Date: Saturday – Sunday 14th-15th April 2018
Distance: 18 + 14km
Ascent: 1040 + 260m
The forecast for the weekend looked interesting – not too cold with fairly low summit winds Saturday night. The exact position and extent of sunshine was a little hard to pinpoint.
We didn’t hurry out on Saturday as the forecast was for an improving day, with a fair amount of low cloud in the morning. To the contrary the drive to Poolewe was under blue skies and sunshine with every hill free of cloud.
We’d pondered a few options for a high camp and settled on Beinn Airigh Charr, the north-westerly outlier of the Letterewe hills. We’ve been up this one twice before, and had fancied a summit camp for a while.
Booted up and walking late morning, the walk in past Kernsary is a long one. The trees haven’t got going yet this year and the vegetation is still brown. The warm sunshine is going to light the blue touch paper of Spring.
For the first time this year I was in summer trousers and a t-shirt…..and feeling warm too.
Ambled out to Kernsary – a couple of black-throated divers were on Loch Kernsary.
Continued through the forest with its sections of boggy mire (but happily no clegs yet) and then out into the open ground heading towards Fisherfield.
On an irksome note quite a lot of cloud had formed and was moving our way. Picked up the pace to try to get to the open view to the head of Fionn loch before we were shaded but failed…..so much for a cloudy start breaking to sunshine.
Spotted one Golden Eagle circling around near the summit.
We had thought to head up Meall Meinnidh as a dog-leg without the packs and then direct up Beinn Airigh Charr. Decided instead to follow the path up Strathan Buidhe and then head up the southern arm of Beinn Airigh Charr. So we temporarily said goodbye to the classic view:
Strathan Buidhe is a rather nice wee glen, hidden away from prying eyes. There were a few stags lounging around that seemed surprised to see us.
Had a seat on a little nubbin above Loch Maree and enjoyed the view. The clouds which had obscured our sunshine were beginning to break up again. Was still rather hazy unfortunately.
Lunch done we headed up the southern arm of Beinn Airigh Charr, first up to Carnan Maire and then to Meall a Choire Ghlais.
The views of Loch Maree and Torridon were pretty decent. Spotted a Golden Eagle being harassed by a raven to our south – didn’t hang about.
I’d planned to collect overnight water from the highest point of an allt in Coire Reidh, however we spotted some springs on the flatter SW flank and so we collected our water from a wee flow at about 630m near Meall a Choire ghlais.
Nice views south-east across Meall Meinnidh to Bein Lair:
Got the insulating gear on, stuck up the tent and then watched the world go by.
A decent 4G signal meant access to the updated weather forecast – this suggested the wind escalating a little overnight and swinging ESE. We decided to pitch on the mossy area between the 2 tops which would give us a little windbreak in that direction.
Had our tea as the sun was sinking towards Harris – towards Clisham according to the sunrise/sunset app. Back lighting from the sun brought the islands into passing sharp focus despite the haze.
North Uist, Harris and Lewis became very visible as the sun neared them. We could even make out the Scalpay Bridge in a sun patch at one point.
Then, the sun sank behind a cloudbank beyond the Hebrides and that was that.
Retired to the tent for drinks and chocolate and the off to sleep. The mossy pitch was superbly comfortable and we slept well.
Got up once at 0100 to look out in the dark – could see the lights of Stornoway in the distance. Lighthouses at Rona, Scalpay, Eye Peninsula, Stoer and Cape Wrath (I think) were winking in the dark. Pretty decent starscape as well. The wind was rather brisk so didn’t set up the tripod.
Back to bed and out like a light until the alarm went off for sunrise.
The sun was rising near the Beinn Dearg group, although through another cloud bank. The hills were beautifully sharply visible though, north through Quinag and Ben More Assynt were clear to see.
After a 40 minute spell watching dawn I went back to bed for an hour as the sun warmed the tent up.
A skein of geese passing over us made for a decent alarm call, we got up and made breakfast and got ready to go.
We planned to drop down over a few more of the lower tops of the hill – almost every time I’ve seen pictures of Beinn Airigh Charr it’s irked me that we’ve not visited the other peaks. Time to set that right.
From here we headed to ascend Meall Chnaimhean, the prominent second peak seen from the north, but only an 80m reascent from the bealach.
The easiest return from here would be to drop back to the bealach with Spidean nan Clach and then down into Coire na Dearcaig to pick up the stalkers path. We carried on down the sketchy ridge SW to the flank of the hill over Loch Maree to get a view.
Once at the end of this bit it takes a plunge NW. We traversed a bit NE to take a manageable slope down to the Allt Airigh a Char. Descended into the coire and along the north side of the Allt to meet up with the stalkers path at NG 903 770.
This area is another lovely meadow. From here it was formed tracks all the way back under a warm Spring sun.
Set off towards Kernsary. Missed a trick here – the 1:25000 details a little path cutting direct NW across the moor rather than looping round by Kernsary….one for the future.
It feels a long walk out, but a sunny day with no clegs or midges in the NW is never a chore.
Cracking summit camp, not perfection due to the haze and definitely one we’d repeat.