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Deepest Fisherfield: Beinn Deargs and Beinn a' Chaisgeins

Deepest Fisherfield: Beinn Deargs and Beinn a' Chaisgeins


Postby malky_c » Mon Feb 01, 2010 11:52 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn a'Chaisgein Mor, Beinn Dearg Bheag, Beinn Dearg Mor

Grahams included on this walk: Beinn a'Chaisgein Beag

Date walked: 23/09/2008

Time taken: 10.5 hours

Distance: 42 km

Ascent: 2400m

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Corbetts: Beinn a'Chaisgein Mor, Beinn Dearg Bheag, Beinn Dearg Mor
Grahams: Beinn a'Chaisgein Beag
Date walked: 23/09/2008
Distance: 14km (cycling), 28km (walking)
Ascent: 150m (cycling), 2250m (walking)
Time: 10 hours 30 minutes
Weather: Calm and clear. Cloud lifting nicely but not much direct sunshine

(This is my second attempt at writing this after my clumsy fingers lost half of the first version!)

I have been meaning to write this up for ages, as it was one of my favourite walks of 2008. I always have an eye out for routes which link lots of hills together, sometimes in unexpected ways, so I could have kicked myself for not spotting this one. Dave, a friend from work pointed it out and it seemed like such a natural line.

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He had planned to do this route one Saturday, but because of other commitments, I couldn't make it. Fortunately for me, he didn't get round to it, and with a window of promising weather showing up in the forecast, we both booked some impromptu leave for the following Tuesday!

We parked a few hundred yards south of Gruinard House, and started cycling up the Glen towards Loch na Sealga. The track is very scenic and quite an easy ride. It also has the advantage of cutting a mammoth 42 km walk to a more reasonable 28 km one. At one point we were stuck behind a 4x4, but it soon let us past, and gave us the chance to confirm that we would not be interrupting any stalking.

We abandoned the bikes about a km short of the loch and started following the Allt Loch Ghuibhsachain. This was hard work, with tussocks, bog and thick vegetation. However we soon climbed out of the valley, past a couple of tiny lochans and onto the rarely used but well kept stalker's path which eventually goes to Carnmore.

Beinn Dearg Bheag from the initial ascent:
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This made the rest of the ascent to Beinn a' Chaisgein Beag a breeze, crossing over Coire Toll a' Mhadaidh. There is an unmarked stalker's bothy in this corrie, closer to the loch, but it is well camouflaged and not that easy to spot. We left the path on the climb out of the other side and headed easily up to the summit.

Looking into Coire Toll a' Mhadaidh:
Image

Beinn a' Chaisgein Beag doesn't have the best views to the interior of Fisherfield, but being on the edge of the range, it does have some cracking coastal views. Looking over to Beinn Airigh Charr is also quite spectacular. At this point there were still remnants of cloud clinging to most of the higher summits, but the weather was constantly improving as the day went on.

Towards Loch Ewe:
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Gruinard Bay, Anthrax island!
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Dave on the summit of Beinn a' Chasgein Beag:
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From here, a simple descent and re-ascent on a carpet of moss and flat rocks took us to the identical height of Frith-mheallan. The route then levelled off, gently rising across the plateau to Beinn a' Chaisgein Mor. There were occasional glimpses into Coire Toll a' Mhadaidh with its loch and waterfalls to enliven the route, but the best views started to unravel as we approached the summit. Here, the hills around the head of Dubh Loch came into view. Meall Mheinnidh, Beinn Lair, A Mhaighdean, Fuar Loch Mhor and Ruadh Stac Mhor were all emerging.

An Teallach and the Beinn Deargs from Frith-mheallan:
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Beinn a Chaisgein Mhor plateau looking NW to summer isles:
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Meall Mhenneidh, Torridon behind:
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I took us on a short detour down to the subsiduary summit overlooking Carn Mor, hoping for better views. I wasn't disappointed. From here, there was a perfect vantage point to look straight down onto the causeway separating Fionn Loch and Dubh Loch, and also to admire the complicated terrain around Beinnn Tharsuinn Chaol. I'm still trying to conceive of a route that will allow me to take this ridge in - roundabout return from Beinn Lair perhaps?

Causway, Beinn Lair:
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Dave, A' Mhaigdhean, Bheinn Tharsuinn Chaol, Slioch:
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Fionn Loch and Loch Ewe:
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Carnmore Crag, Slioch, Beinn Lair:
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Ruadh Stac Mhor and A' Mhaigdhean:
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We dropped from here down to the main motorway through these parts - the path which crosses from Kinlochewe to Dundonnell. As we got lower, the pinnacle on the NW ridge of A' Mhaigdhean became more and more prominent. Following the path eastward, we were soon at Loch Beinn Dearg. It was here I noticed that we had descended all the way down to 330m. The re-ascent to Beinn Dearg Mhor, at 910m was going to hurt some!

Down Gleann na Muice Beag:
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Beinn Dearg Beag and S face of Beinn Dearg Mor showing possible gully ascents (we went to the right hand skyline instead):

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Beinn Dearg Beag and Loch Beinn Dearg:
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There were a couple of options here, but we had a scramble on the SE ridge in mind, so ascended diagonally to meet the crest roughly at the level of the corrie on the other side. This was steep and partly loose, but not too bad. At this point, a large fault line crosses the corrie and cuts right through the ridge, resulting in a large chasm. We contoured round into the corrie and got onto the SE ridge on its north side.

The strange cleft in the ridge:
Image

Rest of the fault through the corrie:
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Various guides (SMC Corbetts guide, Scrambles in the Northern Highlands) cover this ridge in a matter of one or two sentences, grading it 1 or 2 (fairly easy really). To be fair it started easily enough, although the rock was much looser than more reguarly climbed sandstone hills like An Teallach. But after crossing a couple of bumps, we came to a pinnacle which consisted of a leaning slab. The way round this was not apparent, and on the other side of this was a fairly blank looking section of rock which would easily justify a Moderate climbing grade. Dave is a much better climber than me, but after searching about, he couldn't find an obvious route up. We hadn't brought a rope with us, and we weren't exactly doing that well for time at this point, so we decided to back off. Just before the pinnacle was a rather steep and slithery gully leading back into the (rather pleasantly grassy) corrie on the N side of the ridge. We slid down this and climbed the back of the corrie, which was steep but comprised of lovely short grass.
I think you could probably ascend a gully on the Loch Beinn Dearg side of the ridge to avoid this step, but I don't know what other awkward bits follow.

SE Ridge. We got to the right hand pinnacle and descended the green gully to the r of it:
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Just before we reached the summit, we picked up the ridge along the top edge of Coire nan Clach, which provided breathtaking views down to Loch na Sealga.

Finally, the summit:
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An Teallach:
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Looking east from Beinn Dearg Mor Summit:
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The summit of Beinn Dearg Mor was something else. I think in my entire history of walking and climbing, this has to be one of my favourite tops ever. There are big drops, crumbling crags and knife edge aretes in all directions, yet the summit itself is covered in lovely short grass and moss.

Back over to Beinn an Chaisgein Beag:
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...and out to the coast:
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We lingered here for a bit enjoying the remoteness of the situation, before coming back to reality and realising we needed to be back before dark. In descending Beinn Dearg Mor, we met our only other walker of the day.

Beinn Dearg Bheag was a bit of a grind by this point, but we reached the summit quick enough. Although it wasn't aesthetically as pleasing as the big Ben, the sun was dropping lower in the sky and we had a view straight down the Gruinard River out to sea.

Back to Beinn Dearg Mhor:
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Out to sea from Beinn Dearg Bheag:
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Fading light over Beinn a Chaisgein Beag:
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NW summit ridge of Beinn Dearg Bheag:
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Dave descending:
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Gruinard river and bay:
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Sail Mhor and Summer Isles:
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Sunset to the SW:
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The last sting in the tail was the NW summit ridge of the little Ben. This was made of wide sandstone towers, but was typically loose, and had a few slightly awkward scrambly bits. In fact it was more what I would class a grade 2 scramble than the one we had tried earlier! The scrambly bit was followed by a very steep bouldery descent, with some weaving required to avoid the odd vertical crag. My ability to pick a sensible route was a bit buggered by this point so I let Dave investigate the various drops for the best route down. Soon enough, we were crossing the bog and tussocks to Loch na Sealga, where we picked up a reasonable path along the shore (not before crashing through some really tough vegetation though!).

An Teallach across Loch na Sealga:
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Final drop off Beinn Dearg Bheag:
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Last shot of Sail Mhor:
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By this time it was twighlight, and when we got back to the bikes it was almost completely dark. We hadn't really planned for this very well, so found ourselves charging back down the track in the dark with the light of a single headtorch between us. Didn't stop Dave though -the darkness just seemed to make him cycle faster! Finally we were back at the car about 10 and a half hours or so after leaving. I was quite glad he was driving.
Last edited by malky_c on Tue Jun 07, 2011 9:20 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Deepest Fisherfield: Beinn Deargs and Beinn a' Chaisgeins

Postby mountain coward » Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:54 am

When I was up An Teallach I saw the Beinn Deargs and, as a mountain coward, they were the most scary things I've ever seen! Sounds like they are from your report... are there any easy routes up them for mountain cowards? (or at least the Corbett)? It must have an easy side somewhere...
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Re: Deepest Fisherfield: Beinn Deargs and Beinn a' Chaisgeins

Postby foggieclimber » Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:57 am

Thanks for sharing. Also have a walk planned for this year to take in the Deargs, and Chasgeins.
Was thinking of going in from Poolewe and camping near Carnmore.
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Re: Deepest Fisherfield: Beinn Deargs and Beinn a' Chaisgeins

Postby malky_c » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:29 am

kinley wrote:Beinn Tarsuinn Chaol? A fine ridge - camped on the nose this year - Day 1, Day 2, Day 3


Yep, I remember reading those - just added more fuel to the fire...
I think Beinn a Chaisgein Mhor would be an ideal place to camp. Quite soft too! I have always intended to do camps like yours, but I'm too tight fisted to invest in a better lightweight tent and decent sleeping bag. Hence I usually head for the bothies and hope someone has the fire going.

mountain coward wrote: are there any easy routes up them for mountain cowards? (or at least the Corbett)? It must have an easy side somewhere...


Both are fairly straightforward. Probably the best route is from Shenavall. You need to get into the little east facing corrie which looks rather insignificant on the map. In contrast to the rest of the hill, this is really smooth and grassy, and I think there is even a path of sorts up to the summit (didn't use it as we approached from a strange direction).

The descent towards Beinn Dearg Bheag (which is also a Corbett) is a steep walk, but straightfoward. Again there is a faint path. Steep but easy ascent to Beinn Dearg Bheag , then you can retrace your steps to the col and drop down Coire Toll an Lochain. Less paths, but no more difficult than An Teallach by the easier routes. I'd say next to no scrambling if you follow this route.

foggieclimber wrote:Was thinking of going in from Poolewe and camping near Carnmore.


Grade A motorway into Carnmore these days, despite most of my guidebooks saying that it is one of the worst paths ever. Think some serious maintenance was done on it about 10 years ago. It looks good enough to cycle on, although I think the estate discourage this.
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Re: Deepest Fisherfield: Beinn Deargs and Beinn a' Chaisgeins

Postby petejkenny » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:26 pm

Great report there - Fisherfield is such a fantastic place. I spent four or five days camped in there doing all the munros while my mate caught lots of lovely trout from Lochan Fada for tea - happy days. Mind you we got very very wet coming out - one of the squelchiest walks ever!
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Re: Deepest Fisherfield: Beinn Deargs and Beinn a' Chaisgeins

Postby mountain coward » Wed Feb 03, 2010 1:47 am

Thanks for providing a potential mountain coward's route! :D Is that strange chasm in that east facing corrie you mention ascending into? That looks spectacular!
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Re: Deepest Fisherfield: Beinn Deargs and Beinn a' Chaisgeins

Postby malky_c » Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:00 am

mountain coward wrote:Thanks for providing a potential mountain coward's route! :D Is that strange chasm in that east facing corrie you mention ascending into? That looks spectacular!


Yep - the chasm is where the fault goes through the ridge on one side, but photo 13 shows the lip of the corrie as well. As you can see it is quite grassy.
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Re: Deepest Fisherfield: Beinn Deargs and Beinn a' Chaisgeins

Postby Cuillin » Thu Apr 08, 2010 9:28 pm

That was phenomenal report Malky_C and to do that round in 10 1/2 hours is superhuman - well done! :D

I did the two Beinn Dearg's on foot from Corriehallie and the round trip took us 12 hours!
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