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Winter-in-May: Two wild nights in the Fishy Forest!
by bobble_hat_kenny » Tue May 21, 2019 10:08 pm
Munros included on this walk: Beinn Tarsuinn, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Sgurr Ban
Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn a'Chlaidheimh
Date walked: 03/05/2019
Time taken: 46.5 hours
Distance: 36 km
Ascent: 2400m2 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
In the event, six of us set off in two carloads at Friday lunchtime of the first May Bank Holiday weekend: Tom, Dave, Bill, Malcolm, Andrew and myself. The www.mwis.org.uk forecast for Northwest Highlands was chilly to say the least, but at least we were promised "minimal precipitation" for the Friday and Saturday, which sounded promising, and 40% chance of cloud-free Munros which wasn't bad odds on the whole.
There had been much discussion over how to tackle them. Despite the temptation of trying to get round the six in one day from Shenavall with day packs only, that did sound like an awful lot of ascent and distance for 24 hours, and in the end we decided to attempt to walk in on Friday evening and camp at the foot of the Corbett Beinn a'Chlaidheimh, de-camp and backpack over the first four hills on Saturday, then camp that evening at the Beinn Tarsuinn / A'Mhaighdean bealach so that we could hopefully tackle the remaining two the next morning on the way home. Well that was the plan, anyway - in the end, we were defeated by a combination of dodgy weather and knackeredness on the Sunday, so we only got the first four done, but it was still a grand outing and a real back-country adventure .
At least it wasn't raining as we set off up the track from Corrie Hallie, and the whin bushes were in full bloom:
At this point it was just the first four of us as an advance party, since Malcolm and Andrew hadn't been able to get away from work until early afternoon and were a bit behind us. We made surprisingly short work of the walk in to the Abhainn Loch an Nid at the foot of Beinn a' Chlaidheimh, where we planned to camp at the small alder wood that apparently makes a good wild camping spot. There was a startling view of the coxcomb ridges of An Teallach and the equally impressive Corbett Beinn Dearg Mhor from the first section of the track:
The cloud base was coming and going a bit, and by the time we got to the alder wood by the Abhainn Loch an Nid (which did prove to be an ideal spot for wild camping), there was intermittent sleety rain and it was feeling a tad parky. We didn't waste any time, but got the tents up and got a brew on, which thankfully soon warmed us up a bit ...
Malcolm and Andrew were further behind us than we'd realised (they'd stopped for a meal on the way up the road), and we were slightly nervous as to their whereabouts when they still hadn't turned up by nightfall, but by the next morning their tent had sprung up like a mushroom in the night - they'd apparently had to pitch it by torchlight!
I initially found it a chilly night: despite keeping my vest, shirt and winter-lined trousers on inside my sleeping bag, I woke up feeling less than warm and had to rummage in my rucksack for my jumper and eponymous Bobble Hat at around 2 a.m., waking up poor Tom (and probably everyone else) in the process - I was cozy enough after that, though .
In the morning, it was a surprise to find a light dusting of Minimal Precipitation over the corners of our tent. The Minimal Precipitation in question was cold, white and made up of hexagonal flakes... not what we'd expected on a May outing! We wasted no time in boiling some water and getting some hot breakfast down us. Most of us had opted for those handy porridge pots, but Bill had opted for a truly alarming high-protein, high-energy Vanilla Dessert... You could sort of hear Paul Holloway's voice in your head; "Well, the flavour's not bad, but the presentation ...…... It's a shame."
Despite the unexpectedly wintry weather, there was an impressive view of Beinn a' Chlaidheimh from our Base Camp One, and I found myself raring to go.
We wasted no time crossing the Abhainn Loch an Nid largely dry-shod using boulders as stepping stones: we were very grateful for the recent dry spell, which helped enormously with this route's THREE potentially tricky river crossings . I was first across, and being well aware that the others were a bit fitter than me and that I'd be slow on ascent with the backpack, I took advantage of a bit of a head start and started off uphill. There was a fine view back down to the alder grove where we'd camped:
As I got further uphill, however, I realised that the rest of the team weren't catching up with me as quickly as I'd expected … this is virtually unheard-of, and although at first I just thought that they must have gotten wet feet crossing the Abhainn and stopped to change socks or something, I rather belatedly realised that there must be an Issue of some sort. Feeling decidedly sheepish, I halted in the shelter of some boulders and waited for Bill and Dave to catch up. Right enough, the delay was because Andrew had come down with some sort of viral Lurgie, and having spent an uncomfortably cold night in his tent, he had very sensibly decided to bail out and walk back to his car at Corrie Hallie. We were already down to five men, and there was quite a bit of snow lying up there! Sgurr Ban was living up to its name (the White Peak) with a scary covering of the White Stuff, and the summit of Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (which was just visible over the Sgurr's shoulder) wasn't looking any less white .
There was also a scarily impressive rear view of the pinnacles of An Teallach (I think it was An Teallach rather than Beinn Dearg Mhor, anyway ):
The onward route up Beinn a' Chlaidheimh was looking intimidatingly steep from here too:
Yep, it was a serious slog up those steep grassy slopes to the summit ridge right enough, and particularly with our heavy backpacks. I made slow work of it, and it was a huge relief when the gradient finally eased. The last short bit of ridge was much more enjoyable, and it wasn't too much further to the Corbett's summit cairn. We breathed a collective sigh of relief, and there was general agreement that this had to be the most difficult Corbett that any of us had ever climbed, at least in terms of its remoteness and the physical effort involved !
Malcolm at Beinn a' Chlaidheimh's summit cairn:
The Corbett stands somewhat separate from the group of three Munros to the south, and it was a bit of a trek to the bealach with Sgurr Ban. At least there was a grand view when we finally got there, with Sgurr Ban and the distant Beinn Tarsuinn looking truly impressive from this angle. Malcolm at the bealach:
And Yours Truly:
From the bealach, we set off uphill in what we hoped was the general direction of Sgurr Ban summit. This proved to be another prolonged slog, being pathless quartzite boulderfield, with a hefty dusting of snow to give it even more ankle-twisting potential, by way of entertainment... We regrouped at the impressive summit cairn, well chuffed and not a little relieved to have gotten the first Munro bagged at last .
The descent to the bealach with the Mullach proved no less challenging, however, with yet more of those jagged quartzite boulders to negotiate... And although a surprisingly good path materialised out of nowhere to help considerably with the steep ascent of Munro Number Two, there was no doubt that Mullach Coire Mhic Fearchair was coming across as a decidedly unwelcoming and misanthropic character, hiding out here in the back of beyond, protected by boulderfield and much steepness, and giving us a very frosty reception .... Yes, it had started to snow by now, and the Mullach's sizeable summit cairn was one bleak spot today .
The south side of the Mullach proved to be no less unwelcoming, being a steep and stony descent, and it was a relief that at least the clear path continued on this side of the hill... Down at the bealach with Beinn Tarsuinn, the clouds parted again and things were looking up !
Although the final ascent of the day to Munro Number Three, Beinn Tarsuinn ("the Sideways Hill") looked surprisingly gentle, there was a formidable-looking minor top in the way known as Meall Garbh: a rocky and steep-sided beast ! On closer inspection, however, there turned out to be a nifty bypass path that largely avoided any real difficulties. This was the view back to the Mullach and Meall Garbh from the lower slopes of Beinn Tarsuinn:
This final Munro is very much the best of the three, I'd say, and it definitely gave us the best views of the day, as well as a hugely entertaining narrow western ridge, complete with a tennis court ! It really is the Sideways Hill, being set at right angles to the first three hills so that there are impressive views back to all three from its rather bijou summit cairn. From left to right: the Corbett Beinn a'Chlaidheimh in the distance; then Sgurr Ban; then Mullach Coire Mhic Fearchair:
The obligatory Summit Selfie :
And a view of Beinn Tasuinn's fine northwest ridge, complete with the famous "tennis court" - a bizarre, almost rectangular area of pancake-flat grass plonked in the middle of the otherwise narrow and rocky ridge:
As we worked our way along that fine ridge (slowly in my case, since I was pretty knackered by now), there was a grandstand view of the remaining two Munros, the ones that we didn't ultimately manage. Here are The Ones That Got Away: A'Mhaighdean on the left, with pointy Ruadh-Stac Mor to its right. At least we got to have a good look at them, I suppose !
There was a lovely vista to the south too, with the remote Corbett Beinn Lair looking very impressive across the large loch rather oddly known as Lochan Fada, "the Long Lochan". Isn't a "long lochan" just a loch ?
We made our way down westwards from the last bit of ridge towards the low and rather boggy Tarsuinn / A'Mhaighdean bealach, looking for a spot that was flat enough and dry enough to pitch camp. We eventually found a suitable spot just across the headwaters of the Abhainn Gleann na Muice, in the shelter of a rocky eastern prow of A'Mhaighdean known as Stac a' Chaorrunn. It was a stunning spot, but a bit parky at an altitude of approximately 500 metres... After a large bowl of chilli which Tom had rather heroically carried in frozen, I got a bit shivery (sheer knackeredness, I think) and went to bed early. I slept like a log, and woke much refreshed to find breakfast already on the go.
This time, Bill had opted for a high-protein, high-energy Mousse au Chocolat which turned out to be even more alarming than the Vanilla Dessert. If it had turned up on a hospital ward, it would probably have been sent not just for bacterial culture but for Cysts, Ova & Parasites, if you get my drift.... The rest of us therefore politely declined and stuck with our porridge...
The cloud base had come down a lot overnight, and the forecast for the Sunday had always looked a bit dodgy. Plus, we were all a bit knackered. After some lukewarm debate, we decided that it would be unwise to tackle the last two Munros, and that we'd be better just cutting our losses and walking out via the Gleann na Muice and Shenavall. We set off northwards, soon enough picking up a path on the west bank of the Abhainn Gleann na Muice that took us all the way to the solitary building at Larachantivore, where we forded the Abhainn.
A nice view back south down Gleann na Muice to snow-capped Beinn Tarsuinn:
After crossing the Abhainn Gleann na Muice at Larachantivore, there remained the mere trifle of crossing the deer-infested bog to the northeast (again actually not as bad as we'd feared after the recent dry spell), fording the substantial Abhainn Strath na Sealga (getting properly wet feet this time) and then stopping for a bite of lunch at the iconic Shenavall Bothy before tackling the long walk back to the car.
A fine view of Beinn Dearg Mhor on approach to the bothy:
And Shenavall bothy itself: a very welcome sight by now !
The walk back out to Corrie Hallie took longer than I'd expected, being initially on a fairly rough path with a fair bit of re-ascent: the intermittently heavy sleety rain didn't help, either! Eventually, however, we were back at the car and looking forward to fish and chips in Newtonmore on the way down the road.
Definitely a trip to remember !
by Jaxter » Mon May 27, 2019 11:55 am
Wasn’t your head cold on the summit without the bobble hat?
by bobble_hat_kenny » Mon May 27, 2019 6:46 pm
Jaxter wrote:Some stunning shots in there in between the cloud! Funny, when I was there in January there was no snow at all
Wasn’t your head cold on the summit without the bobble hat?
Thanks! I did actually have said hat with me (and was wearing it on Mullach CMacF which was definitely the chilliest moment), but the cloud had lifted on Beinn Tarsuinn and I was having that unpleasant "boil in the bag" experience from all my layers... so the hat had to go back in the rucksack !
I suppose it's part of the "fun" of walking in Scotland that you just never know what weather you're going to get: this was definitely a chilly outing for May, though ...
by dogplodder » Mon May 27, 2019 8:26 pm
by mrssanta » Mon May 27, 2019 9:42 pm
by bobble_hat_kenny » Tue May 28, 2019 6:04 pm
mrssanta wrote:You were there just a few days before us. I enjoyed reading that.
Thanks - yes, just four days earlier!
You definitely got the better photos, though !
by Sgurr » Wed May 29, 2019 5:59 pm