A touch of summer: sun, inversion and views to kill for
by BlackPanther » Tue Jan 24, 2017 2:19 pm
Route description: Fionn Bheinn, Achnasheen
Munros included on this walk: Fionn Bheinn
Grahams included on this walk: Meall a'Chaorainn (Achnasheen)
Date walked: 21/01/2017
Time taken: 6 hours
Distance: 13 km
Ascent: 1022m5 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 was a bit "under the weather" (ha ha, how appropriate) during the week and spent time on the sofa watching Rocket Ronnie flying around the table, but come Saturday, I pulled myself together for a visit to my beloved hills
Forecast looked great in any direction. We had different ideas and options and spent some time browsing maps and WH, but eventually decided to revisit Fionn Bheinn, adding the satellite Graham, Meall a'Chaorainn, to the tally.
During our first visit to Fionn Bheinn (old TR here) we climbed the Munro only. We were discouraged by the extensive quagmire on the col between the two. This time, we prepared ourselves mentally for the squelchy experience, but surprisingly, it was nowhere near as bad as we expected! Most of the bog was frozen and we managed to find an easy way through the labyrinth of peat hags.
We tackled the Munro first, then traversed to Meall a'Chaorainn, finally descending on the new hydro track:
When we arrived in Achnasheen, the car park was full of people getting ready, I counted 4 different parties This route is not very popular in summer, but on short winter days it offers a superb 5-6 hours outing (or even less if you're super fit) so I wasn't surprised to see so many walkers.
We took our time preparing, no need to hurry, we knew we had more than enough daylight and wanted to enjoy the experience. When we set off at half past eight, the sun was up but the village was covered in thick, sticky fog. We only clasped our hands in anticipation, we knew well that fog in the glen meant CLOUD INVERSION higher up!!!
Out of the village and up the path on the eastern side of Allt Achadh na Sine burn. I remembered it was boggy and steep, now it's getting more and more eroded as countless feet trudge up this slope to bag Fionn Bheinn
If you don't fancy the bog, it is possible to use the new hydro track on the western side of the burn. We left that option for the descent, so more about it later.
After about 200m of ascent, we walked out of the mist and at last we could dig up our cameras and have a photo session! It was an amazing view, the sun still low over the horizon, the mountains emerging from the sea of cloud. We witnessed good inversion two weeks earlier on Wyvis, but this was much better...
A bit higher up, once the mist has cleared around us, the spectacle was even more breathtaking, especially the bulky shape of Strathconnon Corbetts (Sgurr a' Mhuilinn and Meallan nan Uan) across the glen:
The sea of cloud beneath our feet:
When we reached the flatter ground on the high col connecting Munro and Graham, we decided to go up Fionn Bheinn first, as all the other groups. One glimpse to the lower brother and we knew, with so little snow left on it, we would have no problem climbing even the steeper slopes
Actually, we carried crampons in our rucksacks, simply as a precaution (I have gone paranoid since my accident last year). In the mist down below, we simply couldn't see how little snow was left on higher ground. Now, I was cursing myself that I convinced Kevin to drag up the ironmongery
Where is all the snow gone?...
Thankfully, the views around were too interesting to leave us any time for complaining...
I know this TR will be longer than a boa snake... I had problems choosing the best photos... Too many nice ones I suppose. Like this one, showing the mist lingering in the glen below, the long ridge of outlying tops of Moruisg on the horizon (I must investigate this hill more in the future) and a patch of snow in the foreground - all that's left of winter 2017
As we gained height, the views were simply getting better and better. We caught up with one group in front of us, but honestly we didn't feel like racing to the summit. We took countless photo stops... A day like that doesn't happen very often!
Behind the ridge of Meall a'Chaorainn (which looked small and insignificant now) another misty glen with Torridon hills towering above. Fuar Tholl to the left, Sgurr Dubh to the right:
Meall a'Chaorainn surrounded by the sea of mist:
Almost there! Me reaching the summit ridge:
Kevin took some time indulging in another lengthy photo session, as new views opened up. The Fannichs, especially:
...while I was eager to reach the summit:
Really hard to believe how bare the hills are now... It felt more like April than January, despite the cold wind on the summit ridge...
Cold it might have been, but having dressed up, we decided to stay here if only for a few minutes. It was Lucy's 36th Munro
The other group didn't linger for too long, they quickly set off to descend the popular route along the eastern ridge of Fionn Bheinn. We had done this the previous time and it's a nice way of completing a traverse, rather than return the same way. But for us, another challenge was still ahead, and for a time being we lingered on the top of the Munro, admiring the excellent views.
So as I wrote in my previous TR on this hill, it is far from pointless. On a good day, views are second to none, stretching from Strathconnon peaks and Torridon, to Ben Wyvis in the east. A perfect mountain to play hill-spotting. So many characteristic peaks to recognize, here, a few of them.
1. An Teallach:
2. Beinn Eighe and Liathach:
3. Slioch and Beinn Lair:
4. The Fisherfields:
5. From Fuar Tholl to Sgurr Dubh again:
6. Sgur Mor and Sgurr nan Clach Geala:
A wider pano with the great shadow cast by Fionn Bhein:
Not just me, I think all visitors to this mountain were just as amazed as we were:
All right, before we leave the cold summit of The White Mountain (not so white today), a few panoramic snaps:
The slopes of Fionn Bheinn facing the bealach are very steep, so we descended due south for about 200m, just to ease off the angle, then followed a tiny stream down to the level ground. At some point we took a break to have tea and a snack, take off the extra layers (off the wind and it was warm again!) and study the steep slopes of the Graham:
I expected bog on the bealach, but it was all right, a small stream to cross and then, up the steep side of Meall a'Chaorainn. We walked back into shadows, but the climb was relentless, and the exercise kept us warm:
Sgurr a' Mhuilinn and Meallan nan Uan:
The re-ascent is only 230m, about 150m of that very steep, but once we emerged on the flat summit area and headed for the small cairn marking the top, we knew we were in hill-heaven! There was virtually no wind, the sun was shining, really April-like weather! It was time now, to drop the rucksacks, sit down, stretch legs, drink more tea, enjoy the sun and the views... half an hour of lazying about!
One could gaze at these views forever...
It was our first NEW summit this year, previous ones all repeated. Graham no. 58 for us, no. 24 for Lucy:
Meall a'Chaorainn is even a better viewpoint for Torridons:
The last lingering patch of mist:
Armageddon is how I call it The Fisherfield panorama:
View south - Strathfarrar Munros:
The neighbouring Grahams, Beinn na Feusaige and Carn Breac, might look small and insignificant, but they make a good circular route Especially views to Coulin Pass from Carn Breac are worth the effort:
I'm definitely coming back here!
Kevin on the summit:
The return route was defined by the hydro track we intended to follow. But to find the upper end of it, we still had to cross a big area of peat hags. We began by descending the southern flanks of the Graham, taking the last glimpse towards the grand panorama of Torridon:
Quagmire, here we come!
The best way to avoid the worst bog and hags is to walk over the southern shoulder, Aonach Dubh. You still must be ready for some tuft jumping, but as most of the hags were frozen (despite the summer-like weather, the ground was frosty all day), we managed to walk in more or less straight line.
Some of the lovely peat hags:
To reach the upper end of the track, we aimed for a small hydro station at 151599 (it can easily be seen from Aonach Dubh) and after more peat hag pole vaulting, we landed on the track safely. It was a bit eroded and partially filled with snow, but it still made for a quick descent.
It was hard to believe, that after all those sunny hours, the village of Achnasheen was still covered in fog:
Back in the car in just short of 6 hours, but to our excuse, we spent a lot of time playing with cameras and faffing about on the lower summit. No need to attempt a world record, on a day like that the hills are just the perfect place to be. Not usual conditions for winter, but shhhh No complaints from my side!
The described route can easily be reversed, going up Meall a'Chaorainn first, then over Fionn Bheinn to descend along its east ridge. A great variation which we might as well do in the future. So far, Fionn Bheinn has proved to be anything but a pointless hill
by dogplodder » Tue Jan 24, 2017 9:22 pm
by Cairngorm creeper » Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:16 pm
by BlackPanther » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:47 pm
dogplodder wrote:More stunning inversion shots - making me drool just a bit.....
It's been inversion year so far... Twice in one month Next Sunday looks promising so maybe again... if we're lucky. Thinking about bagging a new Graham - Carn Salachaidh maybe or Creag Dubh Mhor, depending on weather.
Cairngorm creeper wrote:Lovely inversion, we were not so far away on Meall a Chrasgaidh and Coire A Mhadaidh and we were in bright sunshine all day, but could see other summits were above the mist.
I think it was bright and sunny everywhere on high ground... The Fannichs looked very "bare" though, just as everything else. I'd love to repeat some of them, and bag the nearby Graham Beinn na Ramh, but that's one for long summer days.
by Alteknacker » Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:12 pm
by Jaxter » Fri Jan 27, 2017 11:30 pm