Seana Bhraigh, of course, has the reputation of being one of the more remote Munros. I had been up it once before, many years ago in the years BC*. Then it was part of a two day trip taking in the Beinn Dearg hills and Am Faocagach. On that occasion I had found a delightful camp site by Loch Prille beneath the dark cliffs of Cona Mheall before summiting Am Faocagach by 7am and then resorting to the Aultguish Inn for a second and more substantial breakfast.
I imagine the best approach to Seana Bhraigh to be that via Corriemulzie Lodge. The magnificent north east coire is best seen from that direction. That remains one of my objectives – to stay also in the bothy by Loch a’Choire Mhoir and to ascend via the Creag an Duine ridge.
On this occasion I wanted also to climb Eididh nan Clach Geala and Meall nan Ceapraichean. So I took the route from the west at Inverlael. I was at the car park by 8am, a little later than planned. There were already two cars and a campervan there. At one of the cars a group of three were readying themselves, planning to do Beinn Dearg and then to see how both they and the weather were doing before deciding what to do then.
The forecast was not promising with just a 30% chance of cloud free Munros according to MWIS and drizzly rain that would clear during the afternoon. The clouds might also lift by the end of the day. Well I was looking for a navigational challenge!
What was in the sky bore no relationship to the forecast. White fluffy clouds hung in the sky, above the tops. Loch Broom reflected the blue. There was also no sign of rain. No navigation difficulties, and yippee!
I set off up the forestry track by 8.20pm after sorting myself out. I was soon through the remnant of forest. I remembered that on the last occasion having some difficulty finding the turn off down over the river, but now both the extensive felling and a helpful sign ensures that no mistake is made.
I had toyed with leaving Seana Bhraigh to last with the weather supposedly improving during the day, but given what I was seeing in the sky I decided to go there first. So I ignored the second sign pointing the way to Beinn Dearg and took to the stalker’s path that shows itself quite obviously zigzagging its way steeply up the slope ahead. I looked below and could see the three I had met at the car park starting their way towards Beinn Dearg. For me the former edge of the forest was soon reached with a gate in the fence. The steepness then relented a little and a long moorland crossing started.
The cliffs of Beinn Dearg had been in view for a while but now, behind, views to An Teallach, Fisherfield and parts of the Fannaichs were beginning to open up. I took the opportunity of a quick breather to take in the views. The path ahead was clear and, for me, contrary to reports I have read the ground was remarkably dry. The river crossing at NH226853 was straightforward and the feeling of remoteness slowly grows even with the strong path.
I swung into Coire an Lochain Sgeirich with its chain of lochans, crossing at the outflow of the first.
The path continues its gentle rise with cliffs to the right (south) and the swelling of Meall Glac an Ruighe to the left. A line of cairns and small standing stones marks the continuation from a time before walkers’ boots had made the way so clear. My recollection from my previous visit was that these were the only guide and that there was no path to speak of on the ground – perhaps my recollection is faulty. Whatever, the path suddenly disappears and so begins the navigational challenge if the visibility is poor. Seana Bhraigh was not in sight because of the slightly higher ground ahead. I turned a bump ahead to the right (south east) and then made my way to the stream that feeds Loch a’ Chadha Dheirg. From there I thought I might follow the cliff top of Cadha Dheirg. But having passed the three lochs shown on the map I decided that there were too many ups and downs and took a bee line for the low point ahead. A path was picked up before the low point was reached which I followed. The view north west along Gleann a’Chadha Dheirg is a classic – looking along the serpentine river to the monoliths of the north west.
That view was a little grey today. Showers were developing and veils of rain partly obscured the hills. The peaty path continues a little way up the flank of Seana Bhraigh, but soon it exists more in the imagination. I took a rising traverse to the south west of point 906. The ground was relatively dry but I can imagine that in less clement conditions it could be quite a squelchy approach. The col came into view and with it a path. Smatterings of a path also came down from point 906. The final rise to the top passed without incident.
This is a great viewpoint. Ben Hope was obscured and Conival and Ben More Assynt seemed to be being battered by rain. But everything from Ben Wyvis to Ben Klibreck to Cul Mor and little Stac Polly, Ben More Coigach, An Teallach, Fisherfield and the Fannaichs and of course Beinn Dearg and its satellites could be seen. The weather was becoming grimmer and a shower passed a couple of miles to the north along Glen Achall. But all was well on Seana Bhraigh. I wandered over to the top of the cliffs and looked at Creag an Duine across the void of the coire. Way below were the lochans in the coire. I returned to the shelter for something to eat. It was 12.25. Having come so far, it was worthwhile staying a while – so I did. I was feeling fit and relaxed. I made a couple of calls to brag about where I was and the views – yes there is good mobile phone reception there!
It was 1pm and time to go. So I retraced my steps around point 906. Creag an Duine would have to wait until my next visit. Almost back down at the head of Chadha Dheirg I met a second group of three (who had stayed in the bothy by Loch a’Choire Mhoir, scrambled up Creag an Duine and done a circuit over the two tops I was yet to do) plus a single guy who I later learned was DJAM of WH (see his report here). DJAM and I speculated whether we would get our remaining tops clear. It was definitely becoming gloomier and there were a few spots of rain in the air.
On the return towards the outward path I kept to a lower line, but still aiming for the stream feeding Loch a’Chadha Dheirg. This felt to be a more satisfactory way. I then followed this stream up to its source between the two contour rings shown on the map and then on in a south westerly direction to intercept the path.
It had now started to rain lightly, but persistently. The top of the next objective, Eididh nan Clach Geala was now covered. I stopped for a quick bite and a look at the map to plan the way ahead. I followed the path for a couple of hundred metres to a slightly larger cairn and then went south west aiming for the streams to the east of point 872. These would then lead me to the broad north ridge of Eididh nan Clach Geala. A large patch of snow several hundred metres long made the going a little easier. The weather was really becoming rather unpleasant now with the wind picking up too. The ground became rockier nearer the top. Voices were carried over on the wind – quite a lot of them by the sound of it.
Near the top I could see a few people standing just below to the east of the rocky summit block. I went first to the cairn.
It was just before 3pm – just under 2 hours from Seana Bhraigh. The group was well hidden there, sheltered from the worst effects of the wind and rain. I went down to say hello. It was a compleation group. I was offered some bubbly but I declined. I shook the compleater’s hand and congratulated him. I had a brief word with some of the remaining group (over 20 in number) and then was on my way. There is s second cairn 75m or so to the south east. I stopped and took a bearing before moving on. It was still wet and the wind remained boisterous. The group of three that I had met at the car park first thing came by and we compared notes – at least they had had Beinn Dearg clear.
The path off Eididh nan Clach Geala disappears after a while. But the ground is grassy and easy. I dropped out of the cloud part way down. Some more lochs are at the col. I went perhaps a little further south east than was necessary and ended up by those lochs, but it meant that the way up was less rocky. I emerged on the Cean Garbh plateau 300 metres or so to the east of the summit cairn. The ground here is extremely rocky, so there is no path. Although the rain had lessened, the wind remained strong. I continued on the main summit of Meall nan Ceapraichean. It was now 4.20pm. I took a picture of the summit cairn in the cloud and resigned myself to the 30% figure being right – a shame after the views from Seana Bhraigh. However, the next moment I looked around and the clouds had lifted!
It was still quite chill and windy, leaden clouds were not too far above and remnants of cloud were zipping over the ridge just to the north, but I could now see Loch Broom reaching away beyond Ullapool. Beinn Dearg looked massive and near. I could see the distant point of Creag an Duine.
I stayed 15 minutes or so before the chill and the wind drove me on. A path makes its way down through the rocky terrain towards the lochan spotted bealach where the path down Gleann na Sguaib is picked up. I passed a few heavily laden souls who were presumably going to stay the night near the lochans, but none seemed inclined to pass the time of day.
In the early stages the path shifts from one side of the stream to the other. It is a lovely, if long, path with Loch Broom stretched out ahead. Camp sites aplenty can be found in its upper reaches too. Eventually I reached a short section of forestry before the outward route was met again. Here I met a couple with some bikes and a black lab. I suggested that they might lend me a bike for the final 3k. But I was told that the price was likely to be too high! So I did not persist with the request.
The return to the car came quickly enough and I was back at 7.15pm just as the rain started again. Good timing!
* before children
[This blog was originally posted on WH here http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=33139]