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Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day


Postby dogplodder » Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:04 pm

Route description: Fisherfield 6, from Shenavall

Munros included on this walk: A' Mhaighdean

Date walked: 02/08/2019

Time taken: 14 hours

Distance: 40 km

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Responsibility for a not particularly athletic OAP like me embarking on this hare-brained scheme I lay at the door of gammy leg walker and pollyh for encouraging me into having a go without bike or tent (neither of which I possess).

So it was last August Ian and I walked in over the Heights of Kinlochewe and climbed Beinn Tarsuinn (and in Ian's case the Mullach too). That day is poignantly etched into my heart as Callie's first and last Munro.

https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=86689

After the grief of losing her it took me a full 12 months before I could contemplate returning. But I knew that soon- to-compleat Ian needed to get to the western pair and a cunning plan began to form. Liz and Roger (aka Huff_n_Puff) were planning a camping foray into Lochan Fada. Liz and I had already talked about trying to do something together so maybe this was the chance we were waiting for. The problem was the weather which couldn't make up its mind what it was doing and while Ian and I only needed one good day they would need at least two.

Amazingly the plan came together. Liz and Roger would walk in the day before and set up camp while Ian, Mei and I would leave early so we could start walking from Incheril at 5.30am. I left my house at 3.45, picked up Mei at 4.00 and Ian at 4.15 - the earliest I've ever left for a hill day! To be honest I found getting up at that time no harder than 3 hours later would have been and the adrenalin was fairly pumping at the thought of getting back into the Great Wilderness - and this time to the magnificent A'Mhaighdean, affectionately known by walkers as Armageddon. Well let's face it to non Gaelic speakers it's a lot easier to spell and pronounce correctly.

I'd pored over the maps and read others' reports but hadn't found anyone who had walked in to Armageddon and out again on the same day (without the use of a bike) and I'm not super fit or fast - just a steady plodder. I also knew there was a fair distance of pathless ground to cover which always takes more effort. So would I manage it? I knew that Ian would as he's fast and not having a car is used to ridiculous distances. Liz and Roger would have the advantage of starting from Lochan Fada which immediately knocked 22km off the distance they'd have to cover. Mei has youth on her side but this would only be her third Munro so I was brutally honest with her that it would be long and tough - and credit to her she still agreed to come. She later commented that it was just good to get out of the house!

We parked in the usual place, already inhabited by campervans with sleeping occupants. The midges seemed to be asleep too but we sprayed on repellent regardless. Still bearing scars from a recent mauling by clegs in Glen Affric I wasn't for making myself too easy a target. We enjoyed the walk in over the Heights of Kinlochewe in the freshness of the early morning. I don't often experience it but can understand people who say the early morning is the best part of the day. Looking back we saw Beinn Eighe emerging in all her splendour - a fabulous mountain.

Beinn Eighe bathed in morning light
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An hour took us to the left turn off the vehicle track on to a rising track towards the Great Wilderness. I thought it wouldn't be so special to approach it this time, but it was.

Mei, Ian and those now familiar shapes
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From left to right Slioch, Beinn Lair, A'Mhaighdean, Beinn Tarsuinn
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Zoomed to A'Mhaighdean
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We saw Liz and Roger's green tent and their tiny stick figures on the beach about 20 minutes before we reached them. I'd said we'd aim to be there by 8.30 and it was 8.15 when we crossed the burn between the path and their camp spot by the beach. We unloaded our rucksacks and had something to eat before the next stage of the journey. We had walked the 11km to Lochan Fada with no difficulty but there was a good path all the way, slightly more waterlogged in places than the previous year but easily managed. Now the real fun would begin!

Slioch from Lochan Fada base camp
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Target still a long way off (above Mei's head)
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We decided not to follow the path along the lochside but to gain a little height to see if we could pick up the path Mountainlove mentioned she had found at a higher level. So we started up the path Ian and I had taken when heading up Beinn Tarsuinn, looking for a suitable point to strike off left. When the path took a turn to the right we headed off left to start a rising traverse west towards AM. We didn't find any path. It was lumpy, peat-haggy, tussocky, muddy and occasionally bouldery - not the kind of terrain it's easy to get up any speed on. I found that the toughest part of the day, the view of the less seen side of Slioch going some way to compensate for the pain.

North side of Slioch with Torridons beyond
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After what felt a very long time (2.5 hours I think it was) we reached the bealach between Beinn Tarsuinn and A'Mhaighdean and got our first proper look at our two target hills. I say two target hills but I'd always reserved judgment about whether I'd manage Ruadh Stac Mor as well. The argument in my head went "You're not going to walk all that way and not climb the two. Yes, but you also need to get back to Incheril and it's a very long way." and when I saw the steep profile of RSM my doubts got the upper hand. Had we been camping at Lochan Fada it would have been different and that's the downside of doing an in and out in a day. There isn't the same leeway in what can be managed in the time.

A'Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor
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The upside of not having a burning need to climb all 282 Munros is a freedom from pressure in these situations. The number bagged is less important to me than having a great day in the hills. I didn't voice my thoughts to the others. Ian, Liz and Roger would certainly do the two so Mei would have the choice of going on with them or returning with me.

The girls
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North to An Teallach and Beinn a' Chlaidheimh from foot of A'Mhaighdean
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East to Sgurr Ban, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair & Beinn Tarsuinn
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The climb up Armageddon was on mainly grassy slopes between rocky outcrops. It wasn't hard but I sat down at one point with legs feeling like lead. I thought about the biblical Armageddon, the last battle between forces of good and evil, and how battling over pathless terrain with infernal peat hags of bottomless blackness to suck down the unwary could suck the very soul out of you and make you wonder why you ever thought this was a good idea. Then I got going again and all of a sudden I was up there exploring the summit - and yes it was so worth it.

SE to Lochan Fada and Slioch
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South to cliffs of Beinn Lair and a giddying drop down to Gorm Loch Mor
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West to Dubh Loch, Fionn Loch and the Minch
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North to An Teallach
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I thought of all the folk in the Walkhighlands community who have been here looking at these same fabulous views. Some of them camped here and I envied that as it's a summit you want to linger on. As it was we must have stayed about an hour - wandering about, taking photos from different angles, chatting, eating and (for at least one of us) checking emails.

A'Mhaighdean summit
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Roger checking his emails
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Ian posing
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Mei sitting pretty
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That view west again
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I was very chuffed we had managed to walk here from the car, but we also had to get back. I reckoned going at my speed it would add at least 2 hours to include the ascent of RSM and traverse round A'Mhaighdean back to the bealach, which would put a time pressure on traversing the rough ground back to Liz and Roger's tent. And after that we had a 7 mile walk out. My mind was made up. I'd begin the return from here and when Mei heard what I was doing she said she'd come with me.

The plan was for the other three to continue to RSM while Mei and I took our time returning to the tent where we would wait for Ian before starting the walk out together. We retraced our ascent route, skirted round the main area of peat hags (easier to see on the descent) and followed a similar line to what we'd taken in the morning. The ground was just as lumpy as it had been earlier but we could take our time over it, looking ahead for what looked a potentially easier way.

Different shades of grey on the descent
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Bogland ahead
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We had agreed that at some point we would drop down to the loch, to pick up the path along its shoreline. We didn't want to do that too soon as there would be no path and we'd be following the shore in and out and possibly crossing streams as well. There was a funny moment when we saw a bloke in a hat coming towards us at a lower level and thought it was Ian, but couldn't understand why he was there so quickly and going the wrong way! On closer inspection it wasn't Ian and the poor guy must have wondered why we kept staring at him when all he wanted was to enjoy the solitude on his quiet day out.

Base camp in sight
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Once at the lochside we met what looked like a father and son combo with camping gear, and then two girls carryng nothing at all and later passed what was probably their tent pitched not far from Liz and Roger's. We only had one burn that was too deep to cross in boots and should have taken them off to paddle over on sand but being too lazy for the faff I suggested walking in a bit to see if it narrowed. That wasn't so clever as we got mired up in peat hags and ended up paddling barefoot over slippy stones, then becoming targets of a stealth midge attack while putting socks and boots back on. But the cold water did wonders for hot sweaty feet and probably contributed to not havng sore feet or blisters (for me anyway) on the final walk out.

Costa del Fada
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Liz had kindly said when we got back to their tent we should have a lie down inside to avoid the midges. But a very useful breeze off the loch meant they'd gone to ground so we lay on the grass with heads on rucksacks and had a good rest. After a while we felt ready to go but there was no sign of the others. Knowing how fast Ian is I suggested we start the walk out slowly and he would soon catch up. But with no signal to text him how could we let him know this?

All I could think to do was empty a packet of elastoplasts and write a note on the empty packet which we put in as prominent place as we could find that wouldn't be blown away, which was tucked under the guy rope at the front of the tent. I was sure Liz and Roger would see it straight away. Then we set off. We walked slowly and kept looking back but saw no sign of anyone and eventually lost sight of the tent and Lochan Fada.

Farewell to Fisherfield (taken into the sun so looks darker than it was)
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Since we were waiting for Ian we took our time. I didn't feel tired and my feet weren't sore, although I think Mei's were. We arrived back at the car in just under 3 hours, changed out of our sweaty boots into dry socks and hunkered down to wait. About 30 minutes later Ian appeared and we were on the road back to Inverness. It was a great feeling to know we had walked in and out to one of the remotest Munros (in Ian's case two of them) and were driving home at a respectable hour in daylight.

Do I have any regrets about not doing them both? Obviously I would have loved to have done both but it was the right decision and in no way detracted from the sheer joy of reaching Armageddon, something I'd never have imagined I could do if it hadn't been for the encouragement of some of you on here.

In the WH blurb it says "A' Mhaighdean is often regarded as the remotest of the Munros, deep in the heart of the Fisherfield Forest. It is a magnificent castellated mountain with dramatic cliffs, and one of the finest viewpoints in Britain". What an absolute privilege to have been there and seen those views. To see all that beauty and know that it's beautiful is such a uniquely human thing. I feel very humbled and grateful.
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby gammy leg walker » Tue Sep 17, 2019 9:00 pm

Responsibility for a not particularly athletic OAP like me embarking on this hare-brained scheme I lay at the door of gammy leg walker and pollyh for encouraging me into having a go without bike or tent (neither of which I possess).

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :clap: :clap: :clap:

I must hold my hand up a claim dual responsibility for such madness,I am also over the moon you got the fabled views from The Maiden.
As for RSM walk in from Poolewe over the causeway,it's only around a 40k round trip.
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby Jaxter » Wed Sep 18, 2019 1:58 pm

Fabulous stuff, glad you got a good day for it! Definitely one I’ll be returning to. 8)
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby mrssanta » Wed Sep 18, 2019 5:00 pm

oh brilliant! I don't think I could do all that in a day. it's the getting up early that stops me trying!
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby past my sell by date » Wed Sep 18, 2019 5:24 pm

Great -- Particularly fabulous photo of Gorm Loch Mor :D . When I got to the Maiden, setting out anticlockwise from Larachantivore, the weather was worsening and by the time we got to Tarsuinn it was throwing it down and I never really noticed the Tennis court :( though I must have gone over it. At the next col we gave up and had a long soggy 8km walk back :( :(
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby pollyh33 » Thu Sep 19, 2019 1:01 pm

Jings Kathleen, now that's what you call a daytrip :lol: :lol: :lol:

Your photographs are fantastic and full of happy, smiling faces as usual 8) 8) 8)

Can't wait to hear about your next adventure. :) :)
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Sep 19, 2019 4:07 pm

40km a day keep the mountain madness at bay :lol: :lol:

Interesting approach. I remember from our walk to Beinn Tarsuinn that the walk in path is good, but still a big distance to cover in a daytrip!
I think I'd prefer an overnighter, or I should say, my knees would prefer it :wink:
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:51 pm

Brilliant report and photos- as usual :) That was an amazing trip you did but I don’t believe it’s the trip of a “not particularly athletic OAP” quite the opposite. I’m not sure if Gammy and Polly didn’t notice the pain of the peat hags coz they started so early or they forgot it in the euphoria of what they achieved. :lol: I’m with you on Armageddon there, but as you say the views from the summit just put everything into perspective. A big thank you for encouraging me to go on to RSM, despite wanting to chicken out when I saw the route up I enjoyed the scramble, both up and down :shock:

Great to have your company, but can our next trip be a bit shorter :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby dogplodder » Sat Sep 21, 2019 8:27 pm

gammy leg walker wrote:Responsibility for a not particularly athletic OAP like me embarking on this hare-brained scheme I lay at the door of gammy leg walker and pollyh for encouraging me into having a go without bike or tent (neither of which I possess).

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :clap: :clap: :clap:

I must hold my hand up a claim dual responsibility for such madness,I am also over the moon you got the fabled views from The Maiden.
As for RSM walk in from Poolewe over the causeway,it's only around a 40k round trip.


:lol: :lol:
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby dogplodder » Sat Sep 21, 2019 8:31 pm

Jaxter wrote:Fabulous stuff, glad you got a good day for it! Definitely one I’ll be returning to. 8)


If I go in again it would be from Poolewe just for variety. Same 40km round trip. :lol:
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby dogplodder » Sat Sep 21, 2019 8:33 pm

mrssanta wrote:oh brilliant! I don't think I could do all that in a day. it's the getting up early that stops me trying!


Getting up early not as bad as carrying all that stuff. :wink:
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:01 am

dogplodder wrote:
mrssanta wrote:oh brilliant! I don't think I could do all that in a day. it's the getting up early that stops me trying!


Getting up early not as bad as carrying all that stuff. :wink:


I was thinking the same as I read your wonderful report. What a fantastic day :D
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby dogplodder » Sat Sep 28, 2019 2:36 pm

past my sell by date wrote:Great -- Particularly fabulous photo of Gorm Loch Mor :D . When I got to the Maiden, setting out anticlockwise from Larachantivore, the weather was worsening and by the time we got to Tarsuinn it was throwing it down and I never really noticed the Tennis court :( though I must have gone over it. At the next col we gave up and had a long soggy 8km walk back :( :(


You'll just have to go back on a good day then... :D :lol:
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby dogplodder » Sat Sep 28, 2019 2:41 pm

pollyh33 wrote:Jings Kathleen, now that's what you call a daytrip :lol: :lol: :lol:


But we didn't do as much as you and gammy did before walking out with all your gear! :mrgreen:
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Re: Reaching Armageddon and calling it a day

Postby dogplodder » Sat Sep 28, 2019 2:49 pm

BlackPanther wrote:40km a day keep the mountain madness at bay :lol: :lol:

Interesting approach. I remember from our walk to Beinn Tarsuinn that the walk in path is good, but still a big distance to cover in a daytrip!
I think I'd prefer an overnighter, or I should say, my knees would prefer it :wink:


My knees were fine... but I did my shoulders in with constant pole action and have had pain in one shoulder ever since. :? Would I go again? Yes I think so.... but that's mountain madness! :wtf:
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