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A Winter Tramp up the Eastern Fanaichs

A Winter Tramp up the Eastern Fanaichs

Postby skye2304 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 1:40 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich, Meall a' Chrasgaidh, Sgùrr Mòr

Date walked: 20/02/2010

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 20 km

Ascent: 1064m

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It was another long, evening drive up to Inverness but the adrenaline was pumping with the expectation of yet another good Scottish winter outing this year. It suggested the 4.30am start was going to be worth it!

(apologies for quality of photos...me camera's had it...)

My plan was to head up the Allt a’ Mhadaidth, scrambling up the corrie headwall and pick off the three tops – Meal a’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr Mor and Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich. From the last top I intended to drop down to Loch Sgeireach and back to the car.

I wanted to do this route during winter. Blogs suggested the valleys around here are a bit on the “boggish” side of things. My immediate concern was the state of the snow on the headwall and the length of the walk, given the amount of snow on the ground. I’m not the fastest of walkers!

We set off from the car park opposite Lochdrum, at around 6.45am and guess what…. It was light… no need for head torches.

Heading directly over moorland towards the Corrie

Cloud kept rolling on and off the Fanaichs, from the Torridon area as we headed up the easy to follow, wide stalker’s path. Cloud over Torridon seems to be a common feature of my jaunts to Scotland. Think I might give that area a wide berth for a while. Every trip I have had there has been a wash out.
Sooner than expected the path ended and we then headed directly over snow covered moorland towards the corrie, keeping to the left of the stream.

A magical Loch a’ Mhadaidh

The walk up the valley to the Loch a’ Mhadaidh was fine, the crossing of the stream easy – solid ice in places.
I wasn’t expecting the fabulous atmosphere that greeted us at the Loch. A frozen amphitheatre of rock, ice falls and snow. I would have been more than happy to stay here for the rest of the day!

Looking towards the corrie headwall. With Meal a’ Chrasgaidh on the right

Again, because of the frozen water, we were able to quickly cut round the edge of the Loch, to the start of what looked like a very steep scramble from the corrie, onto the ridge.

A steep climb out of the corrie

I decided to keep out of the gully and clamber up the rocks to the left, even though the snow was hard.

Looking towards Cul Mor. Luckily, the clouds stayed over there!

The “faff factor” came in half way up – cutting steps and then crampons. I didn’t mind, an excuse to take in the superb views and catch my breath.

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The fabulous profile of Sgurr nan Clach Geala and the eastern corries, from the slopes of Sgurr Mor

Topping out on the ridge, another surprise was in store. The view across to Sgurr nan Clach Geala. Am Biachdaich ridge and the eastern corries just looked magnificent and possibly one of the finest mountain profiles in Scotland (so far, for me, anyway). Photo time, I think. I’m coming back to do that one, for sure.

Looking east from the top of Sgurr Mor. Ascend on the right, descend on the left

Meall a’ Chrasgaidh and Carn na Criche were not much more that a stroll across a wide bealach. The deep snow didn’t help, I must admit.

Sgurr Mor was another thing entirely. It looked steep, well covered in snow and a long haul. As we eventually summited, I wished we’d had lunch before tackling it – I was completely knackered. The comment in the SMC guide came to mind: “in winter treat the steep slopes of Sgurr Mor with respect”.

But what an airy perch to take a bite to eat, with the whole of Scotland laid out in a mix clear blue and sparking white. Mind you, we didn’t hang about too long, it was freezing!

The eastern, descent slope of Sgurr Mor is not nearly as steep. Interestingly, for the rest of the walk back to the car, we followed ski tracks. Some very fit (and very brave) person had skied up to the top of Sgurr Mor via the east and then skied back down. Clearly, they had done this before.

The ski tracks we followed took a very intelligent route over Beinn Liath Mor. This section is a surprisingly easy tramp (albeit slow in the snow) and then back down to the stalker’s path, over open moorland, crossing streams on the way. Skies (or snow shoes) a definite advantage over this bit of the route.

For an hour or two, on the descent of Sgurr Mor, the sun was deceptively warm - a reminder that it is not a waste of time carrying all that water. Stopping for a drink I suddenly realised, it was absolutely silent… not a murmur, a breeze, a squawk, from anywhere (apart from my heart thumping with exhaustion!)

It had been a long day for us, slowed by the snow, the many photo shoots and our lack of fitness. Nevertheless, back to the car in daylight with one of the best days in Scotland I have had so far.

The monster that is An Teallach. An early evening view from the stalker’s path

Not sure about this walk in summer (that valley did “feel” wet under all that ice!) but for a winter outing – do it.
Sunday, for us, was a lazy amble around Loch Morlich. Aviemore was uncomfortabley busy. When we were here before Christmas, it was a ghost town. I guess that might have had something to do with the whiteout conditions blowing across town….

Mind you, with weather like this I can see why the skiers are heading for the Scottish Piste this year.

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A skiers dream. The Cairngorms from Glenmore visitors centre
Looking up the stalker’s path on the Allt a’ Mhadaidh
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Re: A Winter Tramp up the Eastern Fanaichs

Postby malky_c » Fri Feb 26, 2010 2:41 pm

Nice report. I did almost exactly the same route (albeit in reverse) in the middle of December. Although there was also good weather and winter conditions then, it had a completely different feel to it:

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Re: A Winter Tramp up the Eastern Fanaichs

Postby Rekrab » Fri Feb 26, 2010 4:15 pm

did a walk in that area in april, nice to see your pics as my views were nill!!!!

here's my report
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Re: A Winter Tramp up the Eastern Fanaichs

Postby skye2304 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 4:46 pm

Hi Rekrab,
Just read your report...- I had a feeling this place could be a bit grim in wetter conditions.
Most of my Scotland outings (apart from this winter) could fit into the template of your report... Cloud, rain, wind and more wind.

I am also heartened to read you also felt the "amble" to the top of Sgurr Mor was a painful climb - I often think "surely I shouldn't be finding this that hard"!
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