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A Lairy circuit behind Achnashellach

A Lairy circuit behind Achnashellach

Postby Driftwood » Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:30 pm

Route description: Beinn Liath Mhor, Achnashellach

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Liath Mhòr, Sgòrr Ruadh

Date walked: 11/06/2015

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 17 km

Ascent: 1400m

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This was an afternoon walk following a morning spent driving from Kintail to Strathcarron, then lazing around deciding whether my feet were up for anything. The weather and views were so good that I was swayed into a "short" walk, although it turned out that the rough ground and some tender toes meant I took longer than expected.

The weather was warm, at least compared to conditions the previous week; my car suggested temperatures in the high teens during the morning, so probably about 20 centigrade by the afternoon. The layby at NH015483 was nearly full (I did squeeze in at one end), though as it turned out I didn't meet anyone else during the walk.

A short stretch of road leads up to the station, then over a level crossing before turning into a forest track. There are a couple of left turns to take in order to avoid tracks that halt in the forest. Fortunately I'd read the route in the WH Munro guide very recently, though there are also some hints such as stones and signposts to point you the right way.
Leaving the track from Achnashellach

Things were cooler on the hill, with a gentle breeze, but still felt very warm for the sheltered stretches lower down, then the steep haul onto the east ridge of Beinn Liath Mhor. These are magnificent hills, though their better features are only glimpsed before the great ampitheatre of Coire Lair.
Coire Lair (from Drochaid Coire Lair)

I had a few more choices of path, fortunately also forewarned by the guidebook (and shown on the map). I left one turning that crossed the River Lair (which was to be part of the descent route), then hardly a minute later took another heading right (so aiming for the Coulin Forest rather than upper Coire Lair). A last choice comes half a mile further on, leaving the path across the bealach to take another ascending the southeast end of Beinn Liath Mhor.
Path approaching Beinn Liath Mhor

The path climbs steeply and was a little loose in places, but at least I wasn't forced to cling to the vegetation to hold on ...
Damselfly in distress

I climbed gradually, feeling the early afternoon warmth and wishing for more of a breeze. The path is steep (even though it zig-zags steadily), but avoids craggier outcrops further west while height is gained as quickly as you like.
Ascending Beinn Liath Mhor

The slope eases slightly, then more, but needs plenty of ascent to reach a top. Though this is only the first and lowest of three main tops, linked by a long ridge topped with quartzite boulders. Most of this is broad, but there are a few narrower sections between the tops, where the path finds a way around the rockiest sections. I had a few installments of lunch along this section, taking my time with the climbs and descents as I found the hard ground rough going after a long day preceeding.
The tops of Beinn Liath Mhor

This section offered superb views to the bigger hills of Torridon across some lower but still-rugged peaks. I've yet to venture any further northwest, though at that point my plans were more concerned with Sgorr Ruadh and how to get across to there.
Sgorr Ruadh

A path guided down the first steep section off Beinn Liath Mhor, then faded in the more level ground of the southwest shoulder. This leads to much steeper ground punctuated by some sloping terraces and rock slabs. I decided, maybe a little rashly, to find my own route down, so headed back east down one of the terraces, looking for an easy way to lose more height.

I resorted to scrambling down a brief gulley, almost a chimney. This was very steep, but only lasted 15 feet or so and was narrow enough to afford plenty of points-of-contact. The slopes below were also steep, but comparitively easier, with a few stretches of sandstone slab (some damp due to water trickling from above) to negociate. Things were, at least, fairly secure underfoot, though I could see huge fields of scree a few hundred metres to my left. My "route" is some way beneath and slightly to the right of the large snow-path in this view:
Beinn Liath Mhor in full

From there, I contoured southwest across easier ground to reach the main path through Coire Lair. This did require some re-ascent once on the path, which felt much easier going after the terrain I'd left behind. But I'd taken about an hour to get from the first Munro to the bealach where I paused to refuel on flapjack. This shows the end of a path that I should have taken, descending around the 769-metre top:
Bealach at the head of Coire Lair

Another path leads up to the northwest ridge of Sgorr Ruadh. This spreads into a broader shoulder with a small lochan, then narrows again as the ground gets rockier. The final stretch has some semi-scrambling, enlivened by steep slopes that fall away on either side.
Sgorr Ruadh summit ridge

The afternoon was almost at an end, so I couldn't dally for too long despite the panoramic delights in most directions, especially looking northward. I managed to resist the urge of visiting the northeast top and aimed southeast to descend the plunging rocky slopes in that direction.
The ridges of Torridon

Thirty minutes of rock-hopping, then threading between numerous small lochs and lochans, brought me into sight of a path across the bealach. Fuar Tholl would have to wait for another day.
Creag Mainnrichean and Fuar Tholl

After cutting across to the path, I made much better time than on the stones before, though the miles did seem to stretch and grow. The River Lair crossing proved easy, with water levels low, though the path turned boggy lower down until I found the track out past the station. Mine was the last car left.

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Last edited by Driftwood on Sat Aug 01, 2015 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Lairy circuit behind Achnashellach

Postby dogplodder » Fri Jul 03, 2015 10:44 am

I love these two.... but wouldn't describe them as a 'short' walk if that's what you were looking for! 8)
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Re: A Lairy circuit behind Achnashellach

Postby Driftwood » Fri Jul 03, 2015 5:17 pm

dogplodder wrote:I love these two.... but wouldn't describe them as a 'short' walk if that's what you were looking for! 8)

I loved them too; this was my first taste of walking in the area. But, apart from getting an appetite for it, I've also realised that I can't stride along that sort of hill in the same way as those back east. So a height and distance that I'd think of as a short/er walk can still take much of the day to cover.

That may change with practice - and I was going quite slowly that day following a real "long" walk which still needs writing up. But they're a great place to spend however much time a walk takes.
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