Classic day out on Beinn Mor Coigach and co.
by malky_c » Tue Sep 25, 2012 2:32 pm
Grahams included on this walk: Beinn an Eoin, Ben Mor Coigach, Sgurr an Fhidhleir
Date walked: 22/09/2012
Time taken: 8.5 hours
Distance: 23 km
Ascent: 2000m10 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Date walked: 22/09/2012.
Distance: 23 km.
Time: 8 hours 30 minutes.
Weather: Cool and sunny, warming up in afternoon.
After Wednesday's failure to get hold of the car, I made damn sure that I'd get it on Saturday. The weather forecast looked unusually good considering the heavy showers earlier in the week, so I made off nice and early from Inverness - 6:15am.
Beinn Mor Coigach has been impressing and perplexing me for years - every time I go to the area i seem to end up on Stac Pollaidh, so it was time for a change. I've always wanted to do all 3 of the main summits in a single walk, but they don't really present themselves in an orderly fashion. However, with a bit of traversing and re-ascending, it is possilble to contrive a route which is almost a loop. On top of all this, I'd always fancied approaching along the notoriously hard to find coastal path from Strathcanaird. This worked in my favour, as I've always preferred a shorter drive and longer walk when the option is possible, and this starting point was over 20 miles closer to home than the more popular one at Culnacraig.
It was a swift 70 minute drive to the road end at Blughasary at that time of the morning (makes me feel really smug to live only 70 minutes from somewhere like this ), and I was walking by 7.30am. Across the River Runie on a footbridge, then along the edge of the floodplain of Strath Canaird, the path was alternately boggy and well made, recent maintainence having been carried out on some of the worst bits. A short distance from Dun Canna, the coastal path suddenly struck steeply up the hillside, and any path works carried out disappeared - it was just a boggy, slightly trodden line from here onwards. The sun was beginning to hit some of the more NE slopes, but I was still in the shade, hence the darkness of some of the photos.
Bridge over the River Runie:
Beinn Ghobhlach and Loch Kanaird:
An Teallach and Beinn Ghobhlach:
Going was pretty slow, with the odd arrowed post to mark the way. However the feeling of remoteness was great - there are very few places in the UK where the mountains drop unhindered to the sea, and this is one of the most impressive.
There was plenty of up and down over the next couple of miles, and one spot where I teetered along the edge of a steep drop into the sea. Not a route to be rushed!
Coastal path to Achiltibuie:
Looking back on the coastal path:
Finally the end of the ridge leading to Beinn Mor Coigach was in front of me, looking spectacularly muscular. For a hill of less than 750m in height it looked massive. A fence lead me up the south side of the Garbh Allt, at which point I left the path entirely and headed straight up towards the crags on the ridge. The spot around the foot of the Garbh Allt was delightfully secluded, and became more pleasant by the minute as the sun finally shone on it. I didn't feel like I had been going particularly slowly, but it had taken me 2 hours to reach this point.
Garbh Choireachan finally rears up in front:
First ferry of the day from Stornoway:
Garbh Choireachan again:
Waterfall on the Garbh Allt:
Isle Martin, Loch Kanaird and Loch Broom:
After passing the first band of crags on the left, I turned leftwards and followed a wide heathery terrace that led me round to the western end of the ridge. It may have been possible to find a way straight up through the crags, but I wasn't feeling too confident. Although the air was still quite nippy, I had worked up a fair sweat by now.
Summer Isles and Achiltibuie:
On the ridge, I had joined the most popular route up Beinn Mor Coigach, but there wasn't that much evidence of it on the ground. There were plenty of scrambling options to suit all abilities, but nothing unavoidable. I started up a steepish section of sandstone before losing confidence - my knackered shoulder was telling me that it could easily pop out if I made any daft moves, so I retreated and took a shallower line.
With the sun finally up, lovely grippy sandstone and some exhilirating drops back down to the water, things were pretty much perfect now. On Garbh Choireachan, most of the height had been gained, but there was still over half a mile of lovely sandstone arete between me and the summit. This appeared to have a couple of pinnacles in it, but they were just pretenders and only needed the briefest of hands-on action to get over them.
Back down to the coastal path from the ridge:
Stac Pollaidh and Sgurr an Fhidhleir:
NE along the summit ridge:
...and back the other way:
Ferry heading back to Stornoway:
Finally at the summit after 3 and a half hours of work - I really wasn't expecting it to take that long! Well worth it though. Althoughthe rest of the Coigach range blocked the full views of Inverpollaidh, what could be seen peeking through was still some of the most spectacular scenery in the UK.
Sgurr an Fhidhleir, Stac Pollaid and Beinn an Eoin with Suilven and Quinaig in the background:
Up the coast to Stoer:
The summit is actually off to the side of the ridge on an uncharacteristic grassy plateau, which I crossed back over to regain the ridge. It would have been possible to take a slightly shorter line to the ever more impressive cone of Sgurr an Fhidhleir, but it was worth going to the cliff edge west of Speicein Coinnich for the views first, which is what I did. While Sgurr an Fhidhleir is the focal point, the rest of the cliffs aren't lacking in drama either, and the view down onto Lochan Tuath and Beinn an Eoin was great.
Cul Mor and Cul Beag:
Stac Pollaidh and Suilven:
East to Beinn Tarsuinn:
Beinn an Eoin and Stac Pollaidh:
An easy grassy descent towards Sgurr an Fhidhleir, where I identified the descent to Lochan Tuath that I would use later (cheers to Bagger for pointing this out in his report. Prior to reading this I was going to attempt a descent from the col at the other side of Sgurr an Fhidlheir, which looked quite tricky on closer inspection). Feeling a little lazy I dumped my bag here even though it wasn't very heavy. A straightforward ascent took me to the unassuming cairn, although there was an almighty drop just to the west. I descended slightly in the direction of the infamous prow for more dizzying views and was provided with just that. What a spot!
Sgurr an Fhidhleir:
Beinn an Eoin and Lochan Tuath:
Some dizzying views off the prow of Sgurr an Fhidhleir:
Beinn nan Caorach and Loch Bad a Ghaill:
Just after leaving the summit, I passed another guy on his way up - one of only two people I met all day. I reversed my route to my rucksack and set off down the gully to Lochan Tuath. This was much easier than it appeared on the map, although quite uncharacteristic of hills this low - more like the popular descent on An Teallach but more pleasant.
West face of Beinn an Eoin, Stac Pollaidh and Suilven:
Descent to Lochan Tuath:
It was from here onwards that the real impact of Sgurr an Fhidhleir gradually revealed itself. I was descending directly under the eastern face, of which no photo can quite convey the steepness, and I eventually fetched up right under the prow.
SE face of Sgurr an Fhidlheir:
Some deer on the descent:
The area between Lochan Tuath and other smaller pools was a bit of a devil's bowling green, with boulders liberally scattered across flat slabs of sandstone. This is the bit that is missed if any of these hills are climbed by their more usual routes, and it was definitely a spot to savour in the afternoon sun. I had a good 15 minutes sitting down here, trying to work out the route of the rock climb up the prow (at HVS, a good few grades above anything an armchair climber like me would ever contemplate). It was actually quite difficult to look at for any length of time without feeling giddy!
Beinn an Eoin from Lochan Tuath:
NE face of Beinn nan Caorach:
Prow of Sgurr an Fhidhleir:
Originally I wanted to take in the ex-Marilyn of Sgorr Tuath as well, as it looks possibly more impressive than the main summit of Beinn an Eoin, but I decided that could provide some fun for another day approaching from the Reiff road. Instead I climbed the deer fence and went straight up the southern flank of Beinn an Eoin. This was steep and quite rough low down, and made me feel slightly unfit. Higher up there were endless scrambling opportunities - both directly up and working right to left along the line of the rocks. I chose the latter option as it was less steep, and a short time later popped out at the summit cairn. Time for another longish break to soak up the views north as well as back to the prow.
Stac Pollaidh and Sgorr Tuath:
Cul Mor and Cul Beag:
The best way to do this walk would be as a linear route, walking out to the east end of Loch Lurgainn. I didn't have this luxury so took a rather convoluted alternative back to the car. I descended Beinn an Eoin slightly further east where it was less rocky (although still steep) and re-crossed the deer fence, this time on a stile. I wandered across the flat and boggy area east of Lochan Tuath and picked up the line of the deer fence again where it ascended a steep heathery gully just west of Beinn Tarsuinn. I was glad of some shade on this last bit of ascent. The prow of Sgur an Fhidhleir still dominated proceedings enough for me to take about another 40 photos of it (thankfully I have left most of them out of the report).
The prow from the descent of Beinn an Eoin:
Route following deer fence over Beinn Tarsuinn:
Lochan Tuath and Beinn an Eoin:
There was a boggy crossing of the corrie south of Beinn Tarsuinn, where there was a faint path climbing both the NE and E ridges of Speicein Coinnich, before a mixture of heather and sloping slabs led me slowly to Loch Eadar da Bheinn. I hadn't been paying much attention to the view east today, but once the grandeur of Coigach was behind me it took over. There was actually something quite appealing in the rounded hills east of Strath Canaird, and they were of course backed by Beinn Dearg (still sporting a small cap of snow into the warm afternoon) and the crags of Seana Bhraigh.
The view east - Seana Bhraigh and Beinn Dearg:
The going near the loch was rough and the outflow formed quite a long deep, barely flowing channel that was just too wide to jump. I followed it until some rocks appeared then hopped across. A little hard going on the other side finally took me to the vehicle track to the loch, where I met the second and final walker of the day (a woman walking her dog up to the loch and back). It was then easy strolling back to the car, which I reached at 4pm, a good hour later than I had expected.
Beinn Mor Coigach from the track out:
A pretty magical day that had me wondering why I had left these hills so long. Definitely somewhere to return to, as there are a number of other good routes to be had, not to mention other subsidary summits and ridges.
End of the walk at Blughasary:
by KeithS » Tue Sep 25, 2012 3:36 pm
I was up on this mountain with Clive a couple of months ago, it is a very special place as you say, with the mountains plunging straight into the sea, and what views.
by Fudgie » Tue Sep 25, 2012 3:40 pm
It looks like you couldn't have asked for better weather.
by Mountainlove » Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:04 pm
by basscadet » Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:20 pm
I used to live 70 mins away, but now I don't.. sad times
by SusieThePensioner » Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:16 pm
malky_c wrote:(makes me feel really smug to live only 70 minutes from somewhere like this
Can I come and live with you????
Wonderful walk and some fantastic photos One of my favourite areas of Scotland
by kevsbald » Tue Sep 25, 2012 6:08 pm
by Johnny Corbett » Tue Sep 25, 2012 6:09 pm
by Klaasloopt » Tue Sep 25, 2012 6:41 pm
And yes, I still remember this bit from some ten years ago. Climbing toward the Fhidleir is nice to, it gets higher and higher...
by LeithySuburbs » Tue Sep 25, 2012 6:53 pm
by clivegrif » Tue Sep 25, 2012 8:37 pm
As Keith says we had a fine day out on this one ourselves, and it is a terrific hill. I now realise I made a schoolboy error by missing out Sgurr an Fhidhleir - oh well, will just have to go back and do it again! Approaching from the north looks a good shout, particularly if taking in Beinn an Eoin and Sgorr Tuath.
Yet another excellent report with photos to match. Superb!
by Alastair S » Tue Sep 25, 2012 9:42 pm
I was in the area this weekend and although I've been to Ullapool a good half a dozen times since I move to Scotland this was the first time I'd seen the full majesty of Beinn Mor Coigach & Sgurr an Fhidhleir. I now know where I'm going next time I'm in this wonderful area
by rockhopper » Tue Sep 25, 2012 9:57 pm
by soulminer » Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:16 pm
- Posts: 804
- Joined: Mar 18, 2010
- Location: Johnstone