An Atmospheric Fisherfield trip – with two summit camps. May 2016.

Date: Saturday-Monday 28th-30th May 2016
Distance: 17.5 + 15.9 + 15.7km
Ascent: 1250 + 1300 + 300m

A Bank Holiday weekend, light winds and a slightly difficult to pin down forecast. We swithered between a trip to Rum or a trip to Fisherfield.

With nearly 4 years elapsing since our last Fisherfield trip we decided on a return.

6 years ago – when we were quite a bit fitter – we’d done a loop of the Chaisgeins and Deargs. Doodling on the map I realised that with 2 nights that loop with a couple of excellent high pitches broke down quite nicely in terms of distance and ascent.

Passing Corriehallie the parking spaces were already overflowing – it looked like there would be a few on the hills for the weekend.

Parked at Inchina – at the end of our planned route. Setting off at 0900 we road walked the 1.5km west to the mouth of the Inverianvie River at Gruinard Bay before starting south down the path along the river.

The path is a little sketchy here and there but quite reasonable.

Inverianvie glen:

With a not very ambitious distance total we were able to be our normal distractable selves looking for little wildlife.

Newt:

The path tracks along some steeper ravine like walls along the river side.

Ravine:

Eventually it breaks out into more open ground with old shielings.

Old shieling upstream Inverianvie River:

Life has jumped on in spring’s quantum leap. So many little things hidden in the heather.

Midgeater Plus:

Tracked round the north side of Loch a Mhadaidh Mor this time – the ground here is a bit rough so progress slowed a little.

It does feel little-visited in this area.

Loch a Mhadaidh Mor:

Crossing the stream linking Lochan Dubh and Loch a Mhadaidh Mor we started up Ceann Caol Beinn a Chaisgein. Once on the ascent the ground becomes a little easier.

View north from Ceann Caol Beinn a Chaisgein:

Some lovely lochans up here – 4-spotted chaser dragonflies are emerging, and newts and diving beetles were patrolling the pools.

Reflecting lochan:

Bogbean:

It’s an easy enough stroll up Beinn a Chaisgein Beag. No unexpected meetings with Shillers this time.

H on Beinn a Chaisgein Beag:

A very open vista over Poolewe and out past Rubha Reidh.

North-west from Beinn a Chaisgein Beag:

Over to our south the Letterewe hills were dark, the Torridon hills looked like they were in regular heavy showers all afternoon.

Letterewe Hills:

To our north things looked quite a bit clearer.

Sail Mhor and Klibreck:

We saw 2 pieces of outdoor art on our trip…..I think the work of an artist from Yorkshire.

Hill graffiti:

As we left Beinn a Chaisgein Beag we were facing into one of Scotland’s larger wildish spaces.

The Deargs across Loch Toll a Mhadaidh:

The route climbs over Frith Mheallan and up the back of Beinn a Chaisgein Mor. There are nice views NE to An Teallach across Beinn Dearg Beag here.

Beinn Dearg Beag and An Teallach:

We could see some rather obvious atmosphere approaching….at this point we were visited by 1 hour of heavy rain, an hour later would have been rather better.

Weather approaching:

Slow-moving downpour finally shifted.

Apres le deluge:

There is no shortage of pitch sites near the summit of Beinn a Chaisgein Mor, the only difficulty on a flat-topped hill is choosing which view you want. We plumped for the A’Mhaighdean side this time.

Scarp on Beinn a Chaisgein Mor:

The evening was a little too atmospheric and not quite sunny enough. Still, a great place to be and we have seen it in full glory twice before.

There are springs on both sides of the hill, the closest was a few hundred metres due south of the summit.

Ate tea and wandered around, nice to get a rest. We had company nearby as someone was bivvying on the lower top 700m to the south. Like Sauchiehall St these days. 😉

Sunbeams over the sea:

Deargs and the Forge:

Steaming Beinn Dearg Mor:

A’Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor:

The sun set nearly unheralded to the NW behind a cloud bank. The odd mist tendril was groping around.

Mist on Chaisgein Mor:

Enough of a data signal for MWIS…NW Highlands with “almost certain” cloud free munros in the morning. Woohoo.

Up at 0100 and the top was clear. A mixed cloudy sky, still quite bright at this time of year. Could see lighthouses at Stoer, Stornoway and Tarbert.

Poked my head out at 0430….a grey day with clear tops, but no likelihood of a good sunrise.

Woke up at 0700 to a complete grey-out with rolling clag. Hooroo.

Not too wet at least, a relaxed breakfast then packed up. We had planned on curving round to the lower top to the south with its fantastic view of Fionn Loch and then down to Sgurr na Laocainn. Under the circumstances that seemed to offer little justification in the absence of views.

Headed instead direct off the hill to Lochan Feith Mhic-illean. Joined the path at the loch and then started up the path to the bealach between A’Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor.

Again, the plan had been to ascend via A’Mhaighdean’s NW ridge – a firm favourite of ours. However in the clag we decided to stick to the path for easier ascent.

We’ve only used this once in our 3 previous visits….it is a rather stunning route in itself.

The ring ouzels were singing and echoing in the coire…unseen. The mist was reflecting in the loch. Quite atmospheric really.

Fuar Loch Mor:

The path to the bealach is good quality and an easy ascent. The mist was starting to show signs of breaking by this point.

Fuar Loch Mor from Bealach:

We dropped our camping stuff in binbags and headed up A’Mhaighdean in the hope of a view.

Fuar Loch Mor from A’Mhaighdean climb:

Sat on the summit for about 25 minutes and had lunch, we were still in a stream of clag with only the briefest glimpses of clearer land to our NW.

Got up to head down, just as we left the summit and had paused to discuss some aspect of a previous visit the clag broke and the view briefly emerged.

Brief view from A’Mhaighdean:

Nice to see, having camped on this one we were happy to head onwards to Ruadh Stac Mor.

Descent back to bealach:

Picked up the gear and headed up the steep side of Ruadh Stac Mor. Rather eroded and steep but once through the first crag band the slope eases and the ascent is OK.

Fuar Loch Mor no longer a mirror:

With the sun having just come out it was apparent that thicker, darker cloud was gathering to the SE.

Cloud thickening towards Slioch:

There seemed to be a battle between a northerly breeze and southerly clouds which continued into the later afternoon.

A contrast across Gleann na Muice:

Ruadh Stac Mor has a great view of A’Mhaighdean.

A’Mhaighdean and Fuar Loch Mor:

180 degrees turn and the day looks rather different.

Beinn a Chaidheimh from Ruadh Stac Mor:

We’ve never done the Fisherfield 6 (or 5+1) round so a few stretches have eluded us. The drop off Ruadh Stac Mor towards Shenavall is one of them. Certainly a nicer way off Ruadh Stac Mor this way, down to Lochan a Braghad and on to join the path to Shenavall.

Beinn Dearg Mor from glen floor:

The path drops down to 350m and Loch Beinn Dearg, here we left the Munro route and cut off for Beinn Dearg Mor.

Path to Shenavall:

Loch Beinn Dearg:

Cut along the east shore of Loch Beinn Dearg. Met a walker we’d talked to in the morning who’d been up the Deargs on his way back to the tent at the lochans.

The marsh flowers are roaring up now.

First orchid of the year:

White lousewort:

There’s a nice rising traverse up to the bealach between the corbetts, we actually felt surprising fresh despite leaving a 600m pull to the end of the day.

Ascent from Loch Beinn Dearg:

With a planned summit camp on Beinn Dearg Mor there was always going to be a water issue. Spiky, sandstone hills do not tend to have water sources close to the top. This meant getting our overnight supply from a spring at 500m. An ascent of 400m with the water is suboptimal but needs must.

Up to the bealach and a cracking view of An Teallach.

Loch Toll an Lochain and An Teallach:

It was turning into a lovely evening.

Loch Toll an Lochain and Beinn Dearg Beag:

The ascent of Beinn Dearg Mor is easy to about 700m and then steep and a bit loose for 150m. There is a loose path worn into the ascent now. Plodded up to the summit.

Fisherfield from Beinn Dearg Mor:

I’d been looking at our pictures from last time and was fairly sure of a flat pitch. Clocked a decent one 50m below the summit, a not too bad one 30m below the summit…..

H reaches the summit:

…and if Carlsberg made pitches they’d put a 15ft x 10ft flat patch of grass on the summit of Beinn Dearg Mor.

Scarp on Beinn Dearg Mor:

Now it’s just a photo fest I’m afraid. Tent up we slouched around on what is one of the best of the Corbett summits. A stellar mix of hill views and sea views. Quite stunning.

Beinn Dearg Mor’s posing point:

An Teallach from Beinn Dearg Mor:

Out to sea an inversion had started lapping around the N end of Skye, it began to build north of us too.

Summit and tent from lower top:

An Teallach again:

What a pitch site.

Scarp and summit:

Shenavall and Laracantivore are visible from the summit…..I suspect the bothy may have been busy.

Shenavall:

Into the evening and cloud/mist began to extend around in dribs and drabs at first.

Mist appearing over lochans:

Cloud coiling round Sgurr Ruadh:

Inversion starts to build:

Hazel finally made it over to the posing point – she’d declined last time.

H on posing point:

If I’d known an inversion was going to build a time lapse would have been nice.

Just a fantastic evening, hot to start, then cooling slightly (although still pretty warm as a few layers were added). The view from the tent doors was jaw-dropping on either side.

Beinn a Chaisgein Beag was swallowed, Beinn a Chaisgein Mor was being nibbled.

Chaisgein Mor surrounded:

An Teallach again:

Beinn Dearg Beag was becoming an island…..fascinating to watch these clouds flowing much like a fluid.

Beinn Dearg Beag becoming an island:

Wisps of cloud and Fisherfield:

The show was heading towards sunset, we alternated between reclining in the tent looking out the door and wandering round the summit. Decadent.

Heading towards sunset:

Sail Mhor:

The odd bit of cloud surf on the surface of the inversion.

Cloud wave:

Beinn Dearg Beag:

We’d been aware that there was another camper on Beinn Dearg Beag – a single figure visible since 1830. I wonder how often both these hills are summit camped on the same evening.

Beinn Dearg Beag camper and sunset:

….and then the sunset. 2205hrs, almost time to get up!

Sunset:

Sail Mhor and Sgorr Ruadh at sunset:

Off to bed. A thin data signal and MWIS said “almost certain” cloud free munros over a 500m ceiling inversion.

Up at 0100 – the inversion was behaving itself at about 500m. Very few stars visible in a bright sky.

Up at 0430 for dawn…and still above the inversion.

An Teallach at dawn:

Sunrise:

Spent an hour up and around watching the light creep down the hills.

A room with a view:

A’Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor:

The inversion had lifted a tad, we were only really about 150m or so above it. Little waves passed by with the cloud rising and falling around 50m. We stayed above it though.

Inversion a little too close:

Just above the clouds at dawn:

An Teallach and rising sun:

Went back to bed for another hour or so – everything was still looking good at breakfast time.

After a quick forty winks:

A relaxed breakfast….an inverse of the evening, delayering insulation back to T-shirts as the sun grew warmer.

Approaching 0830 the inversion seemed to be rising – Beinn Dearg Beag had only been intermittently poking through for a while and we were starting to sink too.

There had been a glory visible….as the inversion rose this became a Brocken Spectre.

Brocken Spectre:

..and then we were in the mist, patchily at first. We’d just got the tent away when our next door neighbour arrived from Beinn Dearg Beag, a brief chat and then he was off in the direction of Shenavall.

We dropped into the mist and that was that sun wise for the day.

Dropped to the bealach and the climbed to 670m up Beinn Dearg Beag. Considered visiting the summit (150m of ascent) but decided there was little point in zero visibility (I’ve included it in the linked hills for the report though).

The summit ridge of Beinn Dearg Beag is a series of sandstone scrambles with a steep descent at the end, we’d planned on skirting the hill on its west side. We contoured off from 670m to pick up the stream at NH 015 813 following this NNW until about 330m height when we turned due north, to the bealach with the 392m point.

Mossy bank:

Revisited the lovely lochan to the west of the 392m point – full of newts again this year. Tarried here a while watching them (not enough light for decent pics).

From here we headed north cross-country to the shore of Loch na Sealga about 1km south of the loch end.

Had some lunch at this point, it had been claggy most of the way (the price to pay for the inversion).

Loch na Sealga:

Headed back to the car – a 7km yomp along the track. Verdant vegetation springing up – possibly the best sundew crop I’ve ever seen.

Sundew:

A grey return:

A decent sighting of a subadult Golden Eagle halfway up the glen and then back to the car.

No view of the Deargs from Inchina this time.

Inchina:

4 and a bit hours back to Edinburgh. Certainly one of our more memorable camping trips. Great to see Fisherfield again.

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