Escape to Mull

Winter had arrived early in Aviemore, tons of deep powder snow had made hill walking an energy sapping slog, post holing or wading through knee to thigh deep snow. Exercise was restricted to ploughing through the snow on along the Speyside Way and endless cross-country skiing in the woods around Loch Morlich. The highest thing I had climbed for two weeks was a ladder to remove frozen snow from our gutters.

It was time to escape and I needed to go west as there was significantly less snow there. I decided to combine a visit to Oban to see Andy with a jaunt across to Mull. Andy had recently acquired a new Bearded Collie puppy so this gave me the perfect excuse for a visit.

Ali at 16 weeks

Dun da Ghaoithe – 766m
11th December 2010
Distance: 9 ½ miles
Ascent: 950m
Weather: Windy with improving visibility
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne and Molly

Dun da Ghaoithe was my 200th Corbett the first time around and climbed in perfect weather, but this time I knew from the MWIS forecast I wasn’t going to be so lucky.

I left the car at the bottom of the service road that climbs to the masts on the east ridge of the hill. It was windy and I was slightly apprehensive about the winds higher up. Despite the recent thaw the ground was frozen solid and there was very little snow. I followed the track up to the 2nd mast where we sheltered behind a generator box to put on even more clothes. We carried onwards and upwards into the clag where the views disappeared.

On arrival at the trig point the wind was ferocious but as soon as I turned NNW towards the summit the wind dropped to a mere breeze. After 20 minutes the summit cairn loomed out of the mist. I didn’t hang around in the somewhat inclement conditions and retraced my steps to the trig point. At about 650m the cloud parted and the sun came out. Typical.

Looking down the east ridge.
Typical summit clearance on the way down!

The whole walk had taken longer than expected after battling the head wind for much of the walk and all evening my eyes were stinging and sore and I was relieved that I had chosen a lower hill that day.

Ben More – 966m
12th December 2010
Distance: 6 miles
Ascent: 975m
Weather: Sub zero and sunny
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne and Molly

I really couldn’t believe my luck; I was about to start my 3rd ascent of Ben More and the forecast was for good weather and good visibility. My two previous ascents of Ben More have also provided summit views so someone on Mull must like me!

The drive from Salen to the start of the walk at Dhiseig was tortuous on very frosty roads and I was thankful that my Aviemore snow tyres were being put to good use. The ground was frozen solid, the temperature at 8.45 was -5oc so it had obviously been a very cold night and all the groundwater was frozen into icy sheets.

Early morning light on Ben More.

Molly (the world’s most useless sheepdog) is scared of sheep. Any sheep are given a wide berth and she can usually be found hiding behind my legs for added security. It appeared that the rams on Mull had been sprayed orange which by Molly’s reckoning made them even more dangerous so the first hour of the walk was very stressful for her.

Dangerous sheep……………………………..
…………………and a cowardly collie!

Thankfully Ben More’s notorious lower boggy sections were solid and higher up huge sheets of ice made for rather slow progress. It was easier to stick to the grassy slopes than attempt to use the ‘path’ which resembled a frozen waterfall in places.

Ice sheets are easy when you have inbuilt paw crampons.

Progress up the scree path was much easier than on previous visits as this was also frozen solid.

The south ridge overlooking Loch Beg.
A’Chioch ridge waits for another day.

Views from the summit were spectacular.

I followed my ascent route back down the hill, slower than usual as care was needed to prevent myself scooting off down the frozen hillside on my derriere.

Moonrinse above Ben More.

I still had another day on Mull and I had left this as a flexible day with plans totally dependent on the weather. The forecast for the next day was for another stunner so being a desperately blinkered Munro bagger I decided to climb Ben More again for my 4th round. I parked at the same point and it was still -5oc with the sun just beginning to make its presence felt.

I followed my route of the day before but thankfully the orange sheep were nowhere to be seen.

The summit shots.

4/4 views can’t be bad………………..

I descend back towards the car, always mindful of the time as I had to catch the ferry back to Oban that evening.

I stayed in overnight on Oban with Andy and I’m sure it will be possible to rebuild much of his house after an evening of mad puppy and mad collie playing together.

Beinn a’ Chulaiste – 857m
14th December 2010
Distance: 3 3/4 miles
Ascent: 610m
Weather: Windy with limited visibility
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne and Molly

I decided on a short walk on the way home to Aviemore and as Molly needed a walk it seemed silly not to pop up a hill. With the added bonus that this was a hill that Molly still needed to bag for her Corbett round.

Beinn a’ Chulaiste from the Kingshouse Hotel.

The resident deer


Buachaille Etive Mor from Kingshouse.

I followed the Allt a’ Bhalaich up to the foot of the E ‘ridge’.

The ridge was just as steep and unrelenting as I remembered it but at least height was gained quickly but sadly the views were decreasing with height.

Eventually the very wintery trig point came into view.

Molly had bagged her 200th Corbett and she was even treated to a bit of a view on the way down.

A thoroughly enjoyable trip and a great cure for my snow depression.






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