Hillwalkers feel a bit guilty towards Beinn Fhada. They talk about the Five Sisters, and the Brothers, and Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan. And then they say, as about a child playing the violin out of tune on a charity event, "o, but Beinn Fhada has great northern corries". Well, it has. Fhada is my trophy on March 25, halfway a nine day walk (TR for that soon).
I Admit, for a fleeting moment I thought of leaving Camban by way of Ciste Dubh and the Brothers, to help me towards 141 munro's, but my loyalty won. Fhada it will be, a full east to west traverse, like a Long Hill deserves.
Glen Affric from Bheinn Fhada pt 710 by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
A'Ghlas Bheinn and Loch a' Bhealaich from Beinn Fhada by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
The eastern tail of Beinn Fhada is all modesty, lifting you up it's shoulder just to show you the full lenght of Glen Affric including its bleak ending at Loch a'Bhealaich. And, even better, between Sgurr Gaorsaic and Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan's shoulder peeks Liathachs pinnacle ridge. A'Ghlas Bheinn looks very interesting from here.
Sgurr a Dubh Doire (Beinn Fhada) from the east by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
Beinn Fhada's summit seen from Sgurr a Dubh Doire by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
After this Fhada commands your attention. The snow on Sgurr à Dubh Doire had a blueish hue to it: ice. "Stay on the crest" should be the primary guideline in the brain on this route. I did not follow the crest here, for no reason other than the wind. How awkward, this contouring on slippery slopes. After reaching the summit of Sgurr a Dubh Doire I took off my crampons again and walked round the rim of Coire Toll a'Mhadaidh and out to the real summit. I cannot imagine this giving any navigation difficulties. The summit is where you can't go higher. A nice old pebbly trig point, and some views. From the summit the northern ridges are displayed for the first time. There seems to be a big gap, and the array looks positively scrambly, maybe even hard, from here.
Looking east from near Beinn Fhada's summit by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
Beinn Fhada trig pillar looking west by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
After Meall an Fhuarain Mhoir (954m) Beinn Fhada changes character. A sting in the tail to make it a unique mountain. For me, it is hard to understand how people can be satisfied going back down into the corrie at this point, with all the good stuff laid out to the west. (Although, like I said, the look of it might put people off)
Beinn Fhada's northwestern corrie ridges by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
Footplinths on Beinn Fhada by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
Sgurr Fhuaran from Meall an Fhuarain Mhoir by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
The ridge suddenly narrows to a two sided corniche, dubbed 'pavlova' by me, two halves of meringue (crispy snow), filled with whipped cream (soft snow inbetween). Walking this center fissure is easy. Once you get yourself to start, that is. I saw a fox's scat halfway along. "If a fox can cross this, so can I" sounded like a nice boost, but is clearly nonsense.
Some 300m of twisting ridge that follows one would call 'exhilarating ridge walk' until it dives down from Ceum na h-Aon-choise to Bealach an t-Sealgaire. Gleann Lichd is really, really deep down below, the slope in places so steep you cannot see it from above. So how can Sealgaire be a proper bealach? Who's exactly using it to get from where to where? Exiting north into Coire Caol seems possible here, to exit along the normal route.
Ceum na h-Aon-choise cliffs from Meall an Fhuarain Mhoir (Beinn Fhada) by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
Western narrow exit of Meall an Fhuarain Mhoir by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
Coire Gorm, Beinn Fhada by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
Western end of Ceum na h-Aon-choise (descent to the right), Beinn Fhada by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
Gleann Lichd and Sgurr Fhuaran from Beinn Fhada's western end by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
A'Ghlas Bheinn and Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan from Ceum na h-Aon-choise, Beinn Fhada by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
Next is a bad step. A real one. It looks improbable from a distance, it looks easy from its foot, but 15m up it suddenly dawns on you why it IS a bad step after all: sloping slabs bar the way up.
They're dry, and there's some holds. In my regular unelegant way I tackle this bit (no onlookers anyway). After this you soon reach the top of Sgurr a Choire Gairbh and the work is over. Note: the bad step is probably least safe in the wet, but shouldn't be a problem when dry.
Sgurr a Choire Gairbh, the bad step in the left of the photo. by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
A grassy gully leads into the face of rock, but progress is barred by sloping slabs by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
Guidebooks will want you to finish all bumps (Fancy Fàradh Nighean Fearchair). They're probably right. I turned straight west/down quite soon, and had to cross the gullies made by the two streams feeding the Eas Achadh Airc stream. Following those gullies would lead you into a huge cleft further down. Better end up on the shelf at NG 988211 or continue along higher up finishing on Beinn Buidhe. The rest of the descent to the roadside is long, but easy. It leads to Morvich, past the Mountain Rescue Garage. Might wanna donate...
Loch Duich from Beinn Fhada by Klaasloopt, on Flickr
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.