Heading to the spring meet Lynne and I had decided the weather was just too good to miss the opportunity to get a hill in on the way. As she was now a munro completist and I still had many many to go we looked for a walk that would take in both Corbetts and Munros. Sgorr Ruadh seemed like the ideal stop off on a long drive with Fuar Tholl the Corbett close by. Jim decided to join us for the Corbett. We arrived at the parking spot at Achnashellach just before 11am and geared up. The weather forecast was a good one and there was a fresh dump of snow high up on the hills from the previous night.
The route starts from the telephone box opposite the car park and winds it’s way up a good forestry track. We followed this crossing the railway line and eventually coming to a small cairn in the forest marking a narrow path heading off through the woods.
The footpath narrowed considerably and seemed non-existent at times. It eventually came out at a high deer fence. There was no sign of the gate with the ingenious dog style! We did however notice to our right a set of wooden rungs over the high fence. We precariously scaled this and arrived at the footpath on the other side unscathed.
The footpath did look like it headed towards the river but we didn’t investigate further and continued up the hill until we were all sweltering in the heat and had to remove a few layers. Fuar Tholl started to come into view on our left and Beinn Liath Mhor on our right. Eventually we came to a cross roads where the path heads towards Beinn Liath Mhor and Sgorr Ruadh.
A short distance from here there is a stream to cross. As we arrived there was a couple with their socks and boots off trying to balance in the icy waters and looking for the best crossing. Jim assessed the situation and tried a crossing further downstream which had some flattish looking rocks just below the waterline. He seemed to cross in no time. While myself and Lynne crossed a little more cautiously but made it to the other side without incident leaving the couple to finish their paddle. They seemed in no rush.
From here the path gradually ascends up towards the beallach of our two objectives. As we started the climb we found a nice big smooth rock to have a break and a lunchtime snack eyeing up the hills ahead. We could now see the snowline not much further ahead of us.
We continued our journey up to the snowline and slithered a little on the fresh snow as we continued our ascent. By now there was a set of footprints which we couldn’t work out if they were from a single person or a couple. As we continued towards the beallach I tried to work out the best cut-off route to negotiate the lochans on the way up Sgorr Ruadh. I came to the second of the small lochans and decided this would be the best point. As I wished my companions luck we made an arrangement to meet on the big rock we had sat on earlier in the day. The Corbett being a little lower I guessed they would probably be quicker than me but who new in snowy conditions. If either of us continued back to the car we decided to leave a stone on the big rock.
We parted company and as I left Lynne and Jim shouted back to me to say they could see the footprints heading off through the snow in my direction. Sure enough past the first lochan I came across them. I got out my map and took a quick compass bearing to the large lochan I was heading for and sure enough the footprints were heading roughly in that direction. This made the going a lot easier and I soon spotted the largest of the lochans however I was just heading down to the edge in the snow when my foot slipped across a rock I mistook for a grassy tussock under the snow. I managed to stop myself with my pole but unfortunately now had a big bum shaped bend in it! Second outing with my brand new clip poles too which I thought were a grand step up from the old leki screw poles! So much for that. That'll teach me to splash out with my christmas money. I was only glad I hadn't had an audience! I continued on a little more carefully with my bendy pole and reached the start of the steep ascent.
Visibility was pretty good but I took a compass bearing north so I didn’t veer off course too far. I started the ascent with a lot more care this time and gradually picked my way up the soft snow over a mix of rock and grass tufts, hard to tell what was what. Not far ahead and off to the left a couple suddenly appeared from where they had stopped behind a rock and were slowly progressing up hill with a pole in one hand and ice axe in the other. I decided a mixture of hands and poles would see me up through the steepest section and I soon came up to what looked like a long clean patch of snow which must be the grassy rake described in the WH directions. I walked up the side just above this and the level eased considerably. Looking back I now had great views across to the impressive buttresses of Fuar Tholl.
I was trying to work out how on earth Lynne and Jim would have got to the top but I think they were heading further round where hopefully their going would be a bit easier. The top of Sgorr Ruadh I thought I was looking at early on in my ascent turned out to be crags off to the east and the top was now clearly visible ahead of me a bit further on. Undaunted I speeded up hoping I might reach the top at the same time as my Fuar Tholl companions. The ascent was much easier going and it didn’t take long before I reached Sgorr Ruadh’s summit. There were fantastic 360 degree views all around and the Torridon hills looked amazing with their snowy tops glinting in the sunshine. It really was a fantastic view. I raised my poles and shouted 90 from the top giving my companions a wave in the hope they could maybe see me from their top if they hadn’t already started their ascent. I had the cairn all to myself and stepped on crisp virgin snow into the centre trying to balance my camera for an awkward selfie with the usual palaver.
There was enough wind to make stopping for any length of time pretty cold so I took some photos and after a muesli bar decided to start the decent and see if I could catch up with my companions. The descent seemed a lot quicker going with brilliant views across to Fuar Tholl the whole time. I had to stop for a few more photos. You don’t often get cracking days like these.
I passed the couple I'd seen earlier still making their way to the summit who seemed a lot younger close up. Initially I had guessed they were in their 70's but close up they looked younger than me! They said they'd been climbing in the area for a week so I think they had spent most of their energy as they were making quite slow progress. Although they were probably being a bit more cautious than me with my bendy pole! I was quite enjoying skiing down the snow with my poles for balance. As I came back to the steep rocky section and looked down to the lochan it seemed a little easier to pick a route looking down from above.
It didn’t take long to reach the large lochan again and skirt my way around the smaller lochans to the main footpath. I looked up to Fuar Tholl and saw no sign of my companions but looked down the footpath and thought I saw some people further down. The snow also showed footprints in both directions so I figured they must be ahead. I skied my way down the now melting snow pretty quickly back to the edge of the snow line. This time I looked above and below me and couldn’t see a sole on the hillside.
I started to think I must be ahead and tried to remember where the large flat rock was. It was a lot further down than I remembered or maybe it was because the snowline was much higher up after an afternoon of melting in the sun. I upped my pace as I tried to look ahead for signs of big rocks. I eventually came to a large flat rock I thought it must be (no rocks on the top) so decided I would finally have my sandwiches and sit back for a leisurely late lunch. It was much warmer at this level and I could lean back and enjoy looking back at my achievement for the day. 15 minutes passed and straining my eyes I could still see no signs of life on the footpath, not even the couple I’d passed. I decided to continue my descent and so looked for the biggest stone I could find to place on the rock. It did also cross my mind that they might have forgotten about our agreement and continued on.
I had only gone a few steps when I came across another big rock this time with a stone on the top. Considerably smaller than mine but still a stone. Could this have been them? So I speeded up again and strained my eyes looking ahead down the footpath. This time I could see the stream and two distant figures. This must be them so I practically ran down the hill! When I reached the stream I realised it was the couple we had seen in the morning trying to cross the stream. They were still barefoot but said they had eventually managed to get across and had just gone for a walk up to the beallach (no doubt the returning footprints I'd spotted earlier). They were having a leisurely day and very much enjoying our Scottish mountains as it turned out they were from Germany and said their mountains weren't nearly as pretty. Really? We all looked back up the footpath again but couldn’t see anyone. I chatted to the german couple for a bit about their love for Scotland. They seemed to be visiting every corner on their trip. I had another last look up the footpath before deciding to continue. I continued down the path with a spring in my step and soon came to the awkward stile again. I quickly negotiated this with no spectators this time and was back at the car in no time at all. Of course there was no-one there, whoops! I was sure I wasn’t the first. I chatted to a couple who had just arrived behind me and then about 10 minutes heard a howl from the forest. I howled back and sure enough Lynne and Jim appeared down the footpath saying they had chased me all the way down the hill spotting me in my red jacket. All I can say is they must have been well camouflaged! Either that or my eyesight is getting pretty bad! It turned out the Fuar Tholl path had been a little steeper and more precarious in the snow and they had been on their top the same time as myself. If I'd had a pair of binoculars (or better eyesight) I would have seen them.
Jim had to make his excuses for missing the meet having to help out various friends but before he left produced a box of cadbury's cream eggs. As we munched on our eggs various walkmeeter’s tooted as they passed. Time to get up the road for a well earned G and T. As it turned out this was the best weather of the whole weekend.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.