Author Topic: TR - Ben Hope  (Read 2459 times)

richardh1905

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TR - Ben Hope
« on: 11:23:38, 21/08/18 »
My wife had a week booked off work so we decided to go for one last family camping trip before the school holidays ended. But where to go? The forecasts were dismal, and we chopped and changed our minds a couple of times before deciding to spend the first two nights in the Findhorn valley, at a low key campsite pitched amongst larch trees, and take it from there. We spent half a day walking along the impressive Findhorn Gorge in the rain, before tea and scones and a trip to Findhorn village on the coast. A mixed day.
 
The forecast for the rest of the week was for sunshine and showers, so the next day we decided to chance it and head for Durness, hoping to fit in a days walking in the wonderful mountains of the far north west before we had to return. The drive north from Ullapool must be one of the best in Britain - a good road sweeping in and out of glens, with the mountain scenery just getting better and better - Ben Mor Coigach, Cul Mor, Cul Beag, Stac Pollaidh, Suilven, Canisp, Quinaig…  this surely must be God's Own Country. The road eventually turns into single track, so I had to tear my hungry eyes away from Foinaven and Arkle as we headed over the hill to the exposed Sango Sands campsite at Durness. Cracked a pole of the family tunnel tent as I was pitching it - nothing serious, and easy to replace, but serves me right for buying a budget tent - plastic windows, for goodness sake!




Thursday 16th August 2018
 
Weather blustery but bright so off we went. It took us an hour to drive around Loch Eriboll and down the side of Loch Hope to the southern end of Ben Hope; the roads are mostly single track. Loch Eriboll is very dramatic, part of a primeval landscape made up of ancient rocks, and we caught our first glimpse of Ben Hope across the water, standing apart from the other hills.


First view of Ben Hope across Loch Eriboll; Ben Loyal to the far left

We did not stop at the usual start point, where there is a car park, but drove on to the small settlement of Alltnacaillich, a mile or so to the south. On the hill at around 1030. We passed a small hydro scheme and crossed a burn before following a bulldozed track up the hillside to the east; this soon turned into a decent path, which took us up past a waterfall onto the moorland above. Fine views unfolding to the north.






Fine views unfolding to the north.

After crossing the burn, we struck off over heather and grass to gain the crest of the broad Leithir Mhuiseil ridge, where there was a faint path. The ridge was easy going, and gave us superb views to the south - Ben Hee at the end of a line of rugged hills stretching westward, and Ben Klibreck standing in glorious isolation to the SE. Ahead, to the north, we had a foreshortened view of Ben Hope, with wisps of cloud wreathing the top. A heavy shower was racing across the glen so it was out with the waterproofs; thankfully we had our backs to it, and it passed after twenty minutes or so.


Figures in a landscape - Ben Hee to the left; trouble coming our way from the right!


A distant view of majestic Ben Klibreck


Clouds on top of Ben Hope, with a distant view of the North Atlantic to the left.

The ridge joins the normal route of ascent after crossing a small burn, and the hard work began. We met our first walkers of the day, on their way down (in all we met at most a couple of dozen people on the hill; what a contrast to Ben Nevis last month). The path traversed eastwards across a steep slope for a short while, before tackling the slope directly; this section was rather loose.

The slope eased but we entered the clouds, and I had to reign my 11 year old son in - I didn’t want to lose him in the mist! The wind picked up as we climbed, and it started to feel a lot colder. I was very conscious that my son could easily get hypothermia, so we stopped to put on some extra layers, and to eat fudge. But he was enjoying himself; I gave him the dog, and she pulled him up the hill; in fact at one stage he was running between cairns!


Close to the edge

Although Ben Hope is not the highest of hills in Scotland, it is still a big hill and the climb starts only a little above sea level, so there is a lot of work to do, and the slopes seemed to go on forever through the mist. Eventually though, the gradient lessened and we passed an unusual fin of rock protruding from the bouldery slopes; I took note of this for our return.
 
And then the trig point appeared out of the mist; were we pleased to see it! After the obligatory summit photo we took shelter in the stone circle behind the trig point and had our lunch. Some fellow walkers arrived, along with their mascot - a golden skull!
 
The mist refused to clear and I didn’t want to hang around in case we caught another heavy shower; this time it would be in our faces, so we prepared to head down. I thought that I would take a bearing just to be on the safe side, and made an unpleasant discovery - my ‘old faithful’ compass that I have had for over three decades was all over the place! Luckily I had caught sight of the fin of rock through a momentary thinning of the mist, so we were able to head off in the right direction. I don’t think that we would have been in much danger though, it would have quickly become apparent had we taken the wrong direction as the ground falls away steeply on all sides except the south.
 
The clouds soon cleared as we descended, and we were once again able to enjoy the spectacular views to the south and west, a delightful jumble of rough mountains - a true wilderness. The view over the western face of Ben Hope was spectacular too, down to Loch Hope, with a glimpse of the North Atlantic beyond.


View back up the hill; the clouds clearing. Loch Hope and Loch Eriboll to the left.

Rather than retrace our steps down the southern ridge, we followed the main path down to the car park; better in descent than ascent as it is quite eroded in places. This took a turn to the north west at one stage, giving a fine view of the precipitous west face, before doubling back and following the slopes above a turbulent stream, with many cascades and pools at the bottom of a ravine.


Lonely Strath More, with Ben Hee and a tangle of rugged hills beyond.


The west face of Ben Hope


Descending beside the stream. Not hot enough for a swim, unfortunately.

The walk back along the minor road to our starting point was pleasant, below native birch woods and the crags of the southern ridge that we had ascended, and past some impressively large boulders that had crashed down from them. An easy last mile or two is always welcome; a chance to relax and chat about the walk, and about walks to come.


A view back along the road towards Ben Hope - just before the midges struck!

Our reverie was interrupted as we passed a pine plantation near our starting point - the midges were out with a vengeance! Such was our desire to escape them that I forgot to take a look at the Dun Domaigil broch a short distance to the south. But we were rewarded by a particularly fine view of Ben Hope that I spotted in the wing mirror as we retreated down the minor road above Loch Hope - so good that I had to stop.


What a mountain!
 
A true ‘Quality Mountain Day’ - I don’t know what the essence of a mountain is - steepness, isolation, prominence, ruggedness, whatever - but Ben Hope has it in spades.
« Last Edit: 08:30:38, 22/08/18 by richardh1905 »

Ridge

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #1 on: 13:37:43, 21/08/18 »
More great photos and TR  O0
Over hill, over dale. Thorough brush, thorough brier....
I do wander every where

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #2 on: 14:48:33, 21/08/18 »

Thanks Ridge  :) 


Have you ever been up to the far north west?

gary m

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #3 on: 17:08:50, 21/08/18 »
What a great trip report
you have 1 life live it

vghikers

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #4 on: 18:24:40, 21/08/18 »
Looks fantastic, the landscapes up there in the far north-west are superb. Never been there unfortunately, probably won't happen now.

Quote
...in all we probably met a couple of dozen people on the hill...
That's an awful lot by our standards!. Surprising actually, considering the start is in the middle of nowhere, but I guess it must be popular to have a car park.


richardh1905

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #5 on: 18:34:01, 21/08/18 »
What a great trip report



Thanks Gary  :)
« Last Edit: 21:38:20, 21/08/18 by richardh1905 »

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #6 on: 18:37:40, 21/08/18 »
Looks fantastic, the landscapes up there in the far north-west are superb. Never been there unfortunately, probably won't happen now.
That's an awful lot by our standards!. Surprising actually, considering the start is in the middle of nowhere, but I guess it must be popular to have a car park.



I suppose a lot of people climb Ben Hope as it is the most northerly Munro; and nearly all of them will take normal route. And there's an awful lot of people doing the North Coast 500 nowadays; the two walkers with the golden skull were doing it.


Plus it's a fantastic mountain  :)

Ridge

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #7 on: 19:34:12, 21/08/18 »
Thanks Ridge  :) 


Have you ever been up to the far north west?
No I've never been that far north, looks amazing.
Over hill, over dale. Thorough brush, thorough brier....
I do wander every where

April

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #8 on: 19:43:34, 21/08/18 »
More fab photos, it does look amazing  O0

I've never been there either  :)
"Who would've thought...... you are light and darkness coming through" words by Tim Armstrong

vizzavona

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #9 on: 20:20:00, 21/08/18 »
Your right the Southlands have fine mountains.  It was fifty years ago when I got the Munros and Foinaven during a holiday in the North.  Only since retiring did we get back to the several grand Corbetts in the area.   For Ben Hope I seem to recall a scrambling rock ridge to get onto the high ground.
Do you use the rickety Ferry (maybe it isn't still the same one now) to get from South Ronaldsay to John o'Groats when travelling to the big island?

sunnydale

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #10 on: 20:33:52, 21/08/18 »
Super report & pics Richard O0
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richardh1905

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #11 on: 21:12:15, 21/08/18 »
Your right the Southlands have fine mountains.  It was fifty years ago when I got the Munros and Foinaven during a holiday in the North.  Only since retiring did we get back to the several grand Corbetts in the area.   For Ben Hope I seem to recall a scrambling rock ridge to get onto the high ground.
Do you use the rickety Ferry (maybe it isn't still the same one now) to get from South Ronaldsay to John o'Groats when travelling to the big island?




There is a scrambling route up Ben Hope's north ridge, but not for me this time around as it was a family walk.

I've never been on the John O'Groats ferry; it doesn't take cars. To get across the Pentland Firth I normally use Pentland Ferries, a private company who operate a catamaran between St Margarets Hope on South Ronaldsay, and Gills Bay a few miles to the west of John O'Groats, but on this last trip I used Northlink from Stromness to Thurso.

Foinaven is a mountain that I have in mind for a wild camp, possibly starting with Arkle, and including Cranstackie, then down the ridge to Durness. A vast primeval landscape to lose myself in.
« Last Edit: 21:35:00, 21/08/18 by richardh1905 »

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #12 on: 21:23:24, 21/08/18 »
More fab photos, it does look amazing  O0

I've never been there either  :)


Thanks April :)


Torridon, Coigach, Assynt and beyond are difficult to get to, but well worth the effort - the landscape is amazing. I've been many times over the years, including driving all the way up from Wales on a number of occasions, and some years ago I had a job in Orkney that involved travel to the Western Isles - I perfected the art of nipping up a mountain on my way back after a week working in Stornoway; between the ferries. Or I would just drive from Ullapool to Thurso the long way around - as I said - God's Own Country. And the wild camping opportunities are endless - our best was a two night camp in the Fisherfield Forest, a 14 mile walk in from Poolewe to the foot of two particularly fine mountains, A'Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor.
« Last Edit: 21:36:16, 21/08/18 by richardh1905 »

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #13 on: 21:25:20, 21/08/18 »
Super report & pics Richard O0



Thanks Sunnydale  :)

Owen

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Re: TR - Ben Hope
« Reply #14 on: 21:45:22, 21/08/18 »

Foinaven is a mountain that I have in mind for a wild camp, possibly starting with Arkle, and including Cranstackie, then down the ridge to Durness. A vast primeval landscape to lose myself in.


Foinaven is really worth the effort, I had it all to myself when i did it. Read about it http://donthaveone-owen.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-far-north-west.html