Date: Sunday 30th May 2009
Was aware that Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh were most easily climbed from the west at Carbreck.
When looking at these hills on the map however the feature that drew my eye was the long ridge south from Cranstackie to Conamheall. This ridge runs above Strath Dionaid across from the huge NE corries of Foinaven and I fancied this route.
Toyed with an approach down Strath Dionaid on the estate track but plumped for a circular route from the east starting at the head of Loch Eriboll.
We were staying in Unapool – lovely dawn across Loch Glendhu.
Pleasant drive north – reflection of Ceann Garbh in Loch Tarbhaidh:
Up and round via Durness – quiet roads in the early morning. Parked at NC 394 539 at a track entrance under Creag na Faoilinn. First nibbles from the midge this year as we donned the boots.
The east side of these hills is lush– part of the Durness limestone band. Nice view down the glen – the hill in the distance is Meall Horn – the reciprocal view later in the week was also impressive.
There’s a boggy track out to Strabeg – could be soggy in wetter conditions. View to An-t Sail Mhor of Foinaven:
We crossed the river here – easy to ford here, I imagine it would be trickier after rain.
Took a direct route up the E ridge of Conamheall –boggy in lower slopes – marsh flowers growing.
Drier as the ridge starts – reflection in Loch Bad na h-Achlaise:
The ridge ascent is fairly easy. Becomes rockier in the upper reaches but nothing more than a walk. Views develop of surrounding hills and Loch Eriboll.
Once Conamheall is reached Foinaven’s NE is shown –
Had some lunch at the summit and then headed on – the ridge is patchy rock and low heather – relatively easy walking.
A Golden Plover hen took off from a nest at one point – the eggs were in the process of hatching – could see the chicks’ egg teeth and hear them cheeping.
The views of Foinaven remain stunning along the ridge – well worth the effort I think.
The last pull up Cranstackie is across some rocks then easier ground.
The summit cairn perches up high on a sharp edge. Ben Hope is off to the east.
Care is needed from here – the NE has crags and a path works down first N then NE – careful navigation needed in mist.
Quickly down to a bealach and then struck up Beinn Spionnaidh. View back to Cranstackie:
About 30 mins needed to the summit which is about 400m across a summit rock field.
To the N sea fog was rolling round Cape Wrath:
To the E Ben Hope and Ben Loyal:
Took a fairly direct descent line towards Polla – some rock/boulder-hopping required and then easy heather/marsh.
A bumper crop of Marsh Orchids this year:
View back to walk start at Creag na Faoilinn:
From Polla you could walk N along the drive to rejoin the road – we walked across the river which was low:
Quick hop back to the car and then the 1hr drive back to Unapool.
Certainly more effort than the SMC route, but I think a bit more rewarding on the right day given the views of Foinaven’s NE corries.