John was leading the first of this year's Fisherfield 'Big 6' backpacking hikes. Here's how the weekend went....
The party for the Fisherfield 'Big 6' met at the Corrie Hallie pull-in, and it was evident by the amount of cars that a Bank Holiday at Shenavall was obviously quite a few other folks’ plans! Thankfully, we had decided to camp at the lovely copse at NH088788. The only drawback to this plan was the weight of the packs that camping necessitates, and for a couple of the party, this was a first. We likened them to upturned beetles or turtles on more than one occasion as they wrestled them on and off – whilst helping to, of course.
We had a dry walk-in, and got the tents up before the forecasted rain set in. The weekend was notable by the fact the forecast was spot-on. Why can’t it be wrong in our favour once or twice eh?
With nothing left to do, we settled down for an early night and an early rise. This wasn’t before we found we shared our campsite with a Goosander duck (identified courtesy of my friend in the RSPB – Thanks Dave!), nestled deep in a hollow tree. She appeared to be sitting on a nest or even a brood, so we gave her a wide berth.
It was dry as we rose at 5am, and after eating and sorting kit, we made the easier-than-expected river crossing at 06:30 and struck off up the daunting-looking N.E. ridge of Beinn a’Chlaidheimh, a recently demoted Munro. As is so often the case, the way was easy to find, and there was an excellent little path through the steepenings, and we made our first summit for 08:50. We even got a glimpse of Shenavall down below, and across to the splendid Beinn Dearg Mor, or Dragon Mountain as some of my friends have called it on account of its extraordinary jelly-mould shape and cavernous corries.
It was then lose height and up again over boulders, (rather a feature of this route at times) to the second summit, and first Munro of Stob Ban. There was thick mist here, so we quickly moved on to the short, steep scree ascent of Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair. Care had to be taken here to avoid knocking loose stones on each other, and we trod lightly and in a well-disciplined fashion to avoid being in the fall-line....what a team! At the summit we met another party who were just doing two, who expressed their admiration at our plans given the weather.
The clouds cleared for a spell as we got to the low point where you cross a great little by-pass path to Bealach Odhar on Beinn Tarsuin, and we had a reasonable break in some shelter, discussing the skill of the sheep and deer and their excellent little paths. ‘Built-in crampons and extra legs...it’s not fair’!
A rare glimpse of An Teallach meant it was quickly out with the cameras before the pull up to the excellent summit of Beinn Tarsuinn with its fine stone to pose on. A shame the team couldn’t see the views here, and they remained unconvinced at my exaltations due to the pathetic little cairn. Things quickly looked up however, as we headed for the great little scramble over Tarsuinn’s North by North-West ridge, we had a clearing, and the view of Beinn Lair and Slioch over Loch Fada were beautiful.
After Lorna re-enacting Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory on the ‘tennis court’, we soon got to some nice scrambling, as we stuck to the crest over the ridge. ‘No by-pass paths for this team’ was the cry, and it was dispatched with aplomb. Then followed the biggest loss of height, down to the bealach at Pollan na Muice. Here, ‘Twinkletoes’ Victoria demonstrated what can only be described as levitation as she hopped, skipped and jumped down the 300+ metres at rate most fell-runners would be pleased with!
After another re-fuelling, the hard grassy pull up to the ‘Best View In Scotland’ was made....only it wasn’t. A’Mhaighdean (The Maiden) was shy of showing us her charms today, and all we had was more rain and a typically Scottish mist. Ah well, we’ll just have to come back eh? After eventually finding the top of the path down to the bealach, we passed the howf and on up onto our final Munro, Ruadh Stac Mor. Here we took some triumphant pictures, (not being distracted by any view of course), and celebrated the 'Big 6', in the bag.
All that remained was the walk out. Yes, all that remained. For those of you that have done this, you will know how it tests ones resolve to the full, with each undulation of the path, each twist and turn, and each wee river crossing. For those of you that haven’t, suffice to say that this is a big route, a route one wears with pride once the tired feet recover, a route where you really do appreciate that you are in the ‘Great Wilderness’.
The weather was kind as we returned to camp for a well-earned meal and change of clothes. We even managed a camp fire and a few drams to ease the tired limbs, before turning in around midnight. It was also kind for the dry pack-up and walk out too.
So all in all, we decided that whilst the weather could have been kinder on the main day, it could also have been a whole lot worse, particularly for our camping. This is a real classic route, and you can only guess at how awesome the views are in good conditions......’yes feet, we ARE going back again’!
More photos of the trip are on our Flickr website .
We're back here again later this month and again in July, more details here .