Mountaineering Bears Traverse Suilven

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 .

The Route
The Team

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.

Big Ted the Principal of Bear Lodge has some advice for the furry adventurers ‘Have an exciting time, but don’t take unnecessary risks and don’t let the team get separated’

The bears started their adventure from Inverkirkaig and on route make a small diversion to visit the falls of Kirkaig.

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.

Loch Fionn

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!

Suilven Summit
Time to set up camp.

What could be more fun than a summit camp.

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.

Stopping for a photo on Bealach Mor

There were lots of ups and downs, loose paths and big drops.

The furs looked after each other as the made their way gingerly down the steep loose path.

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.

Checking each other to make sure they are all tied onto the ropes correctly!

Archie leads first with Miss Twiggy on belay.

Climb when ready!

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!

This bit of of gear should be bomb proof!

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!

Meall Meadhonach Summit Photo

and just look at those views!

Looking back to Caisteal Liath and the way they’ve come.

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

‘Watch out Below’ Here they come!

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.

Grumbling Together on the North Ridge Spidean a Choire Leith

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.

Map of the Route
Crossing the the Allt Coire Dubh Mhor
North Ridge of Spidean 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.

Filling up the water bottles

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.

Lower slopes of the ridge

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.

Good news that scouts can still read the map accurately. 750m altitude at midday, time for lunch.
Nice view along The Strath Lungard to Loch Maree.

Come on Jeremy Jetboyle, strut your stuff, I want my noodles. Supervising the scouts is hungry work.

Meall Dearg &the Northern Pinnacles. I wonder if the scouts would be up to climbing these,🤔
Beinn Alligin and Beinn Dearg

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.

‘Your meant to be climbing the rock not pulling it down!”

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!

Looking up the North Ridge
Checking he’s tied into the rope properly
I love the rock formations!

The rock was very rough and grippy, everyfur was enjoying the climbing and after a few pitches we topped out on steep grass

Topping out.

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.

Supervising the taking in of coils
Scouts grumbling together along the narrow ridge

Hmmm! That was Stressful, I was very pleased when we were back to proper climbing and this traverse was great fun!

Ah no! There is a bitey insect in my boot!
Don’t worry I am holding the rope while the scout takes the photo!
The final difficulty. Come on! You can do it!

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 view across to Beinn Eighe is amazing!
The summit up ahead

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!

Summit Spidean a’ Choire Leith.

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!

8:30 pm nearly 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.