ST BRENDAN IN TORRIDON
|Date: 5-9 MARCH 2009
Submitted by: KEITH MONAGHAN
Having had to cancel the Torridon trip Margaret and I had planned for 2 consecutive years I was glad ,at last, to be on a flight to Inverness in bright blue skies with views over the idyllic snow covered Highlands.
1st night was spent in the very pleasant Hotel and bunkhouse in Kinlochewe and plans for me were to tame the 6 major Munro's in Torridon with a possible skip up a gently sloping 7th called Fionn Bheinn on route back to the airport on Monday morning.
Day 1 saw all 13 mountaineers set off up a good path onto the first hill , the objective to gain the Liathach ridge, traverse the pinnacles and bag both peaks before an easy dander off the other end. However the snow got gradually deeper unto progress was almost impossible wading through 3-4 feet of soft snow on very steep ground. Pete McConnell and Ant broke most of the hard ground and after much struggling around we all emerged onto the ridge. However this too was knee deep in the white stuff and the pace was hard going for everybody never mind those out front. Michael of recent E2 fame had a go at leading but had to be chastised for taking too large a stride. We all eventually turned back and retraced our steps to the cars before making our way to Torridon YH, our base for the remainder of the trip.
The next day the party was split and Pete, PJ, Ant, Michael, Sandra M and I climbed to the top of Liathach from the other end. Wind at the the top was ferocious so a quick about turn was made and a bum slide for 400m meant an early finish on day 2 so we went back to the hotel and has a few more beers.
Sunday 8th March 2009 saw Pete, PJ, Ant and Mike headed for some mad climb on the East side of Beinn Alligin. From descriptions and checking guide book, I think they climbed the headwall above Deep South Gully called Depth Charge VI,8,
Margaret and Trish headed for a traverse of Beinn Damh with Alan T and Bill off to summit Meall Dearg.
My plan was originally to traverse the ridges and Horns of Alligin but the wind was gusting to 60mph so I suggested we try a wee easy hill called Fionn Bheinn 15 miles up the valley. A small Munro barely 60 ft above the 3000ft mark with gently southerly sloping gradient and a 500ft start height. Maps were checked, way-points entered in GPS and ropes, harnesses, and second axes returned to the bedroom!! 3 volunteers came along for the dander Sandra M, Alan Evans and Sandra K collectively now known as SAS.
The forecast was for heavy snow showers so we were well wrapped up and soon had goggles balaclavas etc on. As we reached the summit ridge Sandra Kennedy and I checked GPS and the map again, noting the crags indicated on the north side of the hill, and I took a bearing due west pacing 200 m with the intention of doglegging back to the summit, Having paced my calculated distance I turned due north following the GPS pointer, By now we were within 150m of the summit, in a total whiteout in a howling gale and walking in a row less than 3 feet apart so as not to get separated. I couldn't see anything at all and was relying on GPs for last few yards. Goggles were frozen inside and out and had to be cleared every 20 yards or so.
My next recollection was of landing head down on a steep slope with a mouth full of snow sliding at speed, head first down hill. I managed to swing around and kicked and grabbed at the snow unto I eventually stopped sliding. (Mouth open probably helped a lot). A quick check remarkably found noting broken or sliced. Alan Evans poked his head over the now obvious crag face some 100 ft above me and I gave him the thumbs up. I now was in sole possession of the maps, GPS, mobile phone, lunch, flask etc and couldn't see what was below me.
I put crampons on and started up the steep incline, in deep snow taking about 20 min to reach the bottom of the crag, I remarked on my perfect landing site in the snow between a couple of rock bands and had visions of the SAS standing on the top all holding up 3 six's for a perfect dive.
A little more snow swimming got me diagonally up the side the rock face underneath a large cornice which was overhung but well frozen. The two Sandra's dangled Alan over the edge holding his feet and using a walking pole and a sling, he was able to drop me down a second axe. I faffed about and was able to to cut a few steps and climb up over the cornice where a helpful sling on a boot axe belay was attached and I was hauled back into the gale.
Sandra M apologised for the push and asked if I had squashed her sandwiches and scotch eggs! I suggested a quick recalculation and the last push for the summit but was overruled, All items of navigation were stripped from me and I was relegated to the rear of the column. A quick about turn and I followed behind the SAS at an appropriately humble distance and we marched away from top.
Very luckily got away with nothing but a few bruises, and a hard lesson in what not to do in crap conditions and thankfully got to go home to my kids!
aka St Brendan
11 Mar 2009
The Colmcillers are doing some adventuring this winter! You'll have to put together a safety lecture and powerpoint presentation for the Climbfest.
11 Mar 2009
Reports that Cristiano Ronaldo has phoned looking for diving tips are unconfirmed...
12 Mar 2009
Continuity IRA have denied any involvement.
29 Mar 2009
Straighter than an arrow, faster than a speeding bullet. Was it a bird? Was it a plane. No, its Munro Monaghan Man