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Lost on Beinn Fadha

Lost on Beinn Fadha

Postby JohnJoe » Wed May 01, 2013 5:00 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Fhada

Date walked: 29/04/2013

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 20 km

Ascent: 1433m

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Initially we planned something more ambitious – either the Five Sisters of Kintail or the south Shiel ridge. But rain, snow, and 50mph winds were forecast, so after a chat with our new-found friend, Sheila, in the Ratagan Youth Hostel, we were persuaded to revise our plans and climb Beinn Fhada and A’Glas Beinn instead.

After a quick breakfast of oatcakes and bananas, we were off. The approach to Beinn Fhada is a very pleasant walk up a glen which gently leads into the hill. You barely notice climbing half the total altitude of the walk in just over an hour or so. It was raining on and off, and we only saw a couple of other wet looking walkers who looked like they intended to wild camp. I think we also still harboured illusions about doing that so early on in the day.

We crossed a stream and started up on the real part of the climb, but again, it wasn’t too steep. It was all pretty uneventful until we reached the spur which leads up to the plateau and the summit. At this point, we were above the snow line (although it was soft and slushy). The wind started battering us now, and what was rain lower down became driving hail, stinging our legs (and our eyes if we didn’t turn away). We continued on up the spur, following a bearing towards the top and keeping in mind Sheila’s warning about the crags on the left.

The further up we got the more solid the snow and ice became, although most of the time there was enough soft stuff for us to sink our boots in sideways as we trudged on. The wind was getting stronger and the visibility worse. We traversed over to the right when we felt that we were perhaps too close to the crags on the left. Eventually, after several ‘just five more minutes’, we arrived at the trig point.

About a minute after we arrived, all hell broke loose. The wind became a gale, the snow and sleet was relentless, and we couldn’t stand up or even speak to each other. We huddled in the snow drift surrounded by stones at the summit, feeling the heat draining away from our bodies and really not enjoying it at all. After about 15 minutes, the wind dropped slightly and we took the chance to move off the top. I was very conscious about the crags (now on the right) and so we deliberately veered off to the left, but much more than we realised. When I checked the compass again, it swung round and pointed back the way we came, back up the hill and into the wind and blizzard! I thought that perhaps it had been moved out of position whilst I was grasping it clumsily in my gloved hand, so I decided to abandon the bearing. We just kept dropping down, and although I knew we had gone off course, we carried on because we were losing height, getting away from the worst of the weather, and weren’t near the crags. Instinctively it felt right. But it was a total whiteout, we couldn’t really see where we were going, and I knew that we were lost.

After a while we came across what looked like a cornice over some crags. I looked on the map and took a guess as to where we were, suggesting that we traverse to the right and then down to one side of the crags. We eventually found a way down, although I was far from convinced that we were anywhere near where I thought we were (in fact we were not). Then there was a brief gap in the clouds and we saw a huge stream gushing down the other side of a large valley. At this point I felt relieved - I knew that we would be able to get down to somewhere relatively sheltered, even if it was miles from anywhere. As we descended, the valley came into view and I guessed we had come down off the south side of Beinn Fhada. Our sighting of the house at the bottom, and a while later the distinctive two bridges behind it, confirmed this. We continued our knee jarring descent towards the bridges.

Once at the house (memorial hut) we set up a stove in the ruin and made a brew. None of us had ever appreciated a cup of tea this much. In the relative shelter of the ruin, we devoured all our remaining food, drank tea, and generally felt a lot better. We then marched the three miles or so down the track back to the car, and then, having abandoned our plans to camp that night, drove back to the Youth Hostel to report back to Sheila.

The only photo: tea in the ruin at Glenlicht House
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Re: Lost on Beinn Fadha

Postby mrssanta » Wed May 01, 2013 10:54 pm

oh I felt for you there looking at your map and the steepness of that descent. Good call to abandon the camping I think :)
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