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From dawn till dusk

From dawn till dusk


Postby BlackPanther » Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:02 pm

Route description: Creag Rainich, via Loch a'Bhraoin

Corbetts included on this walk: Creag Rainich

Date walked: 19/01/2019

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 19.7 km

Ascent: 774m

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From dawn till dusk...No, no, it's not a sequel to a well known vampire horror with George Clooney. Just a story about a perfect day on the hills, walked from the first rays of morning sunshine till the evening twilight.

It all started with a stressful week for us both. We really needed the hill therapy ASAP, just to make us feel better. And when forecast for Saturday revealed bright blue sky and low winds in the far north of Scotland, we knew where we were going in the morning!
Our pick was one of the less known hill surrounding Loch a Bhraoin, a friendly by nature Corbett called Creag Rainich. The name suggests a lot of bracken on lower slopes but who would worry about low vegetation in the middle of winter :lol: :lol: :lol: We had done this hill before (old report HERE) but this time, we wanted to make a bigger circuit, including an outlying top Meall an t-Sithe. Of course all dependent on conditions on the ridge. It has snowed heavily in northern Scotland over the last couple of nights so higher up we expected a thick cover of soft snow which, as we had already experienced in the past, can slow us down significantly. Don't misunderstand me, I love winter conditions, but deep, soft snow is so hard to walk on!
In the end, we managed the route we intended in just about the given daytime, starting with sunrise, finishing with sunset. It couldn't have been a better day!

About the route. It's basically a modified take on the standard approach to Creag Rainich (as described in WH instruction), along the shore of Loch a Bhraoin, up Creag Rainich from the bothy, then returning along the ridge over its countless lumps and bumps to the easternmost top, Meall an t-Sithe, overlooking the Destitution Road, with the final descent SE to the loch track near the old boat house. In summer conditions this can be done in 6-7 hours easily, we took longer mainly because of above mentioned deep snow (and because of photo stops every 5 minutes!!!).

Track_CREAG RAINCH 19-01-19.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


This walk starts from the parking area at the bend of A832, just west of Braemore junction, the very same starting point for the western Fannichs. We arrived early and were welcomed by the first signs of day appearing over mighty An Teallach:
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It was a breathtaking experience, watching the start of the morning, the sky changing colours from dark to red through orange to yellow and then full daylight. I don't think any words can describe such experience so let's photos speak for themselves.
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Sunrise over Slioch:
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On the track towards the loch:
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To start with, there was a light breeze...
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...but as soon as we started to walk along the loch shore, the wind stopped and as a result, we became witnesses to a rare spectacle, with Loch a'Bhraoin acting as a perfect mirror:
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Creag Rainich awaiting us (right) and the two Grahams: Groban (left) and Beinn Bheag (middle):
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Looking east along the still waters of Loch a'Bhraoin towards Beinn Dearg group on the horizon:
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Sron na Goibhre reflected in the loch near its western end:
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Groban and Beinn Bheag again. They might be just Grahams but I must recommend them to anybody visiting this area as superb viewpoints:
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Looking east along Loch a'Bhraoin, another take, this time from the jetty near the bothy:
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We walked past the bothy, waved to other walkers getting ready for the hills, and soon I pointed uphill, saying, this is a good spot to leave the beaten track:
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The climb is a straightforward 450m of steady uphill. The slopes are mostly grassy (from what I remember from our previous visit) but today, of course, there was snow everywhere and in places very deep. The whole trick was to pick the route carefully, avoiding snow drifts. We managed...mostly :wink:
As there was little wind, we walked very close to a small herd of deer without any reaction from them. Or maybe they are used to people here :lol:
Friends from the hills:
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To begin with, we followed a small stream, later just trudged up trying to pick the least tiring line of ascent. Views behind us opened up, Loch a'Bhraoin now a long, dark line separating us from the main Fannichs ridge:
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Slioch in full sunlight:
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As I just said, we mostly avoided the snowdrifts:
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In the blazing sun, we warmed up very quickly and had to take off the outer layers. We only took two bottles of water and some tea with us, and I was a bit concerned that we might become dehydrated. Kevin was more optimistic, saying that it would all be OK as long as we didn't waste our energy on diving in snowdrifts!
Ha ha ha, easier said than done.
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View west, Beinn Bheag, Slioch and Sgurr Dubh:
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Panther trying all her best NOT to sink in another snowdrift, Sgurr Mor and the Fannichs in the background:
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From near the top of Meall Dubh, the views expanded to include Torridon hills like Beinn Eighe:
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...and the Assynt tops like Ben Mor Coigach:
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A short movie break on Meall Dubh. Notice I'm only wearing a single top and no hat or gloves (the head band is mostly to keep my wild hair under control):
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Beinn Dearg and friends:
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From Meall Dubh, it's a short walk to the true summit, with a slight dip in the ridge (beware of a frozen lochan hidden under snow!). The top can be seen behind me to the right:
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The frozen lochan and Beinn Eighe on the horizon:
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The final 50m of ascent proved to be the toughest, loads of soft snow everywhere, but who would dare complain with such views behind?
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In the foreground, the ridge we had in mind after visiting the summit. Meall an t-Sithe is the bumpy top to the left:
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On the summit with Lucy (her 82nd Corbett) and An Teallach behind me:
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Well, of course, the view to An Teallach is the pièce de résistance of this whole route. During our previous visit, it was partially covered with grey cloud. Today, it looked simply stunning in its pristine white dress:
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Zoom to the pinnacles of An Teallach:
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The whole landscape was mesmerizing. Wherever we turned, there was white snow, blue sky and an occasional darker outline of a rock. The Assynt hills: Cul Beg, Cul Mor and Canisp, all looked stunning. Even the small lochan to the left side of this photo worked as a mini-mirror, reflecting part of the snowy slope above.
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Back south to the Fannichs:
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I think Lucy was speechless, too!
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Fionn Bheinn:
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Posing with Beinn Dearg and our next target, Meall an t-Sithe:
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Beinn a'Chlaidheimh, still to-do, but maybe we'll wait till summer to tackle this. Looks awfully steep:
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Zoom to Beinn Eighe:
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Panoramic view of the Eastern Fisherfields, including Sgurr Ban and Mullach CMF:
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Hungry for more adventure:
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The traverse along the ridge looked like a delightful treat, going mostly downhill:
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It took us a bit longer than anticipated to reach the first bealach at 533m, and that due to deep snow again, plus the fact that Kevin kept stopping for more and more pictures. Weather was excellent, next to no wind and very sunny, fantastic light for photos so I didn't want to hurry him too much...
Looking back at Creag Rainich from the middle of the ridge:
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In wet conditions, this ridge would be pain in the ***, to be honest. Countless peat hags and boggy puddles would require a lot of meandering around, but thankfully, it was all frozen solid now so we made decent progress, slowed only by the depth of snow. At some point I had to take a break though - I was feeling nauseous, probably as a result of dehydration. Kevin forced me to drink the remaining tea from the flask, and it really helped me to gain composure and strength. It would be a shame to suffer on a day like this.
Beware of peat hags!
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A dizzy moment for Black Panther, our final target to the left:
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When traversing along the ridge, our attention was drawn mostly to An Teallach, how the shape of the mountain changes with the change of the angle. Also the shadows were getting longer, adding an interesting twist to the new views:
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The second bealach, at 520m, is the lowest point of the ridge, Kevin found a good spot for a panoramic shot:
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Getting closer to Meall an t-Sidhe, we checked our watches and were confident, that we had enough time to carry on all the way to this top:
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An Teallach, another take:
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We reached the top of Meall an t-Sidhe at half past three, with the first signs of sunset showing in the western sky. The summit is small with a surprisingly large cairn. We sat for a few minutes, enjoying the views, happy if tired, but not worried about the fading light. We had torches in our rucksacks just in case. Now, it was time to enjoy the remnants of the day...
The shadow of Meall an t-Sidhe on the Destitution Road:
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Ben More Assynt and Conival:
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An Teallach:
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Western Fannichs:
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After the final rest on the last top, we started the descent to the loch. We aimed for the old boat house and picked the track just west of it. On the way down, we enjoyed the most beautiful views of the whole day, the amazing spectacle of the setting sun.
The last rays of light on Sgurr Mor ridge:
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Sunset over Loch a'Bhraoin:
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Sunset over Beinn Dearg:
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The evening reflections in the loch:
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The moon reflected in the loch:
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The old boathouse in the fading light:
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I don't know when we will have another day like this. Maybe not till next winter, maybe in a week or two. It's a matter of luck. But when gifted with perfect conditions, we took time to enjoy the mountains around us. Creag Rainich might be the forgotten hill of this area, but for us that day it was definitely a very special one.
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BlackPanther
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Re: From dawn till dusk

Postby Graeme D » Wed Jan 23, 2019 10:30 pm

I need to get out more - Lucy is catching up with me! :shock:

Nice report btw!
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Graeme D
 
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Re: From dawn till dusk

Postby Alteknacker » Thu Jan 24, 2019 12:14 am

Heck! Lucy isn't the only one that's speachless! What a perfect winter's day in a perfect place.
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Alteknacker
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Re: From dawn till dusk

Postby dogplodder » Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:52 pm

Looks a smashing walk - now on the short list! :D
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