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Letters from Letterewe

Letters from Letterewe

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Aug 11, 2021 12:34 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn a' Chaisgein Mòr, Beinn Lair

Date walked: 19/07/2021

Time taken: 15 hours

Distance: 56 km

Ascent: 2005m

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Dear Walkhighlans!
I had been away for a couple of weeks, meowing on hills all over Scotland, but now the time has come to compose my letter from Letterewe. I will probably be very long and contain too many photos so apologies if I get too boring or repetitive. On the other hand, can anything about the Fisherfields/Letterewe area be boring?..

It's been a few years since our first wild camping trip to Fionn Loch and having ticked off all Munros in the area, we were now eyeing Corbetts and Grahams. Earlier this year, we managed to climb both Meall Mheinnidh and Beinn a' Chaisgein Beag in day trips, but for the Corbetts we had another sneaky plan. I know, I know, we should be finishing the remaining Munros, but the temptation of spending several days away from all the hassle of the modern world in the silence and solitude of the Letterewe wilderness was simply too strong.

We started on Monday morning, planning to walk in from Poolewe, find a good camping spot somewhere close to Fionn Loch and climb Beinn Lair on the same afternoon. On Tuesday we wanted to visit Beinn a' Chaisgein Mòr, leaving Wednesday for the walk-out. Little did we know that the Wee Black Army was already waiting for us...

Track_FISHERFIELD WILDCAMP 56KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Walking statistics are given separately at the beginning of each stage, the main stats of the TR give the overall distance, number of hours and ascent. The map above is a compilation of all GPS tracks for this trip.

STAGE 1. INTO THE WILD. 19/07/2021
Distance: 15.7km
Ascent: 359m
Time: 4h40min

The morning was cloudy but dry. Generally, the local forecast for all three days was dry and cloudy with a chance of sunny spells, low winds. The walk-in from Poolewe is a nice experience, or it would be if it wasn't for clegs!
We took food for three days, mostly dry stuff but our rucksacks still felt heavy...
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 008.JPG
On the path past Kernsary Forest

I was hoping the cloud will lift a bit by the time we reach the summit of Beinn Lair, at the moment the tops of Armageddon were still hidden away from view...
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 011.JPG

Despite the heavy load, I was in excellent mood. I had been waiting for this de-stressing trip for many months. We didn't get a chance for a camping trip last year mainly due to all the madness of COVID, now I was desperate to enjoy it, even if the bl**dy clegs were trying to suck me dry!
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 018.JPG

The path passes below Beinn Airigh Charr and heads for Meall Mheinnidh. This very Graham is a fantastic viewpoint to Beinn Lair and the summit view inspired us to come back ant tackle the Fisherfield Corbetts this year.
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 024.JPG

We walked as far as the top of Fionn Loch and found a nice spot for pitching the tent under the crags of Creag Poll Fraochain, close to the Allt Poll Fraochain, a good source of fresh water. Midges were not so bad when we were pitching so we hoped the rest of the afternoon will shape up just as nicely. At least our camping spot had good views down to the loch:
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 035.JPG

As soon as the tent was ready, we had a quick snack and headed for Beinn Lair.

STAGE 2. PANTHER'S LAIR. 19/07/2021
Distance: 9.2km
Ascent: 722m
Time: 4h20min

I was surprised to see a good path up such a remote Corbett. Our tent was close to the stream coming from Corrie Fraochain, the path was just on the other side of the allt. A bit eroded here and there, but generally very easy going. And it felt great to have light rucksacks on our shoulders!
Facing the rocks of Bealach Mheinnidh:
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 039.JPG

On the path to the bealach, Fionn Loch behind me:
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 049.JPG

We left the path at the height of 500m and continued climbing along the edge of the mighty cliffs of Beinn Lair. Soon we entered the misty world of big drops hidden in fog:
Image2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 061 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
I was a bit disappointed that we were missing the views, but Scottish weather is never perfect and we have to take what it gives us... In this case, it was a misty stroll to the summit.
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 067.JPG

More milk, more cliffs. Impressive, but I'd like to see something more...
Image2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 076 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Well, it wasn't to be today, at least not on the summit. After the final walk across nearly flat plateau, we located the large cairn and took another short break here. Lucy claimed her 125th Corbett! For us it was a round number 170 but given the circumstances, loud celebrations were not necessary :lol:
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 082.JPG
Summit pose

We left the summit after 10 minutes or so with no hopes for any views on the way back, but surprisingly, as we headed down the edge of the cliffs, the clag began to slowly lift... Maybe we're going to see something after all!
Image2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 090 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
We were not alone... Kevin spotted two mountain goats, standing on the dangerously loose rocky ledge, I wonder how they managed to get there :roll:
We didn't take our heavy, bulky Fuji bridge camera and the zoom function in my pocket one is not great, so we struggled to capture them, but here they are, wild and free:
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 087.JPG

View down to Bealach na Chuirn emerging from the mist below us:
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 102.JPG

We didn't hurry up on the way down, seeing that the mist was lifting we now kept fingers crossed to get more than just "cairn in the mist" experience:
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 115.JPG

And it didn't take long for us to get our reward! The summit never cleared fully, but the cloud lifted to about 750m meaning most of the cliffs of Beinn Lair were now clag-free. Not exactly a sunshine-reggae experience, but better than total whiteout!
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 125.JPG

This is more like it! Looking west along the vertical side of Beinn Lair to Meall Mheinnidh and more distant Beinn Airigh Charr (summit still in cloud).
Image2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 130 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Sadly, we were denied the views to "Armageddon" and the other Fisherfield Munros, but I was miles away from complaining.
Image2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 134 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The mighty cliffs of Lair:
Image2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 158 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
We lingered around for another half an hour, finding good spots for photos (and posing) as we slowly descended to the bealach. We knew we didn't have much to walk left, just back to the tent below the cliffs, so we decided to take full advantage of the short spell of better weather.
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 145.JPG

Fionn Loch in its full Glory:
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 165.JPG

Across the loch, our target for the following day: Beinn a'Chaisgein Mor. We knew it was not a difficult hill, certainly when following the good path to Lochan Feith Mhic'-illean:
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 180.JPG

Fiddling with the rocks, trying to find a pocket of scramble:
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 192.JPG

At least with cloud much higher, we were now descending facing the superb views of the unique landscape surrounding Fionn Loch, the mighty rocks of Sgurr na Laocainn:
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 205.JPG

One more look at the crags of Creag Poll Fraochain and our tent (the red dot in the bottom left corner):
2021-07-19 fisherfields wildcamp 209.JPG

Back in the tent, we quickly prepared our meal and boiled hot water for a well deserved cup of tea. We wanted to rest outside the tent in the evening, but around 8pm midges became too much of an issue so we retired inside for a good night sleep.

Distance: 15.5km
Ascent: 751m
Time: 4h45min

About half past six in the morning, Kevin took a brave decision to leave the tent to fetch some water for the morning tea. He returned covered in thousands of midges, crawling all over him. We had repellent and used it regularly, but it was simply impossible to keep the wee black beasts out of the tent! We brewed a hot drink and agreed that we needed to wait a couple of hours before we could attempt any outdoor (or should I say out-tent? :lol: ) activities.
Even later in the morning, a quick jaunt outside for a call of nature resulted in countless bites all over my body. The air resembled midge soup - I was breathing them in and choking on them, they crawled all over my face. The only way to be able to function was to cover as much as possible, so we ended up wearing the new invention - midge protection face suit, model Kevin 1.0:
Image2021-07-21 fisherfields wildcamp 002 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
About 9am we clambered outside, scratching ourselves and desperate to get going, hoping for some breeze on higher ground. The clag was even lower today and we suspected that views might not happen at all... But it was still a nice walk along the loch to begin with:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 009.JPG

The cliffs of Creag an Dhubh Loch reflected in the loch of the same name:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 016.JPG

Low cloud "cuddling" the cliff tops above Canmore:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 023.JPG

Loch Dubh from the path below Sgurr na Laocainn:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 034.JPG

The cloud became patchy as we walked up the path and we saw a chance for some views at least. We had been here before on a superb sunny day, but I wouldn't mind another good one (if only to brag about it on Walkhighlands!)
Image2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 037 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
First signs of cloud breaking up above Fionn Loch:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 041.JPG

Lochan Feith Mhic'-illean, couldn't have a longer name even if it wanted to :lol: :lol:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 053.JPG

From the shores of the loch, we left the good path and aimed NW in a straight line up the wett-ish, grassy slopes. The air was very humid today and we were both gasping for breaths, taking frequent breathers when a suitable rock at hand. The clag still lingered over the higher tops, but at least we could se some views:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 058.JPG

The final stage to the summit was a very nice, gentle walk along the grassy slope. We spotted a gap in the cloud drifting around the top. So maybe...
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 065.JPG

...or maybe not. It was a very strange situation. The summit was basking in sunshine but we saw no views due to mist circling the hill :shock: Well, at least it was a sunny summit - and a well deserved break for lunch!
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 068.JPG
Beinn a' Chaisgein Mòr summit

It was our 171st Corbett (126 for wee Lucy):
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 073.JPG
Kevin the King of Letterewe if only for today!

Silly selfie:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 075.JPG

We had no cheesecake with us but brought a few slices of bread, a tub of vegan pate and a pocket knife. We sat down and made our lunch sandwiches right on the summit cairn! Weirdly, it was the first time we actually prepared them from scratch on the mountain top :lol: :lol: :lol: An old Polish proverb says, the nature is the mother of many inventions :D
Having climbed Beinn a' Chaisgein Beag earlier this year, we didn't need to include any extra hills today so we decided to simply retrace our steps, enjoying what we could see from the surrounding landscape:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 081.JPG

Beinn a'Chlaidheimh just about visible:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 085.JPG

Loch Dhubh and the surrounding cliffs photographed on the return walk:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 103.JPG

It was still very humid when we dropped back to Fionn Loch and I considered having a skinny dip, but several other campers/walkers have arrived and were lurking around, so Panther's striptease had to be abandoned.
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 110.JPG

Back to the tent, Kevin considered packing up and walking out immediately to avoid the morning midge soup, but I felt knackered due to high humidity and convinced him to stay put. It's just midges after all, a small price to pay for the extra evening spent in the wild!
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 113.JPG
Hotel for the night!

Later in the evening, we agreed that it was worth delaying the departure. The cloud started to bur off...
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 119.JPG
View from the tent

...to leave the Letterewe leviathans basking in sunshine at about 7pm... Too late for summit views, but good enough for an evening stroll along Fionn Loch.
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 128.JPG
Beinn a' Chaisgein Mòr from across the loch

The mighty cliffs of Beinn Lair from the loch level:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 141.JPG

Kevin and Lucy:
Image2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 154 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Back in the tent, the last moments of relaxing outside before the evening attack of the wee black army:
2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 122.JPG

STAGE 4. WALK OUT. 21/07/2021
Distance: 15.6km
Ascent: 168m
Time: 3h20min

We didn't really hurry up getting outside in the morning, as the "Midge Armageddon" was in full swing. We had prepared everything inside the tent the previous evening, so after having breakfast and packing what we could, we dressed up in our impromptu face coverings and jumped out quickly. Luckily our small tent is really easy to pitch and fold back so in a short time we were packed up and ready to go.
Midge protection face suit in use again:
Image2021-07-21 fisherfields wildcamp 003 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
I was surprised how quickly we managed to walk back to Poolewe. Maybe because our rucksacks were a bit lighter. The morning was very misty, cloud down to 200m and it didn't lift until late afternoon (exactly the same scenario as the day before). I had my second COVID jab appointment the next morning so I wanted to go home, scrub off the three day sweat and tend to my countless midge bites, before heading up the Scottish hills again!
It was a shame to leave this formidable, wild landscape behind, but I'm not done with the Fisherfields! Still three Corbetts left on our to-do list in this area (Clammy and the two Deargs) so...
...beware the wilderness, we will be back!
Image2021-07-20 fisherfields wildcamp 142 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
I hope this letter wasn't too long. In my next one, I will describe the story of another WW2 plane lost to the Scottish mountains.
Best wishes to all Walkhighlanders and may our world come back to normal after the crazy times of the pandemic!
Black Panther
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Mountain Walker
Posts: 3806
Munros:260   Corbetts:174
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Joined: Nov 2, 2010
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

Re: Letters from Letterewe

Postby MusicalHiker » Wed Aug 11, 2021 3:38 pm

Looks fab, shame about the midges..... they can really drive you nuts!! Still some atmospheric pics there despite the cloud.... :clap:
User avatar
Mountain Walker
Posts: 123
Munros:14   Corbetts:16
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Location: Beauly

Re: Letters from Letterewe

Postby Mal Grey » Wed Aug 11, 2021 9:16 pm

I was looking forward to reading that, and you didn't disappoint.

Beinn Lair looks simply amazing from the north east, such a massive line of crags. There are hard scrambles/easy climbs that take at least one of the "ridge" lines, on which it is noted that the most important piece of climbing equipment is the midge headnet! (Which I'm surprised you haven't got?)

Beinn aCM looked lovely from Fionn Loch, and we met, and were slightly jealous of, a chap who was heading up to camp on the summit as we descended Armageddon to Dubh Loch.

I looked at the area you camped as we passed on the loch, for future reference. Nice to know its possible to find somewhere flat enough for a tent.

An acquaintance of mine has portaged the path from FL almost to the bealach below Lair, and then cut left to Lochan Fada, carrying a wood-framed canvas canoe...then carried on out down to Loch Maree via Gleann Bianasdail :shock: Even we think that's mad!

Thanks, as always an entertaining read.
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Mal Grey
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Joined: Dec 1, 2011
Location: Surrey, probably in a canoe! www.wildernessisastateofmind.co.uk

Re: Letters from Letterewe

Postby litljortindan » Thu Aug 12, 2021 10:25 am

That is quite a trip, even if you had to battle the winged hordes. Ben Lair looks grand in the mist.
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