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