Whilst I admire those who, almost superhumanly, manage to tackle the Fisherfield 6 in a day from their car, John wished to tackle the Munros here in a more leisurely style. I was happy to go along with that, together with his proposed approach from Incheril. So the plan was hatched.
12th July 2013 – Into Fisherfield
We agreed to meet in the car park at Incheril at 3pm on Friday, 12th July. I had just had a good couple of days on Skye in great weather so I did not have that far to go to the meeting place. John, on the other hand, was coming up from the north of England via a stop near Stirling.
The forecast weather was disappointing, especially after the Skye experience, but we were now both committed. I arrived at Incheril a bit early and started sorting myself out packing my rucksack with what was necessary for the next couple of days. I chatted with another guy whose objectives were the same as our first days’, namely the three eastern Munros. He was a little more organised and was off on his bike towards the Heights of Kinlochewe before John arrived on time.
Our approach was also going to be “impure”, in other words on bikes. Mrs CL and I had wandered up to the Heights of Kinlochewe on the Sunday of the last WH meet and so I knew that that section would be good for the bike approach. We had not, however, explored the track that branches off towards Lochan Fada.
John and I were off just after 3.30pm. The weather was still holding fair. There was not much wind and the atmosphere was a little sultry. As expected, the ride up to the branch in the track was pleasant and speedy. A high locked gate bars the way along the left hand branch. Fortunately there is also a stile nearby that enabled the bikes to be lifted over the fence. From here the surface of the track deteriorates and it becomes somewhat narrower, not helped at this time of year by fronds of bracken growing partially across the way. With our heavy packs and the steepening in the track we end up pushing our bikes for a few hundred yards until the track levelled out a bit. We were then able to cycle for a kilometre or so until just past the bridge over the Abhainn Gleann na Muice.
The steepness of the track then just became too sustained and we ended up pushing our bikes a fair way up the glen. It was hot and humid – very sweaty indeed. There was no air movement in the glen. John and I reached the end of the vehicle track shortly after we started pedalling again! The vehicle track ends where a path is shown going north over Meallan Odhar. We decided to leave our bikes at this point, though it is feasible to take them further. Indeed we later saw a few bikes chained to a fence another 1½ kilometres along the path.
It was just over three kilometres from where we had left the bikes to the south eastern end of Lochan Fada where we planned to camp. Along the way I found a pair of cycling gloves. They had obviously not been there very long because we had recently passed a group of four passing the other way who were not on bikes.
The path to Lochan Fada is good and strong as it weaves its way into ever more desolate country passing Loch Gleann na Muice and the watershed before Loch an Sgeireach.
Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Beinn Tarsuinn and distant A’Mhaighdean came into view.
We reached Lochan Fada in about 2 hours and set up camp. There was a sufficient breeze to keep midges away but it was not sufficient not to make conditions unpleasant as we cooked our evening meal. If it had been sunny it would have been perfect! (As it was it was pretty good).
The guy whom I had met in the car park earlier was camped nearby. I wandered over and asked him whether the gloves I had found were his – they were! So gloves and owner were reunited. He had in fact managed to get his bike to this point.
13th July 2013 – Beinn Tarsuinn, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair and Sgurr Ban
I poked my nose out of my tent shortly after 6am. I promptly withdrew. The tops were all covered and there was a bit of drizzle in the air. The lapping of the waves that had helped me to sleep the previous evening could still be heard, pushed on to the stony beach by the north westerly breeze that also rattled the tent a bit.
We were not in a hurry and I snoozed a while. At around 8am I was sufficiently bored to light up the stove to make myself a brew and then make my breakfast. John was still blissfully in the land of nod. So I went about my business noisily and it had the desired effect!
Even so we were not ready for the off until shortly before 10.30am. Weather was still not promising. Slioch, A’Mhaighdean and MCMF remained covered.
We walked back along the shore to cross the outflow from Loch an Sgeireach and the nearby streams. From here a path leads up towards Bealach Odhar between Beinn Tarsuinn and MCMF. It is faint in places but the way up through the shallow corrie between Creag Ghlas Mhor and the southern ridge of Meall Garbh is easy enough even if the path is lost.
At the bealach (which we reached in about an hour) things still did not look too good for views from the tops.
We turned west up the slopes of Beinn Tarsuinn. My previous visits to this area had all resulted in no view from any of the tops. So it was a little depressing to think that this was going to be the case yet again. However, as we approached the summit, miraculously the cloud lifted J J. We were at the top about 90 minutes after leaving camp spot. Here is the tennis court.
And a view down the other Gleann na Muice
A’Mhaighdean kept her head covered but, increasingly, Sgurr Ban and MCMF revealed themselves.
A guy who had camped on Beinn a’Chlaidheimh arrived on the summit en route to doing all six peaks and we had a good natter. John and I spent half an hour on the summit and watched the views beginning to reveal themselves. But it became time to leave. It took less than 20 minutes to return to Bealach Odhar. From here we took the cut across path along the face of Meall Garbh.
The single walker seen in the photo above appeared deliberately to steer clear of us!
Emerging on the col beneath MCMF we met the chap who had been camping near us. He would cycle out that day with a view to approaching A’Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor from Poolewe in the next couple of days.
We tackled the steep slopes of MCMF, now passing a father and son team. It seemed to be quite busy for a supposedly remote area! There are a few short scrambly moves amongst the looser terrain lower down this climb if you want them. Higher up quartzite blocks predominate and then, near the top, there is a levelling in the ridge.
It took 70 minutes between Beinn Tarsuinn and MCMF including the couple of stops to talk to passing walkers.
Behind John I could see the beach by which we were camped.
John “needed” to do Sgurr Ban. I couldn’t be bothered! So I said I would wait for him on MCMF as he did an out and back to Sgurr Ban. I was happy to sit, eat, drink and look at the views. I could hunker down out of the breeze.
I knew I would not be alone for long. I could see someone approaching via MCMF’s west ridge. I watched him move slowly along the pinnacled section of Sgurr Dubh. In due course, he arrived somewhat weighed down by a heavy pack. He had spent the previous night at Lochivroan bothy and had also been at the summit of MCMF the previous weekend!
A few minutes after he left towards Sgurr Ban, a couple of enthusiastic younger guys arrived. They had seen John arrive on Sgurr Ban. Having walked in from Corrie Hallie that morning they were planning to camp on the col between Beinn Tarsuinn and A’Mhaighdean. The sole on one of the boots of one of them had partially detached itself – not the best place to need running repairs! The one without the dodgy footwear was early into his Munro bagging career (MCMF was his 50th) but he seemed determined to add to the numbers; the other had been persuaded to tag along.
An hour and forty minutes after setting off John returned. He said that he now wanted to go off to look at the south east top of MCMF because (apparently) there was something of geological interest there – well he is a geologist and he probably wouldn’t be as close to it again any time soon!
So I passed up on the opportunity to accompany him and made my way back to my tent. I returned back the way we had come passing along under Meall Garbh’s face and down the shallow corrie. It took just 90 minutes and I was soon making myself a refreshing brew at the tent. John arrived back not too long afterwards and so I was able to have a mug of tea ready for him too.
We retired early as we needed to make sure we were somewhat more prompt in leaving in the morning.
14th July 2013 – Ruadh Stac Mor and A’Mhaighdean
The day dawned heavy with cloud again. A’Mhaighdean had been very shy the day before too, showing herself only briefly whilst our higher hills had been cloud free.
We were prompter and were on our way along Lochan Fada’s northern shore by 8am. There is a bit of a path to start with but this disappears where a slow moving stream joins the loch at around NH043705. From this point we started a gentle rising traverse following a useful deer track for some way beneath the crags of Coireachan Odhara. We then took a steeper line up towards some rocks on our horizon ahead and above. This took us roughly level with (but a bit above) the col between Beinn Tarsuinn and A’Mhaighdean. So we then just contoured around to the broad col.
After a spell of wet weather this whole section might be a lot less pleasant than we found it. As it happens the ground was dry and springy. We found a rock at the col to sit down on to have our first early lunch. Cloud still covered the tops and it was windier today.
If you look hard enough there is a path through the peat hags on this col, a bit to the south of the watershed. This avoids the worst of the peat hags. As we sat there, we could see two figures ascending the slopes towards A’Mhaighdean. I speculated that they might be the two we had met the day before who were intending to camp on the col.
John and my intention was to climb Ruadh Stac Mor first. The local geology makes this feasible and, indeed, route finding is made easier if you can spot the transitions between the Lewissian gneiss and the Torridonian sandstone. First you climb a couple of hundred feet until you find a shelf of the Torridonian. Then contour north, gently rising. Some young deer watched us curiously.
You then get into some lumpy ground and now you are in Lewissian territory. Here the Lewissian rock is thrust over the younger Torridonian rock and here is the highest example of Lewissian rock in the country. There is then a bit of a descent as you turn west and then a gentle rise over the continuing lumpy ground to the col between A’Mhaighdean and RSM which we could just make out in the cloud. We had a further food stop amongst the lumps as I was running out of energy.
We were soon at the col and we found the shelter there.
The path up RSM splits from the stalker’s path at a small cairn. The stalker’s path from Carnmore comes up to this col though it is not shown as doing so on the 1:50000 OS map. The path up RSM passes through a pleasant rocky section before there is a steepening through a rock band. The route remains clear but becomes more unpleasantly loose. But the band is not too high and you are soon through it. But you have then covered less than ½ of the climb from the col. A boulder field then takes you to the summit ridge. A line of cairns helps to guide the way – useful in the day’s cloud.
A stiff wind was blowing over the summit ridge. We leant our way into it and up to the trig point. There was no view. Oh well.
The summit cairn provided a modicum of shelter as we watched the cloud shoot across the ridge line. Soon after the two figures we had seen earlier from the Beinn Tarsuinn/A’Mhaighdean col arrived. It was indeed the two younger guys that we had seen on MCMF the previous day. The sole of the boot was still flopping around a bit! We had a further chat and learned more about the plans for accumulating more Munros.
Suddenly there was a lightening of the atmosphere. Some views appeared to the east and we could see across to Beinn a’Chlaidheimh and down to the two lochs to the north east. The view came and went but seemed to indicate an improvement in the weather.
John and I returned the way we had ascended and the other two went off to the east. Part way down the cloud lifted a bit. Here is a shot of John descending the bolder field and Fuar Loch Mor in view.
We could also now see out to the western seaboard.
The loose ground through the rock band safely negotiated John and I were soon across the col ascending the easy ground up A’Mhaighdean. It had taken just 20 minutes down. For such a supposedly remote spot there was another strong path to follow. Part way up we stopped for a drink. RSM had now cleared.
An Teallach was also doing its best to clear.
though this would only be temporary. The weather gods seemed to have had it in for this hill these couple of days. The eastern Fisherfield hills were also covered – a turn around from the day before. As we reached A’Mhaighdean’s 948m the clouds were lifting for us. And the summit was clear by the time were arrived there. I shouldn’t really broadcast it, but what a brilliant spot this is. Although some of the views were restricted, I was not complaining!
John and I spent nearly an hour on the top taking in the views and the atmosphere of the place, raving about both and feeding up for the long walk back to the camp spot and the walk/cycle back to Incheril.
Here is a shot back to the end of Lochan Fada and our camp spot and Lochs Gleann na Muice and an Sgeireach with murky Beinn nan Ramh behind.
Unfortunately we had to leave. It was 2pm. Shortly before we did so a couple arrived with their spaniel having camped the previous night on the col between Beinn a’Chlaidheimh and Sgurr Ban. The broad slopes down are easy. A couple of steps are to be negotiated between transitions between Lewissian and Torridonian. Near the col we met a chap hauling his way up. He seemed to be there “by accident” having originally decided only to do the eastern part of the round, he was “now committed” to doing the remainder. He was due to meet others later in the day, but his hoped for timing for getting back to Coire Hallie seemed hopelessly optimistic. John and I hoped he would be OK.
We followed the path through the peat hags on the col and then took the long haul back to the far end of Lochan Fada. This became a little tedious until the path was reached. After then we were soon back at the beach. We packed up as soon as we got there and walked back to our bikes.
I must say that from there the return back to Incheril was great, the only real effort required being the need to haul the bikes over the stile where the tracked rejoined that to the Heights of Kinlochewe and the only irritant being the faceful of insects occasionally encountered!
It was 4 hours from the summit of A’Mhaighdean to Incheril which I thought was not too bad. But this and the fact that we had seen so many people led me to think whether we do really have any truly remote places in the UK. Undoubtedly the Fisherfield area comprises “wild” land, but I am not sure that it can truly be described as remote….. discuss.
[This blog was originally posted on WH at http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=35231]