We'd planned to make a weekend bagging the Coulin Forest peaks over 2 day. However, weather forecasters were predicting a deep low to approach the country on Sunday with very strong gale-force winds. So, after contacting all members of the group booked on, we decided to squash the 2 days into 1, bagging all 3 Munros - Beinn Liath Mhor, Sgorr Ruadh and Maol Cheann dearg. We had the option of adding in a couple of Corbett summits on the original plan, but this would be very unlikely on one day's hiking !
After leaving the Land Rover at Coulags, we all gathered at Achnashellach by the phone-box, amazed at the way the morning dew was highlighting the spider's webs on the gorse. Heading up the track, we crossed the railway line, up some forestry track, we then joined the Right-of-Way up into Coire Lair. Weather was fine, overcast is bits and a gentle breeze kept the midges away. We progressed at a good pace to the foot of Beinn Liath Mhor, then left the path and struck directly uphill. Up to a small lochan, we then clambered uphill and left the grass behind and were on slabby sandstone. Into mist and a bit wet (yupp, we had full waterproofs on by now), the hillside rock changed dramatically to quartzite - a good sign that we were near the summit ! On the summit, some quick photos (it was getting cold and breezy and no views were to be had) and we about-turned and headed down.
We were met by a couple of guys hiking rapidly uphill and wearing running gear, one baring legs to the elements - brrrr ! Turns out they were following the route described on our website (ie the same route as us, but a bit quicker !). Around the minor hump (marked 769), down to the lochan at the col and out of the wind, we had a break and were teased with glimpses of views as the mist occasionally cleared. Nourished, it was up Sgorr Ruadh next. A gentle trudge up grass, then over some boulderfield and we were very quickly onto Sgorr Ruadh's north-west crest. The runners caught us up and the weather magically cleared giving us some glorious views and rainbows, lifting out spirits. Onto the summit, and time for a well deserved stop for food and photos !
To reach Maol Cheann dearg, there are two options, either return along Sgorr Ruadh's north-west crest, then carefully pick a tedious route over endless boulderfield to eventually join the path to Bealach na Lice, or take a direct but very steep descent directly to Loch Coire Fionnaraich below. I'm for the latter and fortunately so were the others in the group ! It's mainly on heather and much easier than it looks. We could see mountain-bikers on the Right-of-Way far below. In what seemed like no time (and after a few landings on bums), we were down to the lochside. Fierce midges prevented a long stop for food ! Duncan had recently done Maol Cheann dearg and with more hiking planned for later in the week, decided to opt out of walking up this Munro. So Valerie, George and myself headed up the fine path to Bealach a'Choire Ghairbh, then scrambled up Maol Cheann dearg to its large summit cairn. We were taking the views all around when an eagle soared by just below us - wow !
About-turn, we started down. We'd timed it perfectly - mist engulfed the summit as we left it behind. We traced our route back to Bealach a'Choire Ghairbh and down to the glen below. Once on the path, Valerie and George picked up the pace and we strided out to Coulags, pleased with our day and chuffed at what we'd accomplished.
More photos are on our Flickr page !