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At last, the Fisherfield 6, and again

At last, the Fisherfield 6, and again


Postby Emmanuelle » Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:36 am

Route description: Fisherfield 6, from Shenavall

Munros included on this walk: A' Mhaighdean, Beinn Tarsuinn, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Ruadh Stac Mor, Sgurr Ban

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn a'Chlaidheimh

Date walked: 03/06/2017

Time taken: 15 hours

Distance: 50 km

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These Munros have stood between me and near compleation since last year and there was no way I was not going to go and do them, barring biblical weather. I knew all about the many rivers to cross, the bogs, the remoteness, the busy bothy, but hell, there was a 23 year Munro round to bring to a close. So I gathered a handful of friends, we set a date (and a Plan B date), I monitored the forecast obsessively for two weeks beforehand preying for the good weather not to break and sorted out the gear. I even invested in a new self igniting stove and a smaller pan. The sleeping bag and tent got an airing too.

So on Friday 2nd June, Dave and I set off and undertook the long but beautiful drive up to Corrie Hallie near Dundonnell in reasonably good weather. We made a few pit stops, one of which was declared the last decent meal. The path is a shock to the system at first – uphill for most of the first half of the track, with a full pack. But then the slabs sloping up towards An Teallach signal an easing in the incline and over the brow the panorama opens up.

ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

It was sunny, a bit breezy but perfect conditions for a walk in. Over to our left we could see the small cluster of trees still clad in their spring greens at Ashneigie on the north bank of the Strath na Sealga. This had been recommended as a nice camping spot but we had plumped for Shenevall. I couldn’t help gazing longingly at the spot wondering at the wisdom of our decision. Soon enough the bothy came into view, nestled at the foot of the mini glen of the Allt a Chlaiginnon on a carpet of short grass, bathed in sunshine, with the eastern Fishers, Beinn Dearg Mor, Beinn Dearg Beag and Loch na Sealga providing a dramatic backdrop, and the cuckoo serenading us all the way down.

ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

We should have enjoyed a lovely night sleep. It wasn’t cold, there was no wind, the midges weren’t even a plague. But that cuckoo cuckooed almost all night. Then another one got in on the act and they had a competition to see which of the two was the more annoying. I am an RSPB member and care for birds, but that night, I was entertaining sombre thoughts involving hollow metal and munitions.

But every cloud as a silver lining and being kept awake all night by the local migrants made getting up at 5am almost a relief. By 6 am, in brilliant sunshine, we were striding across the Allt and the dry bog to the foot of Beinn a'Chlaidheimh, thus eschewing the long walk round to Ashneigie.

ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

We hurled ourselves up the steep slopes, sometimes following a faint path trending east as we reached the first crags to find a wee scrambly section that took us on to the ridge. There is another 20 minutes at least to the summit of the Corbett. It was really breezy so we didn’t linger. In any case, I was quite keen to press on to bag my first new Munro of the year and begin the countdown! It’s a fair way to the first Munro of the day, down to two bealachs, including the 650m one before heading up the quartzite boulders to Sgurr Ban. But before we negotiated this ascent, we walked past a small tarn and were harried by a pair of what I think were golden plovers flying back and forth and screaming at us in their concern to protect their nest nearby. Looking back, An Teallach’s pinnacles stood proudly against the blue sky, and to the far north we saw my last Munro, Ben Hope, rising out of a cloud inversion, a gradation of blues and greys against a pale sky. To the west, the views extended over the water to the Minch and further round towards Ullapool. Absolutely splendid.

ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr


Underfoot all was luminous white and despite the sense of urgency I was also sad to leave such a strange summit. Still we pressed on down to the next bealach. We struggled to find a line up the boulders but we decided to follow the line of least resistance rather than struggle to find a path.

We lingered a bit on Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Dave tending to his feet to forestall blistering.

ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

We headed down, took the path that bypasses the summit of Meall Garbh and noticed a change in the air quality – away from the summits, the air had become more clammy, the sky had clouded, and sure enough as we began to consider the ascent of Beinn Tarsuinn, it began to rain. A few rain drops turned quickly into a sustained shower of hailstones. And so it was that we reached the summit all covered in goretex, summer having turned to wintry conditions in no time.

ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

We walked down to the tennis court, a strange flat rock formation sitting astride the ridge. I’d had imaginings that we’d sit there having our summit picnic but in the circumstances it wasn’t to be. We headed down the path to the 550m bealach. I don’t recall finding it disheartening to climb so far down. The rain stopped and gradually the weather picked up again, to the extent that we had to shed layers as we were plodding up the long grassy slopes leading to a’Mhaighdean. That was a bit of a slog – with already 4 summits climbed my legs were feeling leaden and my feet quite tired by then. However the improving conditions brought the promise of views and when we at last reached our summit we were not disappointed. Firstly, Slioch kept us company all the way up, brooding over Lochan Fada which was metal grey. Then the landscape becomes more complex. There is the hanging Gorm Loch Mor, which sits between the slopes of a’Mhaighdean and the headwaters of Lochan Fada, and is overlooked by crags on both sides, so that the glen which runs at the bottom of Beinn Lair is completely hidden from view. This is just plain amazing. Out west, we could see all the way to the Minch, with the Western Isles floating in the haze, the Torridon hills, the Summer Isles, but also the road from Poolewe to Gairloch. At our feet, the causeway at the head of Fionn Loch, the sheer cliffs above Dubh Loch, I just didn’t know where to pause to look as it was all so stupendous. Ben kept urging us to move on but I didn’t want to leave. The ground just gave way on all sides to sea, lochans and cliffs.

ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageSlioch by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageGorm Loch Mor by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

But there was another Munro to bag before the long walk back to the bothy so reluctantly we moved off the summit cairn and found our way down to Poll Eadar dha Stac. Having clocked the scrambling prospects to reach the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor, I stowed away my trekking polls. Good job I did as although there isn’t much ascent compared to all the other Munros, it’s an easy but sharp clamber up all sizes of scree and boulders, requiring the use of all 4 limbs at times. And then a weather system suddenly over came us: the rain and hail started so suddenly that I was forced to stop and hurriedly get kitted up again. There is actually a sense of panic I find when the weather suddenly becomes wet, and I can’t get the gear on quickly enough wondering for only a brief moment whether I’ll cope with the conditions. To cap it all, a flash of lightning and simultaneously a sharp clap of thunder burst just above our heads, just to keep things a bit spicy. Ben and Elaine had rushed up ahead and staying just off the summit when the storm broke. Dave and I hurried up, quickly touched the trig point and moved off the highest point. As the clouds cleared again, we noticed that the summits of Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair and Beinn Tarsuinn had a dusting of the white stuff! Ah Scotland!

We looked for a good place to come off the summit ridge and got mired in unsteady boulders made slippy by white and yellow lichen wet from the rain. I think that was the most uncomfortable part of the day. Personally I think we came off the ridge too early but I’d relinquished control of navigation to others so I couldn’t complain.
ImageLooking back up to Ruadh Stac Mor by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

No matter, in the end we got there and from then on it was a long walk but in improving weather and more comfortable terrain. The stalker’s path, which comes as a relief for tired legs, knees and feet. Once we got to the Abhainn Ghleann na Muice, we began to look for a place to cross. With the heavy rain, the burn had swelled a bit but it wasn’t the raging torrent that I know it can sometimes become. We scoped several possible crossing points but none seemed particularly inviting – the burn is a good 7 metres wide and deep in places, so we continued walking till past the cottages where we came to a beach of boulders and pebbles jutting into the river. Diagonally across on the other side a similar beach reached out towards us, considerably reducing the distance to be crossed in bare feet. So we changed into our sandals, Elaine and I held on to each other and we walked upstream and across, trying not to slide over the boulders carried down by the current. We made it safely across and 15 minutes later let rucksacks fall off our backs by our respective tents!

The whole round took us 15 hours, which for a bunch of folk in their late 40s and 50s I thought was pretty decent. Next time, I’ll take lighter boots though. My feet were blister free but achy and hot with the tiredness of hours of lifting several pounds of leather and vibram up and down, up and down this complex terrain.

After a hearty dinner of pasta shells with a choice of sauces, a cuppa and a rice pudding, we retired to our tents absolutely knackered, so knackered that by morning we all reported barely paying attention to our pal the cuckoo!

The next morning we set off up the narrow glen, in lovely warm sunshine, not particularly relishing negotiating the steep slope fully laden but in fact it was OK and the walk through the woods at the end was just lovely.

1 Corbett, 5 Munros, leaving Ben Hope for compleation and my name on that list!

Epilogue

Five weeks later I returned to Shenavall with my good pal and hillwalking partner Alan to help him compleat. He needed A’Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac more to bring his tally to the magic 282.

The bothy was really quiet, only the two of us, another couple (Cate and Dave) and a chap working his way through the Cape Wrath Trail.

ImageIn the bothy by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

We set off early the next morning. The route we chose took us across the two burns and the bog in between, up the stalker’s path, past the three lochans at the foot of Ruadh Stac Mor and above the side of Fuar Loch Mor (stunning circus, with an alpine feel) along a scree path which gives fast progress to Poll Eadar dha Stac.

ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageRuadh Stac Mor and a'Mhaighdean by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageCervine surveillance! by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

With clouds moving in, we nipped up to a’Mhaighdean and spent some time admiring the views. They weren’t as extensive as on my previous visit and it wasn’t warm. The wind gusted and was cold. But in the lulls it was fab to be up there to take in more of the spectacle. Alan was pretty pleased. At that point we stood on 281 Munros each. So we took selfies.
Image2017-07-08 12.37.37-1 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
Imagea'Mhaighdean summit by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageDubh Loch by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

We went back down to the bealach, found the howff and went it for a quick lunch. It began to rain quite heavily but there seemed no point in waiting for a lull which might not come for several hours. So we scrambled up to the summit (I felt more comfortable this time) and just off the summit, I let Alan take the lead and reach his very last Munro first!

We toasted his achievement with swigs of Rioja from a lovely plastic bottle which fitted really neatly in the hole in the middle of the trig post, safe from the gusts! More selfies, some mild hysteria and some reluctance to leave despite the weather. We found our way back to the stalker’s path, across the burns (with boots on as the water levels were still low) and the bog (which was pretty wet), and were pretty pleased to get in to the bothy out of the driving rain.
ImageCompleation! by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
Image2017-07-08 14.30.26-1 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
Image2017-07-08 14.31.40 by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

More celebrations beckoned with a dram, some Cahors and more Rioja, succulent packet food and a log in the fireplace, more selfies and chatting with Cate and Dave.
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageA dram, a log fire and company by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
ImageAt Shenavall Bothy by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr

I really recommend this route if you have only these two Munros to do – the approach is quite long but then these hills are remote and there’s no quick way to any of them. But it’s not physically strenuous and the views are awesome.
ImageUntitled by Emmanuelle Tulle, on Flickr
Last edited by Emmanuelle on Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Emmanuelle
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Posts: 140
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Re: At last, the Fisherfield 6, and again

Postby Fife Flyer » Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:58 pm

Enjoyed reading that Emmanuelle, some cracking photo's, many congrats to all concerned :clap: :clap:
I didn't use the bothy when I was there as it was a bank holiday weekend, never even peeked inside :(

One day I will return as I too got caught in a heavy shower and got no views at all from the hill with the bestest views :(
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Re: At last, the Fisherfield 6, and again

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:31 pm

A very enjoyable report and pics of some of the best country in the NW. It seems that there's nowhere you can be but that you have - weather permitting - phenomenal views.

I still have to do these, and have multiple options "planned". Being a wimp, I just need a weather window!

Congrats on getting to 281. :clap: :clap: :clap: . I know I'll never compleat, but I do admire the dedication of folk that do.

PS I wanted to enjoy the panos in large format, but clicking on them didn't produce a larger pic. I recommend saving them at near original size, because that way they more or less fill the entire screen.
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Re: At last, the Fisherfield 6, and again

Postby weaselmaster » Wed Jul 19, 2017 10:59 am

Well done to Alan in getting his completion in the bag.
I'm sure the Rioja at the top tasted sweet :D
And best wishes for you when you get to Ben Hope for your last one- I think that was my very first Munro which Alan and I did via the north approach in around 1993 :shock:
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Re: At last, the Fisherfield 6, and again

Postby Emmanuelle » Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:59 pm

I've changed it - I think - in the past you couldn't upload pics larger than 640x something or other, so that's the size I select for everything now!!!

E

PS I wanted to enjoy the panos in large format, but clicking on them didn't produce a larger pic. I recommend saving them at near original size, because that way they more or less fill the entire screen.[/quote]
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Re: At last, the Fisherfield 6, and again

Postby Jaxter » Thu Jul 20, 2017 11:45 am

Fabulous, the Fisherfield is a special place. I definitely need to get back there :D
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Re: At last, the Fisherfield 6, and again

Postby Stoogie » Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:06 am

weaselmaster wrote:Well done to Alan in getting his completion in the bag.
I'm sure the Rioja at the top tasted sweet :D
And best wishes for you when you get to Ben Hope for your last one- I think that was my very first Munro which Alan and I did via the north approach in around 1993 :shock:


Thanks for the great reports, Emmanuelle. Alistair - we are not long back from Ben Hope and I was recalling that climb up the North approach. I remember it being an interesting way up with at least one section that was steep and crumbly. At one point I think a fighter jet flew up from below us just to keep us relaxed on the ridge! I would put it as July 1994.
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Re: At last, the Fisherfield 6, and again

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:23 am

Emmanuelle wrote:I've changed it - I think - in the past you couldn't upload pics larger than 640x something or other, so that's the size I select for everything now!!!

E

PS I wanted to enjoy the panos in large format, but clicking on them didn't produce a larger pic. I recommend saving them at near original size, because that way they more or less fill the entire screen.
[/quote]

Thanks Emmanuelle - They're still a bit on the small size, but very clear.

I don't think there's any restriction on pics where you just load the link into the report - for Panos I tend to use one of the very largest sizes.

AK
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