Autumn as experienced by a mountaineering bear!
In the first Bear Lodge adventure of the autumn season a team of experienced Mountaineering Bears +1dog are camped in the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve ready to take embark on a challenging mountaineering route across Meall a Ghuibhais & Rhuadh Stac Beag.
The team are gathered and ready to go. Big Ted, The Principal of Bear Lodge, wishes them well with their challenge and has some words of advice ” It can be a fine line between meeting the challenge and taking unnecessary risks. Be mindful to make the right call’
Everyfur agreed that Big Ted’s advice was very sound and assured him they would work together and look after each other so that all the team felt safe as they faced the challenges ahead. Miss Twiggy generously reminded the bears that if ever they were in need of assistance they could hold onto her tail.
Starting their route on the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail, they were amazed by the gleaming quartz crags and the view across Loch Maree to Slioch. Ludvig informed the team that quartz scores 7 on the mohrs hardness scale… rock hard.
Soon their was an opportunity to put paws on rock on the rough slabs. In places the rock was a bit Wibbly and the bears wondered if their paws would be long enough to reach the best holds, but with plenty of encouragement from Miss Twiggy and using the climbing techniques they had learnt as mountaineering bears good progress was made. The next dilemma was whether or not it was time to stop for cake!
From the mountain trail the team worked their way up towards the rocky northern nose of Meall a’Ghiubhais
All the furs were in agreement that the nose looked to steep and rocky to climb unroped. After some deliberation they decided to move together on the rope rather set up anchors and belays. This would technique would save time but still provide protection in case of a slip.
LBB and Endon make their way confidently up the rock despite the long drop beneath the.
Fred holds Miss Twiggy’s tail for a bit of aid climbing over the steep boulder. Ludvig appears to be using his hooms medal as sling. I wonder if his folk back home would approve of the use he is putting it too! 🤔
All the team are working well together with Jinjah and Baz being the first to reach the top.
Everyfur in their best noble poses for the team photo in front of Meall a’ Ghiubhais summit cairn.
And then it really is time to stop for lunch!
After lunch the team descend into the valley between the two mountains. As they plot their route up Rhuadh Stac Beag a cloud of midges descends on them. It is hard to hold your nerve when the wee beasties are up your nose and in your ears . But this is an experienced group of mountaineering bears and a dog, they are armed with insect repellents and head nets to keep the little horrors at bay.
An exposed walk up scree and steep grass leads to the base of a rocky cliff.
The plan at this point is to climb a route called ‘The Swingers’ it is graded Hard Barely Bearable, and with pawsome overhangs harder than anything they have previously attempted, but the whole team are up for it, indeed Jinjah is half way up the first pitch.
The crux is a gaping chasm and it’s Baz’s turn to lead. He is relieved to find a bomber gear placement above the hardest move, but still his furry knees are shaking as he pushes himself upwards
Phew! He is over it first try and making his way towards a series of ledges
Seated on the ledges and anchored in place Baz sets up the belay, ready to bring up the rest of the team.
When you are collie this type of climb is much harder and sometimes your legs just won’t bend in the right direction. Miss Twiggy showed great tenacity and bravery when she slipped and then swung on the rope, first to the left, then to the right. Many climbers may have given up at this point, but not the dog in #MountaineeringBears and 1dog. She grabbed the rough rock with her paw, managed to get a claw in over a small pebble and held on tight until she found a firmer paw hold and pull herself past the overhang. Her success was greeted with a round of applause from her fellow climbers as she joined them on the belay ledge.
LBB had a long wait for his turn and when you are last to climb there is plenty of time for trepidation to build up. Brave LBB did not let this hold him back. He gave the climb all he had got and his technique payed off as he was soon scaling the wall above the dreaded overhang.
On reaching the summit of Ruadh Stac Beag the team was bursting with pride at their success and it was high fives all round, accompanied by much whooping and hollering .
With the massive of Beinn Eighe in the background the stony top of Ruadh Stac Beag bears more than a passing resemblance to the surface of the moon. So convincing is the moonscape that moonbugs have taken up residence, it has even fooled some passing astronauts who have left their buggies behind much to the delight of the mountaineering bears and 1dog.
It had been a long day and even with the help of the buggies to traverse the mountain, the sun was going down by the time the team were abseiling down the great slab on the end of Ruadh Stac Beag.
And when they reached the valley the sun had set. Ploughing across marshy ground and wading through streams by the light of head torches just about everyfur ended up with wet paws and a muddy bum. It was tempting to rush, but they kept calm, watching where they placed there paws and following the compass bearing avoiding injuries and mishaps.
One paw in front of the other they trudged, singing to keep up their spirits but secretly wondering if some bear had moved the campsite or if they had bypassed it in the dark. And then they saw lights in the distance, and as they got closer saw it was Big Ted and Corbett coming out of the tent to congratulate them.
This summer four experienced members of the Mountaineering Bears and three instructors from Bear Lodge School of Bear Mountaineering set out for an adventure in the mountains of Assynt in North West Scotland. They planned to climb the two summits of Suilven Caisteal Liath and Meall Meadhonach .
Left to Right. Corbett, Emma, Archie, Miss Twiggy, Endon, LBB, Munro
As they prepare for their adventure the team were looking forward to exploring nature and some fine mountain views. They were also excited about making new pals as they worked together to tackle the challenges that lay ahead.
The bears started their adventure from Inverkirkaig and on route make a small diversion to visit the falls of Kirkaig.
The route to Suilven will take them through a remote wilderness so they carefully plot the route on the map and take a bearing to the base of Suilven using their new compass’s.
As the morning mist lifts they see the mountain looming before them. Soon they are rushing towards it, and in their excitement are tempted to abandon the map and compass and just follow their noses! But they don’t because they are wise mountaineering bears & know the mountain could disappear into clouds or hide in woods.
But the compass points south away from mountain! What is going on? Should they trust the compass or are the mischievous spirits of Coire Mor trying to lead them astray? Nope! they have the compass upside down. ‘This navigating malarkey is not as easy it seems’ .
Having corrected the bearing its full steam ahead. They are hopeful they may reach the mountain before lunch, but, then realise Loch Fionn lies between them and their goal.
Knowing it is never wise to come between mountaineering bears & their lunch Bear Lodge had left canoes, moored by the side the side of the loch. All aboard, here we come, the team are paddling confidently across the open water.
But they had barely set foot on dry land when they encounter another watery obstacle.The mountain stream was in spate! Munro had never seen it flowing so fast and furious.
Roped together they balanced across on the slippery logs as the swollen river gushed through gaps in dams. Endon was wondering what the wild flowers, he had spotted on the bank were when all the other furs felt a sharp tug on the rope.
Endon’s back paws were dangling inches above the water as he clung onto the log with his claws. He was a bit shaken up but not hurt and his pals soon helped him up with Miss Twiggy letting him him hold her tail for extra support,
After the excitement of the river crossing, lunch and plentiful snacks were required.
Energy levels and resolve replenished the furs found a faint path leading up the steep rough slopes of Suilven.
Slipping and sliding up the path on loose scree was exhausting and when they reached the base of some crags the team wondered if it would be quicker just to scramble up the rock.
Safety prevailed and the decided to stick to the path, a good decision as soon the main summit of Suilven, Caisteal Liath was in sight.
Noble poses Team, we have reached the summit!
What could be more fun than a summit camp.
The team were up early the next morning. Caisteal Liath is the highest top but Suilven’s second summit is much harder to reach.
There were lots of ups and downs, loose paths and big drops.
The steep drops either side of the narrow arete made even the stoutest Mountaineering Bear’s heart beat faster.
and as they climb the treacherous ground leading up to Meall Meadhonach they wonder if it is even possible to reach its summit!
But once they reach the base of the summit crags they realise they have skills to scale the rock and eagerly put on their climbing harnesses.
Archie leads first with Miss Twiggy on belay.
Archie belays for Endon as he is powering up for the big move onto the ledge.
Endon admiring the views from his belay Ledge as he brings up Emma.
LBB is glad to find a good gear placement before moving out onto the arete!
LBB knows Emma has the rope and his gear placement is a ‘bomber’ but this level of exposure still feels scary!
Emma makes an anchor at the top of the climb Once it is she secure she shouts down to Miss Twiggy, ‘Climb when Ready’
And soon Miss Twiggy appears over the rock, nearly at the top now!
Yeah! all the Mountaineering Bears have made it. They have traversed the top of Suilven and bagged both summits. Hurrah!
and just look at those views!
The easiest way down the summit crag is to abseil, but they know this more dangerous than the climbing up, so it’s only after checking all their anchors are secure, that they step over the edge of ledge
The team tired and proud paddle there way home and even the Local Selkies come out to give them a cheer.
Another successful ascent and great adventure by The Mountaineering Bears.
* All the base photo’s for this report, except the river crossing, were taken by Bear Lodge Human Scouts on and around Suilven in the area shown on the route map. The river crossing, as shown, was an obstacle only mountaineering bears had to face.
Thank you to all of the team for participating in a Bear Lodge Adventure and helping to create the story of our endeavours.
Bear Lodge has. a busy schedule of Mountaineering Bear Training this summer so Big Ted sent the human scouts out to explore some new routes for our furry students. He was a bit worried that their climbing skills may be a bit rusty & to be honest, they didn’t look fit enough to walk to the shops, so he asked me to go along and keep an eye on them.
I persuaded them to take a trip to Torridon and as the popular routes can be very busy in summer we thought our students may enjoy an expedition up the north face of Liathach. With its steep sandstone crags and towering pinnacles much of the north face is the domain of experienced mountaineering bears but this is beyond the capabilities of the human scouts. However, the North Ridge of Spidean a’ Choire Leith, which separates Coireag Dubh Mor and Coire na Caime, and leads directly up to the summit is a less demanding and technical ascent which Big Ted said they should be able to manage. The Guide Books classify it as a moderate climb if you stick to the arête or suggest it can be tackled as grade 1/2 scramble by staying to right of the arete on steep grass. I was instructed to keep them on the arête.
We all started out from the main Beinn Eighe carpark at 8am following the Coire Dubh Mhor path between Liathac and Beinn Eighe, my heart beating faster at the sight of these two magnificent mountains, but nobody stopped to take a photo!We crossed the Allt Coire Dubh Mhor and as we came around the eastern end of Liathach we could see our target, the North Ridge, on the skyline.
The scouts were doing well, but it was a perfect June day for hill walking, warm without being hot and enough of a breeze to keep the midges at bay. We continued along the path to the point where it divides to climb up to Coire Mhic Fhearchair to get our bearings, then doubled back for a few metres before recrossing the Allt Coire Dhub, (although there was very little of it), to meet up with a burn flowing down from Coireag Dubh Mor. It was a delightful walk on a faint path by the side of the waterfall, with Marsh Orchids and Violets in flower by my paws and the impressive tiers of rock in the coire ahead. I was getting quite excited!
Following the burn
As this burn was the last water we would come across until we were well down the other side of the mountain we needed to fill our water bottles. I offered to do this as I wanted to make sure we took enough water with us, the scouts often cut it so fine they end up dehydrated.
The lower section of the ridge was broad, lots of loose stones and boulders to go up, plus some easy scrambling. There was also a horrible steep slimy step of mud and moss. The scouts crawled up this on their paws and knees making strange mewling noises.
I was pleased to reach solid ground before there was any unpleasant slithering and having checked the map we all agreed it was time for lunch.
Come on Jeremy Jetboyle, strut your stuff, I want my noodles. Supervising the scouts is hungry work.
Lunch is over, onwards and upwards.
The scouts pointed out that it would be possible to walk around the next tier of rocks and then to avoid many of the difficulties by keeping right. I reminded them that their objective was to climb the arete, and it was time for them to stop faffing and get on with it.
After this section of easy scrambling the ridge became steeper and more exposed so we decided to climb with a rope. I was mortified to discover that the scouts had only brought a 20m rope for a 160m climb. That means 10 pitches, it will be dark before we reach the summit! Grrrr!
The rock was very rough and grippy, everyfur was enjoying the climbing and after a few pitches we topped out on steep grass
As they were likely to need the rope again the scouts decided not to untie, but to take in some coils and move together. Big Ted had warned me that the scouts were not good with this technique and I should expect lots of grumbling. He was right! I tried to close my ears to their constant moans about the tension in the rope and speed of movement as we edged along the narrow arête.
Hmmm! That was Stressful, I was very pleased when we were back to proper climbing and this traverse was great fun!
Whats going on here! The scout has belay all wrong, lucky nofur had a fall! 😱. He looks very sheepish as I admonish him thoroughly, I don’t think he will make that mistake again.
The walk to the summit turned out to be treacherous ! Huge blocks of Quartz, which were very unstable! The scouts are squeeking!
and we made! All in one piece and no rockfalls! Hurrah for the Mountaineering Bear and hopeless scouts!
But what goes up, must come down! They said the descent was easy, but we have to walk up another two summits before we can even start to come down!
Well I’m all in, and there is still 2.5km along the road to walk beforeI can collapse in my sleeping bag. These human scouts are hard work, it was lucky I was around to keep an eye on them! Still the ridge was fun and I think our students will enjoy it.
Spring has turned to summer and mountaineering bears were feeling restless. It had been over a hundred days of lockdown, staying a home to help combat the dreaded covid 19 virus. We had been busy in the garden.
The climbing gear was checked for wear or damage!
And some new gadgets tested.
We practiced our mountaineering skills
and tried our best to keep fit!
So when the travel restrictions were lifted we were ready to go. The Adventure Wagon was packed with all the necessary kit and kaboodle, and at 6:30 in the morning, bleary eyed bears hit the road, heading for one of our favourite areas, Kintail. By 7:30 we were waving to Nessie as we drove past Lochness
and an hour later four very excited bears were starting out from the shores of Loch Cluanie. The mountains looked very imposing and I was wondering if we were all fit enough to climb that high! Well there was only one way to find out! “Onward and upward Mountaineering Bears”
The hills were colourful with wild flowers. Corbett was beside himself running from flower to flower with excitement. On the lower slopes, the pale cross leaved heath was growing side by side with the deeper bell heather and there was a profusion of Spotted Marsh Orchids.
Even the cotton grass flowers seemed plump and extra fluffy.
Higher up the small flowers of the starry saxifrage bloomed in the damp shady places ground with patches of wild thyme on rockier ground. Mountain everlasting, thrift and alpine ladies mantle all added to the display.
All the way up the mountain we were accompanied by the chit chat song of the wheatear as it flitted from rock to rock! Frogs large and small were jumping out of our way. I saw a large gold and black dragonfly laying eggs in a stream and a vivid green emperor moth caterpillar eating its way through the heather.
The track, soon became a path which got fainter as we made our way upwards. It was rough under foot, sometimes muddy and lots of streams to ford. The mountain beckoned us on but no matter how far we walked it never seemed to get any closer.
and then came the peat hags. A chance to teach Alligin the art of bog hopping!
Oh dear! He’s wobbling! Not sure Alligin has got the hang of of this yet!
It’s not a proper mountaineering adventure unless at least one bear ends up with a wet bum! 😂
Gorm Lochan in Coire Lair was a pawfect spot for a rest and an early lunch. Alligin had a wash. Corbett spotted newts and water snails in the crystal clear water while I was just soaking up the atmosphere and Big Ted was soaking his hot paws.
‘Come on bears, mountains don’t climb themselves! Time to get moving’ Rested and refreshed we scampered up the steep grass to Glas Bealach.
From the bealach there were mountains in every direction, as far as the eye could see. We had reached 950m altitude and it would be an easy walk to Sgurr nan Conbhairean summit. But where is the adventure in that! We are Mountaineering Bears and like to do things the mountaineering way! So rather than go up, we went down!
and down and down and down into the Glen, so that we could climb back up the mountain by its rocky North East Ridge.
We had instructions to follow but they didn’t make much sense so we followed our noses! ‘Take care bears, this rock smells a bit rotten and loose’
Corbett decided to climb the grass, but that smelt scarier, it was steep, muddy and slippery with nothing to hang on to but loose tufts. I am sure I heard him whimpering.
It is the final slope to the top!
Way hey! We made it! Time for heroic summit poses! Mountaineering bears, are back where they belong.
It felt like a long walk down but the grassy ridge was gentle on our sore paws and we could see Ben Nevis in the distance! So back we trudged through the mud, and the wild flowers, thinking noble thoughts about egg and chips for supper!
Sometimes we go to the sand sidewhere the land melts into the seathat laps gently with foam and tide;so few better places to be…cos it means we are …The See Side
Munro and Corbett are on an adventure to find The Lost Valley of the Climbing Bears ahead of a team of Mountain Sheep. Munro and Corbett finally got ahead of the sheep at the river, but then disaster struck!
And that my furriends is the start of my many adventures as a Mountaineering Bear!