on open campsites in the Inverness area with a view to climbing Ben Wyvis.
I replied "my garden", while at the same time offering her the use of our spare room. My wife thought I was a bit mad offering accommodation to someone I had briefly met a couple of times - one of the cultural differences between us! I feel that there is a fraternity among mountaineers, whether climbers or walkers. We share a love of the mountains and adventure that brings us together in mutual respect and friendship.
On the Saturday, Maja popped up Ben Bhraggie and explored east Sutherland. She enjoyed fine weather, but the forecast for Sunday was better with MWIS giving a 70% chance of clear Munros.
When I asked Thomas if he wanted to join us, he answered in the affirmative. This was to be his first Munro in winter conditions. So, giving Thomas my ice axe and and me using an ice hammer, I gave Thomas some indoor instruction on ice axe breaking (with the rubber protector on his axe to prevent holes being made in the carpet!). Peter joined in the training session too, showing good technique with his feet raised!
I only have the one pair of crampons and Thomas has bendy boots, so I also experimented with making a diaper harness from slings. A small sling was too small while a large sling was too big on Thomas, so I put a small sling over his head and tied a knot to tighten it while using the large sling to form a diaper harness on myself. Then I attached a rope via a screwgate and added mountaineer coils, which were tied off and clipped into the screwgate, holding the sling up.
I considered it best to practice all this in the warmth before heading out onto a cold, icy mountain!
Thomas and I set off in our car and Maja set off separately, as Maja was continuing her adventures and heading west. I stopped at Tarvie services and bought some cheese and Branston rolls, Dairy Milk Snowmen and a cup of tea. I placed the cup of tea on the roof before handing the food to Thomas, asking him to put it in his pack before setting off up the hill. I then completely forgot about the tea and began to drive off! I heard the tea fall sideways on the roof before sliding off and hitting the ground. As I could not see a bin, I took the empty cup over to the lady in the takeaway, and explained what had happened. She gave me another tea without charging me! Things like this makes one want to return!
Maja was already there when we pulled up onto the car park. We soon donned our boots and gaiters and were heading off up the hill. The path was a little slippy, but it made a pleasant change to be walking up a well constructed path. Bagging Corbetts, Grahams and lesser hills, I spend a lot of time heading up through deep heather or bog. Thomas seemed to be enjoying himself. He commented on the fact that the snow would not stick to make a ball and that the one he tried to throw broke up after leaving his hand. No guesses as to whom it was aimed!
Higher up, the route steepens with steep drops to the south. Thomas wanted to push on ahead - he was not carrying a rope, a large flask of coffee and a food flask containing soup! - I shouted at him to wait as I wanted to keep him close in case there were any ice patches up ahead.
After a lot of heavy breathing (from me) and the production of large amounts of sweat (again me), we reached the cairn at An Cabar and turned around to see the fantastically clear views. Maja spotted Ben Nevis - I queried it at first but on closer inspection realised that she was right! I'm wondering if is the Easains sticking up above the clouds to the left?
According to www.udeuschle.selfhost.pro, Ben Nevis is 99.3km away!
Looking across the Chromarty Firth to Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui:
Cairngorm is 83.4km away and Ben Macdui 86.3km away.
An Teallach left and the Beinn Dearg group to the right:
Walking along the 2.5km ridge towards Glas Leathad Mor:
A senior gentleman had caught us up a the large boulder on the way up and he was still at the summit when we arrived. He kindly obliged when asked to take a summit photo. This saved me having to get my Gorillapod out of rucksack. Other walkers make great tripods! Easy to position and height adjustable!
Thomas downed the soup in a manner that makes Scooby Doo seem like a slow eater! After we had finished eating and washed things down with some lovely warm coffee, we posed for a father and son summit celebration. What a day for Thomas' first winter Munro and his fourth overall.
According to the times on the photographs, we spent a good 40 mins on the summit, the longest I've spent at the top of a hill for a long time! I rarely stop for more than 20 mins before continuing. It certainly did not seem that long but many arrived after us and they were all gone by the time we set off back down the hill.
Left to right, not naming every hill for obvious reasons - The Fannichs - An Teallach - Beinn Dearg:
Beinn Dearg on full zoom:
Heading back towards An Cabar with Ben Nevis visible in the far distance.
We warmed up quickly, once we were moving again. On reaching An Cabar, I decided that I would be happier if Thomas was roped for the descent. This may seem overcautious but I could never live with myself if something happened to him, besides which it added to the interest and was good training for the day when I really need to put him on a rope!
I used a large 100cm (2m diameter) sling to make a daiper harness for myself - see right:
This is clearly the American name and I'm not sure if we would call it a nappy harness. Probably a sling harness?
I placed a short 50cm (1m diameter) sling over Thomas' head and tied an overhand knot into it to make it a tighter fit.
Figure of 8 knots were tied into each end of the rope and clipped into twistlock/screwgate karabiners.
Then the rope was coiled several times around our shoulders before tying off and clipping the loop into the karabiners.
About 4 metres of rope remained between us.
Thomas had been re-energised by the generous portion of sausage and vegetable soup and was looking strong. It was difficult persuading him to move at a reasonably constant speed. He tended to slow down every time he spoke and then jump down the steps, pulling me forward. He did slip a few times but just fell where he had stood and not towards the steeper slopes to his left. I think it was a sound decision to keep him on the rope to stop him heading down too fast and with too little care.
On reaching the large boulder, we unroped and drank more coffee. Thomas had a go at a bit of bouldering. A Walkhighlands aquaintance that we had passed heading off from the summit, caught us up and we chatted for a while.
While safe, the path still required a little care, though Thomas was like a dog let off his lead and was soon way ahead. It was not until we were some way down through the forest that we looked back at Ben Wyvis, bathed in the late afternoon sunshine.