If you are reading this, do not judge my slow progress, some time back in my aim to walk the Watershed of Scotland, I realised that walking to a time table detracted from the enjoyment. Apart from the limitation of pack weight versus distance from restocking, I savour my time in the hills, happy to take whatever time it takes me. Also in order to preserve the natural sounds of the hills all songs referenced remain firmly in my head and are not provided by any electronic device.
Leaving off the Watershed just before the Fannaichs last October because the weather turned out worse than forecast, I hoped that the less favourable forecast for the weekend of 14-16th May would deliver better stuff between the “slow moving, heavy showers of rain and hail” In fact I hoped that the slow moving showers would overtake this slow moving walker with lockdown legs and I would be treated to some rare views in the sunshine and clarity that was promised between the showers. October's TR can be found here https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=103193
The weekend started badly. Perhaps I had over prepared having had months to study at the route and the buses required to get me there in time to reach the Watershed before nightfall but somehow I managed to overlook the vital piece of information that the buses run differently on a Friday. This meant that 2 I had relied on for getting me to the start of the track into Loch a’ Bhraoin at a reasonable time did not exist as the schools are only in for ½ day on a Friday. If I can’t even sort a bus timetable should I really be allowed out? I resorted to booking a taxi (Ewen’s) that would come out to Braemore Junction from Ullapool to meet the bus there at 16.56, take me 3.7 mile to the track and only cost me £32. Was I mad? Absolutely not. I worked out that as I had travelled from my home south of Aberdeen all the way to Braemore Junction (and would return) on my free bus pass the whole journey worked out at a cost of 9p per mile. It would also mean more time could be spent walking. My 10 hour travel time was made more interesting by getting a couple of the WH quiz answers right (or sort of in the case of “Can I have a “P” please Bob- Scotland “, thanks Sgurr) I quickly set and easy poser for “Can I have a “P” which, as predicted, was solved quickly. I forwent posting a photo in “Where’s the picture? - Scotland” but that baton was soon picked up by jmarkb. Both sorted before I had to go off line.
I started walking just after 5, meeting 3 sets of departing walkers on the way out, each had done something different but all had smiles on their faces. An eagle also flapped casually by, over the loch. The track was newly built, I guessed to keep it above loch level if the height of the latter was raised for the hydro scheme down river. My aim was to re-join the Watershed at Groban’s summit, where I had left it last outing
Well, I'm so tired of crying
But I'm out on the road again
I'm on the road again
Well, I'm so tired of crying
But I'm out on the road again
I'm on the road again
I ain't got no woman
Just to call my special friend
Start from road. Groban straight ahead at end of Loch a' Bhraoin by Seal54, on Flickr
Progress was easy even with the unfamiliar heavy pack but that came to an abrupt end as I left the track shortly after the house, Lochivraon. As I had climbed nothing higher or more taxing than the track to my local windfarm in the intervening months the rough ground of bog, tussocks and heather clumps made for hard going and I failed to get into a rhythm. Views into Fisherfield were good as were the views behind something I appreciated as I stopped and admired them frequently enough. Cloud danced around the high tops but with long periods of clear spells. There was still plenty of daylight left but I had woken up up at 4.45 in order to make the necessary (but non-existent) buses so I was pretty shattered. I could have had an extra 2 hours in bed but hey-ho I was out here now. I was a little perturbed that if I struggled on Groban how would I do on the rest of the walk with its large drops and rises. Then I got into my stride (and the vegetation got easier) and the second but steeper part of the ascent took half as long as the first. This felt better and I heard then saw a golden plover. The cloud that had danced around the higher summits stopped for a prolonged break on Groban to frustrate my chance of views. It was déjá vu for this summit which I know would have stunning views. I remained optimistic that the Fannaichs would produce better results.
Groban summit by Seal54, on Flickr
This time, however, I did manage the easy scramble onto the large boulder, left behind on the summit, presumably from a glacier. A ptarmigan croaked nearby and I saw it scuttling away amongst the boulders. The water draining west from Groban (and for the next few miles until Sgurr Mor) makes its way to Loch na Sealga under An Teallach to Gruinard Bay. East it drains to Loch Fannich, Lochluichart and the River Conon to the Cromarty Firth
The mist shrouded summit did not present an attractive evening camp, I also needed water so I headed off for the Bealach. Tiredness meant that I was rather lackadaisical about the bearing off and probably came down too far to the south, clattering about the stony summit and avoiding small crags. This did not matter too much as the bealach was broad but it also made sure I was in the right place to view a more an unusual inhabitant of these hills. At first I thought it was a short legged sheep or maybe an exceptionally large free range haggis but I realised that it was in fact a badger.
Badger by Seal54, on Flickr
I was buzzing. I used to live close to a badger sett but I have never seen them on the hills before. I spent some time trying to get a decent photo (difficult in the gloomy mists on a mobile phone) as it rootled around amongst the stones and mosses looking for food. I was down wind so it took some time before it realised I was there. I am surprised it didn’t hear my squeals of excitement but maybe like my music I kept those firmly in my head. Finally, the broc saw me and loped off up the hill. A short time later I had another sighting but whether it was the same one or a mate I do not know.
Light was fading now and I needed to find a camping spot and water. I had come out below the cloud and virtually on target for the bealach. Groban seeped water from every pore but none aggregating into a running stream but I eventually found a small trickle. 20-30 hinds moved off down the bealach and I made camp on the driest, flattish ground I could find. The wind was brisk and with an icy bite. I was tired and hungry and made a meal of pitching the tent as I fought both the gusty wind and the flapping tent. I thought I found a reasonably sheltered spot but like a petulant teenager the wind stamped and railed at my tent in between spells of sullen sulks and I slept badly (none of the recharging of batteries from this sleep) however I was also still buzzing from the sight of the badger. So what that I had no views from Groban. Tomorrow was to be better, I could feel it in my tired bones.
Bolt and bar the shutter for the foul winds blow
Our minds are at their best this night and I seem to know
That everything outside us is mad as the mist and snow
That everything outside us is mad as the mist and snow.
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life for me, ooh
And I'm feeling good
And what a fine spring-like morning. it was White trails of clouds stroked the summits. A’ Chailleach (the peak,appropriately enough, of the old woman) had a cap of white clouds but it came and went and I wa optimistic that it would shift off as the day progressed.
Morning view from camp to A'Chailleach by Seal54, on Flickr
The hills in the distance to the south (Glen Carron?) were peaking above cloud inversions.
View south from camp towards Loch Carron hills and temp inversions by Seal54, on Flickr
Above me blue skies contrasted against the yellowy brown of Groban’s slopes, it would be clear up there now but I wasn’t about to go back for the views. The hills had held a substantial amount of snow until very recently and the vegetation had not started to show signs of greening. Fairly lazy from lack of sleep I took my time breakfasting and packing up. Cean Garbh Mullan Chuaich is a bit of a steep pull first thing but soon the gradient eased and the views broke out.
View west to Slioch and Torridon from Ceann Garbh Meallan Chuaich by Seal54, on Flickr
View south to the Watershed hills of Beinn nan Ramh, Fionn Bheinn and Meall a'Chaorain over Meallan Chuaich by Seal54, on Flickr
A' A'Chailleach from Ceann Garbh Meallan Chuaich by Seal54, on Flickr
A line of fence posts marks the Watershed route north but first (after leaving my rucksack at the highest post) I headed south the trig point. Lack of sleep was totally negated by the sheer joy of being out with 360 degree views. This is what I had longed for and was recharging my batteries after the downward drain of lockdown. My reluctance to return until conditions were right had been rewarded.
Meallan Chuaich TP by Seal54, on Flickr
View from Meallan Chuaich to Torridon (left), Slioch (central) and Fisherfield (right) by Seal54, on Flickr
View from TP over Groban to west and Fisherfield by Seal54, on Flickr
Panorama including Torridon and Slioch by Seal54, on Flickr
Panorama from Meallan Chuaich by Seal54, on Flickr
Back to my rucksack and an easy follow of the fence posts I headed down to the bealach and still having not found a good supply of water and knowing that refill spots on the Fannich ridge would be few I decided to cut the corner across to the south ridge of A’Chailleach and hopefully find a more substantial water supply running down to the east. This paid off with gushing stream meeting my requirements and relieved I headed on up the ridge.
Tomain Coinnich and Sgurr Breac from south ridge of A'Chailleach by Seal54, on Flickr
A'Chailleach by Seal54, on Flickr
A’Chailleach and the rest of the NW Highlands were now clear of cloud. I disturbed a female ptarmigan who scuttled away amongst the rocks. I was worried that her eggs would cool quickly in the cold wind and hoped she didn’t stay off them too long. A few moments later I thought I heard the high pitch of a dog yapping. It sounded too high for a deer but as I never saw a dog or its owner I think it must have been a deer. It concerns me to see people walking with dogs off leads during the nesting season. We humans disturb ptarmigan and plovers enough but probably do not drive them too far from their eggs. Loose dogs are another matter whether they actually chase the birds or just run hither and thither following all the scents that assail their nostrils.
An Teallach from A'Chailleach ridge by Seal54, on Flickr
View over Loch Fannich from S ridge of A'Chailleach by Seal54, on Flickr
Ascent of A'Chailleach view south Fionn Bheinn to top left of photo, Groban mid right. by Seal54, on Flickr
A' Chailleach with Toman Coinnich, Sgurr Breac and Sgurr nan Clach Geala by Seal54, on Flickr
More plovers were seen and a wheatear occupied the cairn of A’Chailleach (997m). Air clarity was, as promised, high. I could see the NW Highlands, Stac Poillaidh, Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr (screening Suilven) and possibly as far as Ben Hope with a significant mass on the horizon in the right location. This more than anything boosted my mood. It may have taken me far longer than anticipated but now for the first time I began to believe I could complete this journey along the Watershed. I still had some significant outings to accomplish and I am aware that I mustn’t count my Watershed miles before I do them but I can start to feel hopeful.
View to Slioch and Torridon from summit of A'Chailleach by Seal54, on Flickr
View south from A' Chailleach over Beinn nan Ramh to Fionn Bheinn and Meall a' Chaorainn by Seal54, on Flickr
View forward along watershed from A'Chailleach by Seal54, on Flickr
View from A'Chailleach towards Beinn Dearg and further north. Fannaich Watershed hills on right hand side of photo by Seal54, on Flickr
Oh no darling,
No wind, no rain
No winters cold can stop me baby
No, no baby
A’Chailleach summit was cloud, dog and human free. I wondered where everyone was. I could not see any figures on any of the approach routes. I had expected Sauchiehall Street. All ponderings stopped 10 minutes later as I met the first of the day walkers or rather a runner (only one) our exchange was brief (“I saw a badger”) He didn’t need to be stopping and getting cold. From then on I met regular groups of 1-2 people but never on the summits. I told everyone about the badger but gradually this diminished as the ridge itself and the views became the wonder to exclaim about.
Loch Toll an Lochain by Seal54, on Flickr
Descent from A'Chailleach by Seal54, on Flickr
Looking back to An Teallach from descent of A'Chailleach by Seal54, on Flickr
Passing over the Munro top of Toman Còinnich (935m) I stopped for lunch in the col before Sgùrr Breac. What a dismal lunch it was. Somehow I had failed to season my couscous mix sufficiently. The only thing that redeemed it was the sundried tomatoes. Worryingly this was what I would have to eat for the next couple of days as my supply of oatcakes and cheese would not last for 2 meals a day.
Summit Toman Coinnich, view ahead to Sgurr Breac and Sgurr nan Clach Geala by Seal54, on Flickr
Sgùrr Breac has 2 cairns on its summit with the eastern most one being the actual cairn
First cairn, Sgurr Breac, view towards An Teallach and Fisherfield by Seal54, on Flickr
View to 2nd cairn at summit of Sgurr Breac by Seal54, on Flickr
Reaching the summit of Sgurr Breac-speckled peak (999m) I felt overcome with exhaustion/lack of sleep. My lockdown legs were feeling the hit of the climbs. I decided to have an early camp down near the bealach and leave the steep climb up Sgùrr nan Clach Geala until the next day. with hopefully rested legs The weather had been mainly bright sunshine giving the conditions for an excellent walk but the breeze was still stiff and bitingly cold once stopped so I chose shelter over the chance of views from high up on the ridge.
Going fast, going strong
That's the only way we know
Gather 'round the fire, legs are tired
Daylight comes when you go
DSCairn at summit of Sgurr Breac with view to Sgurr nan Clach Geala by Seal54, on Flickr
View west from summit of Sgurr Breac, towards A'Chailleach. In distance, Torridon left, Fisherfield right by Seal54, on Flickr
panorama north from summit of Sgurr Breac by Seal54, on Flickr
The distinctive outline of An Teallach had been easy to pick out but I was also identifying familiar hills further afield.
I continued to meet other walkers, as I descended, no-one going my way but included a couple of other campers. One of the last was a man of a similar vintage to me but far fitter. He was heading up (with full pack) to do Sgùrr Breac and A’Chailleach before returning and heading up the steep climb to Sgùrr nan Each and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala. This at a time when I was stopping for the night.
Looking back up on descent from Sgurr Breac by Seal54, on Flickr
I found my stop. A seemingly flat grassy terrace about 5 minutes up from the bealach on the Sgùrr Breac side and with views to Fionn Bheinn and a glimpse of the Glen Carron hills. I sat in the late afternoon sunshine enjoying the hills, watching deer moving down in the glen, writing my diary, eating my tea. Normally I walk until the last gasp of daylight but this felt so much more relaxed. Pitching the tent my “flat site” showed that it was wanting a little in the horizontal. I was quite close to a bit of a drop off and I hoped I wouldn’t have one of my episodes of sleepwalking. I noted with some concern that my left boot had sustained some toe cap damage. I drag my left leg slightly (nothing serious, probably due to some nerve damage from carrying heavy rucksacks over the years) and my left footwear suffers damage as a result. I hoped that the boot would last the walk.
Evening view to Fionn Bheinn over Beinn nan Ramh from 2nd day's camp by Seal54, on Flickr
Campsite, 2nd day by Seal54, on Flickr
The very fit camper returned and I watched as he made his speedy way up the other side of the bealach to the col before turning off to Sgùrr nan Each. To say I wasn’t envious of his ability to cover ground with apparent ease would be a lie but then I was happy with what I had done and whilst I had stopped telling everyone about the badger, I was buoyed by the views, the weather and the fact that I had seized the day (or the weekend). It had been a badger free day but this was how I had wanted to enjoy the Fannaichs and I was getting exactly what I wanted. I had no doubts that I would sleep soundly.
Early morning trails of cloud by Seal54, on Flickr
Early morning promise of sun and inversions by Seal54, on Flickr
An early night, sleep came quickly only to wake around midnight finding a stone in the middle of my back. Another disturbed night sleep was abandoned as the morning light hit the tent. There were hints of temperature inversions with cloud coming and going around me and the sun occasionally breaking through. I was away shortly after 07.30 and as I descended to the bealach the cloud descended with me. Crossing the peat hags of the bealach I used the significant burn that was gushing down the hill and away to Loch Fannich and the Cromarty Firth as a hand rail, crossing over each tributary as it joined ensuring I was staying on the Watershed.
Keep on love keeps lifting me
Lifting me lifting me
Higher and higher higher
The cloud thinned and thickened as height was gained but with it being thicker below there was a possibility of an inversion. Breaking through the lower cloud I found myself in a sandwich of clear air with more cloud above. Reaching the ridge, a bank of snow merged with the cloud with no apparent join so, being wary of cornicing, I skirted round below it until I reached the rather small cairn at the summit. Cloud obscured views to the south but visibility to the north was better.
Summit cairn Sgurr nan Clach Geala by Seal54, on Flickr
Approaching summit Sgurr nan Clach Geala by Seal54, on Flickr
I was a bit bemused by the size of the cairn but totally missed something else I should have been looking out for, not realising until a few hours later. I had the summit to myself but views were slightly impaired by low cloud and the occasionally the mist blotted everything out. If anything this added to the drama of the location. The cloud had gathered in the southern corrie but I caught occasional glimpses of impressive cornices.
Cornicing coming out of the mist on SnCG by Seal54, on Flickr
Summit Sgurr nan Clach Geala by Seal54, on Flickr
Slightly concerning was the firm snow patch lying across my route from the summit but I had a quick recce and found it was easily by passed.
Snow on summit, trig buried? by Seal54, on Flickr
Where's ...? by Seal54, on Flickr
I stayed at the summit for a 2nd breakfast and chances of views. I was bemused to see a couple of “lads” approaching up the broad NW ridge. They appeared only to be carrying a bottle of water each. No winter gear. It turned out that they were camped just a short way out of sight. Whilst I was amazed at their lack of gear they expressed surprise that I was carrying all my gear in what they thought was a small pack. They had walked in with huge sacks but they were young and fit. (probably older than I thought as 1 mentioned his son) We chatted about the weather, the views (last night they had seen a wonderful sunset over An Teallach), lock down. Views improved and the cloud started to lift as we chatted. It was noticeably warmer today with a gentle, less sharp breeze.
View from SnCG towards cloud covered An Teallach (right) and Fisherfield (left) by Seal54, on Flickr
View to loch Fannich appears through clearing cloud by Seal54, on Flickr
No-one else appeared and they confidently scampered off across the snow patch that I cautiously skirted. I followed slowly and then was perturbed to see another larger, snow patch. The guys were waiting for a couple coming up before again crossing it apparently without any worries. I wasn’t so confident. Like them I would be descending across the snow with a steep drop off on my left. A slip with my heavy pack would see me sliding at least 100m downhill without any hope of arresting with no ice axe. Unlike them I did not feel confident to do this. I also mused that if anything happened the headline would read “Ill–equipped old age pensioner plunges to her death”. No problem for me but my children would have to field the attacks from “know it all, sit at home, keyboard experts” passing judgements on why they had irresponsibly allowed their mother out on the hills on her own. As if they could stop me!
DSC_Descent of Sgurr nan Clach Geala looking to cloud covered Sgurr Mor. Snow fields to cross just below current position by Seal54, on Flickr
Meall a' Chrasgaidh from SnCG by Seal54, on Flickr
View to An Teallach and Loch na Sealga from Sgurr nan Clach Geala by Seal54, on Flickr
The lads disappeared whilst I assessed my options, finally electing to drop down to where the slope of the snow field lessened about 100 m below me. Meanwhile the uphill couple came into sight through the outcrops and we exchanged info and fears about the snow patch. They tried to reassure me that it was absolutely fine but I wasn’t convinced so started a steep down climb to where I though the crossing would be safer and shorter. This was a big mistake. The steep slope was scattered with loose rocks and slippery wet vegetation. When I eventually reached the spot I thought would be safer I found that the snow at the edge was too firm to kick decent steps, the sun having not had a chance to soften it. The gradient was also a lot steeper than it had looked from above and I would still not be clear of the extensive snow field that remained on this side of the hill.
I'm a loser
I'm a loser
And I'm not what I appear to be
This was Ben Lui all over again and I had no option but to re climb to the ridge. When I got there I was all set to turn back and walk out along the stalkers path to the A832 when I noticed that on the ridge crest, there was a higher track across the snow. This was virtually flat and although the ridge appeared to disappear into thin air, I decided to give it a go. The main walkers path beats a path a little below the crest but the crest itself presented no problems. It was snow free after the first very short section and I was able to stroll down without even having to put my poles away.
Descent of Sgurr nan Clach Geala via Eagan Tuill Bhig by Seal54, on Flickr
Descent of Eagan Tuill Bhig with snow fields safely below on slope by Seal54, on Flickr
I had spent almost an hour “fannying” around and the solution had been there all the time but my initial annoyance at myself was forgotten as I felt a buzz at overcoming my demons and continuing my walk. I saw various dots of walkers coming up and also a figure high above me following me down.
Sgurr nan Clach Geala and Eagan Tuill Bhig by Seal54, on Flickr
Looking back up Eagan Tuill Bhig by Seal54, on Flickr
Looking back up Eagan Tuill Bhig zoomed showing how flat and snow free the crest was. by Seal54, on Flickr
One of the upward walkers stopped me to ask about the snow. Neither he or his companion had winter gear and they were worried that the snow would stop them. I re-assured him that sticking close to the crest would be best. And virtually snow –free. I told him what I had attempted before coming down the crest. I told him that this was because I was a huge wuss so if I could manage a down climb in the crest they would have no problems going up. I am not sure he was convinced but I hope they enjoyed themselves. It is a measure of how I felt that I took no photos of Sgùrr Mòr that was now cloud free but plenty of the descent of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala.
Whoa! I feel good, I knew that I would, now
I feel good, I knew that I would, now
So good, so good, I got you
Nothing like feeling smug about myself however it is concerning to me that once again my confidence on steep slopes seems to have taken a tumble for no apparent reason. Walking alone has made me more cautious and a couple of bad accidents in the safety of my own home seem to have made me more aware of how accidents can happen in a blink of an eye.
Safely at the col, I was walking on air. I felt great. My lockdown legs were doing fine. I felt great. Did I already say that? We still hadn’t had any of the slow moving rain or hail showers, the Fannaichs kept on giving and giving. Another couple I met said that the good weather was to continue for a few more days. I decided that I would stay on until Monday (boots withstanding) and follow the watershed along the other side of Dirrie Mor to Beinn Enaiglair before dropping down to catch the 09.14 Inverness bus from Braemore Junction on Tuesday morning (having tripled checked that it did exist). Crossing the top of Càrn na Criche and down to the col before Sgùrr Mòr, I stopped for my lunch. This time I added some of my emergency standby Batchelor’s mac and cheese packet to the couscous along with cheese. This was a success my couscous was full of flavour.
Sgurr nan Clach Geala from Carn na Criche by Seal54, on Flickr
Ascent of Sgurr Mor looking over Loch a' Mhadaih to Ullapool and NW highlands by Seal54, on Flickr
Sgùrr Mòr was the last steep climb of the day (Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannich was a gentle 85m) and the highest of the Fannaichs and of the hills on this outing. As I approached the summit expecting a trig point which didn’t materialise I suddenly realised that the trig point was on Sgùrr nan Clach Geala and I had missed it. (I hadn’t looked at the map as the way on was obvious). I was now worried that the small cairn that surprised me had indicated that I hadn’t actually been at the summit. The mist would have obscured the true summit slightly further the south. My Trig pointing UK app came to my rescue showing that the pillar had been truncated and was probably buried under the snow. Phew! Not that I was going back.
Once again I had the summit to myself. I had passed a silent walker who did not glance my way as I ascended and he was the last person I saw before Tuesday morning (not counting the ones in vehicles I saw as I crossed the A835). Suilven had appeared in view around the edge of the Cùl Mòr. I wish I hadn’t left my new small, lightweight but excellent binoculars at home as I wasn’t sure about the less well defined hills to the north but I was certain Ben Hope was there. Klibreck was unmistakable. Binoculars would have also helped to see if I could see the Beauly Firth to the SE, I felt that I should. I could certainly see Loch Broom. This makes Sgùrr Mòr a significant viewpoint on the Watershed and once again I rejoiced that I had waited and that the weather delivered far more than the promise of 60-70% cloud free summits.
View south from Sgurr Mor over Loch Fannich to Fionn Bheinn by Seal54, on Flickr
Looking south east over Meall Gorm from Sgurr Mor by Seal54, on Flickr
View East from Sgurr Mor. BLMF on left. A snowy Ben Wyvis in far distance by Seal54, on Flickr
I can see for miles and miles
I can see for miles and miles
I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles
View from Sgurr Mor, looking north with Beinn Dearg. BLMF on right by Seal54, on Flickr
Picking out the hills from Sgurr Mor by Seal54, on Flickr
Panorama Sgurr Mor from Fisherfield (left) to Beinn Dearg (right) by Seal54, on Flickr
Panorama from Sgurr Mor looking west. by Seal54, on Flickr
As I turned away from the views and started the descent a scrap of white blew up from the corrie and I instinctively patted my pockets, worried that a tissue had escaped. The scrap came towards me and revealed itself as a snow bunting maybe checking out whether I had dropped any crumbs at the summit (no). Later, on my way to Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich I had another sighting. I reflected that the only things missing from this walk were the spring flowers, no doubt held up by the low temperatures and snow cover.
Looking back to Sgurr Mor by Seal54, on Flickr
I descended to the interesting stalkers path with its drystone dyke and shelter, the latter I did not enter not wanting to tempt my good fortune (“Pensioner squashed to death by antique shelter”). It has lasted longer than me so probably safe.
Stalkers path and shelter by Seal54, on Flickr
Stalkers howff by Seal54, on Flickr
Stalkers path between Sgurr Mor and BLMF by Seal54, on Flickr
Ahead the snow banks on the slopes of Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich resembled white leaping dolphins. The going to Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich is very straightforward but the latter appears to be one large boulder field. I like boulder hopping but my lockdown legs were beginning to complain and I still had a few miles before my preferred camp location down by the Abhainn an Torrain Duibh.
Approach to BLMF, leaping snow dolphins by Seal54, on Flickr
View north from BLMF by Seal54, on Flickr
Sgurr Mor from Beinn Liath Mor Fannaich by Seal54, on Flickr
Summit BLMF rain clouds approaching by Seal54, on Flickr
To the south I could see dark rain clouds and rain so I didn’t linger but skittered and slithered across the slabby terrain down the broad north ridge and around to a large cairn that looks out to Beinn Liath Beag above a steep cliff. I was hurrying to beat the rain before it turned the rocks into slick slides but stopped to put on waterproofs.
Descent from BLMB by Seal54, on Flickr
Slabby descent of BLMF looking to Sgurr Mor, Carn na Criche & Meall a' Chrasgaidh by Seal54, on Flickr
The slow moving rain arrived, disgorged a mere drop or two of rain and passed by leaving a rainbow as it went west.
Rainbow over Beinn Liath Beag by Seal54, on Flickr
Other end of the rainbow over Loch Sgeireach by Seal54, on Flickr
Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone.
All of the bad feelings have disappeared.
Here is that rainbow I've been praying for.
It's gonna be a bright, bright
Bright, bright sunshiny day.
The walk was still giving its all and even if it tipped down all night and Monday I had completed the ridge in fine conditions with many bonuses along the way. The route descends steeply along the edge of the east facing ridge and across the broad bealach above Loch Sgeireach. The latter a little too far off across rough and boggy ground to tempt me for a swim.
Beinn Liath Beag sported more cairns. Coming from the coast they reminded me of the leading lights of a harbour and possibly they served a similar navigational aid to the stalkers and shooters. There was certainly no shortage of blocky slabs for their construction.
Cairn on Beinn Liath Beag by Seal54, on Flickr
Clouds moving in over Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich by Seal54, on Flickr
Loch Sgeireach by Seal54, on Flickr
Summit plateau Beinn Liath Beag with cairn and boulder, another further on by Seal54, on Flickr
An Teallach from Beinn Liath Beag. by Seal54, on Flickr
I had been able to hear the traffic on the road from quite high up. Fortunately, this was now starting to lessen but I also hoped that river music at my camp site would drown out any intrusive vehicle noise. At this stage of the day crossing the rough, alternatively boggy and heathery ground seemed to take forever and I remained slightly worried that the patch of clear ground I had selected for my camp would prove to be a bog I was delighted to find that not only was it dry, it was home to my first wildflowers of this trip and nothing could be heard of the road.
Camp site looking east by Seal54, on Flickr
Sunday camp looking back to Beinn Liath Beag and Mhor by Seal54, on Flickr
After pitching the tent, I sat with my feet in the river (not deep enough for a dip), eating my tea, writing my diary until a few drops of rain drove me into the tent (not before another rainbow made its appearance) where my pen promptly ran out. My boot was hanging on but had taken more of a bashing on the slabby terrain. I fell asleep to the music of the river but woke during the night to the sound of rain on the tent. A disturbed night of sleep didn’t bother me now. Monday was a low level if rough walk and I could take as long as liked. I had ideas of going over Beinn Enaiglair to the stalkers path that encircles it
Evening rainbow at camp by Seal54, on Flickr
Not a great night sleep but I was now used to this, there was enough to balance this lack. Today it was the delight of wild flowers, the only one of the usual I didn’t find was milkwort. The overnight rain had passed through and the sun was shining. I spent far too long badly photographing the flowers not arriving at the road until 10.00. passing many possible swim spots in the river.
Morning sunshine by Seal54, on Flickr
I had worried that the going on the other side would be difficult but although rough, heathery ground it wasn’t that difficult and once the ridge leading to the start of Beinn Enaiglair was reached the vegetation was short and dry enough. The ridge rose in waves of crests and dips until a stalkers path was reached beyond Meall Feith Dhionaig. Two butterflies, red admirals I think passed me. After the morning sunshine the sky became overcast but never gave way to rain beyond a few spots. The Fannaichs were mainly cloud covered but Beinn Dearg to my left remained clear and gradually revealed its complexities.
Looking into Coire Lair. Watershed on left, Am Faochagach on right. by Seal54, on Flickr
Beinn Liath Beag from north of the road by Seal54, on Flickr
Meall a' Garbhrain by Seal54, on Flickr
Loch Droma. Fannaichs behind by Seal54, on Flickr
One of many cairns. Beinn Dearg to right by Seal54, on Flickr
Beinn Dearg by Seal54, on Flickr
Beinn Deargs (Fisherfield) from 639m spot by Seal54, on Flickr
I came across the lichen equivalent of the Rorschach inkblot test.
Lichen blot. by Seal54, on Flickr
My aims of Beinn Enaiglair today began to fade as I realised that it would add about 3 miles which would have to be repeated the next time out so when I came to the junction of the paths I turned left and followed the path down towards Home Loch. It goes through a rocky Bealach nam Bùthan between Beinn Enaiglair and Meall Doire Fàid where a tumble of rocks included one impressive block, the size of a small house. The sun reappeared and I had a fine view of the Watershed section of the Fannaichs. A small dipping pool offered a refreshing break but it was more of a crouch than anything else.
On our way back home
We're on our way home
We're on our way home
We're going home
Beinn Enaiglair from junction of stalkers path by Seal54, on Flickr
Huge boulder by Seal54, on Flickr
The Watershed, Fannaichs section by Seal54, on Flickr
Dipping pool by Seal54, on Flickr
I rejected various good camping spots and chose instead a spot amongst the trees and wildflowers with bird song in the trees. I needed to conserve my phone battery in order to set my alarm so was disappointed not to be able to use an app I have that id’s bird song. I could discern the obvious (chaffinches, great tit etc.) but there was one I had no clue to. The walk had not finished delivering and I also heard my first cuckoo. At home it is sea birds that I hear so I anticipated the rare treat of being woken by a dawn chorus.
Last campsite by Seal54, on Flickr
In fact, dawn brought drumming of rain on the tent, drowning out the bird song, the only real disappointment on this walk. The sun was shining by the time I packed the tent away. A bit obsessive about missing the bus I was down for the Inverness bound bus in enough time to catch the Ullapool bus that would return 45 minutes later but I don’t chose to sit on it to Ullapool and back but spent the intervening time watching a large caterpillar digger being unloaded on the A832.
The rain started in earnest as I got on the bus. I had one more treat; time for a large egg and tattie scone roll and black coffee in Ashers at Inverness bus station.
The Watershed delivered its undoubted promise and The Fannaichs lived up to my expectations. My lockdown legs had survived and carried me through. Since my last big outing (not counting the abortive trip in October last year) I had become a pensioner and lockdown had depleted my hill fitness. There is some remote country up ahead on the Watershed and this was an excellent warm up ahead of that showing up my weaknesses but also some strengths. Again I will demand good weather when I pass over the Beinn Dearg range as my previous two visits there have been blighted by low cloud
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