Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Two Horseshoes: An Teallach & Ben Mor Coigach, May 2011

The next time the weather looked stable (about three weeks later) I was back, this time for An Teallach, which means 'the forge', supposedly so-called because of the wisps of cloud that emerge from the cauldron-like centre of this vast horseshoe even when the lesser mountains all around are clear. Is An Teallach Scotland's finest mountain? I wouldn't argue. The Skye cuillin is the only thing I've climbed that could compete. I certainly find An Teallach, because of its remoteness and its proximity to weird lumps like Beinn Dearg Mor...
  ...more enticing than the other mountain that is often mentioned as a rival, Liathach. And both of these far outclass the bigger but far more tedious lumps to the south like Ben Nevis. This was a beautiful trip, with clear skies and warm weather, but the atmosphere was the haziest I've ever known it. Distant mountains were really not clear at all. 
 After driving up, and making the ascent...
...I spent the night up on the ridge. 

There was plenty of cloud around, billowing up from that cauldron-like space inside An Teallach's complex of ridges. 

This was quite a spot to spend the night. Next morning I got up before dawn and watched the sun rise from the ridge...

...before embarking on the long ridge and the multiple peaks.


There were still some patches of snow around, which made for a few tricky manoeuvres on the descent and walk back to Dundonnell.

I decided to head up to Coigach and climb another complex mountain. One attraction of this was that a very different profile of An Teallach would be visible from the top. Another was the extraordinary drive along the Achiltibuie road, between Cul Beag, Stac Pollaidh and Ben Mor's northern outcrops, including the fiddler.

I parked were the road ends, then made my way across the rough heather...
...with superb views across Loch Broom, onto the first shoulder of Ben Mor. I set up camp here, before having a run along the ridges.

There were deer feeding in the bowl made by the Ben Mor horseshoe, and one of the long poems I'd brought with me on this trip was Iain Crichton Smith's wonderful 'Deer on the High Hills'. I sat and read this on the highest point of Ben Mor before heading back to take some photos across the sea as the sun set. 

I remember this as a wonderfully comfortable night, on springy mosses, even when the wind picked up shortly before dawn. Next morning was rather wild. The wind made for a very wintery feel indeed, and it was clear that the mountain would soon be engulfed in cloud from the north. With cold hands I headed along the ridge and did the full circuit.

When I was on top of the fiddler the cloud did finally come in, making for a few nice chiaroscuro photos before the mountain was finally engulfed.

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