Force 10 in the Fannaichs
by weaselmaster » Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:20 am
Munros included on this walk: An Coileachan, Fionn Bheinn, Meall Gorm, Sgurr Mor
Corbetts included on this walk: Little Wyvis
Date walked: 14/03/2014
Time taken: 18.3 hours
Distance: 61.8 km
Ascent: 3887m4 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'd originally planned to do the southern Torridon hills this weekend, but the promise of poor visibility along with the high winds called for a rethink. The forecast we had was for really strong winds on Friday pm, Saturday to be moderate and Sunday a bit worse. With this in mind I hatched an audacious plan for this time of year - head up to Inverness Thursday night so we could do Fionn Bheinn early on Friday, then walk to Fannich Lodge and camp out and prepare for a circuit of six or even seven of the Fannaichs on the Saturday, as long as we got up early enough. Then we could recover and walk out on the Sunday...easy!
A nice drive up on Thursday got us up to Inverness just after 7. in the morning we headed out for Achnasheen. I noticed that the car was being buffeted around on the road - not the best premonition for what it was going to be like on the hill. parked at the railway station and got togged up in the rain. Up the construction path, with the wind already howling and pushing at us, and a few bemused looks from the workmen as we went past. Allison had done this hill before, so she led the way up the wet hillside along the course of the stream then onto open marshland. Clag started to come down as we made our way up Creagan nan Laogh. We could still see over to Meall a'Chaorainn but not the top section of Fionn Bheinn. A break in the clouds showed us a glimpse of Loch Fannich. The wind was strong, with powerful gusts, but didn't seem to be getting that much stronger as we gained height. Onto a band of sugary snow then the cairn loomed into sight. Boots soaked, fingers frozen in wet gloves, I was glad to see it!. Zero visibility and big buffets from the wind made lingering not an option to cherish and we beat a hasty retreat along the ascent path. Quite easy going if you didn't mind sploshing in the boggy puddles. Got even stranger looks from the workmen, who were sheltering in their vehicles, as we dripped past. Back at the car by 2pm, wishing there was a pub with a log fire, or a cafe with a mug of hot chocolate....but there wasn't. Put the car heater on and sorted out the kit we were taking in the big rucksacks for our trek to Fannich Lodge then headed back along the road to the parking layby outside the opening to the Lodge.
P1000317 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Watery theme continues up Fionn Bheinn
P1000318 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Creagan nan Laogh
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The end is nigh
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Down to Achnasheen
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Haven't had full kit on for a while thus lifting the heavy rucksacks was something of a shock to the system. The rain continued to grace us with its presence and we had the delight of walking for a dozen kilometres into a strong wind as well. Hmmm The track at least was well tended tarmac and easy to walk along. Met a man driving his van back down who chatted away - he kept mentioning that we were going to walk up to the Fannaichs in this weather...did we have a good tent??.
The early section of the track is wooded with a mix of spruce and Caledonian pine and was quite pleasant, offering some shelter from the conditions. Then we followed along the river on clear moorland, coming to a clutch of houses, where the eviscerated corpse of a raven lay on a wall, white ribcage in contrast to the black feathers. On along the road, up to the pipeline, which seems to be carrying water from somewhere to somewhere else - in this weather I couldn't understand the logic of that - surely there's enough water everywhere! It is a blight on the landscape anyway, whatever its function.
Start of the track
P1000332 by 23weasels, on Flickr
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Carn Na Beiste
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The joy of trex
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An Coileachan, getting nearer
P1000340 by 23weasels, on Flickr
First sight Loch Fannaich
P1000341 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Ahead we could see the grey walls of An Coileachan, with little patches of snow in the sheltered spots. it looked quite impressive - if this is "the little cock" then I'd hate to see the big one On and on the road wound, Allison getting quite tired now. We came up to the Loch and started glancing about for a spot to camp - hadn't really decided where, and i wanted if possible to choose somewhere we could leave the tent/contents while we went up the hills - didn't fancy lugging all the stuff the whole way. There didn't seem anywhere that was flattish and/or dry and we eventually found ourselves at Fannich Lodge. I wasn't sure what to expect, but there were people around. There was also a sign saying "Fannich Estate welcomes hillwalkers" which seemed promising. We decided to chap on the door of the first house, where a very friendly man said we were welcome to pitch anywhere, maybe up in the woods behind the big house would be good, or we could stay in his barn if we'd rather, there was straw there. How pleasant to be welcomed in that way We scuttered around in the woods behind the big house, the first suitable spot I came to was occupied by a dead deer, so we gave that a bye before finding a perfect spot nestled in some trees. Pitched, rain-soaked stuff in a heap, noodles on - yay! I was a bit worried about the day ahead and how it would go, knew it would be a big ask in the conditions and wasn't sure how much snow we'd be encountering either.
The track goes on...
P1000343 by 23weasels, on Flickr
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Sgurr Nan Each (zoomed)
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Fannich lodge, An Sguman? behind
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Sgurr nan Each again
P1000348 by 23weasels, on Flickr
After a night of rain and wind growling through the trees, Saturday morning wasn't any improvement on Friday. As we donned our (wet) waterproofs and trudged back along the road for a couple of km to the start of the route up An Coileachan we were still getting jostled by the wind. Cloud cover looked around 300m which promised to make for some good views - not. going this way round the circuit also meant that we'd be walking into the wind all day, but I was concerned that if we'd started up the clockwise route, by Sgurr nan Each, we might get driven back, or worse, get blown over the cliffs. So anti-clockwise it was. An Coileachan is just a steepish slog for 700m. Not much respite, but not too taxing either. A little bit of wet snow at the top, and the wind breezy enough to make it challenging to cover the stony terrain after the cairn.
P1000350 by 23weasels, on Flickr
...you just keep going up!
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Windy summit AC
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Heading NW in the clag we eventually came across a vague path that led over the featureless terrain towards Meall Gorm. Again and again we'd be pummelled by ferocious gusts of wind catching us broadsides on. We could see the edge of something on our right and encountered the odd patch of snow, but it was really just plod along in the wind time. Got to the summit cairn and stopped for some trail mix, a proportion of which got blown away. Discussed our options - neither of us was feeling confident about managing the couple of narrow sections - down from Sgurr Mor and along to Sgurr nan Clach Geala - in the conditions. Thought it might be easier to make up our mind once we'd summited Sgurr Mor, which was a good bit higher than either of the two peaks we'd managed to far. Off then to Meall nan Peithirean and up the slopes to Sgurr Mor, encountering more snow here that required crampons on the last 70 metres or so. Pleased to get to the top, I went to the lee side of the large cairn to get some shelter for lunch and noticed that the snow seemed to be covering a lot of rocks going down hill - Allison helpfully commented - oh isn't that a cornice just about 6 feet away - and indeed it was, although in the near white-out viz it was hard to see snow from sky. Hastily repairing to the windy, but somewhat safer side of the cairn we attempted to eat lunch - for the second week in a row I got more coffee blown into my face than I managed to drink We had a confab and a look at the map. We seemed OK for time - it was just 12 noon and we'd have another 6 hours light. Allison didn't feel comfortable at taking on the whole circuit and I agreed - I knew once we descended the west side of Sgurr Mor we would be pretty much committed to continuing round or face an inordinate amount of re-ascent. I quite fancied trying to get out to Beinn Liath Mhor as i reckoned that we'd have some shelter from the wind from Sgurr Mor, but there was no viz to see what that way looked like, and it was a narrow ridge on the map. So I agreed that we'd head back. Normally, having climbed 3 Munros in a day would be accompanied by some feelings of achievement, but I kept thinking that there were 3 more that could have been done, and now we were going to have to do the remaining ones in some weird combination or re-climb Sgurr Mor at the least. However, my grumbling was diminished each time a huge gust of wind nearly toppled me and I reflected that we were damn lucky to have got any hills on a day like today.
P1000354 by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1000355 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Weasel at top of Meall Gorm - happy, eh!
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Summit Sgurr Mor
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We tracked back over Meall nan Peithirean and headed for the stalkers' path that runs down the south side, before Meall Gorm. This was a well made trail, at least in the upper sections before it became a stalkers' river and got largely swallowed up in bog. Did get some views over to Druim Reidh and the floor of the valley and an interesting edge of Meall Gorm itself. The path led us right back to Fannich Lodge, over a wee bridge and through the trees to take us back to the tent. It was about half three in the afternoon, the day not as long or as challenging as we'd planned but we were soaked through and knew that we'd have to lie in wet clothes as the only way of drying them for tomorrow. Oh the joys of camping! More noodles, some Pringles and a couple of whiskies for me before getting an early night, again listening to the endless rain and powerful gusts of wind breathing through the trees overhead.
P1000365 by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1000366 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Steep side of Meall gorm
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Back at Fannich estate
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I wanted to get away early so we'd have the chance of getting something done on the Sunday. The wind didn't seem to have lessened at all and it seemed foolish to try and climb Sgurr nan Each with or without going on to Sgurr nan Clach Geala, then have to face the walk out and a long drive home. So we decided on Little Wyvis, which was near to where we were and a short walk up a track - bingo! Being very disciplined, we got up at 6 and were breakfasted and packed by just after 7. Wet clothes/tent/rucksacks weigh more than dry ones Shouldering out burdens, we left the very nice Fannich Estate on a dry track with even - dare I say it - a hint of sunshine in the air. This, and the fact that the wind, still strong, was at our backs and helping us along the road made the journey more pleasant. Looking to the NE there was blue sky and white puffy clouds, while behind us, from the west, clag and rain prevailed. We could see "the pipeline" again, and noticed that it went on for ages away to our left. Strange. In a couple of hours we were back at the car, transferred rucksack contents again and drove the short distance to the parking area (and very nice public toilets) by Black Water. Shouldering our ordinary sacks seemed like featherweights after the big packs, and we jauntily set off across the road and up the track to Little Wyvis.
P1000373 by 23weasels, on Flickr
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Blue sky in the North half, grey in the south/west
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Black water falls
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We passed a metal construction with all kinds of home comforts installed - possibly a holiday home? the on up the track, basically the whole way up the hillside. We could see big sister Wyvis on the left, and were glad, as the wind steadily rose with every 100m we climbed, that we were settling for 764m today, and not the 1046 of big Wyvis! As we got up to the last 50m the wind became immense, really challenging to make progress to the cairn. I took my specs off, I was so scared of them being whipped away into some windy abyss. Sat in the modest shelter of the cairn and had lunch, with each mouthful a success story in the fight against gusts.
P1000388 by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1000389 by 23weasels, on Flickr
...with Ben Wyvis to the left
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Windy Little Wyvis
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Then back down - the wind seemed to have become stronger, we saw a stream supposedly coming down the hillside, but a good proportion of it being blown back up, and bits of straw were stuck into all the fence wires like some kind of nature takes over scenario. Frogs were plentiful, plashing in the streams and pools and I even saw a caterpillar...in March??
Back at the car in less than three hours then a blustery drive, needing both hands gripping the wheel firmly, back home.
P1000399 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Winding road to the radio installation
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by BlackPanther » Mon Mar 17, 2014 11:29 am
Don't beat yourselves about turning back. Better safe and turning than brave and dead in the end... The ridge up Sgurr nan Clach Geala is quite rocky and I bet it would be risky in windy conditions, with melting snow and ice underfoot.
by Shug » Mon Mar 17, 2014 11:56 am
I was in the forestry area just to the south east of ben wyvis at weekend and was getting blasted by the wind. I shudder to think how bad it was at the top of the hill!
by Lightfoot2017 » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:41 pm
I was shivering just reading that!! Well done on an epic expedition. There aren’t many who would be barmy or stubborn enough to stick it out the way you guys did. Some amazing pics there…
by malky_c » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:57 pm
The pipe is part of the massive hydro scheme in the area - it collects additional burns and deposits them into Loch Fannaich, which then drives the power station at Grudie Bridge. There is a similar one along Strath Chrombuill to the north of Fionn Bheinn. The whole system is interlinked, with Loch Vaich and Loch Glascarnoch supplying the neighbouring Mossford power station at Lochluichart via long underground tunnels. Loch Luichart itself then supplies a power station in Strathconon, and Loch Orrin and other smaller lochs round about are all part of the same system.
There is a map here.
There are numerous other similar systems in Scotland, including Loch Claunie, Loch Loyne, Loch Quoich etc, not to mention the ones around Glen Lyon. In fact 90% of the large dams in Scotland relate to the work that the Hydro Board did mostly in the 50's and 60's.
by weaselmaster » Mon Mar 17, 2014 2:09 pm
malky_c wrote:The pipe is part of the massive hydro scheme in the area - it collects additional burns and deposits them into Loch Fannaich, which then drives the power station at Grudie Bridge. There is a similar one along Strath Chrombuill to the north of Fionn Bheinn. The whole system is interlinked, with Loch Vaich and Loch Glascarnoch supplying the neighbouring Mossford power station at Lochluichart via long underground tunnels. Loch Luichart itself then supplies a power station in Strathconon, and Loch Orrin and other smaller lochs round about are all part of the same system.
Thanks for that Malky - i'm interested to find out a bit more now.
Still think it's an eyesore though
by Sarah86 » Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:13 pm
by basscadet » Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:55 pm
The Fannaichs are bloomin windy.. Thats where I got blown off and was left dangling by my ice axe, legs pedalling air Still got the dodgy shoulder
Good job you have some Fannaichs left to do, because they are really braw on a bonny day, so you have a return trip to look forward to
by weaselmaster » Mon Mar 17, 2014 4:45 pm
basscadet wrote:Good job you have some Fannaichs left to do, because they are really braw on a bonny day, so you have a return trip to look forward to
Yeah, I am looking forward to seeing a bit more of them next time round!
by Huff_n_Puff » Mon Mar 17, 2014 6:30 pm
Brilliant read though
by ceaser » Mon Mar 17, 2014 7:43 pm
by gammy leg walker » Mon Mar 17, 2014 8:19 pm
by dawnfoth » Mon Mar 17, 2014 10:35 pm
by trekker53 » Tue Mar 18, 2014 10:05 pm
I had trouble just walking to my local Tesco's on Sunday and that's at sea level!!!!
Anyway hope the weather improves for the jolly at Inchnadamph.
See you there.
by Alteknacker » Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:03 am
But what's this about wind? I didn't feel anything, reading the report! I couldn't see anything on the pix either....
I was surprised at the modest amount of snow....