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Will anyone make it to the top of Fuar Tholl?

Will anyone make it to the top of Fuar Tholl?


Postby dogplodder » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:06 pm

Route description: Fuar Tholl

Corbetts included on this walk: Fuar Tholl

Date walked: 06/05/2017

Distance: 14.5 km

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A mixed age bunch of folk from my church were keen to climb a hill. The youngest was only six. Three from overseas had never walked in the Scottish hill before, some had done a few hills, one had been to Everest base camp, one had done all the Munros and some had done many. So what would work for such a mixed abilities group?

On previous times in Coire Lair the weathered rocks at the lip of the corrie had struck me as a good picnic spot and with its well made approach path would make a fine destination in itself while offering an extension to climb Fuar Tholl for those who wanted something more. So that was the plan.

We parked at the layby opposite the phone box and were fortunate to get the last available spaces. I wondered what other drivers would do and discovered that later. They parked at the side of the road - and in their droves. I guess that's the problem with a popular hill route on a good weather Saturday in May.

There were 14 of us at the start with another two joining us later.

Group at the phone box
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Walking up the road to the station, over the railway line, left at the crossroads and through a gate we were on our way. It was warm and I think some of those on their first Scottish hill walk started to wonder if they had put on too many layers, while the kids in their shorts were comfortable. Of course it could be cold higher up. The forecast was excellent but you still never know with Scottish hills.

The plan was to walk up the path alongside the river and stop at the big rounded rocks for an early lunch, after which I expected some to turn back, leaving the others to cross the river and head for Fuar Tholl.

Rocky Fuar Tholl straight ahead
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Climbing the path in the heat the group started to spread out so we had a couple of stops for everyone to catch up. Once at the rocks we each found a place to sit - that is apart from Amit (from India) who had forged ahead and couldn't be seen anywhere. I assumed he'd found a place to wait somewhere ahead and since he had told us he had been to Everest base camp I wasn't too concerned about his welfare on this balmy day in May.

We knew that Ian and Darran would appear at some point and when a figure was spotted a long way off there was much waving and calling to it, which on closer inspection turned out not to be Ian or Darran but a walker slightly puzzled as to why his approach was causing so much excitement. I've noticed before that being out in the hills does strange things to our reactions and we can chat animatedly to a stranger we would hardly notice if we met them in the street.

Duly fortified and rested all were for going on a bit further so we continued to the junction in the path, marked by a cairn, where we turned left for the river crossing, picking up Amit on the way.

Fork in the path
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I didn't remember any difficulty crossing the river on the way to Sgorr Ruadh and with the recent dry spell thought the water level would be fairly low. When we reached the river two of the group decided they would turn back, having gone further than I thought they would considering that the night before the young lass had been feeling rough with a cold. She and her mum had done really well and I hoped the experience wouldn't put them off coming out again! One of the drivers volunteered to go back with them and we said his two kids could come on with us as they were keen to continue with the walk.

By the river crossing
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A couple of the 'stepping stone' boulders needed quite a big step and in his enthusiasm the 6 year old took a jump, missed his footing and landed in the river. His dad grabbed him and helped him across but he was soaked from the waist down. On a warm day it wasn't a disaster but in the cooling breeze a wee guy would quickly lose heat and we didn't have a change of clothes for him. Note to self: on river crossings with kids it might be helpful to pack extra clothes.

To add to the river crossing kerfuffle and the first group heading back, Ian and Darran chose that very moment to turn up. So now we had lost three and gained two.

Sgorr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mhor
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All credit to him the wee guy who'd had the unplanned dip in the Lair was for going on, but after about 20 minutes his dad decided it would be wise to turn back and as the driver of the 7 seater he would have to take all the kids with him. So we lost another 6 and the group for Fuar Tholl was down to 7.

Being quite keen not to lose any more I asked if we could stay within sight of each other, particularly as some of the group didn't have a map. As we climbed to the bealach between Sgurr Ruadh and Fuar Tholl we had great views of An Ruadh-Stac and Maol Chean-dearg and then south west to Loch Carron.

An Ruadh-Stac (left) and Maol Chean-dearg
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Zoomed to Maol Chean-dearg
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Zoomed to Loch Carron
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As soon as we saw Loch Carron we turned off the path and headed south east over bumpy ground towards a couple of lochans and the stony slope of Creag Mainnrichean.

Start of the stony ascent
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On the eroded path of steep rocky section some of the group found themselves out of their comfort zone. Two of the guys admitted they were a bit scared, one temporarily froze and Mandy who had recently suffered from vertigo decided she would be happier not to go any further and would wait by the lochans for the group to return. She was over from N. Ireland visiting her son for a few days - a very fit lady who cycles every day - but she didn't like the steepness on loose gravel, which I could well understand. As the only other female in the group I said I'd be happy to stay with her but she was most insistent I should go on and she'd be fine. So now the group was down to 6.

James checking his mum had enough food and water during her wait
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We found out later Mandy had spent the time on her own on the phone to her daughter doing some wedding planning and unlike the rest of us seemed to have a phone signal for most of the day.

View past Sgorr Ruadh to Beinn Alligin
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After a short scramble up a loose rocky section it was a relief to top out on to a level grassy area where we could sit and have a breather.

Lean from Malaysia and Amit from India enjoying their first views in the Torridons
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James from N. Ireland doing likewise
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Mainreachan Buttress (Fuar Tholl summit cairn visible on sunlit hill beyond)
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A couple of the guys hadn't much liked the route up Creag Mainnrichean, so in the end only James returned that way (to retrieve his mum), while the rest of us went down the scree between Fuar Tholl and the Mainreachan Buttress.

Our descent route was through the deep shadow on right
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The rest of the ascent was easy walking with magnificent views all round.

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Climbing Mainreachan Buttress
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Nearing the summit
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Mainreachan Buttress from east side
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Six made it to the summit (me behind camera)
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Summit view north (Liathach and Beinn Eighe peeping over)
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Summit view north east
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It may be a reflection on my increasing years but from my memories of Sgorr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mhor I found Fuar Tholl more challenging than its Munro neighbours and certainly a tougher proposition than a great many higher hills. Not that Fuar Tholl (Gaelic for Cold Hole) is much short of Munro height anyway. A great and memorable Corbett.

Me contemplating the route down (Ian's photo)
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I'm not a great lover of scree but on this occasion think it was an easier route down than returning the way we came up and it took a bit of distance off too. So James headed off at speed while the rest of us spent a bit longer lounging around at the top and discussing what hill was what on the horizon. When it came to the scree descent, when we first looked down it looked a bit uninviting but by following the path it was fine and I think more comfortable than retracing the ascent route would have been.

Surfing the scree
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Looking back at our descent route
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James and his mum hadn't hung about and by the time we reached the main path they were sitting there waiting for us. As we followed the path down from Coire Lair we met several folk on their way up, labouring under the weight of large packs in the heat of the afternoon sun. The father carrying all the gear for him and his daughter looked fair puggled - but the other side to that was what a beautiful evening to be camping! And what a great bonding experience for him and his little girl.

I heard later that by the time they reached the car the wee lad who landed in the river was completely dry and none the worse for his adventure. The only casualty from the day was a pole left somewhere near the station by one of the first three to turn back and which he managed to send us a text about. It was a black pole with red and white writing on it, but in that none of us came across it on the way past it seems likely it's lying out of sight or someone else had already picked it up.
Last edited by dogplodder on Sat Jun 03, 2017 11:29 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Kept losing folk on the way up Fuar Tholl

Postby dogplodder » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:19 pm

First food stop on the rocks
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The young ones on the way down
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Re: Will anyone make it to the top of Fuar Tholl?

Postby mrssanta » Sat Jun 03, 2017 9:04 pm

what a brilliant day for another of your multicultural multigenerational experience days!
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Re: Will anyone make it to the top of Fuar Tholl?

Postby Briqual » Sat Jun 03, 2017 9:43 pm

Sounds a cracker of a day out, great to see people from all over the world getting their first experiences of our great country and it's incredible scenery. Some absolutely excellent photography in there by the way.

Also my son's name is Darran, my wife says I spelled it wrong, and that's he first time I've ever seen the same (correct) spelling of it anywhere :D
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Re: Will anyone make it to the top of Fuar Tholl?

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Sun Jun 04, 2017 10:25 am

Some wonderful pictures and great to see such a mixed group enjoying the hills it must have taken some organising.
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Re: Will anyone make it to the top of Fuar Tholl?

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Mon Jun 05, 2017 2:23 pm

What an adventure :D :D You certainly give people a great time on the hills, that looked like a cracking day out. Beautiful landscape very well photographed :clap:
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Re: Will anyone make it to the top of Fuar Tholl?

Postby dogplodder » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:07 pm

mrssanta wrote:what a brilliant day for another of your multicultural multigenerational experience days!


We were fortunate with the kind of day it was - just beautiful. :D
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Re: Will anyone make it to the top of Fuar Tholl?

Postby dogplodder » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:10 pm

Briqual wrote:Sounds a cracker of a day out, great to see people from all over the world getting their first experiences of our great country and it's incredible scenery. Some absolutely excellent photography in there by the way.

Also my son's name is Darran, my wife says I spelled it wrong, and that's he first time I've ever seen the same (correct) spelling of it anywhere :D


This Darran is the only one I know with this spelling but I like it as it makes me think of Arran the island. 8)
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Re: Will anyone make it to the top of Fuar Tholl?

Postby dogplodder » Tue Jun 06, 2017 7:59 pm

Cairngorm creeper wrote:Some wonderful pictures and great to see such a mixed group enjoying the hills it must have taken some organising.


Think they all enjoyed it and that's the main thing. :thumbup:
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Re: Will anyone make it to the top of Fuar Tholl?

Postby dogplodder » Fri Jun 09, 2017 3:22 pm

Huff_n_Puff wrote:What an adventure :D :D You certainly give people a great time on the hills, that looked like a cracking day out. Beautiful landscape very well photographed :clap:


A tricky one with such a mixed group - not wanting to put new folk off but to have enough of a challenge for the more experienced. It helped that it was such a beautiful day! :wink:
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