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My Fisherfield humiliation

My Fisherfield humiliation


Postby BlackPanther » Wed May 17, 2017 12:09 pm

Munros included on this walk: Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Sgurr Ban

Date walked: 06/05/2017

Time taken: 11.5 hours

Distance: 30.2 km

Ascent: 1171m

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This report was going to be called "Paths less traveled - up the slabs" or something like that but I decided to name it after a certain incident that occurred during the walk...
I know I don't have the language skills of a poet, to write a sublime story about the beauty of the landscape and how it touched the inner depths of my soul. Therefore, a simple description of the events, as they unfolded... Plus a selection of photos of this wonderful area.

A week earlier, we sniffed around the eastern Fisherfields, climbing Groban and Beinn Bheag. By the time we got back, we have already decided to climb Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair and Sgurr Ban from this side. The idea was to use the Loch a'Bhraoin track to the bothy then continue along the path to Loch an Nid and climb the slabs on the eastern side of Mullach, then traverse to Sgurr Ban and descend its eastern ridge back to the slabs. I've seen a few reports describing different variations of this approach, some adding either Beinn Tharsuinn or "Clammy", some with an overnighter in the bothy, so we knew this route was possible. And we were blessed with a fantastic, sunny Saturday, so what else could we possibly do? Let the Fisherfield campaign begin! :lol:

Track_SGURR BAN 06-05-17.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Knowing it would be a long day, we started very early, we were first in the car park for Western Fannichs:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 003.JPG

Loch a'Bhraoin is magical. We have been here many times and on a good day, when the Fannichs are reflected in the loch, there's no better place to walk...
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 013.JPG

We kept stopping as we walked along the loch, so Kevin could take more and more photos... Pure magic!
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 024.JPG

Groban and Beinn Bheag reflected in Loch a'Bhraoin:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 036.JPG

5 min break by the jetty at the opposite end of the loch. It was time for Beinn Dearg to show its reflection in the water now:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 051.JPG

The week before, the path past the bothy was quite boggy in places, but after 6 days of warm, sunny weather it had all changed. Everything was dry as a bone, virtually no water in the river:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 055.JPG

We followed the path/track, contouring below the slopes of Creag Rainich, to the ruin of Feinasheen:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 062.JPG

The path continues past the ruin and soon we had a good perspective to what we were about to tackle:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 073.JPG

Loch an Nid and An Teallach. This loch would be a perfect place for a wild camp if you're planning a multi day walk through:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 082.JPG

Looking across the glen from the walk-through path to the eastern side of Mullach/Sgurr Ban:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 090.JPG

The little outlying top, Meallan an Laoigh, can be climbed en route, but we didn't bother. I was too eager to get to the infamous Mullach slabs!
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 099.JPG

Having crossed the river (another one with next to no water running), we picked our way over some post glacial lumps and bumps, towards the rocky slopes in front of us. In wet conditions, the lower parts of this approach would be a quagmire, but the weather sucked all bog dry...
We stopped to refill our bottles from a small stream, Kevin spotted a few deer watching us from the distance:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 111.JPG

A single dead tree, with the steep crags of Creag Rainich behind:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 124.JPG

We reached the edge of the slabs and here, we found out that we still had two streams to cross, both running in a peculiar way, along the cracks in the slabs. The slabfield itself made a huge impression on me - like an airport runway at an angle!
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 132.JPG

Stunned!
This feature is unique in the whole of Scotland, as far as I know. Polished by the glacier, this giant field of flat quartzite offers easy walking in dry conditions (don't know how slippery it would be in wet weather though):
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 136.JPG

One of the peculiar wee streams:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 139.JPG

View down along the edge of the field, with Creag Rainich ion the background:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 145.JPG

I was busy exploring...
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 146.JPG

The edge of the slab field offers some easy scrambling but it can all be avoided if necessary (I didn't want to avoid any fun!!!).
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 149.JPG

So, now... One could cycle down this field (and I think it has been done, I remember a Youtube video of some crazy mountain biker going down the slabs), but we opted for a more ordinary approach, just walking :lol: The field really looks like a concrete landing site!
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 158.JPG

View down the field, with Western Fannichs framing the picture:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 165.JPG

We were marching up pretty quickly, it felt like walking on a tarmac road! higher up, a few small streams run down the slabs, but they can be easily avoided:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 168.JPG

We reached the top of the Mullach slabby field and noticed it was already 12:30, so time for a cuppa & sandwich, before embarking on the final, steep push to the summit of the first Munro. We located a large, flat rock to sit on, stretched our legs and enjoyed the silence and the solitude of this place.
Coire Gorm is a magical spot indeed. Most walkers just look down to it when passing along the ridge above, but we were glad to have come here to see this amazing place closer up. The ridge of Sgurr Dubh to the left looked very inviting for scramblers:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 174.JPG

To the right, the white, round summit of Sgurr Ban, topped with the last remnants of winter:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 177.JPG

So far, so good, we enjoyed the climb. Coire Gorm is mostly grassy, with scattered boulders (E top of Mullach behind me):
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 182.JPG

...but soon we discovered another slabfield, this one quite narrow, it looked more like a road:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 185.JPG

Creag Rainich and Meallan an Laoigh:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 191.JPG

Higher up, the ground becomes more and more rocky. We aimed for the ridge seen above me:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 196.JPG

A perfect straight-down line of descent :lol: with the Fannichs on the horizon:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 200.JPG

Not really scrambling, just some staircase climbing...
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 204.JPG

...which was followed by some 50m of ascent on horrible, moving scree and wobbly rocks, requiring good dancing-balancing skills. Thankfully, this didn't last long and soon we walked onto more stable, grassy ground just below the lower top of Mullach. I stopped to catch my breath, looked behind me and... lost my breath again! Sgurr Ban just took it away!
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 209.JPG

Zoom to An Teallach ridge:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 212.JPG

Sgurr Dubh ridge from above:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 214.JPG

As we stood on the lower top (981m), we could now see tiny figures on the main ridge. Hoards of them! People, people everywhere!
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 231.JPG

Views were amazing already, I couldn't wait to see more from the summit of Mullach!
Slioch, Beinn a'Mhuinidh (another wee local Graham - we liked the view of it, so we climbed it the week after) and the Torridonian horizon :D
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 228.JPG

The summit of Mullach was crowded (what a surprise) and people looked surprised to see us emerge from the WRONG side of the hill :lol: , we had to explain which way we came. Of course, all others present were doing the full circuit of 5+1 and they must have felt so proud they were bagging more than us! But to be honest, I'd rather take my hills in small chunks but do more exploring, and the slabs were so much fun!
On the summit of my 204th Munro with wee Lucy (43th M for her):
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 248.JPG

Now, to the views. I think the best way to show them is in panoramas. We spent a lot of time snapping photos - all the walkers sitting on the top packed up and went, some new ones arrived, but we didn't worry about time passing. Weather was perfect, views like in heaven... Why rush it if you can embrace it?
Beinn Tharsuinn, our next target, Slioch and Torridon behind:
ImageDSCF8507 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
"Armageddon" (A'Mhaighdean), and I'm hoping for a wild camp trip to bag this one (and neighbour):
ImageDSCF8508 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Sgurr Ban and Beinn Dearg Mor (in the middle), a fascinating Corbett still on my to-do list, An Teallach behind:
ImageDSCF8509 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The eastern panorama: the Fannichs, Beinn Dearg (the Ullapool one) and the Sgurr Dhearg ridge:
ImageDSCF8511 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Kevin was hungry... for more hills, too!
ImageDSCF8513 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
An Teallach zoomed:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 265.JPG

Eventually, after a looong break on the summit of Mullach, we packed up and began the descent to Cab Coire nan Clach. And here comes the humiliating part of my journey...
As this photo illustrates, the descent is very rocky and it's easy to loose footing on the wobbly stones:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 271.JPG

...and that's exactly what happened to me. I simply slipped, lost my balance and bang! Just sat on my behind. Didn't even feel sore, didn't get a bruise. I laughed. Stood up. As I was lifting my bum from the rock, I heard a loud crrrracccckkkk! My trousers split :shock: :shock: :shock:
I was lucky, it was just the trousers, but incidentally, I was wearing a pair of bright red underpants :lol: so with a gaping hole across my bum, they were visible from a big distance. Kevin, of course, couldn't stop laughing, which angered me a bit, but soon I appreciated the whole comical side of this situation. I wasn't in any danger of freezing my bum off or getting wet, as weather was excellent that day. The only problem was avoiding the further humiliation and covering my behind, at least as long as we were on the crowded ridge. I could see a large group of people climbing up towards us, we couldn't avoid them as there is only one way off this side of Mullach, so in a split second, I decided to put on my waterproof overtrousers. To be honest, I don't know what looked weirder: a red pair of pants showing through the hole or wearing waterproofs on a bright, dry, sunny day :lol: I received a few odd looks from the group passing by, but I didn't really care. Kevin had the best laugh for ages.
The trouser-tearing boulderfield. Beware!
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 274.JPG

Making my way down the steep, tumbly path, sweating in double layers!
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 280 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
I must say, putting aside my wardrobe malfunction, the descent from Mullach was a horrible experience :? :?
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 286 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The way up Sgurr Ban was much easier, a bit rocky but no real scrambling anywhere, and much less steep:
2017-05-06 sgurr ban 274.JPG

Zoom to Beinn Tharsuinn:
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 296 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The summit of Sgurr Ban was a bit disappointing, as it's wide and flat, the views are nowhere near a s good as from Mullach. I was sweating so badly, I couldn't stand the waterproofs, so I ditched them and decided, I'd rather show my bum to the world than suffer the heat any longer!
Thankfully, there was nobody in sight. We rested for 5 minutes, had a quick snack and a few photos...
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 306 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
An Teallach:
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 309 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Kevin's Munro no. 213:
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 313 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
As soon as we left the summit, I knew we were now on paths less traveled so I didn't have to worry about my body parts being exposed :lol: and immediately, I was back in better mood, meowing all the way down!
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 317 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Descending the eastern slopes of Sgurr Ban is an adventure in itself, very wobbly and bouldery to begin with:
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 322 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
...but soon some grassy patches appear and they can be followed:
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 331 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Lower down, we encountered some flat slabs again:
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 335 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
It would be easy to follow this line of slabs all the way down to Loch an Nid, but we intended to return the way we came up, so we had to cross Allt Meallan an Laoigh - the higher, the better, I thought.
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 351 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We spent more time playing on the Mullach slabfield:
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 353 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Kevin considered jumping into this wee pool, but water was too cold :?
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 359 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The peculiar stream:
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 362 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Allt Meallan an Laoigh running down the slabs:
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 363 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The return route took time, it's over 10km from Loch an Nid back to the car park, but we simply enjoyed the views as we walked back. We had more than enough daylight left :D
Long, long way to go...
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 376 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The old jetty became our favourite spot for resting...ehm... taking a nap? :lol: :lol:
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 395 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
While I was napping, Kevin spotted a heron :D
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 390 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The Fannichs and Loch a'Bhraoin in the evening sun:
Image2017-05-06 sgurr ban 404 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr

11.5 hours it took... We used the day to the full. One of those trips we will never forget and not only for the reason of wardrobe malfunction :lol: :lol: I know that most folks prefer the classic 5+1 from Shenaval, but I'm glad we took a different approach to the Fisherfields. The slabby world is definitely worth exploring - and highly recommended!
Last edited by BlackPanther on Fri Oct 18, 2019 12:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby Yorjick » Wed May 17, 2017 1:53 pm

BP

I had looked at these slabs from Creag Rainich and thought they could be an interesting way up - almost like a pavement compared to the usual bog and vegetation. Therefore great to read this report.

An inspirational walk report with your usual enthusiasm and sense of fun shining through!

Great photos too!
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby nigheandonn » Wed May 17, 2017 2:32 pm

I tore the seat of my trousers right across falling on the scree going down to Foxes Tarn on Scafell, and then had to walk across the crowded top of Scafell Pike, and out from Eskdale to Elterwater past all the tourists the next day. At least I had black pants on! :)

Gorgeous hills though, and the slabs are just weird!
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby Yorjick » Wed May 17, 2017 3:22 pm

One could cycle down this field (and I think it has been done, I remember a Youtube video of some crazy mountain biker going down the slabs




What strikes me is how long it takes him to get down, which in itself illustrates the extent of these slabs!
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby rockhopper » Wed May 17, 2017 5:59 pm

Enjoyed that - great photos and a good route too. Maybe stick to a more sedate colour in future though :wink: - cheers :)
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby BlackPanther » Wed May 17, 2017 6:00 pm

Ahh, thanks for that video, it was exactly the one I had in mind.
He cycles down the northern side of Meallan an Laoigh, where the slabs extend much lower down, almost all the way to the loch - that's the big field in the snap below, the ones we climbed can just about be seen to the left of the photo:
Image
We took that on the summit of Creag Rainich in 2012, that was the first time we began to think about this approach to the Fisherfields. Took us a few years to eventually do it, but so worth the wait. Fantastic experience!

From now on I will remember NOT to wear red knickers when I'm out hillwalking :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby Mal Grey » Wed May 17, 2017 6:32 pm

I've been looking forward to this report for a while, and you've not disappointed me! Superb photos, especially the panoramas. I definitely want to go back and walk these slabs having seen them in March. :D

Don't worry about your wardrobe malfunction, I'm sure a good number of us have shown our underwear in the pursuit of summits at some point! :lol:

The video is an excellent find. :clap:
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby BlackPanther » Thu May 18, 2017 10:22 am

Mal Grey wrote:I've been looking forward to this report for a while, and you've not disappointed me! Superb photos, especially the panoramas. I definitely want to go back and walk these slabs having seen them in March. :D

Don't worry about your wardrobe malfunction, I'm sure a good number of us have shown our underwear in the pursuit of summits at some point! :lol:

The video is an excellent find. :clap:


I'm glad I didn't disappoint you, Mal :D

It wasn't the first time I split my trousers... Happened once in winter conditions, but on that occasion I had black leggins underneath, and we were on some God forsaken Corbett in the middle of nowhere, not on a busy ridge :lol:

Someone I know had a split... boot when doing Beinn Eighe ridge. The sole of his boot separated from the rest :lol: He had to attach it back using shoe laces. But that was 20 years ago, when boots were not as well made as today.
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby LeithySuburbs » Thu May 18, 2017 2:52 pm

The slabs are great but probably wouldn't be in the wet. We went up the longer slabs slightly to the north halfway along Loch an Nid and down your route.

I remember it being a long day as well :) .
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby dogplodder » Thu May 18, 2017 7:37 pm

I really fancy this approach - if I can persuade anyone to come with me! Had a similar trouser incident coming down the stone chute on Beinn Eighe and remember at the time the awesome surroundings meant I wasn't much bothered. :shifty:
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby J888ohn » Thu May 18, 2017 8:46 pm

Great report, pictures are amazing and those huge slabs of rock are something else! I would be one of the ones totally missing out on that and just doing the round but now I think I'll need to factor that in when I eventually get up to Fisherfield. Everyone has had a trouser malfunction at some stage. I did mine falling on some scree :lol:

Thanks for posting the video Yorjick, I'm not at all thinking about the ultimate bike 'n' hike with that downhill. Helimed on standby!!!!!
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby Alteknacker » Thu May 18, 2017 11:21 pm

I don't see the humiliation. A great report, one of the best panorama sequences I've seen for a long time, a wonderful day in a wonderful place.

The slabs look absolutely amazing - I may need to revise my planned route for the Fisherfields...

:clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Fri May 19, 2017 9:15 am

That looked fabulous, especially the slabs. Like you we enjoy the interesting ups and downs and Coires that get missed if you just bag lots of tops. Stay with the bright underwear, if you must show it of let the world know you have style :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby malky_c » Sat May 20, 2017 10:53 pm

Brilliant :D . Been meaning to go up this way for ages, but the weather is never right when the opportunity arises (as Dougie says, they would be pretty greasy if it was at all damp). Some great photos, and I agree - I think there are so many parts of these hills that you miss out in if you go for the round of 6 summits from Shenavall. I may still do that one day, but exploring the other parts of the area is more interesting.
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Re: My Fisherfield humiliation

Postby past my sell by date » Sun May 21, 2017 1:06 pm

Great report and pics - but shame you didn't push on to Beinn a Chlaidheimh. It's much the nicest of the Eastern Fisherfield - and no nasty boulders to slip on :lol: Shame it's been downgraded. I seem to remember you also split your trousers on Beinn Mholach's mega cairn. I'll say no more :lol:
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