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Last updated: 15/10/10


"Not very much in November"
23-24 November 2007

On a dark and somewhat dismal November evening, various figures staggered along duckboards and sploshed through the mud from the “No Overnight Parking” sign on the Achnasheen-to-Achnashellach road towards a couple of small windows glowing in the gloom. Progress over the darkened waters was a matter of faith and balance, while amongst the featureless rushes the occasional reflector post was a god-send.


Inside, however, all – well, some: see below – was light (gas) and warmth (a very welcome bowl of soup, and a glowing fire), as a dozen or so folk foregathered for the week-end meet organised by Marj Ewan in the Jacobites Club’s cottage at Inver. The place has been wonderfully rescued from a near-ruin, with a spacious kitchen, a toilet and a comfortable lounge, even a drying room. Solar panels even provide electricity, though not much, it seemed, in November. The merest trickle of water available through the kitchen taps was the only immediately obvious drawback. Marj and Jasmine Ross had done Moruisg on the Friday in a biting cold wind with everything frozen underfoot. Alex Barbour had had an “interesting” Friday on Cairngorm, in deep powder snow in the northern corries but a fine hard surface on the plateau. For Ian and Jim Bryce, a 7am departure from Aberdeen on Friday certainly paid dividends, as they had a good time on Little Wyvis in bright sunshine with extensive views of Beinn Dearg, the Fannichs, Ben Wyvis and An Teallach, in full winter raiment. Then they were in time to reach the hut in daylight, and transported in coal and wood, light the fire and get the hut warm.

Overnight, a further Inver drawback appeared in the form of a perishingly cold night for most of us, stretched out on the upper floor, and shivering (when not snoring) in unison. This made a 7.00am rise not quite so unwelcome as usual, though some wore full winter kit while huddled over their cornflakes. Then it was out into a rough old day – chilly, windy, showery, and a sprinkling of snow on the occasionally visible hillsides. Like the starting times, destinations and objectives were varied, as will now be related. Ken and Lydia Thomson and Joyce Ritchie started off up a good path beside the Allt Frianach behind the SMC’s Ling Hut, and crossed several challenging side torrents before heading up rough ground to Lochan Uaine, intent on the Sgorr of that ilk (a Corbett), and then perhaps the twin Corbett, Sgorr Dubh, to the north. However, a sudden lightning flash and thunderclap en route made for caution, and the wind grew to a strength unnerving to the smaller members of the party. So, above the loch(s), amid impressive scenery, it was decided to abort, and a rather unpleasant descent was made due north, straight into the wind and hail until the path was regained.  The side torrents on the way back were even higher but, with most of the party pretty wet already, seemed perhaps not quite so challenging. Nevertheless, a stop at Ye Olde Achnasheen Tea Shoppe seemed justified, if only in order to allow texting to ensure that others had stoked up the fire at Inver.

Alex Macmillan, Eilidh Scobbie, Marj Ewan, Jasmine Ross and Emily Gamble headed for Scardroy over the railway line next to Inver, and then up the rather unsatisfactory path over the col towards Scardroy Lodge, underneath impressive cliffs to the south. Reaching the forest, with loads of deer hiding from the weather, seemed far enough, however (or did Emily at least reach Loch Beannacharain?), and they then returned to Inver along the same route, no doubt to stoke up the aforesaid fire in good time for everybody else.

Bill Morgan forged his way from Achnashellach up Glen Lair with its splendid cliffs, and got right up the col, where he met the north-western gale with a vengeance, being hit by ice lifted from the lochan at the top! Further progress, e.g. a return via Sgrr Ruadh and Fuar Tholl, seemed definitely inadvisable, especially as crossing back over the River Lair would be impossible, and so he returned down the path, to discover that he had missed death by hours as a tree had meanwhile fallen across the track!

Tim Walmsley, with both car and bike, headed with the former for Grudie and then with the latter (and somewhat more effort, into the wind) for Fannich Lodge, from where he ascended Meall Gorm – the only summiteering success of the day. He reported a fine stalker’s path most of the way up, and weather conditions rather better higher up – a claim met with some scepticism by the rest of the group, especially as near the summit he had lost his best pair of ski goggles to a huge gust of wind. He also found it necessary to rehydrate at Achnasheen on the way back.

Ian and Jim got to within a hundred metres from the top of the Corbett Sgurr na Feartaig, above Gerry's hostel  at Achnashellach before deciding to turn back after Jim got blown over. They heard later that four people had been rescued on Ben Nevis: a reminder that it is sometimes sensible to let the hill win.

Alec set out for Fionn Bheinn, but must have had second thoughts, for when the Scardroy party returned, they found in the hut a note (“Have Done an Andy Lawson”). Alec was last heard of in the Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore, perhaps hoping for better conditions back there on Sunday.

A group depleted by one therefore found themselves sitting round the table in the late Saturday afternoon wondering how to while away the weary hours until bedtime. Two solutions presented themselves, or rather were presented through the pre-trip planning and the hard work of a few. First, Joyce Ritchie’s 50th birthday was celebrated with flutes of fizz and a superb cake appropriately decorated. Speeches were not offered (or at least were not listened to), while an inscribed birthday card summarised the accumulated wisdom of the rest of the party (especially those over 60).


Second, and even more memorably, Bill Morgan came up with a splendid meal, whose very menu sets the juices flowing:

o Cullen skink o
o Lamb tajine with cous-cous and vegetables o
o Apple pie and cream o
o Cheese and biscuits o
o Coffee o
o with alcoholic refreshment to taste o

Just getting all the ingredients over the morass to Inver must have taken Bill a good deal of effort, let alone preparing and cooking them. The group’s obvious satisfaction with the repast may have been some reward.

Burning off the ingested carbohydrates, and more adequate sleepwear, meant that the Saturday night was spent in greater comfort, but the Sunday weather (and forecast, as relayed by mobile from Aberdeen) was little encouragement although the wind had declined. Consequently, most folk headed for home although the Bryces braved Achnasheen’s relentless drizzle to ascend Fionn Bheinn. Tim Walmsley exercised his bike at the Learnie trails on the Black Isle, and the President was taken for coffee at Tiso’s in Inverness.


Author: Ken Thomson