I had planned a two week backpacking trip to NW Scotland to walk over three groups of mountains: the Fannichs, the Fisherfield 6 and Beinn Dearg/Seana Bhjraigh/Am Faochagach, plus Ben Slioch en-route from Kinlochewe to Poolewe. The idea was to do each group over three days each with a couple of nights camp. I had been checking the weather forecast in the days leading up to the trip and whilst it didn't look wonderful, it looked like showers with sunny intervals, with Monday 3rd of June the worst day, so I thought getting from Lochluichart to Kinlochewe via the Fannichs and Fionn Bheinn would be doable.
Reality didn't quite live up to my ambitions.
I flew from Gatwick to Inverness early afternoon on the 2nd and noticed that from north London to the Moray coast, it was a near complete blanket of cloud. A bit ominous, but we'll see how it goes. From the airport I got the bus to the city, went to an outdoor shop to get gas and matches, then after getting something to eat, got the evening train to Lochluichart, arriving around 7 pm. When I arrived, there was a lot of high cloud, but it was dry. I set off along the road and up the road that leads to loch Fannich, the aim being to get to the loch, climb up to a small outlying lump halfway up An Coileachan and camp there for the night, giving me a head start on the altitude gain the next morning.
View of Nairn on the approach to Inverness airport.
Heading up the road towards the Fannichs.
Looking back towards Lochluichart.
View from near camping spot, looking back SE along the road.
It had started raining lightly when I was pitching the tent, and as I settled down for the night I heard the wind slowly picking up, and the rain getting heavier. Things gradually deteriorated through the night, and the wind was causing my inner sheet to flap against my face, which makes it difficult to sleep. The rain just kept coming all night, and the result was I had a very sub-optimal nights sleep.
When I emerged from the tent in the morning, weather conditions were awful. The clag was well down, almost to my altitude, the rain was still falling, and the wind had picked up to what I estimated was a near gale. It was strong enough that I was getting knocked over in gusts. I hastily packed everything away and it didn't take me long to come to the decision that carrying on up to the ridge in these conditions and walking all day would be stupid, so I retreated back down to the road (carefully, it was steep ground with rocks mixed with vegetation) and headed back to Lochluichart, with the intention of finding somewhere to stay in Inverness overnight, before heading to Kinlochewe, which would put me back on schedule. By a small mercy the wind was behind me on the walk back, but the initial descent was hazardous due to the gusty wind, and at times I had to brace myself using my poles when I heard a gust coming.
On the way back, a gusty tailwind and rain coming down sideways for much of the retreat.
First section of the trip an epic failure, but there was still plenty of time for the weather to improve.
On returning to Inverness and getting a B&B for the night, I noticed that I was missing a small tent pole which holds up one end of the tent, and the bag the tent came in, which I must have lost in the hasty packing. I therefore decided to get the evening bus to Kinlochewe the next day and spend some time prior seeing if I could get a replacement pole. I didn't have any luck at the first two places but struck gold at the third, a small place just along the road from the station (Craigdon Mountain Sports). They had a suitable pole and a dry bag to store the tent, they only charged me £5 for the pole. I also found out why I had had problems with flapping tent fabric, when I had erected the ends of the tent I had not put the poles in the small pockets they should go in, so the ends of the tent had not been under sufficient tension, hence the flapping in the wind. With that, I felt confident I could carry on with my schedule.
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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.