Wednesday, 23 May 2012

An Teallach & Fisherfield 'Big 6', May'12

We held the An Teallach and Fisherfield 'Big 6' trip twice last year in July, and on both occasions we were plagued by midgies. So this year we decided to host the event in early May. Prior to our trip the weather had been pretty poor, but the gods took favour on us and gave us a few days fine weather window.

Our group met in the layby by Corriehallie, got gear together and headed up the track. The sun was out, sheep were lying around and birds were chirping. We climbed out of the wood and the views expanded as we progressed. We had been asked not to stay in Shenevall Bothy as a work-party would be there repairing the building, so we dropped down to the eastern end of Strath na Sealga and set up camp in a sheltered wooded area by the river. What a glorious spot !

After some lunch, we decided to aim up An Teallach. Tackling the mountain from this side gave us the opportunity to walk up by a hidden gorge and amazing waterfall. The slog uphill however is steep and quite unrelenting, but our group slogged uphill at a fine pace. At around 700m snow began to blow in and by the time we reached the col between Sgurr Creag an Eich and Sgurr Fiona we were in full winter conditions. Through snow and over some ice we reached the summit, unfortunately we were in mist, so no views. A decision was quickly made not to continue along the pinnacles or onto Bidein a'Ghlas Thuill and we retraced our steps back to the col and began downhill. As we dropped, conditions improved and our efforts were rewarded with some fine views.

The next day we awoke to a glorious morning, the sun casting its light on the hillside before us. Breakfast eaten, gear organised, boots on and we were ready for some of the 'Big 6' - the six Munros in the heart of Fisherfield and Letterewe. We proposed to bag the 4 Munros on the eastern side of Gleann na Muice today, with the remaining two tomorrow. However, I was leading a fit group and I had a lurking feeling that I might manage to persuade them to do all 6 ! As we set off, a snow storm rapidly pulled in and we couldn't cross the river by our base. So a detour was made and the river was crossed higher up. This made for an easier and more direct ascent of Beinn a'Chlaidheimh. The snow storm retreated as quickly as it arrived and we were now walking in sunshine with snow glistening and thawing underfoot. Onto our first summit, and what views -a superb start for our day.

We carried on south, descending over heather to top up our waterbottles at the next col, then took the grassy line up Sgurr Ban. Some lunch and more views, then down and up Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair. Just a brief stop here for some photos, then down to bealach Odhar, where we met a couple of guys who had walked in from Kinlochewe. A slog up pleasant grass slopes took us onto Beinn Tarsuinn with its summit cairn perched above a dark coire. After another break for food and posing for photos, we started along the crest. There is a very obvious path heading down onto the heather below to by-pass the ridge, however to take that would avoid the fun scrambling over the rock. So we stuck to the crest and savoured what this fine hill had to offer. Scrambling done, it was decision time - would the group want to drop to Gleann na Muice and walk out, or were they up for more ? They were a fit bunch and it took no persuading !

Leaving Beinn Tarsuinn behind, we descended through heather and dropped to col before A'Mhaighdean. A delightful walk up gentle grassy slopes took us onto A'Mhaighdean's spectacular summit with, what I consider to be, the finest views in Scotland. We were so lucky to be in such a wonderful area on such a clear day. The dusting of snow around sharpened the crags on the hills near and distant. We could see as far as the Outer Hebrides ! We stayed here for as long as we could, but we knew we would have to move on as we still had one more summit to bag and a long walk out.

Leaving A'Mhaighdean's summit, we dropped to the col below Ruadh Stac Mor, and found a small shelter under a large boulder, in which Dave happily posed for a photo. Up some loose rock, Ruadh Stac Mor was quickly bagged. Some more views and photos, including one of Rachel doing her 'plank' on the trig point, and we headed north-east downhill. The path leading down Gleann na Muice Beag was met and merrily continued as the sun began to set. We arrived at Shenevall in the last glimpses of light, so head-torches on for the last 3km along a track to our base-camp.

Our next day began in fine weather. We were intending to walk out to Corriehallie and hopefully get a signal to check the forecast. Snow had completely gone from everywhere bar some northern corries. Walking with heavy packs is tiring, so it was a great relief to get back to our cars and get them off our backs. The forecast was fine for today, but not looking good for tomorrow, so we decided to book ourselves into the fine Sail Mhor Bunkhouse, then aim up An Teallach and bag Bidein a'Ghlas Thuill.

After booking in, we started up An Teallach from Dundonnell. Rachel was beginning to flag a little, so I suggested leaving her rucksack and I would carry what she needed on the hill. This seemed to put a spring back in her step and we continued up the path. We paused for a quick break when we reached the burn, where we were met by a rather strange character telling us not to go up An Teallach because the conditions were awful ! We ignored him as best we could, then set off uphill passing a group of four people on their way down. Up to Sron a'Choire, wind seemed to pick up a little and the temperature dropped. We were also now walking on snow, ascending Bidein a'Ghlas Thuill from its northern side which hadn't seen much sun. Progress was slow but steady, care was needed but not anything like what had been suggested by the chap we met ! We reached the trig point on the top in fine weather and took several photos. Time and conditions meant we wouldn't be continuing along any of An Teallach's ridges and we decided to return the way we came up. We had talked of a bar-meal at the Dundonnell Hotel, so with this on people's minds, we didn't hang around ! We reached the point where the rucksack was left, but it was no longer there. After searching for half an hour we started back to the cars, Rachel obviously distressed. Once in signal, I phoned the bunkhouse, to be told that someone (ie the strange character) had found a rucksack, couldn't carry it downhill as it was too heavy, so gave it to a group of walkers (ie the group of 4 we saw earlier) and told them to leave it at the Mountain Rescue Post. Right enough it was there, I was livid, but Rachel relieved and we quickly saw the funny side as we devoured our dinner at the Dundonnell Hotel.

Our final day saw us awake to drizzle and low cloud. Wind was predicted to rise and reach gale-force, so we decided not to hillwalk and just be content with the superb 3 days we had been blessed with.

More photos are on our
Flickr page. If you fancy doing some or all of this trip, we'll be doing it again next year.