Sunday, 26 April 2015

Ben Wyvis

The well constructed path from the car park
An Cabar - into the sun and cloud
Summit in cloud
Looking west to the Fannaichs
Friday, 24 April 2015

Ascent:       985 metres
Distance:   14 kilometres
Time:         3 hours 36 minutes

t    An Cabar                       946m     1hr  29mins
m  Glas Leathad Mor        1046m    1hr  57mins

Ben Wyvis has never been a favourite hill, massive though it is and with an excellent path to the summit. I have climbed it twice in gale force winds, once in an electrical storm and once by coupling it with Little Wyvis, an outing that rates high on my least enjoyed walks. After a good spell of weather this week, today was the day for it to break. I stayed in Strathpeffer overnight on my way home from Orkney so that I could have another bash at Wyvis and set out early in the hope of catching the best of the breaking weather.

It was sunny as I parked a mile south of Garbat, had a quick discussion with the couple in the camper van who were having breakfast in the sun and then began  the walk along the superb path that climbs through the forest next to the burn. I was walking well after some recent excursions and with my running getting back to normal. The gradient on the early part of the hill is only moderate and allows a steady pace. Once out of the forest at 400 metres the gradient begins to ramp up so that there are 300 metres of very steep ascent. Fortunately massive blocks have been built into a giant stairway but  I seemed to flow over them without any great effort. By 800 metres the early morning sun was hidden and I was in the clouds.

I stopped briefly at the large cairn of An Cabar to put on a jacket and gloves before marching along the short grass and mossy ridge to the summit: Glas Leathad Mor. It is an easy walk over the 2 kilometre ridge with no steep sections. The SMC guidebook talks about the ridge being delightful but as on my previous visits there were no views to be had. I paused briefly at the summit for water and some nuts and raisins and then returned by the same route. Dropping down from An Cabar, the views to the west opened up and the first walker of the day, a lady about my age, was making good progress. She was waiting for her husband who was a good 150 metres further down the hill on what from his demeanour he thought was the 'staircase from hell'.

I skipped down the final steep section and then walked swiftly down the forest track. I had hoped to break 5 hours for the walk but I was well under 4 hours, better than the two other occasions when I did this exact route, admittedly in gales. After the last couple of months it was good to know that I was recovering.

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