At the start of August I was leading a walk in the far northwest of Scotland, in the region of Assynt to visit the two Munro summits of Conival and Ben More Assynt. Here is an account of the day…
During Sunday and into Monday a big thaw set in across the Highlands causing significant melting of what was very extensive and deep snowcover. However, with the temperatures plummeting again on Tuesday the snowpack had consolidated and the avalanche hazard was low. This was combined on Wednesday with the promise of sub-zero summit temperatures, very little wind and bright sunshine. Forecasts don’t come any better and with the day free I decided to go for a day’s personal mountaineering with Ben the dog. We headed northwest to Inchnadamph to tackle Ben More Assynt and Conival, hills that I’d visited a couple of times before, but never in winter. As we headed north and west we were treated to amazing views of all the hills. An Teallach looked particularly good, but the view of Ben More Coigach was really special!
With time against me but conditions looking good I decided it would be good to get out west to Assynt and take in the relatively accessible summit of Cul Mor in winter conditions before the thaw sets in at the weekend. There was much more snow around than I expected, the snow line was around 300m on the way across and there was a slow thaw during the day. It was a beautiful morning, but more of a mixed bag in the afternoon.
I took in an anti-clockwise circuit of the summit and Creag nan Calman. There was deep, soft snow on the upper part of the hill and tricky conditions in places crossing boulder fields obscured by snow.
It was a good ascent, with stunning views of Suilven, Canisp and the hills behind Inchnadamph. Part of the way I met another John from Ullapool. It was good to have some company on the way up and I got some good practice higher up breaking trail.
After a nice summit/lunchtime chat we headed different ways and I had to navigate a little to find my way round to and then off Creag nan Calman. There was a brief break in the cloud giving an atmospheric view of Cul Beag.
Picking up the outward route just west of Meallan Diomhain I was lucky to catch some amazing late afternoon winter light, bringing out all the different shades of orange and brown wonderfully and casting long shadows across the land. Unfortunately some drizzle set in about 1km from the car but it wasn’t enough to dampen a great day in Assynt.