Access to Glen Strathfarrar changes over the winter months. In summer you turn up at the gate, book you and your vehicle in and you've got up to 9 hours to return. In winter, the gate keeper is off-duty and the MCofS give the access code. The days are shorter at this time of year, but you're not restricted as to the time of return.
It's mid-November and we organised 2 days up the glen - Saturday we'd hike over the famed Strathfarrar Munros and on the Sunday, we'd walk the route to Maoile Lunndaidh at the western end of the glen. Forecast for the north-west was good for both days, and fortunately no snow unlike this time last year (and the year before). We were nearly fully booked for both days (tho we got a couple of last minute cancellations), so organising the transport took a bit of sorting out - but with everyone tucked into a vehicle, up the glen we drove.
Thick fog made for no views as we drove, however it seemed to encourage many deer to lower ground, so, combined with the pot-holes on the road, we carefully drove to just beyond Braulen Lodge. After shuffling cars around (so as we didn't end the day with a 6km walk along a road), we started up on the track around Beinn na Muice. Quickly we were out of the dense fog and into sunshine. Further on, we had two options - stay on the stalker's path for a gentle walk onto the crest, or head directly up onto Sgurr na Fearstaig's southern shoulder to get the views earlier. The group split and then met up on Sgurr Fhuar-thuill's summit. Wow, the views were amazing - to Ben Nevis to the south, Skye to the west and An Teallach and beyond to the north.
We walked over the 3 other Munros - Sgurr a'Choire Ghlais for lunch, Carn nan Gobhar for more views and a final gentle slog up Sgurr na Ruaidhe where ptarmigan bimbled around rocks. The walk out allowed people to walk at their own pace back down the wet slopes, taking in the sunset before returning into the fog, with the tail-end of the group needing head-torches for the final half an hour or so.
Our second day saw us drive back up the glen, this time in clear weather. Not as many deer to avoid, but we had to 'duck' as we rounded a corner - around 30 mallards took flight. Up to the dam at the eastern end of Loch Monar, we decanted out of the cars and began the walk to Maoile Lunndaidh. This is a long walk on a path, but stunningly beautiful - the view is dominated by the Mullardoch peaks and Lurg Mhor but changes constantly with distance covered. The path is fine for most of the way to the foot of Maoile Lunndaidh. Once uphill begins, the path becomes rougher and eventually petters out on a moraine. Above, a large herd of deer watched our every move before galloping off. Up onto Maoile Lunndaidh's south-east shoulder, an easy hike lead to the summit - our group split here into two - a few wanted to bag Carn nam Fiaclan (a minor top requiring a 3km there-and-out detour), while others took time to drink in the fabulous panorama.
We re-grouped on the descent and returned along the path the way we came in. Again, we all went at our various paces, some reaching the cars in daylight, the stragglers again needing head-torches - something to do with stopping to take photos of the awesome views with sunrays hitting the cloud above, then reflecting in the loch below. We spotted a small boat speeding along the loch and hope the driver would see our thumbs out, alas no !!!
A great weekend hiking and peak-bagging with fine company.
More photos of the weekend are up on a Flickr album.
We'll be returning to Maoile Lunndaidh in the summer as part of a weekend in Monar, details out soon !