A’Mhaighdean summit camp via Beinn Tarsuinn Chaol. August 2012.

Date: Saturday/Sunday 11th/12th August 2012
Distance: 24km + 20km
Ascent: 1750m + 400m

The klaxons had sounded early in the week reporting a High Pressure lasting into the weekend. The indications seemed to favour great conditions in the NW.

A number of options for a high camp were considered – Strathfarrar, Sgurr Ruadh, Baos-bheinn. However Fisherfield crept into the conversation and once the “F” word was used the outcome was set.

The area is characterised by 2 exploration techniques: nibblers – who slice off little portions to savour, and gobblers – who cram as much in as they can manage at once. The latter is a risky strategy and we’ve always favoured the former. Another nibble was in the offing. 😉

Despite a few memorable camps in the area but have never camped on the munro ridge, so we set our sights on the best viewpoint of that loop – the summit of A’Mhaighdean.

Once again a bit claggy in the east as we set off, but broke into sunshine at the top of Glen Doherty. 60 minutes from Inverness and we were driving along Loch Maree gawping at Beinn a Mhuinidh and Slioch. Not sure how far south we’d ever go if we lived there. 🙂

Parked at Poolewe and got ready, setting off at 0910hrs, sunny and warm.

A pleasant wander along the road to Kernsary – about an hour out to the farm. Quite a few Highland Darters patrolling the road.

Creag Mhor Thollaidh at the head of Loch Maree – one for a future visit:

Passing Kernsary we took the turn into the forest and on to the open approach. I’d feared the clegs in here as we were savaged on a previous trip but only saw 2. 🙂

Beinn Airigh Charr looms to the right on the approach.

2hrs from the car and the high point of the approach is reached with a superlative view into the Fisherfield Hills. One of my favourite views, even more so on the way in.

As we dropped to the lochan here a pair of walkers that had passed us well before Kernsary appeared about 10mins behind us. We wagered a “Bad Bog” error but only a “hello again” was forthcoming as they passed.

Had a pause at the lochan before the onward march.

Beinn Airigh Charr slope failure – not as big as Beinn Alligin, but quite a whopper:

Solitary tree near the old ruin:

Quite a hot day – even walking on the flat was causing some sweating. I wondered how those on the high ridges would fare for aqua.

The scenery provides a constant stunning vista all the way to Polt Fraochain. A bit over 3hrs walking, we’d taken about 4hrs with breaks.

We took the stalkers path up to Bealach Mheinnidh – a decent path. There is evidence (at both ends) of an unmarked path heading ESE into the first Coire towards Gleann Tulacha but we carried on for the bealach.

Picked up some water from the Allt well uphill here – the streams were quite dry and a lot of the marsh pools completely gone so picked up a bit.

Very near the bealach there is a path running off to the left (NE) under the cliffs of Beinn Lair. A good quality stalkers path, this takes you round to the head of Gleann Tulacha. The cliffs tower over you and some ravens were flying and calling across the face.

Views across to Meall Meinnidh:

The view down Gleann Tulacha to Fionn Loch is impressive:

We curled round an outcrop to pick up an Allt at NG 979 747 – 150m ascent from here up Beinn Tarsuinn Chaol.

We headed left from the top for a 30m ascent to the western tip of the ridge. We camped on this nose a few years back and it remains one of our favourite places with a jaw-dropping view of hills, lochs and sea.


Link to larger pano

Sat around in the sun here for a couple of hours, seriously considered just pitching the tent and stopping for the night. Ignored our inner lazy demons and carried on.

Eventually got up to carry on – hoping to get some nice views along the Tarsuinn Chaol ridge.

Gorm Lochs Beag and Mor between A’Mhaighdean and Beinn Tarsuinn Chaol:

The ridge is quite knarly – not too bad to the 652m top but thereafter a series of crags and rises which almost certainly double the distance covered.

Fionn Loch and Beinn Lair cliffs:

Knarly ridge:

Also being little visited there were many deer, a few goats and one Golden Eagle (which quickly departed towards the Munro).

High cloud was shifting around but overall pretty good views were maintained throughout.

There’s a good view of the different layers of A’Mhaighdean’s NW ridge with the red sandstone perched atop the grey…..rock (must learn more geology).

Ran out of water about 1km from the end of the ridge – nothing on it even looked appetising to filter.

Got to running water (trickle) at NH 011 736 – filtered enough to get us a bit uphill and carried on.

Nice view over Gorm Loch Mor back to Tarsuinn Chaol:

Having crossed the ridge with no straight line walking the backside of A’Mhaighdean is remarkably smooth. 😉
A simple uphill bimble in the cooling evening. Views open up to the south from here.

Picked up water for the night at the top of a stream at 740m (and cursed the further spring welling up 100m above). Then set off for the last 200m with the extra weight. This side of A’Mhaighdean is completely different from the NW – and the side presented to the “Big Six” walk – much of the character is lost there I think.

Arrived at the summit near 1930hrs – a couple of hours to sunset. Hunted around for a pitch and plumped for a spot about 20m SW of the cairn – surprisingly good soil for pegging too.

One Kung-Po Chicken and one Savoury Minced Beef freeze-dried meals were consumed with gusto.

Getting to mooch around on a summit easily makes up for any work involved in getting there. Watched the light change towards sunset and identified bits and pieces of the most spectacular scenery in Scotland.

Watched the sun go down.

As the sun crossed the horizon another walker arrived, having come over the munro ridge. Had a brief chat and then he headed to the cairn and on to find a bivvy spot. Only the second time we’ve had company on a summit camp – although I had thought it a reasonable chance this might occur (it did mean we had to turn down the stereo and stop singing quite so loudly). 😉

So to bed – a double down duvet has worked well this summer and helps with the weight. Sat at the door and placed lighthouses – Rona, Harris and Lewis.

There was a reasonable breeze so the tent was a bit flappy but still slept well.

Popped out at 0200 hours – a crescent moon was casting some shadows but the stars were out and the Milky Way visible. Streetlights could be seen at Achitibuie and Stornoway. Interestingly – between Mullach Coire Mhic Fearchair and Meall Garbh a patch of streetlights were in the distance – hundreds. Looking at the map I think this must be uphill Inverness perhaps Hilton/Culcabock. I’d not have guessed A’Mhaighdean as visible from Inverness.

Back to bed – the wind died at about 0230 and slept well until the alarm at 0520 – got up to watch dawn.

Heard a few Ring Ouzel calls but not the birds, also spotted some goats on the rock towers below the summit.

Back to bed as the sun hit a cloud band and had another hour before it was shining again. Got up and made the cocoa. Our co-habitee wandered over from the 948m top to the cairn and waved before leaving.

Conditions on the Sunday morning were not quite as wished for – a bit hazy and too much high cloud. But still, great surrounds.

Ready for the off at 0820 – wandered over to the 948m summit with its improved views to the Deargs.

Headed down the NW ridge – best approach for the hill I’d say. The Red sandstone layer on the crest has shelves and towers and the whole W of the upper ridge is a vertiginous cliff face.

The drop from the 948m top to the start of the ridge is a bit loose but easy enough. Sandstone towers block the ridge to non-scramblers but in descent the first is bypassed on a loose track to the left (SW) and the second through a cleft on the right (NE) side.

After this there is only weaving through the rock bands without any scrambling or exposure.

Difficult to know whether to tend left and the huge cliffs or right and the view to the Deargs. As usual we did both.

At NH 002 756 you can either head N around the west of Fuar Loch Mor to the path E of Carnan Ban or you can head NW to the S of Fuar Loch Beag to pick up the path to Carnmore. We did the latter.

Fuar Loch Beag

Looking back up to the NW ridge:

The Allt Bruthach an Easain starts to cut a gorge lower down so after Fuar Loch Beag it’s best to avoid too much height loss – we crossed the river at about NG 996 768.

From here it’s now a path and about 4 hours back to the car.

Dropped to Carnmore and had a break on the beach of Dubh Loch. In some ways it would be nice to be able to drive in here and access these hills easily – but I suppose the magic is you have to work to get here, keeping them much quieter in addition to stunning.

The causeway – seems not so long ago I doubted we’d ever get into this area – now a favourite:

Set off for the car, feet already feeling the strain. The scenery recedes as you go, but remains mouth-watering.

Meall Meinnidh – just a Graham:

Back to Tarsuinn Chaol:

Picked up more water at the Allt Strathan Buidhe for the walk home – entertained by many Highland Darters. While they’ve done well there was a distinct lack of Golden-ringed or Azure Hawker dragonflies. Additionally – lots of Scotch Argus butterflies but only 1 (eggar moth) caterpillar seen all weekend. A year of winners and losers as always.

Highland Darter:

2012 edition toad:

Loch an Doire Crionach:

Eventually crossed the high point after Loch an Doire Crionaich – always a bit regretful to turn our backs on the view and drop down to Poolewe from here.

Time to go home:

About an hour on to Kernsary Farm. We took the marked path up the E side of Loch Kernsary. It seems further up the hill towards the ruined cottage than my map suggests – we ended ploughing through a fern thicket under this to reach the track – and collecting dozens of ticks along the way.

The track itself is shorter than the road to Kernsary, but it is rougher and took about the same time (+10mins back to the car through Poolewe). On tired legs I’d have favoured the road but the views here are much better – one for the approach leg next time.

Back through some woodland to the road – rowans and brambles indicate the Floral Clock is ticking into late summer.

Back at the car we eased out of boots, had some cold drinks and settled in for the 4.5hr drive home. Well worth it – our first real Fisherfield trip for 2 years. Roll on the next nibble of Fisherfield.


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