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Clag Sandwich at the Fannaichs’ Foodstore

Clag Sandwich at the Fannaichs’ Foodstore

Postby old danensian » Thu Apr 03, 2014 11:37 am

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

Date walked: 29/03/2014

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 18 km

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Would this prove to be limbering up for Inchnadamph, or burn-out before things even get started? Whatever, while the prospect of a semi-decent day loomed ahead it was time to grasp what was on offer: bird in the hand and all that guff.

Anyway, the Fannaichs were unexplored territory for me and as I’d pass them on the way north to the WH meet, it seemed an obvious place to stop.

The original plan had been to camp somewhere by Loch Droma and take in Sgurr Mor and the Munros on either side, Meall a Chrasgaidh and Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich. But, with roadworks having coned off most of the lay-bys it proved easier to simply fold the down seats of the car and crash in the back: enjoy the luxury of an estate car.

Meall nan Doireachan from Lubavadie in the Dirrie More

In the morning the day had promise. Streaks of blue sky in the east and a few scattered clouds to the west generated some optimism. Rather than following the pipeline from the Loch Droma dam, I crossed the river close to the shelter at Lubavadie, near the lay-by where the night had been spent. I only managed to find one of the two footbridges indicated on the map, but fortunately water levels were low enough to cross the first branch of the stream without getting wet feet.

Sgurr Mor, Carn na Criche and Meall a Chrasgaidh from the Allt a Mhadaidh

The north face of Sgurr Mor looms Himalaya-like on the horizon

Once on the other side, a clear track led round the toe of the ridge coming off Meall Breac and soon joined the guidebook route as it crossed to the northern side of the Allt a Mhadaidh. Where the land rover track ended at a rough turning circle the way forward was less than obvious. With Loch a Mhadaidh out of sight beyond the bluff ahead it was just a case of taking a bearing across to where the northern shore should be. Some rough and soggy going later and the next stage of the route was clear: a narrow bottle-neck snow-filled gully on the right. This provided access to the headwall of Am Burach and opened up a potential traverse onto the bealach between Meall a Chrasgaidh and Carn na Criche.

Meall a Crasgaidh

Worsening weather approaches over Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich

Sgurr Mor and carn na Criche tower above Loch a Mhadaidh

Crampons were needed for the upper reaches of the gully, which was steeper than expected. Then things got a little interesting. The leftwards traverse crossed an even steeper stretch of even harder snow that I would have crossed with confidence using a pair of axes. Having brought just one axe, and a run-out that disappeared over the edge of some rocks, discretion took the better part of valour. Shorter links between ribs of exposed rock more directly above seemed a safer option. Focus and concentration with each step was the order of the day, with the nagging thought that I really didn’t want to reverse this on the return. Once on solid rock a short stretch of scrambling saw the gentler slopes rise up to the right and more relaxed progress could be made.

Looking north east from the top of Meall a Chrasgaidh

By now the horizon behind me had begun to darken and the blue promise of the early morning was faltering. Steel grey skies launched a squall of icy hail and the cloud level predictably descended as the top of Meall a Chrasgaidh was reached. Brief glimpses northward to Loch Broom were snatched, but my targets to the south and east were now well and truly shrouded.

Carn na Criche and Sgurr Mor - up there somewhere

Navigating over Carn na Criche and up to Sgurr Mor was straightforward and, despite the reduced visibility, the large cairn on the second Munro of the day emerged out of the mist almost an hour and a half later.

Sgurr Mor - another addition to the "cairns in the clag" file

Earlier in the day the ridge stretching across to Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich had been clear and enticing: a route to look forward to and relish. In the conditions now prevailing, simply finding it proved to be a challenge. I didn’t know how much of a knife-edge it might be and twice I lost confidence that it was close. On the second return to the cairn of Sgurr Mor, having become resigned to a retreat back over Carn na Criche, two figures came into view who apparently had the ridge as their next objective as well.

So, joining forces, it was third time lucky. Beinn Liath Mhor was finally gained. Company always boosts confidence and provides that extra sense of reassurance when route-finding. Many thanks to the Edinburgh couple who salvaged my day.

Cloud still clung persistently to the top and we went our separate ways into the mists of our descents. Rather than dropping into Coire Gorm and heading for Loch Sgeireach as some routes recommend, I navigated towards the broad shoulder on the coire’s northern side before striking north to drop directly down into Coire a Mhadaidh. With long run-outs clearly visible and the snow softening nicely, some entertaining glissades made the descent to the snowline less demanding on the knees than would otherwise have been the case: which is more than can be said for the state of my walking pole. Using it as a brake to make the whole escapade appear more controlled meant that the bottom section bent at a near-perfect right angle. That’s four poles destroyed now within a year.

Looking back up to Carn na Criche and Meall a Chragaidh as the skies begin to clear

The outward path was soon joined and of course, visibility improved and as the walk-out neared its end. The tops themselves popped out and the early morning streaks of blue sky began to reappear.

Start too early: start too late. There are some days when you can never get it right. It had been a long and interesting day and one where I’d had glimpses of the remaining Fannaichs. While I look forward to getting back amongst them I’d prefer it to be a clag-blue-clag sandwich rather than the blue-clag-blue one that I ended up with.
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old danensian
Posts: 429
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Location: Ayrshire

Re: Clag Sandwich at the Fannaichs’ Foodstore

Postby Collaciotach » Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:55 pm

Good read :D

I too did these in ceo and murk ,aye tricky navigating so well done :clap:
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Mountain Walker
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Location: Gaidhealtachd an Iar

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