Ice Ice, baby... a Valentine Saturday of dreams!
by BlackPanther » Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:29 pm
Route description: Sgurr Breac and A'Chailleach, near Braemore
Munros included on this walk: A' Chailleach, Sgurr Breac
Date walked: 11/02/2017
Time taken: 8 hours
Distance: 21.1 km
Ascent: 1174m6 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).
We usually celebrated Valentines day with a trip to Isle of Skye, but last year's visit ended badly, with a big hole in my knee, so this year we broke the old tradition and picked the Fannichs. We have already climbed all Munros here, but with excellent forecast for Saturday, we fancied a re-visit to the westernmost part of the ridge. This included traversing Sgurr Breac and A'Chailleach, two very nice M's, connected by a high ridge with great views. Our previous visit was in the middle of summer and though conditions were very good, I felt these hills deserved a winter walk, so they were put on the "repeat in snow" list. And now, the time has arrived.
With little snow on the hills in January, we missed proper winter adventures, so when we arrived at the starting point, we felt somehow disappointed that An Teallach looked almost bare...
AT from the initial path, with cars in the foreground:
The lower reaches of "our" duo, some nice snow higher up, so nothing lost just yet! Our car thermometer showed -5*C and we expected snow and ice later on.
WH route goes up the steep slopes of Leitir Fhearna, but we decided to use that for descent, and take the easier way up, following the good path up the glen of Allt Breabaig and tackling the eastern spur of Sgurr Breac. We have done this route before and I didn't remember any tricky ground on the way up, so it should be suitable for winter.
Rather than sticking to the stalkers path, we detoured slightly along a VT track, to cross the river on an old bridge rather than fording it later:
The VT track joins the original path after about 1km. This detour would be necessary if river was in spate, but I'd not recommend it in wet weather, as the VT track is very boggy. Luckily, with temperatures well below zero, all bog was frozen solid and we picked a good pace from the very beginning.
The path up the col:
The walk to the col was uneventful, apart from my camcorder going on strike (it doesn't like the new memory card) and the sun coming up. At last we walked out of the deep shadows of the glen. I admired the vertical cliffs of Sgurr Breac east face - at last some frosty views!
Icicles on the river:
The highest point of the col is marked by a large boulder. Here we rested for a few minutes...
...and studied the next stage of our climb. So far, it looked easy enough:
As we tackled the slopes, we were surprised how little snow we encountered, especially higher up the ridge. It felt like April once again!
As we gained height, we were being fed with better and better views, first to come in sight was Fionn Bheinn and Loch Fannich:
With next to no snow cover, we simply followed the well worn path. After ascending about 100m, we came across one slightly awkward section, where the path goes up some steep rocks. It can be classified as a very easy scramble or "something scramble-ish" I didn't even remember this obstacle form our previous visit, obviously in summer time I walked up it without even noticing there was a problem It could be tricky in deep snow or if the rocks were icy, but in given conditions, we hopped up like mountain goats with big smiles on our faces
The biggest smile of them all... Sgurr nan Clach Geala in the background:
From now on, the climb took us up the easy ridge, and we really started to enjoy it: blue sky, fantastic views and some hope, that on the main ridge we will encounter more winter conditions!
The final climb:
In my element again! Sgurr nan Each behind me. The three middle Fannichs are a good idea for another winter traverse (if we get some good weather again this year...).
The Majestic Sgurr nan Clach Geala:
An Teallach cannot be seen from the lower parts of ascent, but now it entered the stage again and though devoid of most snow, it still stole the show:
The last 100m or so gave us some proper snow walking and views down to ice covered cliffs. I couldn't wait to see the summit views!
The way up:
One of my favourite snaps of the day. While Kevin tried to fix my camcorder, I walked along the edge with the large camera, snapping like crazy. I knew, I was making it hard for myself - picking the best photos for the report amongst hundreds of them! But this one looks like taken from the plane:
The Coulin Torridons, Fuar Tholl to the left:
The final push By now, I've burnt my breakfast and was starving for a sandwich, but it was logical to wait for the summit
...which we reached soon enough. There was another walker already there, he came up the Druim Reidh ridge. We kindly asked him to take a snap of us by the cairn... A repeat for both culprits but what a day to do it!
Wee Lucy on her 38th Munro - wow, she is catching us up quickly
I simply couldn't believe, even with not a very wintry winter, how wonderful it was up there. The summit of Sgurr Breac is a great vantage point to the other Fannichs in particular. A few panoramas just to show what we experienced - and we just stood there gawping, despite the cold...
Western panorama - An Teallach, Fisherfields (partially obstructed, better views of these to come later) and the rest of the ridge to come, A'Chailleach and Toman Coinnich to the left:
Zoom to southern Torridons:
Slioch - simply stunning, what a mountain! Makes me want to climb it again!
The eastern Fannichs panorama, Sgurr nan Clach Geala, "The Majestic", in the middle:
We had hot tea and sandwiches while watching groups of other walkers moving up the Druim Reidh ridge, wish we could sit there for longer, but we still had a second Munro to visit and the wind picked up, too. To keep ourselves warm, we moved on to descend from Sgurr Breac, which was steep-ish but easy. Then, a quick ascent up the frozen slopes of the middle top, Toman Coinnich:
Looking back to Sgurr Breac from near the summit of Toman Coinnich. The NE face looks amazing, and so scary
Studying the ascent to come... A'Chailleach seemed so far away...
The Torridons on display: Beinn Eighe (left) and Beinn Alligin (right):
The descent from Toman Coinnich didn't take us long and soon we were puffing our way up the other side of the col
Looking back to Toman Coinnich:
From the middle top, the ascent to A'Chailleach seems such a huge push, but as we walked up, it didn't take long and we were on the second summit much faster than anticipated. On the way, we stopped a few times to take pictures down to the half frozen Loch Toll an Lochain:
In this snap, the rocks form a shape of a face. "The Sleeping Giant" I called it:
Enjoying the ridge walk in fantastic scenery!
The summit cairn is surprisingly small... Lucy bagged her 39th Munro!
We dumped our rucksacks by the cairn and spent the next 10 minutes wandering about, just sinking in the views... There was enough there to sink "Titanic" in my opinion
Panther bewildered... Fisherfields still to tackle, hopefully this year!
Panther stricken by mountain madness! The time has come for a dose of crazy meowing! Thankfully there was nobody else on the summit with us to see it...
A'Chaiileach is even a better viewpoint than its twin Munro, possibly because the more distant views are not obstructed. One can see all the way to Torridon...
...and east to Loch Fannich:
The rest of the Fannichs:
Beinn Dearg group:
Beinn Eighe - zoom:
Beinn Tarsuinn, Sgurr Ban and Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, one big massive bulk of mountains to climb! We actually fancy approaching SB/MCMF from Loch a'Bhraoin, as doing something different from the usual "Shenaval circuit". Time will tell how we eventually reach them. The two wee Grahams just next to the monsters (Groban and Beinn Bheag) are also on our shortlist.
An Teallach, the mighty Forge:
A couple of panoramic snaps before we left:
It is possible to descend via Sron na Goibhre, but we decided return to Toman Coinnich and take Druim Reidh ridge as originally planned. It was a longer walk and more additional ascent, but we were happy to stay up there for a bit longer and enjoy the rest of such a superb day!
On the way down we began to meet other people going up the Munro, quite a few pairs/groups, I lost count at some point We climbed back to the middle top and sat by the summit cairn, stretched our legs and enjoyed more hot tea while watching small cloud forming up above An Teallach:
We noticed walkers descending the long ridge of Sron na Goibhre and suspected, we would meet with them at some point at the bottom of the hill One of the blokes who climbed up Druim Reidh path told us, it was very icy on the steepest part and on descent, crampons might be required. So having had a look at the map, we decided to descend the western side of Leitir Fhearna. This side seemed less steep so it would save us the hassle of digging up the ironmongery, which was buried on the bottoms of our rucksacks
The initial descent down Druim Reidh was a pleasant walk:
A-Chailleach and Loch Toll an Lochain:
We left the path at the height of about 600m and headed NW down the easy, grassy slopes. We used snow patches to run down quickly, lower down the grass was iced up in places, but we were making fast progress until... we came across a deer fence, right across the slope. This fence is not marked on any maps. It is 2m high and quite wobbly, so trying to climb over it could end up badly for both us and the fence itself We walked a short distance right along it, looking for a suitable place to cross but gave up after 150m or so and turned back to follow the obstacle in western direction. Soon enough, the fence turned sharply down towards the loch so we simply kept following it until we came to a stile at 144740. From here, we cut across the boggy moorland to the bridge. There was another walking party 5 minutes in front of us, so we were not the only ones returning this way.
The final walk back:
In summer time, especially on a wet day, I'd suggest sticking to the original Druim Reidh path though. The final return along the loch would be a boggy nightmare! We made quick progress only because all bog was still frozen solid
A Fan(nich)tastic adventure, I must say. We had so little good winter walking weather so far, that any sunny, frosty day is a blessing! I hope you enjoyed this trip with us, couldn't resist showing off with all the photos...
This duo - highly recommended for a winter climb!
by oslaallen » Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:05 pm
by malky_c » Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:46 pm
by katyhills » Wed Feb 15, 2017 8:52 pm
Not surprised you struggled to pick the photos for the report! Love the icicle clad falls in the burn. What a great day you had.
These hills are a bit of a distance for me, so I'm very jealous! Perhaps I'll get a chance to stay overnight at some point to do a few of the hills that are further afield. Really, really beautiful - thanks for sharing those
I love the shapes in the rocks too. I often think they're like chimps. I got a good one on New Year's day on Beinn Luibhean
I was in Glencoe on Saturday too oslaallen- just up on Chrulaiste again - and it was pretty brisk.
Couldn't have gloves off for more than a few seconds really. Views were great though, and the goats were on the lower slopes of the hill, road side.
by Cairngorm creeper » Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:12 pm
by dav2930 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:14 pm
I enjoyed these two very much last May. Like you I was lucky enough to get a fine, sunny day with excellent visibility, so the views were breathtaking. I took virtually the same route as yourself, but instead of going back up Toman Connich I crossed its NW side to reach Druim Reidh. I was delighted to find the E ridge of Sgurr Breac so pleasantly easy, not knowing quite what to expect.
by BlackPanther » Fri Feb 17, 2017 10:53 am
This duo id definitely worth saving for a sunny day, probably the best viewpoints of the Fannichs ridge, especially A'Chailleach. I'm so glad we returned for a winter traverse, well worth it. There are a few different options for the route, including Sron na Goibhre, superb ridgewalking and no technical problems anywhere.
We considered going down south (accidentally, BEB is on our shortlist for winter repeat as well), but just as well we didn't!
Considering rock-chimps, I had seen them, too. Here is one from Torridon:
by campervan » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:39 pm
So different from last year.