by spiderwebb » Mon Apr 21, 2014 9:46 pm
Munros included on this walk: A' Mhaighdean, Beinn Tarsuinn, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Ruadh Stac Mor, Sgurr Ban
Date walked: 18/04/2014
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Fisherfield, the name itself conjures up images of wilderness and solitude, but also rings alarm bells, 5 in one day, the walk in and out, the distance, fitness, river crossings, bogs, midges the list goes on.
In the not too distant past it was 6, until Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh bit the dust and was demoted to Corbett status..demoted hmmm, anyone thinking demoted to Corbett is a dirty word needs to visit Assynt ! Maybe one day Foinaven will be ‘promoted’ given the insider information I received when last staying in the area (Mums the word).
But nevertheless, 5 it is, and ‘dems dah brakes’, a sufficiently handsome target given their remoteness, and difficulty of access in terms of distance.
I had reviewed many accounts of these mountains, and I’ll use that term rather than hills for mountains is what they are, the majority of accounts, including the one in my Big Walks book (purchased circa 1979 now sadly out of print) from Shenavall bothy, tucked below the shadows of An Teallach, a good 5 mile walk in.
But being a bit of a map nerd, I had to see for myself, I had to look at it from all sides, Poolewe, Incheril etc. Besides, for me at least the pleasure of any walking trip begins with the planning, pouring over the maps, studying the detail, the crags, the escape routes, where the winters snows may well lay deep, the direction of the sun on the peaks (photography nerd too !), and often forgotten the terrain underfoot especially for the walks in and out.
I had more or less made my decision to walk in from Incheril before I read any previous reports on WH. The decision based on many factors, but for me primarily the fact that the 5 objectives were nicely grouped to the southern half of this great wilderness plus the secondary objective of avoiding river crossings and bog.
So the plan was set, I would walk in from Incheril, to the Heights of Kinlochewe, then head up the Glen to Lochan Fada to camp between Beinn Tarsuinn and Meall Garbh climb the Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair and Sgurr Ban that same day, camp overnight and then ascend Beinn Tarsuinn, A’ Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor.
All I needed now was a date, which was forthcoming with the Easter Good Friday BH.
Like all good plans they can be subject to change and a result on the work front brought departure day forward by one and so Thursday afternoon I set off.
I think I may have mentioned already, like all good plans they can be subject to change and despite having read up that the path in from Incheril to the Heights is a very good track, (could have driven it if allowed), followed by an equally good path all the way to Lochan Fada, by the time I had marched the 7 or 8 miles to the Lochan, with full pack, I decided a Lochside camp overlooking Slioch sounded so much better than climbing with full pack up below Tarsuinn. Or in the words of a Londoner, your avin a giraffe mate !
So camp was made, Chilli Con Carne on the menu, I watched the last of the sun, on a breezy evening slide behind Slioch. Well ok, such evocative phrasing, I actually couldn’t see any sun setting as it was a somewhat cloudy Thursday evening, but the forecast promised better.
So with dinner away, I tucked up snugly in my ME Titan 4 season, alarm set. I woke during the night conscious of a chill in the air, from my intake of breath and this was confirmed in the morning, with a tent covered in ice and my pot of water ready for morning coffee nicely frozen solid with a spoon sticking out ! But with kettle soon on the stove, I didn’t fancy breakfast at this hour, but no worries as plenty of grub en route.
My tent was in shadow at 0600, but within half hour Slioch was lit up as the sun made its progress up into the sky, a beautiful clear sky…this was shaping up to be a good day, and now I was anxious to get up into the sun, so by 0715hrs I was away up the slopes behind my tent to the col between Tarsuinn and Meall Garbh.
The lower slopes, nicely frozen from the overnight temperatures made for swift progress until up into the rockier terrain.
The target col ahead, Tarsuinns slopes to the left and Meall garbh to the right.
There is always an excitement that builds as you approach any col, that eager anticipation that builds, like pulling that first piece of wrapping paper from a Christmas present, wondering what vista awaits, and it didn’t disappoint, the first glimpse of An Teallach distant but there nonetheless, stunning.
Its not just about what lays ahead, a look back, feel good, see what I’ve done already, Lochan fada now out of view, just its infant Lochans now in sight with the distant vista of the ranges behind Achnasheen.
I top out on the col, across the slopes of Tarsuinn my final objective, Ruadh Stac Mor teases me, but it can wait, I have other jewels to collect first.
Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair now rises into the clear blue sky as I traverse beneath Meall Garbh on a good path.
I reach the bealach between Mullach and Meall Garbh, with a view back across the traverse to mighty Slioch, it’s a vista that necessitates a stop, to sit, to take it all in, its worthy of so much more than a glance.
The ascent passed relatively easily, albeit steep, a glance either side at the view was more than sufficient to make the legs move, and with the summit cairn perched across the face, with the ever present An Teallach showing it majesty once again across the summit of my next objective Sgurr Ban.
But first the summit, a rockier terrain on approach, followed by the descent, tricky underfoot, fresh snow, ice, but no need for any winter hardware (just as well !), the lower slopes to the next bealach, scree, loose, but I’m down. I turned for the view back up, my plans about to change again, Plan A was a renascent, but I had to conserve my legs, I had plenty more to do this day. But I’ll park that decision for now, we have an ascent to deal with. Sgurr Ban, I had seen the path, more or less a direct ascent, on descent of Mullach, it looked more straightforward, less rocky.
Once I had climbed a third of the way I turned to take in the sights of Mullach’s northern slopes leading towards Sgurr Dubh, the fresh snow looking pure against the dark rocks.
The summit of Sgurr Ban soon comes into view, it did pass easily, but again the view back Mullach filling the frame, Tarsuinn to the right, with Slioch behind and the Torridon giants beyond, surely there cannot be many vistas taking in mountains with names as grand as these. What a panorama.
I could have walked backwards to keep the view, but Sgurr Ban lonely summit awaits, set amongst a carpet of rocks, almost uniform, and from a distance nothing can be seen beyond.
Now, you may recall, re-ascent of Mullach hmmm, I sat amongst this sea of rocks, and made my choice, I would traverse the steep sides of Mullach’s eastern flank. It would be steep, but hopefully snow free as I was without winter aids.
I was aiming to stay high to pop out back at the col between Mullach and Meall Garbh and make use of the good path across the latters slopes. It began as a steep grassy bank, evidence of a path, or maybe deer trails, but I made use of whatever I could, as although no snow, a slip here would be dire, I couldn’t be more remote.
I had to descend to avoid some small crags, but progress was still better than the ascent of Mullachs scree, and descent of its boulder strewn upper slopes. The height lost was sufficient for me to head to the coire as opposed to the col but the coire held its own delights. A crystal clear burn from the col headwall provided suitably chilled fresh water, to replenish the bodily fluids, some food and rest in such a beautiful spot. I could have stayed.
But Tarsuinn awaits directly above, probably the easiest ascent of the day, it was a delight, legs were feeling good and my worries about undertaking such a long day in new boots had now faded from the mind. The views on ascent were stunning as this pano reveals the full 5 with An Teallach standing guard away in the distance.
And the view back to Mullach and the slope I traversed roughly across the two small snow patches.
The summit of Benn Tarsuinn, the name itself stirs the soul, with its flat ‘tennis court’ to the left of the picture, and beyond A’Mhaighdean looking tantalisingly close, Tarsuinns slopes hiding the significant drop and distance between these two. Ruadh Stac Mor just to its right, its red hues showing clearly, that from which its name is derived.
The ridge across Tarsuinn is walking par excellence, with its deep snow filled gullies, the flat court and some mild scrambling, Lochhan Fada far below, but it ends all too quickly, A’ Mhaighdean fills the view, a good 3 plus miles distant, with a steep descent to take me onto the flatish peat hagged ground in the watershed below. But from this height I can see a route a grassy motorway avoiding the worst, that’ll be my target.
Probably one advantage of this time of year, the chilled nights, maintaining the ground in some frosted state, as the trot across aforementioned difficult terrain passé swiftly, it was soft but a relief for tired feet.
The ascent of A’ Mhaighdean was not a relief. Pause after pause, it was never ending, with only the sweeping grassy slopes dead ahead, it seemed to go on forever.
The summit is reached with much relief, but the toil is justified by the rewards. The views behind of the mornings tally.
Views towards Poolewe of its northern corries and rock scenery.
Last but by no means least Ruadh Stac Mor, and my first sight of its very steep approach straight up exactly what you see in front.
On descent of A’ Mhaighdean I had picked out my route for the return avoiding a full re-ascent which would take me to the top of its slightly steeper lower slopes before dropping onto the vastness besides Lochan Fada back to my tent.
But first we had some climbing to do, a direct approach up Ruadh is evident but an easier option is to take a diagonal route from slightly to the right of where the path leads you in, a line below some crags, although the upper slopes of boulders have to be negotiated.
Now I had read of the views from the summit, it being the crowning glory on a glorious day, it didn’t disappoint.
The view of the day, Sgurr Ban, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Beinn Tarsuinn, A’ Mhaighdean, and the summit cairn of Ruadh Stac Mor. For anyone comtemplating the demoted Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh it’s the far left in the picture, some distance from the Munro of Sgurr Ban ! What you cannot see of course is the river crossings and the walk in, even from Shenavall, it’s a way, but well, you take you choice.
I sat a while, soaking it all in, not wanting to leave this place, this place of wilderness, this place of beauty where no amount superlatives could do it justice. It was just there laid out before me and it felt good to be alive.
I descended Ruadh without incident and took my route across the western flanks of A’ Mhaighdean, making good progress, good soft going for the now tired limbs. One last stop before descent into the mossier, undulating terrain back to my tent, which lay at the far end of Lochan Fada somewhere in the distance behind the large boulder in the photo.
This one will stay fresh in the memory for a long time.
I’ll finish with one piece of advice for anyone contemplating this round. No matter how set your dates, or how far you have come, if the weather is unkind, turn round, go somewhere else that day, just don’t waste these hills, they and stunning grandeur and should be savoured for all their evocative beauty.
by pollyh33 » Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:18 pm
Like any good student who studies hard and knows their subject inside out, you reaped your rewards by having an unforgettable day and gave us all an excellent account of these hills.
A+ for you !!!
by Jock McJock » Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:31 pm
by Bod » Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:21 pm
by thebaldfalcon » Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:21 am
by Johnny Corbett » Tue Apr 22, 2014 8:20 am
by weaselmaster » Tue Apr 22, 2014 11:38 am
Looks a fantastic place from your pics
by Newbie1 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 12:00 pm
Clever man that you are,in the words of Yoda Proud i am
Better make sure i get some of those pics for my wall Mr Webbs
by AnnieMacD » Tue Apr 22, 2014 12:23 pm
by IreneM » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:54 pm