Fuar Tholl with Wet Feet
by AnnieMacD » Sat Nov 30, 2013 11:55 pm
Corbetts included on this walk: Fuar Tholl
Date walked: 28/11/2013
Time taken: 7.25 hours
Distance: 16 km
Ascent: 1081m4 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).
I had a rare four-day weekend off so tried to consolidate all the various weather forecasts to see what my options were as I was determined to get a hill in on at least one day. My record of SLOW long days and the short daylight hours didn’t give me many options so I opted for Fuar Tholl as it’s close to home and seemed doable even for a slow coach like me! I read BlackPanter’s report and she said the scree slope by the Buttress was a good idea in both directions – and it cuts quite a loop out of the route. This is what I would do.
Half the excitement of going up the hills is not knowing what Mother Nature has in store – I’ve just formulated this after the event as I really thought I had taken care of all eventualities. I knew the snow had pretty much melted (I’m not winter ready!), there was to be negligible wind and no rain or snow forecast. Maybe a little mist on the tops – no problem. And I was to be back at the car by 16:30 (sunset 15:40).
Starting off through the woods.
I set off up the path at 8:40 with a spring in my step and filled up my water bottle at the superb spout just across the railway line. I’ve been on the path before (Beinn Liath Mhor & Sgurr Ruadh) and didn’t even get fazed by the lunatic hole-in-the-fence-with-a-gravity-loaded-flip-up-hatch that nearly chops your hands or legs off if you are not aware of the hazards.
At about 380m you have to cross the River Lair (we are in Coire Lair after all) and one is warned in all the literature that this may cause a problem if it’s in spate. I never even thought about spate as there had been some rain but all the burns around seemed to be trickling down the hillsides in non-spate quantities. What I never thought about was snow-melt – there had been a huge thaw and the River Lair gets it all from the three monsters in Coire Lair.
The River Lair looks pretty benign in this photo - believe me, it was not!
I could not get across the river – the “Ford” marked on the map was merely a memory. I went down to one island and up to the other island but where the river narrows the flow was impossibly fast and deep. I thought of taking off my boots and socks but discounted that. I thought of walking up the main Coire Lair path and taking the route by Loch Coire Lair but I just didn’t have enough time as I estimated it would add another hour each way and I had already spent 20 minutes trying to cross. I thought of going home. Then I thought, “I will not be defeated by this puny pretence of a river”. So went way up to the shallowest, broadest spot and made a run for it, walking poles flying and my feet like they were on springs. Disaster! No, it was not a disaster – that is a word one does not use lightly on the hills. But I had one wet boot and another one absolutely FULL of water – every step SQUELCH, SQUELCH, SQUELCH… However, I was across and in record time at that. I reckoned that if I walked fast enough I would generate enough heat to dry off my feet. This was not to be. In fairness the left foot did not feel bad but my right foot was getting very cold and it was pretty miserable. So I sat on a rock and changed (I had spare socks and a pair of Paramo overtrousers which can be worn alone). After pouring the water out of my boot I stuffed both boots with the dry bits of my trousers (the bottoms of the legs were also wet of course) put on dry socks, dry trousers and off I went again. It was pretty uncomfortable putting on the wet boots again but this time it worked and after ten minutes I couldn’t really feel my feet any more (in a good way).
No photos of all the boot trouble. Here I am off the main path and heading towards the left side of the buttress.
I then went lickety-split up the left side of the Mainreachan Buttress wondering at its magnificence as I went. It really is a fantastic piece of rock and it feels a bit like being in a cathedral when you are below it looking up. BTW there is a path all the way up from the main path to the bealach up the scree path (only the top third part is scree – the rest is grass/moss/bog and some boulders). The start of this path is at the ford of the wee burn that comes out of the lochan at the base of the buttress. I lost it a bit on the way up but followed it all the way down. (The ford is marked on the OS Explorer map).
There is a nice rest area about half way up - great opportunity to look around. Here is the little lochan at the base of the buttress. Sgurr Ruadh is ahead, Creag Mainreachan is on the left and Beinn na h-Eaglaise is in the distance.
The lower reaches of Sgurr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mhor across Coire Lair.
The beautiful Buttress close up.
Once up on the bealach (there’s a wee cairn to mark the start/end of the path) you join the main ridge path and in no time you are up at the summit shelter.
Looking toward the Buttress from the bealach.
The summit from the bealach.
I had a quick lunch but it was quite chilly and my feet started to get cold again so I went for a wander down to the top of The Nose and South Cliffs and the magnificent gully between them.
The summit shelter from the top of The Nose.
Looking down the gully between The Nose and The South Cliffs.
I’m sure The Nose would be a doable descent but no experimenting today and I hurried back to the summit, down to the bealach and up again to the top of the Buttress. This after all, is Wellington’s Nose, so it would not have been good form to go up Fuar Tholl and not visit the nose.
Clag and cornices on top of the Mainreachan Buttress.
I had just started the descent when I heard cackling noises which made me stop in my tracks. Looking up I saw four people coming down from the Buttress towards the bealach so I decided to go back up and say hello. They were a family from the Lake District and came up the long way but had to do a bit of scrambling and decided they would return the scree path too. I asked them how they got across the burn. They said they had no problems and none of them had got wet. WHAAAAAT?? How is that possible and the girl was just wearing trainers (there were two teenagers). Anyway, they headed off up to the summit and I made it down to the path without incident. After speaking to them I thought that surely the river must have gone down considerably between me crossing it and them arriving, so for sure I’d go back the same way. In fact I was feeling so confident I took a detour to get better photos of Coire Lair.
After the descent it all looked much clearer - just my luck.
Loch Coire Lair and Beinn Liath Mhor from the main path.
Looking back to Fuar Tholl from one of the little lochans off the path.
Sgurr Ruadh and Bealach Coire Lair.
Coire Lair and Beinn Liath Mhor.
I re-joined the main path just above the river and strode confidently down to the crossing point. It was just the same – no higher, no lower. My heart sank. I looked to see if the family were in sight yet. No sign of them. What to do? Nothing for it but to take off my boots and socks and stride in. Stride is not the word to use to describe my tentative, stumbling shuffle as I got my feet wet. This was snow-melt and was freezing. AAAAAAARGH!!!!! And it was exceedingly slippery – all these damned stones have slime all over them and my poor little feet didn’t stand a chance. What I would have done without walking poles is anybody’s guess. After a few steps the pain turns to numbness and by some miracle I didn’t fall over and made it to the other side. This was at the shallowest, broadest part and still came up in mid-stream to mid-calf – well above boot height. Well, I was quite pleased with myself when I got over and my feet soon came back to life after a good rub with spare dry clothes. Just as I was tying my second boot who should arrive but the family whom I had met earlier. Well, I was really interested to see how they would get across. The answer is that they had the same difficulties I had. The woman eventually got across way downstream but I didn’t see ‘how’ and the man had one walking pole and just did what I did on the way up. The kids (they were teenagers) were still not over when I left - they were going up and down the bank and wouldn't go near the water! I sped off as I knew there was less than an hour of daylight left and I wanted to get through the woods before it was really dark. I got back to the car at 16:20 – perfect timing. I was never so glad to see my old trainers and dry socks!
Then, when I was driving home I thought I should have gone back up the path with my headtorch to see that the family was OK as I never heard or saw them again. I just hope they had a torch. I still don’t know how or where they crossed the river in the morning….
by Border Reiver » Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:49 pm
by rockhopper » Mon Dec 02, 2013 12:31 am
As for crossing water, I tend to carry a pair of flip flops - very light, don't absorb water and can use spare straps to bind them to my feet if necessary - along with two walking poles for balance makes things quite a bit easier (with boot laces tied together and hung round my neck) - cheers
by BlackPanther » Mon Dec 02, 2013 12:10 pm
by Graeme D » Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:51 pm
by heatheronthehills » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:16 pm
by silverhow » Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:52 am
by AnnieMacD » Thu Jun 19, 2014 2:06 pm
As for the river crossings - that's an interesting way of doing it. I suppose it will work better if the insoles are removable and they can be wrung out. Otherwise I think the boot would retain an awful lot of water. I'm sure we'll all get an opportunity to test this out.