Beinn Dearg group - beyond reason, almost beyond endurance
by Graeme D » Wed Aug 06, 2014 1:17 pm
Munros included on this walk: Beinn Dearg (Ullapool), Cona' Mheall, Meall nan Ceapraichean
Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn Enaiglair
Grahams included on this walk: Meall Doire Faid
Date walked: 17/07/2014
Time taken: 15.3 hours
Distance: 29.1 km
Ascent: 2180m5 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 initially planned to do this as the final day of my "One week in September 2013" series of walks but when push had come to shove, I had baulked at the prospect of the drive up to Inverlael after work on the Friday followed by the walk up Glen Sguaib to a suitable camping spot, and had settled on the Creag Meagaidh circuit instead.
Having studied the route options a bit more since then, I was keen to include the Graham of Meall Doire Faid and/or the Corbett of Beinn Enaiglair in the equation if at all possible. I knew there was no way I would get both of them done and also the Beinn Dearg group from Am Faochgach to Eididh nan Clach Geala. I had already decided to keep Seana Braigh for another time but and suspected that including Faochgach into the route would probably be too much, however, if the weather wasn't great, I could always do a circuit of the Corbett and Graham and then drive back down to Loch Glascarnoch and tackle the Faochgach bogfest from there.
I was all packed up and away from my spot near Loch Droma bright and early, and was parked up at the big parking area at Braemore Junction ready to go by 7 o'clock.
Setting off - 7am
The weather looked none too clever and as I set off on the path around the back of the forestry and up towards Home Loch, I felt pretty sure that I would be back at the car after the Corbett and Graham were in the bag.
Back down the Dirrie More towards Loch Glascarnoch from the path to Home Loch
By the time I reached Home Loch, my boots were already beginning to cause me some grief. They had been cutting into my lower shins a bit yesterday too and I had noticed that they had left sore, reddened patches on my lowers shins when I had taken them off last night. They were relatively new Brasher Akluhns that I had worn for the first time back at the Inchnadamph meet in March and again several times since, but now they seemed to have developed a habit of trying to cut off the circulation to me feet! I also seemed to be struggling with a lower back injury of some sort. I had felt it on Wednesday morning when I had first got out of bed and on the drive north, and just put it down to having been lying funny during the night. It hadn't bothered me at all yesterday but now every time I put my right foot down too heavily or jarred myself in any way (like on steep descents), it caused discomfort up through my lower back. I was really aware of it slowing my normal pace down and again I wondered whether the Beinn Dearg Munros were once again going to evade capture.
West over Home Loch towards Loch a'Bhraoin and the twin Grahams beyond
The Fannichs across Home Loch
The gradient steepened considerably once past Home Loch and even at this early hour of the morning and with little sun to speak of, conditions were very warm and sticky. Ben Enaiglair looked especially uninviting from this angle but Meall Doire Faid was beginning to open up to reveal a nice ascent route up onto the flat northern shoulder and then through some crags towards the summit.
Meall Doire Faid
It was an effort once more to pull myself away from the good path and onto the rough hillside, especially with the knowledge that there was a potentially long and arduous day ahead.
Home Loch and Loch a'Bhraoin from the ascent of Meall Doire Faid
Just above the flat shoulder
North west along the summit ridge
From the summit of Meall Doire Faid, the onwards route across the high ground of Enaiglair and then on to the Munro summits beyond looked hopelessly clagged in but north west along Loch Broom and south west towards Loch a'Bhraoin looked alittle more promising and revealed snatches of a view on and off.
Summit of Meall Doire Faid looking towards Loch Broom
With the Graham in the bag, I was at least determined that I was going to head over to the Corbett before pulling the plug so I headed back down bouldery slopes towards Loch Feith nan Cleireach to pick up the path below the southern flanks of Enaiglair.
Unnamed lochan and Loch Feith nan Cleireach down in the bealach with the bulk of Beinn Dearg in the background
Along the lochs
Back to Meall Doire Faid
As height was gained and I approached the junction in the path, the views down to Loch Glascarnoch began to open up and Beinn Dearg began to make its ominous, looming presence felt across the coire of the Allt Mhucarnaich.
Beinn Dearg skulking beneath the cloud
Down the Allt a'Gharbhrainn to Loch a'Gharbhrainn and Loch Glascarnoch
Incredibly, as I took to the broad south east ridge of Beinn Enaiglair, patches of blue sky began to gradually establish themselves and increasingly it looked like shaping up to be a fine afternoon.
Iorguill and Beinn Dearg from the ascent of Beinn Enaiglair
The Fannichs across Meall Doire Faid
Last pull up to the summit
The deal was sealed at the summit of the Corbett when I decided that I was as well being hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, and made the decision to continue on to Beinn Dearg and beyond.
Loch Broom from the summit of Beinn Enaiglair
The route ahead over Iorguill and Beinn Dearg
Towards the central Fannichs
Breather at the summit of Enaiglair
I took a line north west off Enaiglair to avoid the worst of the crags on the descent, which I did, only to end up on slopes alive with frogs. I had never seen so many in abundance in the one small area before. I felt like an extra in a dodgy Paul McCartney song!
On the frog infested descent
North to the hills of Coigach and Assynt
Once down at the Allt na h-lghinne, the reascent just kept coming, this time over the intervening top of Iorguill. It was now well past 1pm and I had been on the go for 6 hours, still without a sniff of any of the Beinn Dearg Munros. I was becoming increasingly aware that my gammy back and the sheer nature of this route with its relentless reascents was putting me in line for a really late shift!
However, when I crossed below the summit of Iorguill and saw the sight of the Destitution Wall stretching up the edge of the vast north west face of Beinn Dearg, I couldn't help but be anything other than re-energised and elated.
The Destitution Wall snaking its way up Beinn Dearg
More low cloud piling in
On up the wall
The huge boulder fields made for slow going up alongside the wall as the cloud came, went and then came in again as quickly as it had gone. It made for a wonderfully atmospheric climb and my mind whirred tirelessly as my legs toiled.
View back down - inspiring stuff
Towards the summit dome
Zoomed in on the unmistakable and iconic shape of Seana Braigh
On the stroke of 3 o'clock and 8 hours walking, I reached the large summit cairn of Beinn Dearg and gazed in wonder at the views. Oh Seana Braigh - not today I'm afraid, but I'll be back!
Loch a'Bhraoin from the summit of Beinn Dearg with Meall Doire Faid and Beinn Enaiglair just visible in the middleground
Towards Ben Wyvis
8 hours on the nose
Then I wandered over to the edge of the drop into the void of Coire Ghranda - what I'd been most looking forward to today. This has to absolutely be one of the greatest ampitheatres in the mountains of Scotland with the vast drop down to the loch and the almost sheer cliffs of Coa Mheall across the other side . And my eye was also drawn down to where I was heading next - into the gnarly, jumbled terrain and lochans of the high col at the head of Glen Sguaib. This route just gets better and better!
Down into Coire Ghranda and beyond to Am Faochgach, Loch Glascarnoch and Ben Wyvis
Meall nan Ceapraichean across the high col
Ceapraichean, Eididh nan Clach Geala and Seana Braigh
I picked my way carefully down the shattered, bouldery slopes on legs and feet that were now starting to feel less secure than an hour or two earlier and were needing a wee bit more time for careful placement.
Across the Destitution Wall to Meall nan Ceapraichean, Loch Broom and the Coigach and Assynt hills
Cona Mheall with Faochgach and Wyvis beyond
Loch a'Choire Ghranda and the cliffs of Cona Mheall from the col
Meall nan Ceapraichean
Then it was yet more ascent that would have to be redescended later, with the haul up the grass and scree slopes of Cona Mheall to another fabulous summit viewpoint over three remote lochs - Loch Tuath, Loch Prille and Loch na Still - and the unforgivingly desolate landscape of the treeless Freevater and Tollomuick Forests beyond to the east.
Back to Beinn Dearg from the ascent of Cona Mheall
South west from the summit of Cona Mheall
Across Loch Prille and Loch na Still to the Freevater and Tollomuick Forests
The Coigach and Assynt Hills and Seana Braigh from Cona Mheall
Feeling the heat now - Beinn Dearg from the summit of Cona Mheall
As I descended back to the col to face the ascent of Meall nan Ceapraichean, I was almost overcome by a sense of exhilaration bordering on delirium born of the vastness and remoteness of this undertaking, the fact that I had not set eyes on another soul all day and the fact that despite being all but on my knees, I was still raring to go at the prospect of another two Munros and a seriously hefty walk back out.
Cona Mheall from the col heading towards Meall nan Ceapraichean
Upper Glen Sguaib
The ascent of Ceapraichean gave me an insight into what was still left to do on the first part of the walk out down Glen Sguaib and up onto the lower flanks of the Diollaid a, Mhill Bhric spur of Beinn Dearg and by the time I reached the summit and saw the onward route to Eididh nan Clach Geala, I knew that to include the fourth Munro would entail a 17 hour day and not get me back to the car until midnight. I tried to reconcile this with the OS sheet which clearly indicated a reasonably straightforward walk to the Munro summit and a good descent back into the glen down the west ridge and onto the path above Lochan a' Chnapaich.
Cona Mheall and Beinn Dearg from the summit of Ceapraichean
But I was done - a spent force, and the prospect of the walk out (and especially the climb out of Glen Sguaib) was already making me feel nauseous. So I did the sensible thing (especially given the way the weather had turned out) and bailed.
If this man were a horse, a screen would be erected around him and a bullet put in his head!
From the summit of Ceapraichean to Loch Broom and Coigach and Assynt
Eididh nan Clach Geal from Glen Sguaib after the descent off Ceapraichean
Meall nan Ceapraichean
Ceapraichean and Beinn Dearg
On the walk down Glen Sguaib, I seriously considered walking right out to Inverlael and then back along the main road, all just to avoid the ascent out of the glen onto the Diollaid a' Mhill Bhric and the 2km or so of pathless cross country back to the path that skirts around Beinn Enaiglair. As nauseous as that prospect made me however, it wasn't nearly as bad as the prospect of finishing a day like this with a 8km walk along the tarmac of the A835.
Eas Fhionn waterfalls in Glen Sguaib
So I bit the bullet and made the arduous climb and trudge back to the path, around Enaiglair (which now seemed like a lifetime ago) and back past Home Loch to the car.
It was 10.20pm and all but dark by the time I fell into the car, all ideas of dinner and finding somewhere to pitch the tent now well and truly gone out the window. It was all I could do to crack open a can of beer and a pack of chocolate covered peanuts, rearrange a few crates, put one of the back seats down and crawl into my sleeping bag. And that was pretty much the last thing I remember...........
by Johnny Corbett » Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:43 pm
by dogplodder » Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:48 pm
And did that lot cure the lower back pain?
by Hill-loving lady » Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:57 pm
Thanks for sharing
by AnnieMacD » Wed Aug 06, 2014 3:01 pm
by gammy leg walker » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:05 pm
by malky_c » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:17 pm
by jonny616 » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:29 pm
by Graeme D » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:54 pm
Johnny Corbett wrote:Great effort Graeme, that's a long tough day. Thought i was going to see death number 4 there on on of those summits
Yeah, I thought that myself on Ceapraichean and the walk out!
dogplodder wrote:I'm just writing up a report on Beinn Enaiglair on its own so can appreciate the huge effort this was!
And did that lot cure the lower back pain?
Yes, I think I walked the back pain into submission!
jonny616 wrote:Can't believe you didn't add SB! Great report and the weather looked kind for some of the day
I know Jonny - standards are slipping!
by Collaciotach » Wed Aug 06, 2014 10:39 pm
by rockhopper » Wed Aug 06, 2014 11:44 pm
by kevsbald » Thu Aug 07, 2014 8:25 am
by weaselmaster » Thu Aug 07, 2014 1:50 pm
At least the weather was reasonable for most of it - nice part of the world to spend a few hours in