After 3 day outings into the mountains of northern Scotland, it was time to set out on an overnight expedition. Whenever we’ve been on similar trips to this area in recent years, we’ve undertaken a 3 day, 2 night expedition through the Letterewe and Fisherfield Forests. However, this time, we opted for a change and decided to head further north to explore the lonely peaks of Suilven and Canisp.
The other 2 groups set out from near Elphin to the east, while I drove my group round to Lochinver to the west. The plan was to converge on an area identified on the map just to the north of Suilven. With other groups planned to go over Canisp on their way to the camp, while we were hoping to drop some kit at the camp, before heading up Suilven with lightened bags. In reality, the weather was terrible. Constant driving rain made its way through everyone’s ‘waterproofs’ within an hour, making it a fairly unpleasant and uncomfortable walk in.
We arrived at the predetermined camp site first to find many areas flooded, and the rest seriously waterlogged. It took some time to find somewhere half suitable for pitching tents. By the time we’d set up camp, we spotted one of the other groups approaching from an unexpected direction. They’d made the decision not to ascend Canisp in the conditions, and had walked in along the track. The last group arrived and passed us by on their retreat to the bothy at Suileag. They were the youngest group, and the weather had taken its toll on morale. This was enough to convince my group that our intended ascent of Suilven should be called off.
A soggy night of sleeping in a puddle was followed by some encouraging sunshine. So, with a decent breakfast inside us, and renewed spirits, we loaded our bags on our backs and aimed for Canisp. We were making good progress until, as we reached the north west ridge, we were hit by a ferocious wind. We battled on for a while, reaching an altitude of about 600m, before I was forced to make the decision to bail out. Very frustratingly, once we were down to 450m, everything felt calm. However, we could still see the cloud getting whipped over the summit and hear the howling as the wind was funnelled up the gullies.
We dropped steadily down to the south eastern end of Lochan Fada, where we came across a beach that seemed the perfect place for a late lunch stop. So after beating a retreat from the mountain, we ended up enjoying a leisurely lunch on a beach in the sunshine. It certainly wasn’t what I would have predicted last night. The rest of our walk out was straight forward enough, giving the group time and opportunity to practice their navigational skills
It wasn’t the most fulfilling expedition, but there will be a lot that the lads will take away and remember from the experience. Not least of which, the knowledge that waterproofs are not waterproof!