John was leading a group onto the fine Fannichs in the north-west of Scotland. After some pull-outs, we were down to a group of one, but so glad we still went ahead with the trip. Here's John's tale of the weekend....
The best thing about a small group (read - One!), is that you can be flexible on the itinerary. Steven's plan was X, but as Lorna had done some of the Munros, and the weather definitely suggested Saturday should be the longer day, we hatched Plan Y by text before we'd even met.
Plan Y was to meet at the pull-in at Loch a' Bhroin at 08:30, and ascend A'Chailleach via the excellent Druim Reidh. This we did, and the nature of the terrain meant we were relatively dry underfoot for the first couple of hours. We soon lost the visibility as we summited the top of Toman Coinnich, and that set the pattern for the day - swirling cloud below 700m, poor visibility above, and rain on and off. I had been lazy, as A'Chailleach was off the edge of the 1:50k map, (isn’t it always the case?), but I had programmed my GPS with the summit grid ref. I knew it was only a stone's throw further off the map, but I didn't want to get to a rise with a cairn, declare it the summit, to find out later we hadn't been there. I was pleased, as having had my GPS for 10yrs +, it was the first time I had ever used it!
10 minutes later, we were back on the map, and quickly up to Sgurr Breac's rather insignificant cairn. A bearing ensured we were on the correct side of the bifurcation in the ridge, and the excellent winding path down to the bealach was a joy....which is more than can be said for the slog back up the other side to the bealach between Sgurr nan Clach Geala and Sgurr nan Each. Safe to say that wasn’t Lorna’s favourite part of the day.
That slog was soon forgotten however, as after ticking Sgurr nan Each, we had the pull up to Sgurr nan Clach Geala with a succession of false summits. It was interesting on the steep snow at the summit, with some massive cornices, and an enhanced feeling of exposure. Lorna and I carefully but confidently heel-plunged down onto easier terrain, where we were herded along by a female ptarmigan keen to keep us away from her nest. It was then a standard downward plod to the ford, and back to the cars. It is worth noting there is a stalkers bridge not shown on the map at approx. NH162745 for times of spate. 08:45 to 18:45, a full but satisfying day !
This was to be the ‘shorter day’, which it was, but more rain, more wind, (which veered from the SW to the NW during the day), and even worse visibility meant we still had our work cut out over 700m again. We took the relatively new track (i:e not on my 1:50k map) through the forest to join the even newer but odd discontinuous track bound for Beinn Liath Mor Fannich, and then on over another stalker’s bridge and up to the atmospheric Loch Gorm. The sun even made a brief appearance as we ascended to An Coileachan, but that was most definitely it for the day. It was then rain, drizzle, and a wee bit more rain.
After a wee detour to avoid some old snow fields, and to double check our bearing off An Coileachan, (due to blethering rather than concentrating), we quickly gained the summit of Meall Gorm. We had decided to descend due North, but needed to avoid the huge cornices, which we did by some judicious reading of the contours. It was a happy pair that picked their way down to the outflow of Loch Li and the start of the most peculiar track I have ever walked in Scotland. Still, it got us back by 16:45.....not bad for a ‘short day’!
The Fannichs are wonderful hills, and I am sure if I ever get to see them cloud- free, I will forgive them the dure walk-in and out. Well done to Lorna, who kept up a cracking pace, and even managed to smile through all my stories, which being the only one there, she had to do of course!
More photos are on our Flickr site !