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Mist & midges : Bruach na Frithe via the Fairy Pools.
by Old Bill » Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:37 pm
Route description: Bruach na Frithe
Munros included on this walk: Bruach na Frìthe
Date walked: 19/09/2014
Time taken: 8 hours
Distance: 24 km
Ascent: 1240m2 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).
The plan today was just to head back to Sligachan to get the bus tomorrow to get the ferry to get to Mallaig to get the ferry to get to Inverie. It was going to be a decent enough slog back up to Bealach a' Mhàim back so I'd kept the options of some pretty pools and a big mountain strictly as options!
Firstly, I'd been noticing these stange crows for the past couple of days that I'd never seen before. Turns out it's a hooded crow and we don't get them south of the border. You learn something new every day in Cuillins!
I was also learning that the sunshine of the previous couple of days might not be with us today. But maybe a cooler day would make for nicer walking conditions? And maybe the big mountains would be so shrouded in thick clag and howling winds the decision would be made for me!
So off we set on the long tarmac plod back up Glen Brittle. And like yesterday it seemed I'd left just at the wrong time - just behind me was a group of 4 chaps, one I seem to recall was sans shirt, who were enjoying a loud and serious sounding natter. Nattering - especially loud nattering - should not be allowed in such a peaceful remote environs! And just to annoy me more they were walking just ever-so-slightly faster than me, so they were just behind me for ages and then alongside me for ages and then just in front for ages. But they were far ahead of me eventually - maybe if they stopped nattering they'd be gone quicker!
The mist came down to our level and a light drizzle commenced. I pondered on stopping to don the waterproofs but as it was still quite warm-ish I decided against it and figured a little dampness wouldn't matter. I soon caught up with the nattering quartet who'd stopped to put their waterproofs on, passing them I joked "If I put mine on it'd stop!!". "Well put 'em on then!" barked one of them back rather grumpily. It soon stopped mizzling. Hehe.
The fairy pools are fortunate that they sound very enticing and also that there's a car-park at the top of the track. The result of all this is that they're very popular with day-trippers.
And they are pretty pretty I suppose, but the track was very busy - both with humans and midgies.
The people thinned out as we headed upwards as people decided that if you've seen one fairy pool you've pretty much seen them all and turned round and headed back to the burger van.
I'd exchanged pleasantries with one group - German or Swiss or something - on the way up, and a shortwhile later one of them was calling me "Hallooo hallloooo!" , "Oh God" I thought she wants to chat or is after advice one which is the best fairy pool or where the path leads to some such stuff that the curmudgeon I was, annoyed by all these other people not carrying huge rucksacks getting in my way, was not prepared to enter in to. Anyways as she caught up with me she asked "Is this your watch...?" "Noo!" I replied "My watch is on my ... oh!" My watch had gone! And how nice of her to find it and chase after me to return it - with its broken strap. My curmudgeonness instantly faded as I offered her profuse thanks. Thank you! The exact same thing happened a few years ago on Greenup Edge on the Coast to Coast</a>, but this time I was fortunate enough for it to be found by someone nice & helpful - and not a grumpy old curmudgeon!
After about 1000ft or so of ascent we'd oohed and aahed at the last of the fairy pools, but the weather was coming down towards us again.
The path heading north took us under Bruach na Frithe, but I think the above photo is probably Coire a' Mhadaidh between Sgurr an Fheadain and Sgurr Thuilm, but of course if you know better, please correct me!
Finally we rejoined the main path at the cairn marking the top of Bealach a' Mhàim a bit earlier than we were aiming for, which caused some minor head-scratching. Along this bit I'd had the pleasure of a very nice couple whose names I can't remember who seemed to be the only fairy pool walkers to have opted for the circular walk.
After a brief chat we went our seperate ways, and it only being 1pm and the weather looking like it could be a lot worse, I decided to give Bruach na Frithe a go after all. I veered west off the main path back to Sligachan and found a place to ditch my rucksack. Can you spot it?! The only time all week I needed to put the rain-cover on it - just in case.
But almost immediately after I had set off up na Frithe with a spring in step now having no big pack on the mist came down. Had it been like this 10 minutes earlier I may have thought twice, but I'd started now so I may as well finish.
The visibility was pretty much zilch all the way, which for quite a ghostly walk. And not very many photo opportunities! The path came and went and wouldn't have been easy to follow if it was clear so a lot of the navigation was done with compass bearing & GPS. I still manage to wander way off route though - see the plot below! Some of the terrain was very rocky, and almost as tricky going as the Chute yesterday.
There was absolute silence up here, pierced only by squeak of an eagle. It sounded very close and hoping it was on the ground and would strut out of the mist in front of me at any minute for a close encounter of the bird kind. Sadly it did not.
As I was approaching the top the mist lifted! And so did my spirits, but then it cam back down again just a minute or two later taking my spirits with it. Well not really, I seem to remember laughing a little when we were suddenly surrounded by greyness again.
Shortly after this I heard a young couple coming down in the mist, and soon saw them too. Their time at the summit at coincided with the break in the mist the lucky devils! And the girl said she now had her pub legs on, the lucky devils! So after a brief chat, her lovely smile lifting my spirits, we established that we were headed to different pubs and my spirits fell again. So off she went towards Carbost with her fella - the lucky devil! And I continued up the rocky lunar-esque hillside, the poor devil.
Walking through all this is quite disorientating, with no sign of sky or horizon. Apart from constantly checking your GPS you have no idea where you are, where you've been or what's to come. You also forget the scale of your surroundings. The usual solitude that is often to be found the hills is replaced by a vague sense of loneliness instead. Not unpleasant but not really fun.
When I got to the col under the unmistakably (even in this weather) Am Basteir I stopped for a rest and a sarnie and looking out down Bealach nan Lice over the Lota Corrie the mist once again was briefly taken by the wind, leaving the peaks below poking through. What a site, but it only lasted literally a few seconds and by the time I'd got my camera out the mist had once returned to claim the peaks and the view, and above shot is all I managed.
This is what the view should look like...
A bit of a scramble through the mist again, and a couple of dead-ends (following paths that went nowhere!) and after not long I could see a trig-pointy-like apparition come into view. I'm sure a few of the right / wrong paths I took were a tad percarious, but with the mist I really couldn't see, which wasn't at all reassuring.
Anyways, the summit was claimed. I took a photo, sat down, got cold, stood up, turned round and I headed back. If it was clearer I would have carried on and gone back down the via the ridge, but in this weather it wasn't really worth it. Better the devil you know, so I've set off retracing my footprints - trying my best not to race - there's plenty of tripping opportunites!
I don't really remember much of the descent acutally and certainly didn't take many photos - mainly as there wasn't much to take photos of! I certainly encountered no-one else going down, indeed not uptil the main road at Sligachan. The view - or rather lack of it - was very boring. And other than getting lost again at the same I'd wandered off-route on the way up, nothing really interesting happened. The visual blur I had is now must a mental blur too!
Finding my rucksack would have been nigh-on impossible without the GPS. Thank goodness I'd marked its where-abouts. (It was somewhere in the above photo!)
Although the mist had lifted a bit now we were lower down, he walk from Bealach a' Mhàim back to Slig was pretty tedious, as the pub visible in the distance seemed to getting no nearer!
And to add insult to injury, the sign post which greeted me at the end of a long day had to the cheek to suggest I'd only walked 4.6miles! It felt like my walk from Glen Brittle to here had been a mammoth trek, even without the misty mountain hop.
It was starting to get dusky as I got to the campsite and Seauma's Bar was a sight for sore eyes and a thirsty throat. The pronounciation of 'Sligachan' was settled and the tasty tower of haggis was demolished in no time. Beer & haggis - is there anything that makes a walker feel better?!
These next few photos are actually the next day, travelling from Sligachan to Inverie, but I thought I'd take the liberty of leaving them in as they're quite nice photos. I think. (Hope that doesn't break any WH TR rules...)
The morning view of the Cuillins.
A friendly local in Mallaig.
The evening view over Loch Nevis from Inverie.
by Anne C » Sat Dec 06, 2014 12:50 am
by Old Bill » Wed Jul 29, 2015 3:43 pm
Anne C wrote:What a pity the weather came in so badly.Its quite a summit view, The fairy pools I always think are best for their overall setting when it's a decen day with the Waterpipe Gully rearing up out of the moorland ahead. Great shot of the peaks and the swirling mist.And the seal!
I know, the weather was a drag, more weird and disorienting than really unpleasant but to be honest if it was going to come in at all I'm glad it did when it did and not 10mins earlier or I might have bailed and headed to the pub early.
But like you say - the mist can look great... when you're not in it! hehee
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