The Mountain's Silhouette

Hiking and backpacking in the mountains of Scotland

Andy Nisbit - Climbing in the North West Highlands

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The first talk of the North East Mountain Trust’s (NEMT) winter series was an almost two hour wander through some of the most iconic mountains and cliffs in the North West Highlands. Our guide for the evening was Andy Nisbit, who is currently the new route’s editor at the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC), as well as being the author and editor for several well known climbing guidebooks. In addition, anyone with a copy of The Munros (the SMC’s Hillwakers’ Guide) could flick through the book and find several of Andy’s fabulous photos illustrating various mountains. A noteworthy one, that I believe was shown last night at the talk, is to be found on page 218 of the revised and reprinted 3rd edition, which shows the famous Triple Buttress of Coire Mhic Fhearchair in the fastness of winter.

Coire Mhic Fearchair

Andy criss-crossed a vast area of the country, moving backwards and forwards throughout his long career to show various first ascents. In particularly he focussed on the Torridon Hills, with new routes up frozen waterfalls on Liathach, and climbs in the aforementioned Coire Mhic Fhearchair on Beinn Eighe. A particularly memorable series of shots were taken from a wild camping site he and a friend established whilst exploring the coire’s unclimbed cliffs during June. The photos were

taken looking out over the lochan in the coire, towards the Flowerdale forest, with the wild and isolated hills silhouetted by a sun that was still only just setting at 11pm.

Almost at Am Fasarinen

Andy also showed some fabulous pictures of traversing Liathach, both in summer and in winter. In particular the winter photographs showed off the very alpine nature of the ridge and pinnacles. These were of particular interest to me as I completed the full traverse of Liathach back in September 2008.

Besides Torridon, Andy also had photos from first ascents in Glen Shiel and Applecross as well as cliffs and waterfalls further north into Fisherfield and Assynt. Amongst these, and following my climb of Beinn Liath Mhor back in February, it was great to see some photos of the mighty Corbett Fuar Tholl and its neighbouring Munro Sgorr Ruadh which both have interesting climbing on them.

His particular passion seems to be climbing frozen waterfalls. Whilst this is common on the continent, in Scotland the conditions are less favourable and some of the routes he has put up have yet to be repeated. He did however confidently predict that this winter will be the best for 20 years and that there should be a chance for a lot of second ascents!

The head of Coire Lair

Throughout the talk Andy entertained the audience with stories of the characters that inhabited his photos, and some of the adventures that he had had. Sometimes it wasn’t just about being on the rock and ice, but about the journey to get there. It was fascinating to see this quite different appreciation of the mountains and the passion that he has built up during a lifetime of living, working and exploring in Scotland.

Note: all the above photos are my own. I use them here to add a bit of a colour to the post; they each depict mountains that Andy himself discussed and showed photos of.

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