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Far North Grahams

Far North Grahams

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jul 25, 2016 12:10 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill

Grahams included on this walk: Beinn Direach, Ben Stack, Càrn an Tionail, Càrn Salachaidh, Meall an Fheur Loch, Sabhal Beag

Date walked: 24/07/2016

Time taken: 26.75 hours

Distance: 73.3 km

Ascent: 4494m

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Carefully massaging my holiday allocation, I managed to get a couple of days off this week to make a long weekend. Far North beckoned - nice to get up there whilst it's still light enough to drive the whole journey after work. So we set off for Pondside Campsite, just outside Lairg on Wednesday with the intention of cleaning up the 5 Grahams in that part of the world. I still flinch when I think of the terrible weather we endured up Loch Shin way last summer when doing the Corbetts there :silent: Anyway, Pondside Campsite is a new little family run venture - basic but very friendly and cheap - we were made most welcome. The forecast had been for torrential rain when we arrived, but it was dry and even a little sunny - could this be a good omen for the next few days?

tionail.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

After a reasonable night's sleep I still woke with a continuation of my caffeine withdrawal headache. Oh well...Today's destination was a couple of Grahams snuggled in between Ben Hee and Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill - Carn Tionail and Beinn Direach. A gentle 14k to get the muscles into shape - well that was the intention. Unfortunately I'd forgotten to pack the walking poles (left in the other car after a mid-week Corbett). This was not sweet to Allison's ears, with the need to protect her knees as much as possible :shock: Oops... We drove along the banks of Loch Shin to Merkland Lodge and used the same Hydro track as we had for Ben Hee. This provided easy walking - up past the Allt Coire a'Chruitier and on for a few hundred metres til we spotted a metla bridge over the Albannach, then up a faint track onto the slopes of Sail na Ghlaise. To the south lay Cuinneag and Suilven, to our right Ben Hee appeared bulkily impressive. As we gained height those Northern stalwarts, Hope and Loyal hove into view, great ships on the flow lands.

Our hills to the left
ImageDSC01277 by Al, on Flickr

Across the bridge
ImageDSC01279 by Al, on Flickr

View south to Cuinneag
ImageDSC01281 by Al, on Flickr

Ben Hee
ImageDSC01285 by Al, on Flickr

Towards A'Ghlaise
ImageDSC01287 by Al, on Flickr

We continued along the ridge of A'Ghlaise and onto Tionail, passing two stone shelters on the higher slopes. Over to our left, the many peaks of Mhic Dhughaill stood prominent - Carn Dearg closest to us, where we'd stopped for a frozen lunch in hailstones and found someone's map and compass. A much nicer day today. Lunch after the summit of Tionail looking down at the rounded hump of Direach. We dropped down to the bealach and began the minimal re-ascent (152m) over quartzite blocks and heather to the summit, disturbing a small group of stags in the process. The hill was overshadowed by the great coires on Ben Hee. We dropped down to the Simm Meall a'Chlerich, passing close to another 3 stags watching us warily from further over on the rounded top. We dropped down into the valley, warmed by the afternoon sun, picking up an atv track that led us, boggily, back to the main track. A fine day out in amongst some grand hills.

ImageDSC01289 by Al, on Flickr

Carn an Tionail
ImageDSC01290 by Al, on Flickr

Towards Mhic Dhughaill
ImageDSC01296 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01298 by Al, on Flickr

Heading for Ben Direach
ImageDSC01300 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01301 by Al, on Flickr

Summit Direach
ImageDSC01310 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01312 by Al, on Flickr

Ben Hee
ImageDSC01313 by Al, on Flickr

Meall a'Chlerich
ImageDSC01314 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01317 by Al, on Flickr

Ben Hee
ImageDSC01319 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01321 by Al, on Flickr

Back at the campsite we enjoyed our tea and met one of the campsite cats who had caught a large mouse, which she proceeded to devour completely in under thirty seconds, then later found her way into our tent and helped herself to 2 coconut and cherry tiffin squares. Cats eating cake? what next :lol: We then went for a wander to Achfrish, passing some more strange sights :roll:

Pondside campsite
ImageDSC01322 by Al, on Flickr

Thieving cat
ImageDSC01324 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01325 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01328 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01329 by Al, on Flickr

Big Cock
ImageDSC01330 by Al, on Flickr

Big skies
ImageDSC01333 by Al, on Flickr

stack(1).gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Rain overnight and morning midges, but dry when we set out along Loch Shin again. Two hills planned for today - the mighty Ben Stack and then, hopefully, Meall an Fheur Loch, one we'd missed out on our circuit of Ben Leoid. We parked outside the Estate Offices at Achfary, very friendly workmen greeting us, and set off past the phone box along into Strath Stack. Walking through the woods then along the strath floor - clouds and bits of blue sky above - I'm hoping it's going to clear. Up to the third stream on the right, across from the cascading snake of a stream on the left side and up we go, keeping to the right bank of the stream. Clegs do their best to annoy us, flying round head, ears, legs - bite bite slap. Up to flatter ground and we turn round the western aspect of the mountain, looking for a boulder with a rock on top - which we spot. Higher up we go, but the clag is coming in not clearing. That's a blow, for this hill in particular. We begin our ascent up the NW shoulder, possibly a bit too far norwest. There's meant to be a faint track but we see nothing, only sporadic clatters of deer moving about in the rocks above. Up a couple of steep grassy rakes we get to the final section before the summit and pick up a good path :lol: In the clag we head along the knife edge ridge (after Crib Goch this is nothing) and pass a cairn, then another cairn, then a police antenna mast before finally arriving at the trig point/shelter where we disembark for lunch.

ImageDSC01335 by Al, on Flickr

Strath Stack
ImageDSC01336 by Al, on Flickr

Ben Stack - top in cloud
ImageDSC01338 by Al, on Flickr

Sinuous cascade
ImageDSC01339 by Al, on Flickr

Up by the stream
ImageDSC01340 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01345 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01347 by Al, on Flickr

Steeply up
ImageDSC01349 by Al, on Flickr

Approaching the summit
ImageDSC01350 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01352 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01354 by Al, on Flickr

Clag clearing
ImageDSC01356 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01357 by Al, on Flickr

View out to point of stoer
ImageDSC01361 by Al, on Flickr

There are meant to be fine views over to Arkle and Foinaven from here, but the cloud is sitting about 700m, cutting the top off Arkle, Foinaven is not to be seen at present. There are good views down Loch Stack, however. We continue down the south-east of the hill, following a trail through boggy grass all the way back to the road. As we descend the clag is clearing and finally Arkle is revealed in its glory. We head for a grassy track that we can see just south of the parking spot for the track to Lone and are back at the car just after 2pm.

Loch Stack
ImageDSC01363 by Al, on Flickr

View towards Sabhal Beag
ImageDSC01366 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01367 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01371 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01372 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01374 by Al, on Flickr

fheurloch.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

We drove back a few miles to the Kinloch Brae Plantation, much of which is currently being harvested. Parked in a big passing place, off the road itself and walked along to a new wooden bridge over the Altanan a Doire Dhuibh. We'd been up this path when climbing Ben Leoid and missed out Fheur Loch, but did take in the much more impressive Meallan a'Chuail that day. The path is having a makeover, presumably for stalking purposes and progress was swift as a result. Once at the 460m point we left the track and ascended the NW slope of Fheur Loch - fairly easy going. The hill is grassy and flat on top, but does give good views especially to the lochan under the cliffs of a'Chuail. The summit cairn has a fine fin of sandstone standing proud - good effort, whoever placed that one. Hating to return by the outward route, we descended down the SW shoulder, round to the west of Loch Cul a'Mhill and back over peat hags to the track. Arkle and Foinaven dominated the view to the NW and made me long for time and the right kind of weather to go back up there. Back at the car in just over 2 and a half hours then back to the campsite. Midges were taking advantage of the sunny but still conditions.

View back towards Loch Stack
ImageDSC01376 by Al, on Flickr

Grassy slopes of Fheur Loch
ImageDSC01379 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01382 by Al, on Flickr

Meallan a'Chuail and Leoid
ImageDSC01385 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01386 by Al, on Flickr

Summit Fheur Loch, Klibreck in background
ImageDSC01388 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01389 by Al, on Flickr

View north
ImageDSC01390 by Al, on Flickr

Arkle and Foinaven
ImageDSC01396 by Al, on Flickr

Fheur Loch
ImageDSC01397 by Al, on Flickr

Peat hags
ImageDSC01398 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01399 by Al, on Flickr

sabhal+sim.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Saturday and the longest of the routes we'd planned - this time to Sabhal Beag, an unfashionable rounded lump sitting to the north of Mhic Dhughaill and accessed by a traipse up the track from Lone. Weather looked promising as we set out from the car park by the bridge and trotted along the track, turning right after the abandoned farm buildings at Lone. Clegs were out to get us again. The track undulates punctuated from time to time by pleasant stone built bridges over the streams. Met an Aussie woman who seemed perturbed that anyone else should be on her footpaths... We continued on for around 10km from the car until we reached Bealach na Feithe, at around 450m. From here it was only a hop, skip and jump the kilometre or so up to the top of Sabhal Beag. We sat on the raised circular stone ring, on the most northernly Graham, looking across at the most northernly Munro (Hope) and Corbett (Beinn Spionnaidh) although it was the long back of Cranstackie that caught the eye.

A still Loch Stack
ImageDSC01400 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01401 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01402 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01405 by Al, on Flickr

along the track
ImageDSC01408 by Al, on Flickr

Sabhal Beag
ImageDSC01410 by Al, on Flickr

Mhic Dhughaill outliers
ImageDSC01413 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01414 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01416 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01417 by Al, on Flickr

I checked with Allison what she wanted to do - I was keep to include the circuit of 3 outliers on Mhic Dhughaill which were just across the other side of Bealach na Feithe and looked a pleasing walk from here. She decided to come along, hoping her knees would forgive her and, clutching the poles she'd borrowed from Sacha the campsite owner we set off back down Sabhal Beag to the bealach, then up the slopes of the first hill, Meall Garbh. We sauntered down on stony plates with a great view of Coire Loch to our left, then started up the unnamed middle peak. From here it would be easy to include the summit of Mhic Dhughaill - i reckon it would have taken about half an hour to ge there and back, but it wasn't on today's agenda and we continued to the third peak, the grassier Tatha nam Beann. Down the northern slopes, grassy, boggy, peat hags in places and we were back down on the track, having easily crossed the Abhainn an Loin. From there it was a pleasant walk - in warm summer rain- back along past the sights of Arkle and Ben Stack, with a couple of Connemara ponies frisking in the field by the farm, and back to the car.

Sabhal Beag from Meall Garbh
ImageDSC01424 by Al, on Flickr

Towards Mhic Dhughaill summit
ImageDSC01426 by Al, on Flickr

Coire Loch
ImageDSC01428 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01430 by Al, on Flickr

View west
ImageDSC01432 by Al, on Flickr

Ben Stack, Arkle
ImageDSC01436 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01439 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01441 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01444 by Al, on Flickr

salachaidh.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

For our final day it made sense to do something on the way home. Carn Salachaidh - "Hill of Filth" sits down by Carn Chunneag and had narrowly escaped being tagged onto our round of the Allandale Corbetts last year. The SMC book gave a route from Gruinards Lodge rather than the Glencalvie approach I would have considered so we opted for that. There's a large-ish passing place just past the lodge gates, beside a post box, that allows safe parking. We set off into the woods, following a rough ATV track. Soon this opened onto bare hillside, quite pleasant in the morning sun. The drone of insects hung in the warm air, the nip of clegs countered any pastoral reflections. The track becomes very boggy in places as it wends down to the Allt a'Ghlinne - dropping almost 100m in the process :roll: From there the plan was to head up Carn a'Bhealaich which sounded easier than it was. The book suggested ascending to the east of Allt Coire Shielich but we were met with bracken and thigh high heather - add this to a steep hill with clegs for company and you have ingredients for an unpleasant journey.

Start of the walk
ImageDSC01447 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01449 by Al, on Flickr

Carn a'Bhealaich
ImageDSC01450 by Al, on Flickr

Deep cut of the Allt na Ghlinne
ImageDSC01452 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01454 by Al, on Flickr

We finally made it to the top, legs scratched (wearing shorts does have disadvantages) and enjoyed an easier walk from there to the rocky top of Carn Salachaidh. The trig point is lower than a large bouldery area to its east, where we perched and had lunch. All around us rain was coming in, blotting out the sights of Suilven, Cul Mor etc over to the west. We decided to skin up for our short jaunt to the nearby Simm of Carn Bhrain - although the mist swirled around us the rain didn't come. Waterproofs did lend protection against heather stalks and clegs on the descent however. We journeyed further west along the back of Carn a'Bhealaich on our return route, finding it considerably easier to keep to the west of the stream and returning to the track at the Allt a'Ghlinne. Back at the car we prepared for the long journey back home, although the A9 was flowing smoothly and we only had torrential rain to contend with.

View NW
ImageDSC01456 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01458 by Al, on Flickr

Summit, view to Carn Chunneag
ImageDSC01460 by Al, on Flickr

100th Graham
ImageDSC01461 by Al, on Flickr

Incoming weather, Beinn Bhrain behind
ImageDSC01464 by Al, on Flickr

Summit, Bhrain
ImageDSC01465 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01466 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC01468 by Al, on Flickr
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Posts: 2121
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