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Fisherfield Six - Four, Wildcamp Then Two

Fisherfield Six - Four, Wildcamp Then Two

Postby gullane » Wed May 24, 2017 8:41 pm

Route description: Fisherfield 6, from Shenavall

Munros included on this walk: A' Mhaighdean, Beinn Tarsuinn, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Ruadh Stac Mòr, Sgùrr Bàn

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn a' Chlaidheimh

Date walked: 21/05/2017

Time taken: 31 hours

Distance: 36 km

Ascent: 2865m

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The Fisherfield Six is an expedition my pal and I have talked about for years. It was only this year that we finally found the time and the fitness to finally do it. I am aware individuals of various ages and fitness read these reports so let me declare at the outset that I am 57 and my pal is 60. We are both reasonably fit for our age. I spent the winter in the gym and shed 2 stone so I could enjoy my climbing more, without having to heave a middle age spread up the hills. I will not hide the fact that on both days, we took our stamina levels to the absolute limits, but were thrilled by the experience. I hope younger and fitter climbers can take comfort from my report and take the view that if these two old codgers could do it ..............

My two dread's in planning the Fisherfield were one, will I have sufficient stamina to actually do it and enjoy it, and two, will the weather hold and enable me to experience the magnificent views form the summits. I have long stared at page 205 of The Munro Book, at the climber gazing across Letterewe from the summit of A'Mhaighdean. If I'm only going to do this trip once, I want the scenery - not two days in drizzly cloud. I also didn't fancy trying to rush back to Shenavall through fear of landing back in cheap, but no floorspace to crash out. I have to report in hindsight, we feel we definitely made the right decision. Our total climbing time was probably 12.5 hours to take in all six peaks. We were never under any time pressure and when we were knackered at the end of each day, we were able to take our time, knowing we had a place to sleep.

I was inspired by someone's Youtube video, where they walked in, climbed the first four, then wild camped beneath Tarsuinn. Although the prospect of carrying a slightly heavier sack didn't bode well, I liked the idea of climbing A'Mhaighdean fresh in the morning and having time and energy to enjoy the landscape. I went out and bought a simple, one man tent, weighing in at 1.5kg. That, my mattress and sleeping bag, didn't add that much weight. I realised this was doable. My mate thought the same thing.

We left Edinburgh early Saturday and made great time. However the rain set in so we decided to postpone for a day and climbed three Fannaichs instead. Seven hours walking may in hindsight have eaten into some of our energy levels. The rain certainly soaked in to our kit.

I awoke in my tent the next morning to bright sky and clear hill tops. The weather girl more or less said it could be nice or it could be wet so good luck if you're outdoors. After humming and hawing, and considering other climbing options, we collectively hit a "sod it" moment and went for Corrie Hallie. Our luck would prove to be in because for the entire two days, we had complete sight of the six peaks and beyond.
Within two hours of setting off we reached the Strath Na Sealga river. April may have been the driest in 75 years but there was still no way we could cross in our boots. I was grateful to someone else's blog post who suggested flip-flops. Crossing the river involves about 20 feet of paddling, mid sheen deep, over very slimy stone. (Remember - you have another crossing coming back.)

And so to the six hills....... I am aware that some scientists have recalculated the height of Chlaidheimh to under 3000 feet. Well let me tell you, Chlaidheimh may have lost its Munro status, but having climbed 177 Munros I measured it as a bloody, big, steep hill. Two and a half hours slog up steep heather and grass to the summit. I thought if this is just the first of six, what chance have we got?

It is here you realise The Fisherfield Six is not like any other Munro bagging trip. It is a proper expedition. The gap to Sgurr Ban was vast and deep. There was me thinking "get most of the ascent done on the first one, then it will be up and down a bit for the rest of the day". Wrong! I have to describe Sgurr Ban as - another bloody, big, steep hill. Another two hours and fatigue was beginning to set in. At least we had the view. Ben Tarsuinn in particular looked really fun, with its tennis court (helicopter pad) thingy just beneath its summit.

From the top of Sgurr Ban, you clearly see the near vertical straight path up Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair. It is here I found the circuit really got interesting. You realise that each of the six have their own characters. Although the path looked daunting, and MCMF is the highest of the six, we actually made it up in no time. Unfortunately, there is a fair drop and re-ascent to Tarsuinn. Fortunately, the big blob of rock midway can be by-passed on the right.
It is hear I invite individuals who have either done or contemplated the circuit in a oner from Shenavall to compare their thought with my experience. From Shenavall, Tarsuinn is merely the fourth climb of the day, with two cracking hills ahead. In contrast, I felt shattered, but knew that rest lay at the beallach beyond the summit. Once again, we were able to enjoy a fantastic vista from the top, especially over to neighbouring Slioch. It is yet another big and wide drop down, through boggy ground. However someone's blog had informed us there was good wild camping pitches beyond. Sure enough, just beneath A'Mhaighdean, we found flat, sheltered pitches and running water. (This was the first point on the circuit I found any decent water supply.) Brewed up some pasta and crashed out before 10pm. We were blessed with a wind and rain free night.
We awoke and set off about 7.30. This is where I really felt the benefit of camping over Shenavall. We skipped up to the top in 45 minutes. And there was the view over Letterewe I had longed for. The complete Torridon range, the sea shore and the norther peaks were all visible too. We were able to enjoy it all for about 15 minutes, then on to the final hill - Ruadh Star Mor. Once again, another character! At its base, you have an option to leave your rucksack, climb and descend the same route, then follow the path round the base to return back. We decided to go right over Ruadh Star Mor, mainly because it is the steepest climb of the six, and requires some minor scrambling. With it completed by 10am, we worked our way down slowly over a large boulder field and eventually found the path that took us back to Strath Na Sealga. Two things to report - one, we were tired and decided to take the rest of the day to tramp through the Highland scenery without any care about time. Two, my map reading guide chose to stick rigidly to the path and extended our route out by about a mile and a half. We crossed the river close to Loch na Sealga. There is no need for this and you can walk straight towards Shenavall and cross there.

We stayed and relaxed at Shenavall for a half an hour. It was hear I discovered my sack was still heavier than need be, and I donated four bags of jelly beans and some pasta to the catering supplies there. There is an optional route back out from Shenavall. On the map, it appears to cut out a big corner, but be warned. Compared to the main path, it is rough and involves further climbing. I'm not sure what time if any we saved.

I hope my experience inspires and enlightens you. I have now climbed most of the Munro superstars now. I still have a lot to do but nothing as major as Fisherfield. I'm not someone who keeps personal charts of favourite things. However, I have to rate the Fisherfield experience as the finest and most rewarding walking of my life, even greater than Skye. We were blessed with clear weather. I really think it would be a travesty for anyone to have to do Fisherfield in thick cloud. Whoever described the view from A'Mhaighdean as one of the finest in Britain was not wrong. My final word to anyone contemplating my experience, enjoy it - but please don't ask me to do it again!



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Mountain Walker
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Re: Fisherfield Six - Four, Wildcamp Then Two

Postby katanna » Mon May 29, 2017 11:39 am

Great effort - I did the Fisherfield just few days ago - just now I read your report and I agree with EVERY sentence of it! I have only done 60 munros, but this was the BIGGEST expedition so far and, if you say it is one of the best - I will agree. Hope there is still such incredible places to explore - but not as hard. Like you said - it was such a fine experience, but do not think I would like to do it again:)
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Re: Fisherfield Six - Four, Wildcamp Then Two

Postby spiderwebb » Mon May 29, 2017 3:16 pm

Well done, it is a superb area and as you say not to waste on bad weather. Just a question of building up to it, understanding what you can and cannot do :D For some reason I can't view the photos :(
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