A Dawn Inversion on the summit of Ruadh Stac Mhor
The weekend of the annual Great Wilderness Challenge was approaching and the Mountain Rescue Team was preparing to assist with the provision of safety cover and radio relays. Bill Amos and I had agreed that this year I would accompany him to Checkpoint 8, high on the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor. This is a key position in ensuring communications from the start point at Corrie Hallie to the finish point at Poolewe.
The plan was to set off on the Friday, the day before the race and to install ourselves at the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor that evening in preparation for the Saturday. A landrover trip from Poolewe to the boathouse at the Fionn Loch followed by a boat trip up the loch saw us at Carnmore bothy late on Friday afternoon and ready to make our way up to the summit.
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This blog is reposted some 10 years later as a tribute to Bill; in memory of a great guy and of the many subsequent trips we made together to Checkpoint 8.
Bill made at least 20 trips to the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor, each year of the GWC since the first year of the event. I was privileged to spend 9 of those trips with him, from 2005 onwards.
I have also posted a copy of an article that Bill wrote for the Great Wilderness Challenge in 2013. Entitled, "Behind the Scenes", the article speaks for itself and provides Bill's own account of his many experiences on Ruadh Stac Mor. Follow the hyperlink below to read the article.
Suitably fuelled at Carnmore, we started off for Ruadh Stac Mor. It's a steep pull up the path from Carnmore but the views are extremely rewarding.
Deep in the heart of Fisherfield, the views that night were stunning. The weather was clearing and the summits of the surrounding hills promised long distance views from their tops.
Having collected our water at the river crossing, now far below us, we ascended the rough scree to the plateau of Ruadh Stac Mor. Below us, the cloud started to drift away from the tops and the sun slowly began to set in the west.
Easy now to see how the "Big Red Peak" gained its name. Caught in the setting sun, the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor glowed in the evening light whilst A'Mhaighdean, its neighbour was encircled by mist.
On the plateau, the views to neighbouring Beinn Dearg Mor, An Teallach, Beinn a' Chlaidheimh and Sgurr Ban had to be photographed as the evening light was superb.
Meanwhile, Bill was making his way up to the summit; going well and enjoying the beautiful evening in this remote wilderness.
A panoramic view of Beinn Dearg Mor and An Teallach caught in evening light - clear skies and well defined mountain tops.
The Big Red Peak lives up to it's name whilst the setting sun caught An Teallach, highlighting the ridge lending perspective in the evening light.
A little later we were on the summit and in the tent, settling in with a bite to eat and a well deserved dram. The evening sunlight was superb, the camp site on the summit of the hill had lived up completely to Bill's description and the views all around us were stunning.
06:00 hrs the next morning and the radio call from team members based at Shenavall confirmed to us that the rivers were safe to cross and that the 25 mile GWC race could go ahead. They asked what the conditions were like on the summit. Before answering, we opened the tent to realise that the sunrise was amazing and that we were sitting on top on an incredible inversion. Seconds later, having transmitted passed on the message about the rivers to base, we were out of the tent and soaking up the views.
The ridge line of An Teallach sat proud of the mist; an island in a sea of clouds and a ridge in silhouette above the morning inversion.
As Bill describes in his account...
"Twenty feet along from the summit cairn there is a tiny patch of nearly flat ground with just a few stones near the surface and it is here that we pitch our tent. The back door is literally on the edge of the cliffs above Fuar Loch Mor which lies hidden from those on the GWC route and is about 1000ft below us. From our 3014ft vantage point we look down on the causeway between Dubh Loch and Fionn Loch and out to Poolewe. We have an amazing 360 degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains".
As we surveyed the views from our campsite on the summit, we watched as the cloud and the mist played with the tops of the nearby mountains.
The top of nearby Beinn Dearg Beag was protruding literally feet out of the cloud, whilst on the other side of the hill, we were treated to a Brocken Spectre where our shadows were projected by the sun onto the cloud, enshrined by a rainbow halo.
Throughout the course of the next couple of hours, the mist levels rose and fell, parting to reveal the summits and washing in again several minutes later to cover them again.
In due course, the race got underway and we were soon busy with relaying radio messages from the start of the course and the first few checkpoints, back to the finish line at Poolewe. The tent was an ideal base for us; cups of coffee and bacon sandwiches kept us going as we kept track of proceedings down in the glens below.
A'Mhaighdean soon cleared as did the cloud below us and it was clear that this was going to be a great day for the competitors as they made their way across Fisherfield in the grueling competition.
But there were still several waves of cloud and mist which rolled backwards and forwards, all adding to the pleasure of being in such a remote spot, high up in the mountains.
These two photographs sum the day up for me; the cloud mimicking the ridge on An Teallach and Bill, clearly in his element, enjoying Checkpoint 8 once more from the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor.
Posted by Angus Mackie
I’m Angus Mackie, a professional photographer, based just north of Inverness on the beautiful Black Isle. I'm on the North Coast 500 and am well placed to discover most of the Highlands. The iconic scenery of Glen Affric and the Cairngorms are close by whilst many of the wild and dramatic locations on the west coast are within easy reach.
Mountains, landscapes, coastlines.... As a landscape and panoramic photographer, I enjoy exploring Scotland and its wild and remote places and have discovered some of the best photography locations in the Highlands over the last 35 years of living up here. With a broad and wide ranging knowledge of the Highlands, I still enjoy finding new locations and fresh perspectives for my photography. The use of natural light to capture stunning scenery at spectacular locations is very much a key factor for my photography.
I’m a qualified Summer Mountain Leader, a Sea Kayak Leader and a UKCC Level 2 Sea Kayaking coach, with many years experience of leading and guiding. I am also a longstanding member of Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team.