Kings of the Swingers

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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’

The Team:- SB, (in the red jumper) , Fred, Miss Twiggy, Ludvig, Baz, Endon, Jinjah, and LBB. Behind are their guides, me Munro, and Bosun.

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.

Jinjah conquers the chasm with lots of small delicate movements!

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.

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.