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Nine More Days in Northern Heaven

Nine More Days in Northern Heaven

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Aug 24, 2020 1:17 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Tarsuinn, Ben Hope, Ben Klibreck, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Sgùrr Bàn, Slioch

Grahams included on this walk: Beinn Bheag (Letterewe Forest)

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: An Lean-charn, Ben Hutig, Cnoc an Daimh Mor, Creag Dhubh Bheag, Creag Dhubh Mhor (Sutherland), Feinne-bheinn Mhor, Meadie Ridge, Meall an Fhuarain (Alltnaharra), Meall Dola

Date walked: 23/08/2020

Distance: 166 km

Ascent: 8246m

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A rather unexpected holiday

Allison was supposed to be going down to her dad's for the weekend of 15th August, meaning that we wouldn't be going away. She had some leave from her unused summer holiday (Covid destroyed) which she planned to take after that, so I thought I'd be doing little projects of my own. However, resurgent Covid in the NW of England made her put her plans to visit her dad on hold and she decided she'd rather get away somewhere than paint her staircase, so with only a couple of days notice I had the prospect of 9 days holiday to look forward to. And organise the schedule, of course. Having been up in The Fannaichs the weekend before, looking over at the beloved hills of Torridon and Fisherfield had fairly whetted my appetite for adventure of that sort, but it would also be an opportunity to head up to the Far North and climb some of the Marilyns there that we had planned to do earlier in the summer but were denied the chance.

Our very first summer holiday, in 2013, was written up in a blog on these very pages as Nine Days in Northern Heaven. That week holds a very fond place in my memories - we crammed so many things, so many wondrous things, into the time we had, plus had excellent weather for most of it...the Beinn Dearg six, the four Northern Munros; camping out at Sandwood Bay; realising my teenage dream of climbing Foinaven; visiting Orkney; Stac Pollaidh and Suilven - oh it was great fun. Realising that we could never again have the euphoria of doing such things for the first time didn't stop me anticipating a good week in well loved areas. The weather forecast looked better for the far north west than elsewhere...

Day One - Sizzling on Slioch and the start of Midgemageddon

fishers Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

For various reasons we didn't get away til 8am on Saturday morning, had a clear road up to Kinlochewe, arriving about 12.30 at a busy Incheril car park. While we were sorting out our kit another guy drove up, his plan was to bike up towards Lochan Fada and make a round of the Fisherfields. He'd just spent a week on Skye, having the chibbed legs to show for it, and looked a fit individual. We discussed options for route and where he might camp for the night. We set off along Loch Maree, the day hot and sunny. Across the loch, Meall a'Ghuibhais looked superb, little white clouds the only interruptions to a pure blue sky. The bridge across the Abhainn an Fhaisaigh has seen better days... As usual we managed to miss the start of the footpath up into the coire, but picked it up earlier than last time. The heat was quite intense by this point, hard going lugging a big pack in this weather. Once we entered the great bowl of Coire na Sleaghaich there was some respite from the glare in a short, all too short, section of shade before we started climbing toward the summit. Perfect views all around - Torridon's peaks bathed in a blue haze, sharper views of the Fisherfields and a beautiful view down Loch Maree.

Our adventure begins
ImageBE1175FA-A5B9-4E1F-A0E2-10B7E6F52106_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image494B3D13-6174-488D-B8AE-3B9C1089EEE6_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageEA89EBFF-BC62-4ADA-A0BC-C3918B44924D_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

bridge in need of attention
Image8A13D4E6-E138-4679-877F-BD018F99DD81_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Torridon hills
ImageA7A2385A-D735-47E2-A146-9FE5C3B8BBC6_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

In the coire shade
Image88122C55-25BE-4AFC-B761-BCB443AB0621_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

You can just make out the tent at the summit
ImageB428D682-C247-443C-A0DB-F7F6920CE66C_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

At the summit we found a man set up with tent and cooking paraphernalia. I suggested he had one of the best spots around for a wild camp, with views difficult to surpass. His plan was to head down "sometime tomorrow" when he had had enough of the views. I hoped that the night would stay clear for him - and midge free. Whilst a Slioch summit camp would have been a great start to our adventure, there was more distance to be put in before we could rest. I wanted to climb the northern outlier, Meall Daimh - a Sim, that has been on my radar for a long time, then thought we'd head round towards Lochan Fada to camp. So we continued along the ridge to Sgurr a'Tuill Bhain then descended steeply over grass into the coire. It seemed a big ask to continue round to the loch an tonight - also I feared there would be no breeze down there... Plan B then. Quite boggy ground brought us to the shoulder of Meall Daimh where we put up the tent, in the presence of midges, sadly, then scooted off up to the summit unladen. Drop dead gorgeous views from here, and more breeze than where we put the tent up - damn, should have come up here. We loped back to the tent, closed the hatches and listened to the midge drone.

Lovey Loch Maree
Image038076E2-9C08-4AD0-ADE4-B3367A74D398_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image3998DD36-DEA0-414C-A0FD-749E6CDABFC0_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image05CF50E6-8A4E-458C-AC8E-E31570699FE4_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Descent to Meall Daimh
Image988C96B5-53AC-4882-98A4-096398166591_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

ImageA73A1B85-A0DF-48A9-A6C3-3BF4ECD27FC8_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

A'Mhaighdean and co
Image7732E79F-C406-49AB-A519-CB25AF5EAEA1_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Summit Meall Daimh
Image1F992029-DFC2-45C7-9095-9FC421767958_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Day Two - A Chihuahua in the Fisherfields
Morning brought clag but a little breeze, enough to get packed up without too many bites (with the assistance of midge nets and Smidge, admittedly) and we set off east towards the track up Gleann Bianasdail, the stepping stones and finally the head of Lochan Fada. Where there aren't really that many good spots to pitch anyway - boggy or tussocky. Having struggled to find the path up Slioch, we did much better than usual finding the one up to Bealach Odhar - or maybe its just become better trodden since we were last here. As we climbed we saw a figure coming down - Allison thought it looked like the chap from the car park yesterday and indeed it was - not even 10am and he had done his round, which he'd thoroughly enjoyed - apart from the midges at night. Given that he'd not have set off til after 2pm the day before, we thought that was pretty good going.

ImageABE257D8-1AD6-41CF-A2A1-28E89763805D_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageA0EFB71D-BB1F-409A-9F5A-5F1181E19FF6_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Towards Bealach Odhar
Image71FA9209-0090-4F11-A171-B2E3500C8F0A_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Mhic Fhearchair
Image2128F766-B2D9-4F41-890D-690996EDADDD_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

An Teallach
Image80DA0BF4-D0BF-4A76-926B-6A49E15E855E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

The Clag was steadily clearing, leaving scarves of white around the mountain tops. Quite a pleasure to walk up to the brink of the Fisherfields again- I admit I let out an "Oh My God" when we caught first glimpse of the majestic tops stretching away to An Teallach. Residual cloud poured from Coire Mhic Fhearchair like dry ice on a 70s pop show. A dad and his teenage son were resting at the bealach, they set off for an up-and-down of Beinn Tarsuinn and shortly after, we did too. With packs left behind the ascent was joyous. Packs back on, it was over the Sim of Meall Garbh - another one that I've had my eye on - each time I've followed the path round its flank I have thought I really should go over the top of it....well today we did. And it was well worth it. There's a substantial cairn suggesting we're not alone and something of a path back down to the beginning of Mhic Fhearchair. On our way up we met a young woman with a mini-rucksack and a chihuahua. Looking like she were out on an afternoons stroll up Ben Lomond than doing a round of the Fisherfields. It got me thinking - maybe we're doing this all wrong, taking big packs with us? As for Chihuahuas being mountain dogs - well I suppose they are easily "rucksack able" in the event of any scramble terrain, but I have never seen any tiny dogs out on hills like this. Oh well... We had some additional business here too - laving our packs just below the stony summit we scampered off along the south east ridge to do the two Munro Tops. The first is just a simple bump along from the summit, but the second is a more worthwhile affair - I remembered it as quite an exciting short scramble, back in the days when I enjoyed such things. I can't remember the last time we did anything scrambly and I have to confess that I struggled a bit with this one. There's a little hump that has to be overcome just before the airy summit itself - Allison had walked around it on the north, which involves one move on a slim bit of grass, with no secure footholds, over quite a significant drop. I baulked at this and withdrew, thinking I'd just forget any ideas of a second round of Munro Tops. However, it proved alright to go right over the top of this hump and I descended rather cautiously to finish the route. It was a little easier on the return and we reclaimed our packs, summited Mhic Fhearchair and descended on the sand and scree down to the bealach with Sgurr Ban, passing a line of goats on the way. As you do up in these parts.

Image8A3B8B6F-348A-4B1D-999A-1BE468028D46_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

ImageD7209AD8-E8D4-45CC-ABF6-ABA63E6E5C3F_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageFA893EAA-7A6B-4921-A541-FC2189713CF8_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

Allison at top of Tarsuinn (strangely out of focus)
ImageCD2D07A3-085F-4C48-B1E3-E92EA522387A_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

No tennis court today for us
ImageA485F57B-57F5-4C47-91DE-ABF6E50E5E3F_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

Mhic Fhearchair
Image6D864889-5BFB-4A4B-8788-61B2CAF9A30C_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Top of Meall Garbh
Image2C670639-1E7E-4D06-9721-66B32293414F_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image8A12B71E-14F9-4EF1-A079-0D9D89F35EF0_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Rugged summit of Mhic Fhearchair
ImageDECD59E7-87A0-43C9-937E-EC4FAB31CCF3_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

First Top
Image73D44D18-66FB-4C20-9915-DD197EEFB014_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Out to Sgurr Dubh
Image218CC1A3-01CB-4B1F-97B0-9551BC1785D3_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageBBDFFB4A-2AA3-450E-892D-BFA4FE005969_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageC65265A5-A3E1-414D-B39E-A954123902E2_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Summit Mhic Fhearchair
Image88A4B727-64A3-4550-B74D-20AE9BA9D2BD_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Wish we were staying here longer
ImageC9DBDC2F-5994-4DFA-BC61-8C4F2A54D05F_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Goat patrol
ImageF9D1A118-B673-46D9-B755-214B0306F916_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

The worst part of climbing Sgurr Ban from this side is knowing you have the long ankle sapping descent over boulders for about fifty kilometres until you reach Am Briseadh. However today we were going off another way - off the east side to reach yet another Sim - Meallan an Laoigh. Some of this is on boulders, true, but more of it is on grass or slabs and it did seem easier than the usual northernly descent. An Laoigh was topped without any difficulty and thoughts turned to where next? My original route had us going over the Grahams of Beinn Bheag and Groban, then reaching the track to Kinlochewe Heights. Remembering the hideous pull from the bealach between Bheag and Groban I had decided this was a bit ambitious, but even skipping the Grahams left us with a rough walk of more than 6km to reach the track by Lochan Fada. Feeling the effects of the day's exertions, I looked down on a nice grassy spot by Loch an Nid with interest - yes it was only late afternoon, but we were on holiday and why not camp somewhere pretty? As we descended - slowly - we could see ripples on the waters of the loch, which suggested there might be breeze. And yes, there was, quite a strong one which meant we could pitch the tent and have our tea sitting outside of it rather than huddled under midge netting. What a view from your porch! An Teallach in all her glory. Funnily enough we'd been invited to join Scoob & Fi on An Teallach the day before but couldn't get up there in time - after my jitters on Sgurr Dubh I wasn't at all sure that I'd have been able to cope with the full traverse, even with their companionship - especially as when we did the traverse previously there was no visibility so no exposure to contend with.

Image6ED1D09F-95EA-4447-8E74-4AA781265755_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Sgurr Ban
ImageE1F90B6D-D5A4-4582-8F80-6B3D7C4CC42A_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Descent route to the little knobble at the bottom
ImageE1662696-899A-4639-AD69-417BFF59C507_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image6628B3FD-ACCA-49C0-A266-3708213AD229_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Sim top
ImageF86BF39B-B715-483F-BAC0-49B6692DC9C1_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Looking at an inviting camp spot
Image0AB10CB5-5C2C-4FBE-9C0D-ED3AE4F34BE3_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

4 trees growing out a rock
ImageC20E3FB2-23C8-4912-98B2-C60BD4E4B39B_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Not a bad view from the tent
Image27E4609E-2CEF-47D7-9983-38DE9FBC2E08_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image06ACA2B1-AFBF-456C-A15E-E5E947E3A9E6_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image822C6CB6-CEB1-41AF-8BCB-5A38C03816C1_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

We passed a quiet night, playing a couple rounds of Lord of the Rings Top Trumps, sipping whisky and watching the sun set, the clouds purpling delicately over An Teallach. What a great place to camp.

Day Three - Allison is underwhelmed by my idea of a "rest day"
Overnight the wind had dropped and by morning that ominous drone was starting up again. I was becoming quite adept at boiling water for porridge with minimal midge invasion, but after we decamped the midges did not leave us alone, but followed us along the track. Hellish. I had decided there was no real benefit to going through Bealach na Croise instead of climbing Beinn Bheag - both led the same way, the hill would more likely have breeze upon it, and the extra ascent was minimal, less than 200m. It would mean we could tag Groban onto our next round of the western Fannaichs. Allison climbed up the heathery slopes in midge net - me in my buff, swearing at the creatures when they found their way into my eyes. Thankfully there was enough air up on the summit plateau to keep then off. We descended along the old fence post line and contoured our way over boggy ground - thankfully reasonably dry at present- until we reached the track. It's more than 3 years since we last were at Kinlochewe Heights - the Hydro work was still underway then. Much of the track has been widened, along Gleann na Muice - and although this makes for more rapid access it has lessened the sense of walking into a wonderland. We didn't get back to the car til lunchtime.

Setting off for Beinn Bheag
ImageDCEBE52E-8A0D-4645-AAD2-FEA188386574_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Slabs on back of Mhic Fhearchair
Image21FF582C-4B9F-4093-83BD-2AA1C9A6C228_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Summit Beinn Bheag
ImageF0A75AD4-F60B-4B43-9A7A-C78A24CE41C0_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image8E8685FF-373B-444B-B446-C19A6884A042_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

View back to Loch an Nid
ImageD5AFBCB6-93FB-4681-8081-B4698369D504_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image7E19F359-74EA-4C98-AE52-2CD9E1C0BD0E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageFDEA70DE-6EEF-43C3-9CE9-6A826728DD4B_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Eighe looking majestic, as always
ImageFAA74FBA-AD6D-4C21-A787-21E87C34E80D_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image7530F2C2-8554-447B-A471-F1BAD47B00D7_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

The plan now was to drive up to Tongue, via Lairg rather than the more scenic Assynt route, as not only is this some 30 miles shorter, but, I thought, less busy with NC500 types. And it was a fine drive up, not much traffic on the road at all.

hutig Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Today's diversion was to be a high camp on Beinn Hutig, looking out over the sea. Although news of the proposed vertical spaceport for this area has gone quiet at present, it may still mean access to Beinn Hutig is restricted in future. So good to get it climbed now, methinks. I explained to Allison that this was our rest day - somehow she felt that a Graham and 16km walk out, followed by a further climb up a Marilyn in the evening didn't count as having had a rest. I couldn't see what she meant - after all, we'd had a few hours sitting in the car...We drove up past Talmine, past the weird (closed) campsite and found a place to park just east of the farm at West Strathan. Cloud was down on the tops and it felt quite cold after the heat of the Fisherfields. We got our stuff together and set off up farm track. Having reached around 200m elevation it seemed silly to walk ever higher into mist with the tent - why not pitch here, just below the clag line and defer ascent til the morning, when it might have cleared?

ImageBEFD33AA-1C7C-4F4C-8D43-7D538CFC40DB_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Dead bulldozer
ImageAF1A3E79-7376-4C4D-A86D-4C42B72B6B22_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Day 4 - Hope by the North Ridge and more midges
In the morning, of course, the clag had not lifted, just enveloped us too. We left the tent where it was and set off for the summit, following deer tracks mostly and arriving at the most heavily fortified trig column that I've ever encountered - flanks of stone walls radiating out in all directions. Someone must have been at a loss for something to do...So we never saw the sea, nor did we ever see Beinn Hutig, which was something of a shame.

Image79BD04F2-1FE0-42D1-B14A-9A67CCDDB60B_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image329B8809-77B8-4C9B-BCCE-49CD1F3744B3_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image53390D4F-03CD-46CE-B384-8E664C70D108_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageF518FBDB-028D-48FD-B682-89893D0E6628_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

Nice wee beach
Image403A8E22-13B5-4808-8865-C8A123D2EFE4_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

hope north ridge Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

I had in mind to drive down towards Ben Hope where there were several Marilyns just waiting to be climbed - Hope was on the agenda too, as Allison wanted another go up preferably by the north ridge, but with low cloud when we set off that didn't seem probable for today. But lo, as we drove down the narrow road from Hope, the cloud was clearing. We parked up at the track to Cashel Dhu, about midway between the start of the Moine Path and the usual Hope car park and set off into bright sun. The Moine Path is overgrown and quite boggy in places - you follow it for about 3km til the second "footbridge" then cut along the side of the stream making for the northern shoulder. Deer tracks and currently dry terrain made this quite easy going. Then onto the rocks and boulders of the ridge - we picked a steepish line up some crags, taking deer paths up Carn a'Ghalliach then onto more grassy ground. Ben Hope was, I think, my first Munro, and I came up this route with my brother-in-law. This was almost 30 years ago, and I clearly knew little about what was involved in climbing a hill - I recall it as quite an exciting day out, with some scramble sections but nothing that worried me. How peculiar that 30 years later after having climbed just a few more hills, the prospect of going up here had me more anxious.

View of Feinne Beinne Mhor - bastard offspring of Ben Hope
Image2554D2A6-F205-4E76-985A-EE5669767110_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Parked at the Cashel Dhu track
Image7C99BAE6-C53F-4A78-A33F-3A7266145CF1_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Hope from the Moine Path
Image123F0049-45E6-42A0-831B-120BC264911B_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Another fine footbridge
Image00FD90E9-C0B0-4174-B873-EE25882DC637_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image5DE0B463-689B-4841-B9C3-E510C9113634_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageE9DFBB2D-3D03-4E93-8CFE-70A1DC9021DE_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image8054E9EA-E1B2-428C-A168-062AF85676DB_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

You can see the gash of the bypass gully
Image1D80EA18-ADE4-4281-87A2-0626C280527D_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

We reached the little shelf-like section after the 819m spot where I watched, fascinated, as a couple of RAF Tornadoes flew beneath me on that first outing, so close that I could look right down into their cockpits. Nothing of that sort today, sadly. We came to the bottom of the cliffs where the bad step" lurks if you follow the crest of the ridge - we used the bypass gully which was easy enough. Just when I was thinking it was all easy we regained the narrow crest and I had some uncomfortable moments trailing behind as Allison picked a route up over boulders with big drops. Did I mention I don't really like exposure these days :wink: I remembered the bypass gully from the first time, but not this section, and I was relieved when we came out on the broad flat section leading to the cairn.

where the planes once flew beneath me
ImageEDAB4B8B-C749-4F24-96A6-2C41651F6631_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageAD805DDE-CBB1-4774-8437-E833458D5F3C_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image8919415E-A23A-4F10-A581-95C5210CFB77_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

There was a couple at the top when we got there, and for some of the way down, no-one else. I was surprised that it was this quiet, but then we passed droves of folk including a young man who looked the spitting image of my son that I did a double take. The plunge pools along the Allt a'Mhuiseil looked supremely inviting in the heat - and indeed one family were taking full advantage of this as we passed by. Back at the car park, we had another couple of km to walk back to where our car was situated. Having camped in this spot before we decided to do it again and set up the old Nallo which I'd brought along for sentimental reasons - our first proper tent. However,we soon discovered that it has major shortcomings when faced with dual challenges of midges and sunlight - unlike the Nammatj that we normally use, the ventilation openings on the Nallo are not protected with mesh - so you can either bake in the sun or be eaten alive. It was one of those early evenings with just enough draught if you walk about to keep the devils at bay - we had our the sitting on the track rather than in the roasting tent. I had a cunning plan of what to do the following day - I'd noticed a track from Cashel Dhu going up the hillside to An Lean Charn, which otherwise we'd have to drive round to Loch Eriboll to reach, and if we did it from here we could tag on Feinne Bheinn Mhor too. All this depended on whether we could get across the Strathmore River... A bit of early evening reconnaissance suggested yet, it would be fine - there was a ford for vehicles, so people should be able to manage it. Back to the tent, a whole night of midge drone - awful.

Image953E5862-FAEF-4A78-A905-5E7C416B073E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageBF553264-89ED-41A9-B147-177ADEFAD244_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

Before the midges got too bad, drying off the wee tent
ImageC117E889-6C0C-43F9-AAF5-05DC05ABF0A4_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

The crossing at Cashel Dhu
Image2327AC76-22BD-489E-89E0-21E590E4BEE1_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Hope in sunshine
ImageC8CD5EA9-6314-4159-BC30-BAA62E521B95_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Day 5 - Allison invokes a storm

feinne2 Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

A midge ridden morning awaited us. They are really bad this year, or so it seems. Around Ben Hope rivals even Glen Elchaig for midges and that's saying something. The air was thick with them as we assembled ourselves for the twin targets of An Lean Chain and Feinne Bheinn Mhor. We were going to use the water shoes that I bought a couple of years ago and have lain in the car still in their packets since. Allison put hers on at the tent to save having to de-boot down at the river's edge and be at more peril from midge attack. This gave her an unusual appearance as she walked the 3/4 km down the track. We'd left the tent pitched by the car. The river crossing was fine - quite wide but no more than mid-calf deep. The water shoes worked really well, giving good grip on the rocks under the water - I think they could become a regular feature for our walks that involve river crossings. We left them under some rocks in a stone dyke on the other side of the crossing and set off north along the track into the Loch Hope woodlands. This track seems to run up to the head of Loch Eribol - we were going to take it til we ran parallel with the southern end of our mountain then forge through bog and heather. There's a gate out of the fenced in woodland section and we set off onto the hillside after passing through this. Mist was down on the tops of the hills which hampered route finding to some extent- we could see various knobbles to aim for but got little idea of the shape of the mountain. Which was a pity, as it's quite an impressive wee hill, lots of slabs and craggy rock on the top section. We arrived at the large summit cairn, which falls steeply off to the west and attempted to eat lunch without attracting the midges, with mixed results.

What today's Marilyn bagger is wearing...
Image11277693-C590-432D-8B51-8DBEDDD9A403_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageAA8CF9A9-006E-4EAB-A851-8A093958B546_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Good track
ImageA5E4C2D7-6049-4D91-ABA8-F6D2559F3949_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

An Lean Charn
ImageABDFAEB6-36FC-47B3-907C-46E6F87D21C0_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image09EB050D-1ED0-4A8C-A718-235E34F1E036_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image7B41594D-C418-474D-8370-60C73D1FD3EB_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Looking back now clag has lifted
ImageBC781FD1-E793-418C-8E83-D61882DC3C64_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

From here we retraced our steps over the soft ground, reaching the gate in the deer fence again and trotting back down the track as far as the buildings, which are locked up, but look like they get used, probably during stalking season. The map suggests a footbridge over the stream - there is no longer one there, although the stream was merely a trickle and easily crossed. After some time battling heather and tussocks we found an ATV track which seemed to be going our way, and for a while this made progress easier. Feinne Bheinn Mhor is the highest of several rugged hills that are the bastard offspring of Ben Hope. Most people seem to climb it from Altnacallich, but I think our route was more attractive, heading up the northern shoulder of the hill. The mist had cleared away by now and we were able to enjoy some steep grassy ascent up the first set of crags, taking deer paths instead of the ATV track, which was wending away in an unhelpful direction. We witnessed an orb weaver challenging a bee and losing, thankfully for the bee. Past some pretty lochans to An Grianan, then on a bit further, walking on rocky pavements, to the summit. I thought that this was my 1200th HuMP and posed for a celebratory picture, but I found out when I got home that I had miscounted and still had one more HuMP to go to reach that particular Hall of Fame. Pillock :lol:

Feinne Beinne Mhor
ImageA82AF2AE-CC0E-4DFA-AC7F-1C9E550BC80D_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageFF9E5013-D861-4898-8794-F16C653D6AF1_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image9EBDAC09-1DCC-478D-8874-DF1AB6C5441D_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

An Grianan
ImageA40C32FC-D4CE-4646-9E38-1DCAC8608ED1_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

(Not) my 1200th HuMP
Image1FFBA835-564F-4E29-86E6-3B88A17395D5_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image65462654-3564-47B3-8B5C-3FB197B435F0_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

We walked down much the same way as we'd gone up, tired, but having enjoyed two good hills. Back at the tent our little "friends" were still waiting for us and the evening was miserable because of them. Untold millions seemed to have come into the tent - either when we were entering/exiting or having found some secret route, and there was a mass of dead and dying midges in the inner pocket of the tent, which had to be scooped out - I mean like two full tablespoons of midge-mass. inside the tent! And that was just the dead ones... :lol: Allison was clearly traumatised, spending an hour killing those that remained inside the tent and issuing a request, nay, a demand for wind. We settled down to try and sleep with the midge drone for accompaniment, however before midnight we could hear the wind getting up, and then it started to get really windy - straining the sides of the tent and whipping up an enormous racket. Twice the gusts were strong enough to set off the car alarm. I hadn't sseured the tent especially well - that particular pitch is really stony under the surface and I'd used less pegs than normal, which hadn't been a problem yesterday in the still air, but I could have done with them being in now! Sleep, it has to be said, was once more in short supply, but at least there were no midges when we decamped in the morning - other than the ones that had been sheltering inside the car.

Day 6 - Weasel takes the HuMP

meadie ridge Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Piling our stuff into the car we had a short drive round towards Loch Meadie, which is a few miles south from where we had been camped. A circuit of the loch, by way of the Meadie Ridge on the west, and Cnoc an Daimh Mhor on the east was the plan. The sun was being our friend again, and this area gives superb views up to Hope and Loyal. Parking is fine - there are many options to park between where we set out from and at the head of the loch. The western side of the loop is the better, as far as terrain is concerned, although what it would be like after 3 months of heavy rain would be another matter. We took a sandy track up to Cnoc na Coileach then walked over good dry grass to Meadie Ridge, which is also the name of this Marilyn. This was finally my 1200th HuMP although I didn't know it at the time. Ben Loyal reveals its intricate scalloped sides from here, the blue of Loch an Dithreibh so intense - ah what a vista. We continued to the end of the ridge, where we sat and had our lunch, enjoying the stillness.

Back of Hope
Image482DD7DD-0B2A-424D-B6A0-3ECFC083DAB7_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageE500B3FC-18E3-4246-8D7B-716596370871_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Meadie Ridge
ImageBB4D38E2-FE06-4C8D-B961-EF0AEE028C85_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image542C73FF-A4D2-41B6-83BB-2B867D71FA2E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image0ADC1DAA-FE88-479E-BEE4-D9839AF3BA38_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Loyal and Loch
ImageD939E5CC-6A3B-421C-AF52-930AA8FF46C1_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

From here we trundled down to the northern end of Loch Meadie, where there's a bulldozed track that's come in from Kinloch Cottage by Ben Loyal and runs to a little boat house. Must have cost a fair penny so that folk could go fishing. We crossed over it and set off up the hillside towards Cnoc an Daimh Mhor, looking back at the long silvered ribbon of Loch Meadie. More great views from the top, and at first a fairly easy descent towards Cnoc an Daimh Bheag - however from here the last 2-3 km back to the head of the loch were truly awful, with peat hags, drainage channels and tussocks. We made it eventually and had a couple of km to walk back to the car. This road seems much quieter than others up here and - as our next day's hills were just along the road - we thought we'd camp somewhere by the loch side. We did consider a tiny island with a tree on the loch itself, but the crossing would have been deeper than I was prepared to consider, unless we'd requisitioned the boat tethered by the loch shore. In the end we settled for a hillock by the end of the loch, which had enough breeze to defend against the midges and we passed a much more peaceful night there. There was a cracking sunset too.

The silver sliver of Loch Meadie
ImageE02C5300-FF5E-4282-8167-4B6C851DBA04_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Cnoc an Daimh Mhor
Image5D0057E6-2D35-4BC7-983F-702E9DE22254_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageCEA897E9-BE2C-41BA-BA81-759DB7DE1715_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image1B22E566-8208-4CBB-BD55-E0509D0F3386_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image03456D3F-F7FD-40FB-9D41-5529F02B1D1F_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image7BF7916F-8327-44EA-85A0-2C88F75D38E1_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

ImageE89D92F8-8468-46B7-B028-70A38BE4DEEF_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image7F8B755A-B243-45A4-8102-96CE36C26468_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Day 7 - A crazed stag walks in circles and Night at the Chicken Dhu plantation

creag dhubhs Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Still breezy enough on wakening to enjoy breakfast outside the tent, although the sky looked overcast and maybe with the threat of rain. We drove a mile along the road to the oddly named Chicken Dhu plantation, which has been re-wooded with native trees. From here there's a track that stretches out all the way to Ben Hee and would offer an alternate route for climbing that hill. But we weren't doing that today - instead we had Creag Dhubh Mhor and Bheag to contend with. After leaving the plantation, reasonable quality track continues, past some ruined old shielings and onwards alongside the Allt Coire na Said he Dhubh. We missed he left hand fork that goes towards our destination and had to cross wet ground to regain it - however this secondary track is poorer than the first and very boggy in places. After a time we lost it altogether and continued on deer paths along the Allt Bad a'Bhacaidh. This is another good hill, properly rugged. It took us some time to make it to the summit, from where we could finally see its sister hill, which is curled in behind to the south.

Today's Track
ImageAB00AF24-26B2-4ABB-A433-B10B6A051D42_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Our first port of call
ImageB4009A3E-2CE5-45B1-8CC4-304F7891352C_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image9D9EF960-EB66-483F-941A-88D6044AD46D_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageFE4DA09E-7236-479E-9B7A-FACE7199E672_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Summit Creag Dhubh Mhor
ImageB35518FE-BE55-4831-83A8-CF387FDA129E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Looking to Bheag
ImageF82D3FB7-613E-4E3A-B4A2-31DF5CB71DDD_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

We set off following a series of cairned markers which we assumed were heading the right way off the rounded back of the hill (they were). A steepish descent to Bealach na Creige Duibhe folllowed - at the foot of which we saw a large stag close by. It didn't seem to see us - we were upwind from it, though with no washing for 6 days now I'm not sure that would have helped much :wink: Anyway, it ambled around and finally headed off by the stream. We set off up again, a fairly gentle incline, making for the summit, which was - as these things usually are - at the furthest away point from us. Having reached the top we set off north along the summit plateau, easy walking on slabs and flat rock. We saw the stag again, a little way off, behaving very oddly. He would look up when we spoke, but walked around in circles of ever diminishing size, making odd noises. Sometimes he would start to come towards us then would go back to circling. He seemed ill or mad, or maybe both. We were therefore a little wary of him and swerved around his circle spot. Descent was down the steep grassy nose of Bheag, with the prospect of having to ascend another 150m to get up over Meall na Teanga to reach the track again. However, this wasn't as bad as it had seemed, we found a good deer path up the eastern side of a ravine and eventually got back to our outward track.

ImageD2CCCB31-93B8-49FD-81DF-283855A2881C_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image4B4F1317-DACE-40EB-8659-43AD41D03DED_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Summit Bheag
Image6FF36D52-FD03-4140-B72A-C17803243BE4_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

The Stag
Image207FC9EC-1B6A-4D8C-B3E6-059CDACA5B89_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image4FDB3016-4519-4D54-871A-E9A351AAC5DA_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Hope with a thunderhead
ImageC8A86921-B403-4FAE-AB22-01C761E51D64_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Passing the ruined shielings on the way out, we remarked how nice it would be to camp there - on proper close cropped grass. Trouble was, the car and the camping stuff was a mile away - I had intended returning to the wee hillock we'd used the night before. I persuaded Allison that she would enjoy the campsite more than she'd hate the extra mile there and back with the gear on her back. A midge alert as we returned to the car, but fortunately they were kept off by breeze at our designated spot. I wondered how folk in the old days, settling our in the shillings for the summer months, coped with midges - presumably there was no way of keeping them out in these roughly made stone buildings. Or maybe midges weren't such a problem back then? We enjoyed our tea sitting on the grass, soaking up the late afternoon sunshine. A game of Sharks Top Trumps followed - I know there's a Munro Top Trumps set, but maybe there should be one for Marilyns too - with categories like "bog factor" and "ferocity of forestry to be crossed" - maybe a niche market :lol:

ImageA3340869-C6F4-45C3-85FD-727F83762629_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image36330B4B-31C6-4377-897E-BC4ECADC269C_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

ImageE5DFB981-AEC9-4763-B27C-71D689DE44D0_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image260185EF-B5E4-4473-9A06-E00E2E174312_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Day 8 - The Crask at last
The plan for today was to head up Ben Klibreck and probably camp on Meall an Fhurain, jut to the west of the hills we'd climbed yesterday. I'd looked at various options for Klibreck, including a full loop from the track along Loch Choire. This would have enabled me to get to the air crash on the lower slopes of Meall Ailein, something me and Black Panther were talking about just recently. Can't help thinking we should have gone there when we did the Sim of Meall Ailein last time round. However, my route was 33km and didn't seem worth it, especially given the weather was looking quite grim, with low cloud and a cold wind. So it was the standard route up from Vagastie Bridge. There were already several vehicles parked when we arrived and by the time we came down it was chock full. Not much to say about this one really, Allison set a good pace on the way up, partly to keep herself warm maybe. We met a number of folk as we were descending, some of whom timed it for a clear summit by the look of things - something we didn't get.

meall an fhurain Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

As it wasn't yet 2pm by the time we were back at the car, the plan to camp on Meall an Fhurain didn't look sensible. Instead we drove along the road a mile or so and set off up a muddy looking ATV track that winds its way to the transmitter mast on Beinn na Glas Choille - from here it was a short walk to the summit of our hill - once again the furthest away point, just north of a wee loch an. It wouldn't have made a great camp spot, to be honest - lumpy and boggy. Back to the car the same way.

Image5C9F6577-E778-44CB-AE13-DDA1767A66D3_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Klibreck Summit
ImageEC4FBA26-80D7-4170-BDF8-D83EC944A753_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

ImageC60C4C6A-AA78-4F3F-B210-C3227BC69192_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

Towards Meall an Fhurain
Image7609D945-8B56-4EA4-AAEC-56BA6B400A9D_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image5C5036D0-FD17-40E7-ADDD-5F6643FDBE80_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageE8AB6D90-88BD-4C87-A41A-29636879B5D2_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image6F427067-3CAB-4DF7-857C-6A8B8F518BDE_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image501E1A55-C850-4E32-A793-5A434EC9A14D_1_100_o by Al, on Flickr

We called in at The Crask Inn - a hostelry that for some reason occupies the kind of spot that The Prancing Pony held for Frodo Baggins. I think I've only been in two or three times - I do remember the first time I climbed Klibreck it was from the Crask, no map, no real idea of where I was going back then. Some things never change :wink: Anyhow, we haven't been to a pub since Covid, so this was a little weird. Although the pub is open, it is only the beer garden that's open at the moment (although rooms and dining seem to be opening up at the end of September). The beer garden seems to be where the old car park was - there was a bell to ring to summon the (masked) inn keeper who would bring our drinks out. Now a beer garden in this part of the country can swiftly become a midge garden, and so it happened- we had to finish our drink rather more swiftly than we'd have liked, especially as there was full 4G phone signal and I didn't have a plan for tomorrow. We bade our farewells without having had the sort of Crask experience I'd been imagining - a leisurely meal inside, maybe a room for the night where we could have had a shower, whisky by a peat fire...Ah well.

Image5DE940D7-3189-4C0A-AF46-0E872DA65ED8_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image9077473A-80B9-45C4-98E9-14D010251AA0_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

dola Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Instead we drove to Lairg and set off to camp on Meall Dola. Now on the map this small hill looks like it has a good track running almost all the way to the top. I imagined it to be the sort of place that the inhabitants of Lairg might walk with their chihuahuas (other dog types are available) and wondered if it would be quiet enough to camp on. I needn't have feared - as Allison said later - "no-one, except mad Marilyn baggers, ever comes here". We parked by farm gates, walked through a field of sheep and found that the track wasn't. There had been one, certainly, because there were gates that no longer opened where it once had been, ut many summers had spread their vegetation on top of the once-path. So it was a bit of a haul over reeds, tussocks and stuff. We camped on the very top of the hill, in heather, using the rocks from the cairn to hold down the tent guys against a surprisingly strong wind. Sleep was once again elusive.

Image188FBB1E-2806-483D-8D70-A10D54571DD7_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image757CA276-38A0-42C1-B227-A49F4C332A5C_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Summit Meall Dola
ImageBC283630-B734-4684-90B8-DE49C1FB7CE4_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Day 9 - A wrong turn and Home sooner than expected
We emerged into a misty morning after a rainy night. We had decided to head to Bonar Bridge and do a couple of hills there, which looked short and had track going to them (although what that actually means in these parts going by the no-track to Meall Dola is another matter). There was a short sharp shower before we made it to the car that soaked our trousers and boots. I managed to take the road to Golspie rather than the road to Bonar Bridge - for a while we couldn't actually work out where we were, as the Golspie road wasn't on the OS map I had, and I had no reason to think there was any other destination than Bonar Bridge on the road we were driving. After several stops I got so frustrated that I decided we were just going home - it was raining, I felt so filthy having gone unwashed for all this time, my feet were wet etc etc. So that Brough about a rather sooner end to the day than expected - probably benefitted from quieter traffic on the A9 than if we'd set off 3 or 4 hours later.

It had been a tough old week - in Northern Heaven, yes, but with some Midge Hell sprinkled liberally over.
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Re: Nine More Days in Northern Heaven

Postby malky_c » Mon Aug 24, 2020 3:36 pm

Quite a selection of hills there! Loads of good memories plus a load of things I haven't done yet. Unlucky with the midges - We haven't found them too bad for most of the summer but the last couple of weeks have been awful.

That north ridge on Ben Hope is a route I fancy doing again sometime (although not the direct line up the buttress!)
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Re: Nine More Days in Northern Heaven

Postby scoob999 » Mon Aug 24, 2020 5:03 pm

We never did An Teallach, we did do two of the fisherfield munros you done though :D Sgurr Dubh now ranks firmly at the top off my munro tops list, done it twice now and it's just as much fun in summer as it is with a touch of snow :D
Looked like a brilliant trip you two had 8)
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Re: Nine More Days in Northern Heaven

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:45 pm

malky_c wrote:Quite a selection of hills there! Loads of good memories plus a load of things I haven't done yet. Unlucky with the midges - We haven't found them too bad for most of the summer but the last couple of weeks have been awful.

That north ridge on Ben Hope is a route I fancy doing again sometime (although not the direct line up the buttress!)

My, things Malky hasn’t done...that’s a rarity :wink:
I had a look at your camp on Ben Hutig to see what we’d missed. The route up Hope is so much better than the usual one.
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Re: Nine More Days in Northern Heaven

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:48 pm

scoob999 wrote:We never did An Teallach, we did do two of the fisherfield munros you done though :D Sgurr Dubh now ranks firmly at the top off my munro tops list, done it twice now and it's just as much fun in summer as it is with a touch of snow :D
Looked like a brilliant trip you two had 8)

Ah, so there’s still a chance to do An Teallach with you pair-might just manage that if you’re gentle with me :D
Sgurr Dubh is good fun, though I don’t know how you missed out the NE top of Mhic Fhearchair when you did Sgurr Dubh last time-you basically walk over it - unless you were trying to save extra ascent :wink:
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Re: Nine More Days in Northern Heaven

Postby markab278 » Sun Sep 20, 2020 5:05 pm

absolute great trip love your trips i just finish the munro,s letgo for rest loving reading u reports :D
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Re: Nine More Days in Northern Heaven

Postby ScotFinn65 » Sun Sep 20, 2020 5:20 pm

Unbelievable pictures. Wonderful report. Thank You!
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