Friday 15 April 2016

West Ridge of Sgurr Connich

I've lived over 12 and a half years in Lochaber and its getting rarer for me to find enjoyable new spots to visit but today was a welcome exception. Steve and I were on day 2 of with our West Highland College students on the Rescue and Incident Management course and today we wanted to give them some simple rope work, route finding and general mountaineering tools. The forecast wasn't helpful but a flip through Noel Williams' Lochaber Scrambles reminded me of the routes down the side of Loch Shiel I'd always planned to do but never gotten around to. Its always a bit of a gamble going to a new venue on a teaching day but given how low lying the route was (ideal with fresh snow forecast to low levels) we decided to give it a try.
We had a grand scramble with an opportunity to play with the ropes on the approach (passing wood anemones and primroses in bloom) . The gneiss/pegmatite slabs are rough and either hold little vegetation or enough to provide reassuring ledges- very different from yesterday's lichenous mica schist. We were zapped with hail and heavy snow high on the route but its easy to zigzag and avoid the steps you don't want to do. The group coached each other through the slab sections and used the rope to protect the final steps up to a stunning sunny view as we made our way the short hop to the summit of Meall na h-Airigh (Rounded Hill of the Shieling) passing frogspawn laden pools and a large pellet of undigested bones, fur and insect exoskeleton from a raptor.
The sun was out and the views north to Glenfinnan were lovely with the viaduct clearly visible. A little further east the 2 tops of Gulvain stood out against the blue sky but it was the view along Loch Eil to Ben Nevis that we followed down the east ridge and back to the van parked at Callop.
 The West Ridge of Sgurr Connich
 A little navigation
 A little rope work
 Must be spring
 The gorge
 Onto the ridge
 Rough slabs
 Change in the weather
 ...and snow
 Round the corner
 The Loch below
 Loch Shiel
 Come on up
 Loch Shiel below
 Topping out
 Top team
 Time for a drink
 Aha! A pellet
 Fresh snow on Ben Nevis
 Glenfinnan below
Time to go!

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