Fuar Tholl - A fitting hill for my first Walkhighlands meet
by Jeremiah Johnson » Fri Apr 15, 2016 8:38 pm
Corbetts included on this walk: Fuar Tholl
Date walked: 09/04/20164 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).
After a leisurely breakfast I travelled with Iryna and Jelena along the side of Loch Maree, though Slioch lurked out of sight in the cloud, which, in the windless conditions seemed unlikely to move any time soon. We arrived at Achnashellach and joined a group planning to climb Fuar Tholl, at 907 metres a substantial mountain though failing by a few metres to attain Munro status.
Leaving the cars in the car park opposite Achnashellach Railway Station we carefully crossed the Kyle of Lochalsh rail line and joined a good path which follows a long established right of way and climbs over the Bealach Ban and Bealach na Lice before descending to Glen Torridon.
In no hurry we walked at a relaxed pace occasionally chatting, sometimes listening to the chatter of others and, occasionally just walking in silence enjoying the stillness of the forest and the quiet muted song of birds among the trees, their songs reflecting the greyness of this early spring morning. Further on the path climbed above the tree line onto a bare rocky landscape, however, alongside the River Lair, trees continued to successfully grow much higher up the heathery hillside.
The Rodmeister enjoys the view back to Loch Dughaill with the lower slopes of the Strahcarron hills beyond rising to low cloud.
We found a marker post on the path which signalled a left turn to take us into Coire Lair and continued to climb on the rocky path. Happily, the smooth, sloping rocks even when wet were not slippy and we gained height easily. Higher up the slopes eased and we took a path west which required us to cross the River Lair, possibly the most difficult problem we would have to solve all day to attain the summit of Fuar Tholl.
Two years ago I had spent a great deal of valuable time negotiating the rivers required to be crossed to climb the Fisherfield Forest hills from Shenavall Bothy. Consequently, I had looked for a solution to the problem of crossing wide rivers, blocking routes to the hills, Alan Rowan' in his book "Moonwalker" had described a waterproof overboot which he kept at the bottom of his rucksack to use when crossing a river. Without success I had scoured outdoor shops and the internet looking for something similar, however on a weekend meet at Crianlarich with my club the Argyll Mountaineering Club I spotted "Feetz" Pocket Wellies when shopping for a map in the Green Welly Shop. They certainly appeared to be what I had been looking for, but, later on showing them to my club mates I had been unmercifully slagged and chief torturer was my good friend The Rodmeister. Quietly taking the ribbing I felt sure they would prove their worth.
A short distance west of the junction we came across the River Lair which required to be crossed for progress to be made.
At last my opportunity to try out the pocket wellies!!
The river was too wide for me to throw the wellies back, so, somewhat smugly I stood on the opposite bank looking across at the rest of the group as they walked up and down the river seeking a suitable spot to cross. From the right side of the riverbank I watched the group attempt every possible technique of river crossing in their efforts to join me.
Rod provides much entertainment utilising the precarious rock hopping technique.
Thankfully we all made it safely across. On the far bank we regrouped and followed the path at is it continued west up easy slopes into the heart of Coire Lair and towards Fuar Tholl.
Looking north, beyond a small lochan, Sgorr Ruaidh and Beinn Liath Mhor impressed. It was twenty years since I had climbed these two hills. On that occasion from the Ling Hut in Glen Torridon, however, from this vantage point the circuit from Glen Carron taking in the lengthy south west ridge of Beinn Liath Mhor looked a much more attractive route.
We slowly continued our climb and getting closer to the steep craggy slopes of Fuar Tholl were rewarded with fine views of the dark cliffs which form the eastern ridge of Fuar Tholl and protect the summit higher up, concealed in cloud. Although smaller than its neighbours Sgorr Ruaidh, Beinn Liath Mhor and Meal Chean Dearg, the Mainreachan Buttress, the main feature of Fuar Tholl, elevates the status of the mountain and Ralph Storer in his "100 Best Routes on Scottish Hills" describes it as the "finest mountain in the area". Gazing up at the formidable cliffs, enhanced today by new fallen snow which contrasted with the dark rock face, falling from a veil of grey cloud which clung to the upper slopes, giving the hill a ghostly air, it was hard to disagree.
Not only stunning to look at the sheer cliffs of the buttress provide some of the north west of Scotland's finest ice climbs and has drawn some of the UK's most accomplished climbers for years.
We continued to follow the path to the Bealach Mair which seperates Fuar Tholl from Sgorr Ruaidh, From there we took to the steeper slopes leading to Fuar Tholl. The slopes eased and we passed a group of small lochans, reflecting the dark grey cloud which still dominated the sky, before climbing snow covered scree slopes. As we gained height the slopes steepened and with care we continued slowly up towards the skyline. Thankfully we left the treacherous snow covered rocks and found our way onto easier snow slopes which climbed to the summit ridge. Still in cloud, we passed over the first of three tops on the ridge.
We continued to walk along the snow covered ridge skirting impressive cornices on our left before climbing to the second top, marked by a small stone cairn sitting on the edge of the Mainreachan Buttress.
After a quick stop at the top we continued along the snow covered ridge which swept around Coire Mainreachan .
We dropped a short distance before climbing the easy snow slopes to the summit, marked by a trig point contained within a stone shelter. As we approached the summit the clouds rose and we were rewarded with fine views, We easily located the stone shelter, however, the trig point remained covered in snow.
It had been a long walk but thoroughly enjoyable and a great way to mark my first "Walkhighlands" meet. At the summit we all chatted, enjoyed the expansive panorama the hill offered now it was free of the clag that had stubbornly clung as we climbed. After some much needed food and a hot drink we readied ourselves for the walk down. I don't think anyone relished a descent of the steep snow covered crags we had came up. It was pointed out there was an alternative route dropping into Glen Carron which would mean we would not need to descend the crags.
We left the summit and I followed London Walker, Mountain Thyme and Blackpanther down the snowy slopes. As we walked the temperature dropped noticeably as the mountain became engulfed in cloud. Happily the cloud soon cleared and the early spring sun lit the eastern end of Loch Carron away to our right. A shout from above us told us the remainder of the group, including Kevin, intended contouring round the mountain below the crags and returning to Achnashellach by our original route. London Walker, Mountain Thyme and I were happy to continue our planned route down Glen Carron but for Blackpanther it meant separating from Kevin. Happily, Kevin gallantly elected to leave the other group and join Blackpanther and the group dropping to Glen Carron, saving the panther a climb.
Once together London Walker expertly weaved a route down the steep grassy slopes avoiding the crags and we finally reached the road back to the cars. In evening sunshine we walked alongside Loch Dughaill enjoying great views to the Strathcarron Hills and the reflections of the russet hills on the still dark waters.
by Bod » Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:15 pm
by Jeremiah Johnson » Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:22 pm
Bod wrote:A mighty impressive buttress on Fuar Tholl, and what a great group summit picture too. A wonderful weekend as always
Correct Bod. A superb mountain feature. The summit photo was courtesy of The Rodmeister........captures the mood of the day perfectly!!
Looking forward to Inchnadamph already
by The Rodmiester » Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:25 pm
by Jeremiah Johnson » Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:36 pm
The Rodmiester wrote:A great report there Martin, some top photographs yo boot. Talking about boots you certainly had the last laugh with the Wellies. I believe the Green Wellie Shop has now totally sold out
Thanks Rod. A long but cracking day. The wellies will be kept at the bottom of the rucksack from now on. They will save much time crossing rivers. Thanks for the summit photo......nice to get a picture with everyone in it
by Mal Grey » Fri Apr 15, 2016 10:05 pm
by Jeremiah Johnson » Fri Apr 15, 2016 10:10 pm
Mal Grey wrote:Great report, really descriptive text capturing the ascent of this fine, fine mountain. Photos ain't bad either...
Thanks Glad you enjoyed.
by tina bonar » Sat Apr 16, 2016 6:26 am
We even had a comfy seat during the quiz too
by dogplodder » Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:34 am
by Jeremiah Johnson » Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:41 am
tina bonar wrote:Looks like you all had a great day. Love your river crossing tools Martin, bet there has been a few folk looking for them at the Green Welly now
We even had a comfy seat during the quiz too
Thanks Barrie. Brilliant day it was on a stunning Corbett. Yes the boots will come in handy I'm sure
A comfy seat and it is always nice to be part of a winning team
by Jeremiah Johnson » Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:42 am
dogplodder wrote:Excellent and well illustrated report.
Thanks D. Glad you enjoyed
by superstar_tradesman » Tue Apr 19, 2016 9:41 pm
I climbed the neighbouring Munro pair a long time ago, and Fuar Tholl always looked like it was by far the most challenging of the three hills. But at that time I was a teenager only interested in going up Munros…so I really need to go back again and pay my respects.
And I'd probably do it in April too, as the Glencarron midges when we got back to the car were easily the most ravenous I'd ever experienced!
by Graeme D » Tue Apr 19, 2016 10:04 pm
by jelena » Tue Apr 19, 2016 10:46 pm
It was nice to meet you, talk and walk together:) . Hope to see you in the nearest future.
by Jaxter » Wed Apr 20, 2016 10:39 am
Love your wee booties - maybe the solution to my river crossing woes