Sunday, 28 July 2013

Fannichs, July'13

The Fannichs are a group of mountains in the north of Scotland. The peaks and ridges form a chain containing 9 Munros and on this extended weekend in July, we were here to bag all !

On our first day, we planned to walk in from Loch Glascarnoch and aim for the 4 easterly Munros in the range which form a horseshoe.  Our group of 6 hardy souls began the walk in on the forestry track, and almost immediately came across a fine example of sundew - carnivorous plants that munch midges ! We continued on the track to its end, then on a faint path progressed further. Over the Abhainn a'Ghiuthais Li, we struck up a gentle slope over heather to reach Meallan Buidhe - a little hillock with fine views and an excellent place to stop for a bite to eat. The main slog of the day was next - 1,000ft directly up to An Coileachan's summit. The group managed it quickly and at the large cairn, began snapping away on their cameras. Although Chris had been walking for many years in the Lakes and Snowdonia, this was his first Munro !

Over  Meall Gorm, investigating the ruined stalker's shelter on the way, we climbed up Sgurr Mor's  weird solifluction errosion. There was still some snow in its northern corrie ! Again, superb views all round from this summit. Chris found a camera in the grass - we checked the photos on it - it had been there for a couple of days (we've since managed to find the owner and returned it to him). One last Munro remained for today - Beinn Liath Mhor Fannich. On the way, we found the tiny stone shelter, were passed by a couple of hill-runners, met a group of guys (one of whom I'd been out with before) and found a series of steps through the boulderfield. The sea-thrift on the way was in bloom and lit up the ground with its pink flowers. Up to the summit, some food in and down to the roadside, picking a route avoiding the patches of boulderfield on the way. A group of stags watched us intently. I'd left a bike at the dam and cycled back along the road to pick up the Landie, while the team rested (and probably got eaten by midgies).

Our second day began from the car-park on the 'destitution road'. I was expecting to walk into the ruined lodge by the boat-house on Loch a'Bhraoin, but it's been fenced off and a new path has been constructed through the adjacent wood. And a fine path too, cutting out the need for boulder-hopping to avoid ending in marsh as was in previous hikes here. Over a bridge and aiming south, we were beginning to catch up a group of around 10 people. We like the feeling of wilderness, so I opted to keep us to the western side of the burn, while the group continued on the more defined path on the eastern side. We found a ruin, probably abandoned during 'The Clearances', then stuck up to the main path, briefly meeting the group, before we continued onto the highest point of the path and stopped for a quick bite to eat. The weather wasn't as pleasant as yesterday and cloud was down to around 850m - we could see the col between our Munros, but not much else.

Food in, and on we went. We had 250m up a grassy slope to reach the col - a pleasant trudge. Our first Munro, Sgurr nan Each, was a short detour from the col, which meant we could drop our rucksacks off, and we did. This does feel a bit like cheating, but we were quickly on the summit, taking a photo in the mist for evidence. About-turn, and the mist gradually lifted as we progressed - the cliffs below coming into view. Back to our sacks, we sat for a bit, taking in the emerging panorama.

I warned the group that the next bit of uphill was the day's main slog ! Grassy and fairly steep, but path wound its way up the slope and the group aimed up at a good pace. The summit crest of Sgurr nan Clach Geala was reached and jaws dropped at the amazing views that were unfolding before us as the cloud lifted. An Teallach, Fisherfield, the Deargs and even Ben Klibreck could all be seen clearly today.  Meall a'Chrasgaigh, the day's final Munro, sat below ahead, appearing not much more than a pimple from the loft peak we were standing on top off. And it wasn't long before we were there, sheltering behind the small cairn and out of the wind which had now picked up. All that was left was a downhill trudge, and we picked a route through grass avoiding steep ground (and the crags not marked on the OS map). Mairi seemed to have really picked up the pace, racing downhill - was dinner back at the Autguish calling ?

Our final day began from the same point as yesterday, this time we'd lost 2 of the group, Mairi wanted a rest day and Chris had been called offshore. So Catherine, Isobel, Paul and myself began the walk in. It was warm, but the cloud threatened much as yesterday - would it lift again giving us some more superb views ? Over the bridge, this time we turned right and stuck directly uphill. The ground steepened and we enjoyed a bit of easy scrambling as we clambered uphill. Up onto a plateau and directly into wind, then further on mist too. A path, not marked on the OS map,  contours around Druim Reidh, aiming directly for the col between A'Chailleach and Toman Coinnich. We followed this, which cuts out around 150m of ascent ! On the way, we found a sheltered spot just before the col to stop for lunch. We could have left our sacks at the col for the detour up A'Chailleach, but opted not to. Up to the summit, a touch of the cairn and a brief stop for a photo. With the mist and wind, everyone just wanted to continue - it was one of those days, head down and push on !

Back to the col, I navigated us around Toman Coinnich (to minimise our ascent) to the col before Sgurr Bhreac. Uphill on a faint path, our final Munro of the weekend was bagged - that's 9 in total ! We didn't hang around, but instead returned to the col and this time hiked up Toman Coinnich, where we found some shelter just below its summit cairn. Back along Druim Reidh, we picked up the route we'd walked in on and returned to Loch a'Bhaoin.

A fine weekend of Munro bagging ! Photos of the days are up on our Flickr site.