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A Festival of Fannichs

A Festival of Fannichs


Postby Rangernic » Tue Jun 12, 2018 2:06 pm

Munros included on this walk: An Coileachan, Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich, Meall a'Chrasgaidh, Meall Gorm, Sgurr Mor, Sgurr nan Clach Geala, Sgurr nan Each

Date walked: 05/06/2018

Time taken: 30 hours

Distance: 30 km

Ascent: 2550m

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Unremitting sunshine for a round of the Fannichs in Ross-shire.

I wanted to be sure I had visited all the Fannichs, and was a bit hazy about which I had been on before. I could have looked back at my notes, but preferred to use this uncertainty as an excuse to do a complete round over two days. Like many big efforts, I had been thinking about this for a while, peeping up at the meagre views of the hills from roads passing to the North and the South. From the Ullapool road, the dark shapes look undulating and smooth. From the Achnasheen road one peak caught my eye – the eastern end of the ridge at An Coileachan falls abruptly in a steep craggy end. This would be a good starting point. Because of the nature of the round, it would also need to be the finishing point, and it was 8km up an estate road. This suggested a bike approach and finish, so that is what I did.
I parked in a layby on the South side of the A832 near Grudie Power Station and saddled up. The estate road starts opposite the lay-by and I was pleased – at this stage – to find it was tarmac. It was a delightful ride, only slight gradients all the way, and with fine woodland of pines alongside the river. At Aultdearg an estate house and outbuildings has a lovely setting, with more pines providing a backdrop. And then the tree deficit hit. I rounded a corner to a bare green planet.

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04 Estate road approach m.jpg
The mountains looked as well as I hoped, and the road led me straight to them, but there were no trees or any other shade at all.
It was now clear that an aqueduct was converging with the road, crossing the slope to the right and bringing water all the way from Allt Dearg.
At a bridge I turned right, signposted Fannich Estate. The tarmac later followed a road to the Loch Fannich dam. I continued on a gravel track, crossed the aqueduct and left my bike in a prominent quarry (visible, just in the pic), presumably used to source building stone for the dam.
I had planned to climb by an open valley beyond the quarry, but the peak left of the rocky corrie was too attractive, so I went for that.

05 An Coileachan approach.jpg
First task was to collect water. The pool in the picture was adequate, but unfortunately warm. That was all there was, its outflow had sunk into the ground.
The ridge was a good scramble, though all difficulties could be avoided, and after about an hour I was looking back at where I had come from.
Arrival at my first summit was preceded by a pleasant guy walking four Fannich Munros in time-honoured fashion counter-clockwise. This was his last of the day, with a long shelterless trudge now down to the North and the Dirrie Mor. He had seen an eagle earlier on, he said.

11 Fannich walking country m.jpg
The tops proved to be great walking country, with short moss-based turf and small stones.
Almost straight away I was entertained by a hen ptarmigan performing an intense distraction display, presumably to draw me away from small chicks nearby. She kept it up for fully ten minutes, drawing me down hill for several hundred metres before performing several flights in various directions so that I had no clue as to where her chicks were.
On the next col I met a man with an unrestrained, and very energetic, collie dog. I didn’t want to revert to Ranger mode: “Please will you keep your dog on a lead?”, so said instead “Well that was a performance! I’ve just had a hen ptarmigan crawling around on the ground for about ten minutes. She must have chicks!”
“Oh, right, then!” he said, “I’d better get him on the lead, he’s already nearly had a grouse lower down!” And so he did. I heard the dog’s excited yelps as they made their way up An Coileachan and past where I had had my encounter.

14 Meall Gorm howff m.jpg
The long climb to Meall Gorm was broken by meeting another man doing the round of four anti-clockwise, and this complicated little howff. A central chamber seems to have been once roofed, and two unroofed sections provide shelter for half a dozen people from almost any wind direction.
Summits seemed to be the best place to meet people and here on Meall Gorm were another two, traversing the Eastern four anti-clockwise. By now it was after 4pm and they had a long way ahead of them, and lots of daylight. However, I had come to the conclusion that my preference would be for a traverse in the direction I was going, because the best was all ahead, whereas in the other direction it was a less appealing prospect. This is what I had ahead:

16 Main peaks ahead m.jpg
Sgurr nan Clach Geala, Meall nan Peithirean and Sgurr Mor.

17 Sgurr Mor m.jpg
The terraces on Sgurr Mor were showing very well in this light. I was thinking of finding somewhere with water to make a meal, and somewhere with a breeze for a bivvy. The upshot of all this was that I descended to the corrie and crossed from left to right.

18 High corrie m.jpg
Getting down into the corrie was a bit of a challenge, as the ground in gaps between the snow patches was soft and unstable, and very steep. I found a reasonable way down a little further on. It led me straight down a green ramp to the stream in the centre of the corrie where I made tea. A very successful freeze-dried “Rice in Basil sauce” with extra leek, mushroom and vegetables cooked before leaving home and carried in as a full-weight luxury.
Across the other side of the corrie an easy route up some interesting rock shelves led to a high col on the East Ridge of Sgurr Mor. Here there was an Easterly breeze and I soon found what I was looking for – a small outcrop facing the setting sun and sheltering a suntrap below it. If it got midge-y I could just sit up and get relief in the breeze. It was more likely that any midges would not be flying at all. There was rather a good view over the Northern corries, too.

21.jpg
Before settling in for the evening, I took the old stalkers’ path towards Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich. The guys that made these paths knew a thing or two, or their paths would not have survived till today. They had just cleared the stone away on each side to make room for a pony, and they had chosen a low-gradient route that is still the best to walk.

23. Beinnn Liath Mhor Fannaich summit m.jpg
Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich views are best to the West and North, away from its bigger neighbour. Here to An Teallach.
Back at my bivvy site, I had to do a bit of creative stonework to compensate for the slope. The breeze was quite chilly and the shelter offered by the rock negligible, but the bivvy bag was windproof and the nest very comfortable.

26 Sunset on Coigach m.jpg
Now I had a magnificent slow-motion show of the sun going down on everywhere, me last. Here is Coigach and Loch Broom. The sun dipped very slowly into the sea.

28 Red sky over Loch Broom m.jpg
Leaving a red sky above Loch Broom. I haven’t fiddled the colours or contrasts at all, but nearly all of the pictures needed levelling, because I was lying in my bed taking them.

30 Lost at sea m.jpg
The absolute last chink.
And now, a brief rest and relief from all that sunshine!

32 Daytime m.jpg
Not for long! I was sure I had heard voices but there was no-one to be seen. I dawdled lazily before getting up. It had been a bit of an uncomfortable night, with various stones to lie round, but not without sleep and rest. The sun seemed to be in a strange direction.
Distant views were all framed by low cloud. A haar had come in off the North Sea.
Ben Wyvis was an island.

35 Strathfarrar 4 m.jpg
The Strathfarrar Four were well clear.

38 Goodbye bivvy site m.jpg
After a lot of dawdling and taking pictures and having breakfast of instant porridge and oats bars, I was off before seven. I soon picked up the path to the tiny howff.

40 Tiny howff m.jpg
And here it is. One slab has tilted at the entrance, but it is quite feasible for a small person to enter. Only a very small person could lie down on the flat stone floor. The roof is supported by two fencing staves placed horizontally across the tops of the walls. It is difficult to know where these came from – I saw no fences – nor whether they were original or a restoration job. A good degree of shelter could be enjoyed in the howff on a foul day, but I was much happier to have slept under the night sky.

43 Sgurr Mor cairn m.jpg
At the top of Sgurr Mor came another surprise. I had heard voices, or at least one. A man was having his breakfast by the cairn and said he had greeted my (at about 5.30) but I hadn’t responded. Funny that. Over the space of the morning we met up several times and I found out he was traversing all the Fannichs including Fionn Bheinn having travelled from the Central Belt by train to Loch Luichart station and planning to return from Achnasheen after four days out. He had spent the previous night on Meall Gorm.
The views from Sgurr Mor are unrestricted by higher neighbours, so there was no ready-made framing for the pictures. The most satisfactory views were ones where some shadows gave shape to the mountains. It was generally less hazy than the previous day.

50 An Biachdaich m.jpg
The pass between Sgurr Mor and both its neighbours is called Am Biachdaich. It is a good place to leave a pack and go visiting. There is a high lochan refreshed by a snow patch. Delicious water.
I caught up the four-day expeditioner and we left our packs to head for Meall a’ Chrasgaidh.

52 New howff Am Biachdaich m.jpg
Soon we came across what looked like a new shelter, constructed of square-sided blocks and looking very contemporary. The best was all in the front, though, the back was the usual rubble, but never mind. It was the artistry in the thought that counted.

53 West from Meall a Chrasgaidh m.jpg
Meall a’ Chrasgaidh is a Munro, otherwise we should probably not have detoured, and would have missed this fine view of the Fisherfields – another future expedition for me.
Back at the packs we were greeted by a local who inquired if we were “Bagging Munros”. We hesitated. It makes it sound so dishonourable. “Bagging”, ticking them off and showing no further interest, and “Munros”. For me they are not just Munros, they are on my list too, that’s why I’m visiting them. Okay, I’m being guided by “the list”, but after 46 years of not getting the whole lot “knocked off”, and doing some of them twice, three times, horrors, fifty times (Ben Nevis), I’m not really rushing at it.
Back at the packs we were greeted by a local who inquired if we were “Bagging Munros”. We hesitated. It makes it sound so dishonourable. “Bagging”, ticking them off and showing no further interest, and “Munros”. For me they are not just Munros, they are on my list too, that’s why I’m visiting them. Okay, I’m being guided by “the list”, but after 46 years of not getting the whole lot “knocked off”, and doing some of them twice, three times, horrors, fifty times (Ben Nevis), I’m not really rushing at it.

56 Avalanche slab Sgurr nan Clach Geala m.jpg
On approaching Sgurr nan Clach Geala I was fascinated by the appearance of an avalanche slab in the upper corrie. I had heard on good authority that the only such slab in Britain was in Coire an Lochain in the Cairngorms. This one appears to have been active in the past, although a trifle vegetated now.

59 Sgurr an Each m.jpg
Last 3000-foot peak of the round: Sgurr nan Each.

62 Ablation zone m.jpg
From Sgurr nan Each I looked down on the side peak, Sgurr a’ Cadha Dheirg. I usually expect Cadha to refer to a gully, but this seems to refer to the wind-blasted col between these two peaks.
Dearg (red) it wasn’t, as the surface was littered with white (geal) quartzite stones. These will be the smallest stones not blown away by the wind, which must hit the ground with great ferocity on regular occasions, making it impossible for plants to flourish and soil or turf develop.
Dearg (red) it wasn’t, as the surface was littered with white (geal) quartzite stones. These will be the smallest stones not blown away by the wind, which must hit the ground with great ferocity on regular occasions, making it impossible for plants to flourish and soil or turf develop.

65 Way down m.jpg
I was contemplating a descent to Torran Ruadh, a foothill separated from the main ridge by an eroded peat bog, full of hags. Though dry, it was unappealing. Then I noticed a bulldozed track, not marked on the map, coming round the spur opposite from Coire Beag to Coire Mor. A spur led down. Should I try it? The spur might have ended in a sudden drop, so I descended the grassy slopes to its left. It was very steep down. From the track I would aim for Fannich Lodge (in the photo) and the walk out along the Estate road.


The track was good for a few hundred metres, then just stopped. A few shreds of evidence of vehicle access below this – a culvert and a couple of patches of gravel – but a bit of a mystery, and no sign of it ever being used.
At the Allt a’ Choire Bhig I found the perfect pool and in hot sunshine had a well-earned dip. A golden eagle floated by as I lay drying in the sun.
The last chapter was along the estate road. A truck was leaving at the same time as me, so I hitched. And the driver ignored me. I watched him disappear into the sunshine down the long tarmac road and the heat reflected back and I walked.
The estate management is changing the face of Fannich, mostly for the better. Roads are being improved and a huge plantation of deciduous trees occupies nearly a square kilometre of ground east of the Lodge. There is hope that the tree deficit might be removed one day.
The bike was waiting back at the quarry and I sailed down the estate road back to the car, actually catching up with the truck driver who had ignored me. Never mind.
So that was a good walk. I “Bagged” seven (or was it four?) “Munros”. Some of them wouldn’t have made it on to my list of favourite mountains, but they gave great walking up to the best ones. I am sure the East-West traverse is the better direction, but again, no-one doing it the other way could complain in this weather! I got a bit burnt and despite constantly hydrating, I got a bit dehydrated, but no harm done. Just good to be out.
Rangernic
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Posts: 2
Joined: Feb 17, 2011

Re: A Festival of Fannichs

Postby Giant Stoneater » Tue Jun 12, 2018 4:43 pm

Well my good friend it was me that you met up with and I thoroughly enjoyed your company over the few summits that we did together,enjoyed your trip report. The "bagging" comment must have upset you as you repeated it twice :wink:
I have a trip report on another site if you wish to take a peek
http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24174
Giant Stoneater
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Re: A Festival of Fannichs

Postby Alteknacker » Sun Jun 17, 2018 12:21 pm

Nice one :thumbup: . And what beautiful weather you had for it!
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Alteknacker
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Posts: 2379
Munros:162   Corbetts:28
Hewitts:190
Wainwrights:71   
Joined: May 25, 2013
Location: Effete South (of WIgan, anyway)

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