An attempt at An Teallach

01 May 2012

12.2 km/990 m/07:00 hrs

My friend Dunja had come over from Germany for another Munro bagging holiday, and we had arranged to meet in Dundonnell and climb An Teallach together. We stayed at the excellent Sail Mhor Croft Hostel which is the perfect base for this hill.

I was hoping that the snow situation would allow an ascent, as we are both not very experienced in winter conditions and none of us had brought crampons or an ice axe.

Driving up to Dundonnell two days before, I had taken these photos of An Teallach, and I thought it didn’t look too bad, at least the pinnacles seemed to have hardly any snow cover.

An Teallach (zoomed).

The day before we had made a half-hearted attempt at Beinn Dearg, but abandoned the walk because the weather had been horrible, very windy and the rain lashing our faces. We had spent the rest of the day shopping in Ullapool, relaxing at the hostel and enjoying a great evening at the Dundonnell Hotel (with live music!).

What a difference a day makes – the next morning it was sunny and very warm, almost too warm for walking! We had decided to start the ascent from Dundonnell, which is normally the easier route. I had climbed An Teallach twice before, each time starting from Corrie Hallie and doing a clockwise circuit, going over the pinnacles first and then the two Munros, Sgùrr Fiòna and Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill.

Because we had heard about some walkers who had to abandon their walks the previous days because of the snow and ice cover on the pinnacles and the bypass path, we thought that by starting from Dundonnell at least Dunja could get her two Munros and we could omit the pinnacles if they turned out to be impassable.

The ascent route was on a clear path first leading up to Meall Garbh, then following the Allt a’ Mhuilinn.

Glas Mheall Mòr.

There are some pretty waterfalls on the Allt a’ Mhuillin, and we also saw some mountain goats around here.

And another one…

We continued up the path into Coir’ a’ Mhuilinn, the landscape around us looking very parched.

But there were also some large snow patches left. Of course, Dunja had to try some bumsliding, but she didn’t get very far because the snow was too soft and the angle of the slope not steep enough  😆

Looking down Coir’ a’ Mhuilinn.

From the bealach between Sròn a’ Choire and Glas Mheall Mòr we got the first view of Sgùrr Fiòna.

Looking west into Coire Mòr an Teallaich, Sgùrr Ruadh in the centre.

But we could also see now that there was substantial snow cover on the steep slopes of Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill’s NW side.

Looking past Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill to Sgùrr Fiòna.

And those slopes were very steep…! We discussed what to do and decided to at least try the ascent (there were lots of footprints visible higher up), but to turn back if things became too dodgy.

Looking down to the bealach (the large cornice on the left side of the picture is where the normal descent route into Glas Tholl starts).

I had got about half way up the slope when I decided I had enough. Not only was the terrain very steep, but the snow was very soft and I slipped a few times. In any case, I was well outwith my comfort zone, and I kept thinking that if I fell, there was no way I would be able to perform self-arrest with my trekking poles. And falling down this slope, hitting one of the rocks sticking out of the snow – I’d rather not think about it!

Besides, I had been up these Munros before and therefore wasn’t desperate to get to any of the summits. My priority at the time was the TGO Challenge, and I wasn’t ready to take any unnecessary risks a week before the start of it.

Dunja was already way above me, she had chosen a route further right from me. I shouted to her that I wasn’t feeling comfortable and I was going to descend. She shouted back that she wanted to keep going…

So I made my way down to the safety of the bealach very slowly and carefully. There I found a large boulder to lean against and recover from all that excitement, had a long lunch break and waited for Dunja to come back down.

It seemed like an eternity since I had lost sight of her, and I was worried she might even attempt the second Munro! But eventually she appeared at the top of the slope (circled).

I was very relieved when she finally arrived back at the bealach, but she insisted it “had been fun”  😯 (well, not my idea of fun!).

We had looked at the descent route earlier, and the normal way down was blocked by a cornice. But there was a steep gully a bit further right, which had looked doable from above as there were plenty of handholds, and that’s were we descended. At least on solid rock I felt a lot more comfortable than on soft, steep snow.

The Beinn Dearg group from the descent route.

The cornice from below.

Waterfall on the Garbh Allt.

After fighting our way through a jungle of rhododendrons and some very boggy ground, we arrived back at the road and started walking back to Dundonnell. But within a few minutes, a car stopped and the friendly driver gave us a lift back to my car.

Then we drove to Corrie Hallie, where I dropped Dunja off. She was going to join an MBA work party at Shenavall for a few days and spend some more time in the Fisherfield area (she has done 94 Munros by now – well done!). For me it was just a quiet drive back home after an eventful, but very enjoyable trip with great company.

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