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Foinaven traverse

Foinaven traverse

Postby benlowings » Tue Jul 19, 2011 2:09 am

Corbetts included on this walk: Foinaven

Date walked: 11/06/2011

Time taken: 12 hours

Distance: 15 km

Ascent: 917m

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The views afforded to trekkers on the ridge of Foinaven must be amongst the finest in any mountain areas in Europe. Here the weather retains an oceanic quality. Mountain walkers with enough luck to track along these summits in excellent visibility at the height of summer will have the sight of Atlantic clouds travelling with them on all sides. The tawny hillsides and their shark-fin backs form the impression of a gigantic harbour for the sky itself.
Foinaven, I am told, equates to 'white mountain' in Gaelic, for the quartzite makes the tops a light grey. This colour distinguishes it from the peaks of Sutherland rising to the south.
The decision was made to carry tents and make the traverse of Foinaven into an overnight expedition. Looking at the map, the same objective could be attained in a single day. One option involves taking the track through Strath Dionard, past the fisherman's hut and ascending from the eastern slopes. Descent would follow back into the same glen. The second route in consideration was a direct path from the Durness road to the first top Ceann Garbh. This approach would leave out the most difficult knock and lochan country, although the moors to be crossed are still, essentially, boggy land without any track. This route would mean having to retrace one's steps along the main ridge.
The weather forecast fair, our party concluded the best proposition to be a circular walk from the Lone Bothy by Loch Stack. Our route went up the ridge around the back of Arkle, Foinaven's sister mountain. After a steady move up the incline to the southernmost top, we gained the main ridge near the bad step of Cadha na Beaucaich.
The climb down into the pass is a good scramble in the dry. If the wind got up and the cloud closed in, it is viable to take advantage of the small shelter on Cadha na Beuacich. Yet it is only sufficient accommodation for one adult, being, effectively, a large cairn with the centre hollowed out. The air was still when we were there - for most of the year this diminutive edifice must be an essential windbreak for prevailing south westerlies. Mist came down soon after passing Lord Reay's seat and from then on, the clouds walked with us, level with the ridge. We bypassed the crumbling buttress slightly below the cliff edge, and the mounted the incline to the midpoint of the ridge.
Here we obtained fine views of the forlorn cliffs of A'Cheir Gorm. An unexpected delight were the rose-coloured quartzite flanks of Conamheall directly to the east. They glowed like distant snowfields. There was also the unmistakeable ridgeback of Ben Hope, rising like a stegosaur over the moors south of Tongue.
The clarity of the air in midsummer allowed us a fair prospect of Cape Wrath and the northernmost coasts of the Outer Hebridean islands.
Four and a half hours of walking had taken us from the forgiving terrain of peat sludge upland, into the quartzite rubble decking the ridge. One would be hard pressed to increase the variety of terrain encountered on this route. Boot crunch on frost-shattered rock, and at the steepest sections one's eyes are brought up close to the quartzite crystals themselves, interlocking tightly, bleeding with ferrous minerals.
From the main top of Ganu Mor, our party descended through grass and scree to a small shelf. Camp was set up and dinner cooked as the sun seemed to set late into the night. The next day it was a rough descent and difficult navigation through lochan and knock to the hotel at Rhiconich. There, there were two options, to walk back along the road to Laxford Bridge and onwards to Loch Stack, or to avail oneself of a passing car. Many German and Dutch drivers are in the area and provide a likely ride. The hitchhiker's conquest of Foinaven will supply the tourists with more than enough engaging conversation for the ten-minute drive back to the expedition's starting point. :D
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Re: Foinaven traverse

Postby bootsandpaddles » Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:42 am

Sounds like a great trip. I have this on my to do list.
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Re: Foinaven traverse

Postby mgmt! » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:06 pm

nice report and video ben, im up there in september fishing loch dionard, if the fishings poor think i will tackle foinaven, we get driven by argocat from the lodge at gobernuisgach to the bothy at the south side of dionard so it would be rude not to, foinaven,s ridges look good in the video, nice one
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