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Ben Mor Coigach: I just can't get enough!
by BlackPanther » Fri Sep 11, 2020 4:26 pm
Route description: Ben More Coigach
Grahams included on this walk: Ben Mor Coigach, Sgurr an Fhidhleir
Date walked: 30/08/2020
Time taken: 8 hours
Distance: 15 km
Ascent: 1222m7 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).
We had visited Ben Mor Coigach and Sgurr an Fhidhleir in 2012 so the duo was due a re-visit. The mountain is cared for by Scottish Wildlife Trust which means no stalking issues. The previous time, we added Beinn nan Caorach to the circuit, today we visited two more tops, including Speicein Coinnich. The day started on a cloudy note, but later it developed into a great, sunny afternoon, so we spent a lot of time lurking around, taking photos, admiring views and practicing scrambling. Some might say, we made it more difficult for ourselves, but where would be the fun in hillwalking otherwise?...
The WH route goes anticlockwise, up the western ridge of Ben More Coigach first, but we prefer to tackle the circuit clockwise, starting from the small parking area just above Achiltibuie and heading straight up Beinn nan Caorach. It is possible to add one more top, Conmheall (visible behind me in the picture below), but we didn't bother:
We were the first visitors to arrive but within an hour the small car park was full and more cars were still coming, parking in laybys and on the grassy verges everywhere. Well, obviously it pays to be an early bird sometimes
When we started walking, weather was still capricious and we expected a shower or two to pass before it turned for the better. The tops of higher hills were still covered in cloud, but it was lifting slowly.
Conmheall shaking off the clag:
The initial climb followed boggy ground, overgrown with heather and bog myrtle. There was no path and midges were ferocious. Higher up, the surface is drier and mostly grassy, easier walking. Good views west to the Summer Isles:
Higher up, we found a deer path which crossed Allt Tarsuinn (reduced to a tiny burn now) and aimed for the western end of the ridge of Beinn nan Caorach. The climb was uneventful apart from stops for pictures, to capture the cloud moving over the hills across Loch Broom:
About 50m below the summit of our first objective, we entered the weird world of pancake-shaped rocks:
Beinn nan Caorach is a good warm up for all the scrambling and rock-hopping which comes later:
As the cloud thinned, we spotted the familiar shape of Stac Pollaidh:
On the col between Beinn nan Caorach and Conmheall, a group of trolls turned to stone sits on the shore of a small lochan:
On the rocks of Beinn nan Caorach with Conmheall and the Summer Isles behind:
Kevin is a fan of pancakes
We took over 800 photos that day and I spent hours trying to reduce the number to the 40 allowed... No chance. It's simply not possible to tell the full story of these two Grahams (and extra tops) in just 40 snaps, try as I might...
The best snaps were of course the panoramas, like the one below, showing the whole length of Garbh Coireachan ridge and the easy route up Sgurr an Fhidhleir in the foreground:
View east from the summit of Beinn nan Caorach to Sgurr an Fhidhleir (right), the unnamed 648m top (left), Beinn an Eoin and Stac Pollaidh in the background:
With Lucy on the summit of Beinn nan Caorach:
After a short snack break on the top of Beinn nan Caorach, we continued east towards Sgurr an Fhidhleir, but before heading for the Graham, we wanted to take a quick detour to the unnamed 648m top, hoping for some nice views from the edge of the cliffs. En route, we walked past many interesting rocks, like this one - a rhino?
Kevin posing with Assynt weirdos:
The rock to the right of me looks like an ancient stone tank
We noticed people on the summit of Sgurr an Fhidhleir, they must have started later than us but probably went up the easiest route. We didn't really care about time today, it was all about enjoying the experience rather than breaking any records.
Heading for the 648m top:
Beinn nan Caorach seen from the col between the two summits:
It's only 50m of ascent from the col to the unnamed top, sadly when we got there, we didn't get any views at all. Guess why.
The mist was patchy and through the gaps we caught a glimpse of the cliffs below...
After waiting for a few minutes for the clag to lift, we grew impatient and decided to move on. Our next objective was Sgurr an Fhidhleir, the first of the two Grahams. The traverse follows the edge of the cliffs most of the time, and as soon as the cloud began to lift, we could appreciate the breathtaking beauty of this rugged landscape. Simply amazing.
Our next target:
Kevin took every opportunity to stop and take a few snaps; seen here with Beinn an Eoin in the background:
Panoramic snap of the two Grahams - Sgurr an Fhidhleir and Beinn an Eoin. The latter is best climbed from the north-east, including Sgorr Tuath (our route described HERE).
Back to here and now, Beinn an Eoin served as fantastic background for posing on the edge of the cliffs:
A different angle with Stac Pollaidh also in the frame, at this point the clag came back for a short time, spoiling the views:
The cliffs now reminded me of a giant cooking pot with the mist lingering around:
As we gained height on the steep ascent to Sgurr an Fhidhleir, we witnessed the game of cat and mouse played by mountains and clag:
Breathtaking spectacle of misty patches crawling up the steep slopes of Assynt hills - not a view we will quickly forget!
These cliffs are monumental. At their highest point, they reach 400m. I don't know if they are the highest in Assynt but they definitely are impressive!
I tried to find small pockets of scrambling on this side of Sgurr an Fhidhleir but there wasn't much (unless I considered rock climbing ):
Considering the amount of time we spent taking photos, it was a miracle we reached the summit at all It was a new Graham for Lucy (her no. 91):
So far, it was a grey day with lingering mist, but as we rested on the summit of Sgurr an Fhidhleir, weather started to improve and quite rapidly, the cloud was gone. In less than half an hour a misty morning turned into a beautiful, sunny afternoon.
Ben Mor Coigach from Sgurr an Fhidhleir:
We took time descending to the 545m col between the two hills. With improving weather, more and more delightful views were revealed. We had plenty of time to admire them...
Beinn an Eoin and Loch Tuath:
400m high cliffs of Sgurr an Fhidhleir - maybe not the highest in Assynt but certainly jaw-dropping:
Panoramic view of Beinn an Eoin, Loch Tuath and Sgurr an Fhidhleir:
Under the spell of the Assynt landscape:
WH route ascends the N side of Bern Mor Coigach by following a line of a dried stream, but we thought it would be more fun to stick to the edge of the cliffs and practice some scrambling! Plus views are better this way.
It was my idea but Kevin had nothing against it. His knee has recovered and he's more than happy to clamber over rocks, especially with such views around!
by BlackPanther » Fri Sep 11, 2020 8:23 pm
About half way up to the next top (713m) the scramble-ish section began. We could make the ascent as hard as we wanted here, but generally it wasn't difficult. The pancake-like structure of the red torridonian sandstone makes it easy to grab, plenty of good footholds everywhere, it felt more like hopping up a giant staircase:
Suilven on the northern horizon, another hill due a re-visit:
Kevin was eager to warm his muscles on the sandstone! in fact, the scrambling section was so easy, we didn't even bother putting our walking poles away:
A man in action:
Panther on all fours This particular photo was deliberately posed for (the angle of rock was hardly steep enough to justify the crawling-like position):
En route to the 713m top, I spotted this viewpoint...
Don't tell him twice!
Panoramic snap from the viewpoint, again the same landscape yet looking so different in improving weather:
Beinn Tarsuinn (left) and the mighty cliffs of Ben Mor Coigach; Speicein Coinnich peeking out from behind in the middle of the photo:
Having reached the highest point of the cliffs on this side, we spent more time lurking around, searching for the best spots for pictures. No wonder we took over 800 snaps. I'm surprised our cameras didn't overheat
On the edge with Beinn Tarsuinn in the background:
Looking back to the "viewpoint rock" from above, a small figure of a walker in red top will give you the scale of this monumental landscape:
We had more than enough time to add Speicein Coinnich, a top we had not visited in the past, mainly because back in 2012 I was too afraid of hard scrambling
But it turns out, a path exists on the way up Speicein Coinnich, avoiding all difficulties. Not that Kevin wanted to avoid them
After some more enjoyable, easy scrambling, we reached the summit of Speicein Coinnich, which is a narrow grassy ridge with superb views in all directions (as if it was a surprise!):
Assynt pano from Speicein Coinnich :
Our next objective would be Ben Mor Coigach itself, but our attention was drawn to the shapely ridge of Garbh Choireachan, seen here to the right, with yours truly in the foreground, finishing the last meters of scrambling fun:
My favourite photo of the day, showing the overall shape of Ben Mor Coigach - Sgurr an Fhidhleir massif. Speicein Coinnich is certainly a great vantage point and since it is not a big detour and all scrambling is optional, I simply must recommend it as an addition to the traverse - believe me, you will not regret the extra time spent here!
From Speicein Coinnich, we returned to the 713m top...
...then continued to the main summit of Ben Mor Coigach. Lucy ticked off her 92nd Graham:
...but what she was excited about most, still lay in front of us - Garbh Choireachan!
The summit of BMC, surprisingly, has views much inferior to Sgurr an Fhidhleir, but it is still a nice spot for a lunch break. Midges, so annoying in the morning, have now disappeared, keds were also nowhere to be seen, so we could eat ouch sandwiches in peace. All the other walkers have already gone either to climb Sgurr an Fhidhleir or to traverse Garbh Choireachan, so we had the summit to ourselves and could contemplate the sense of life
Northern pano from the summit of Ben Mor Coigach:
The traverse of Garbh Choireachan is usually recommended west to east at the start of the circuit, but we preferred to do it in opposite direction, walking it late in the day towards the setting sun Today, it was still too early for sunset, but the light was excellent for pictures. The ridge looked mouthwatering:
There's a good path all the way along and every scrambling section can be avoided just by using bypasses, but Kevin was reluctant to use the "chicken route"
Eight years ago I found this narrow ridge quite unnerving but I guess I'm more used to vertical drops now because it didn't bother me at all...
Approaching the most difficult section, again, the bypass path leads around the rocky tower to the right, I used it last time, but today I was determined to stay on the ridge:
Turns out it is not as complicated as it seems. Good handholds, grippy rock, I had no problem whatsoever:
Beyond the top of the rocky tower the ridge continues, with many opportunities for fun and games:
Across Loch Broom, Beinn Ghobhlach and more distant An Teallach:
Most of the "scrambling" on the ridge past the tower looks like that - hardly technical at all:
...but in several places, walking over the crest is pretty exposed so good head for heights recommended.
The reason we preferred to end the day on Garbh Choireachan - THIS VIEW. It looks so much more impressive in the late afternoon light:
Pancakes for dinner, anybody?
One of the moments when I definitely feel life is worth living despite all the pains and sorrows of our everyday existence, despite not fulfilling other people's expectations, despite covid and all the hassle around it. Blissful seconds like this are written into my memoirs as truly special moments in my life.
The descent from Garbh Choireachan is quite steep and hard for the knees, I understand why it is recommended as a way up rather than down. The other problem is the path erosion. In several places the path has become a real nuisance:
Kevin trying to avoid a tumble down the slope:
Descending to Culnacraig in the late afternoon sun:
Lower down we picked a well-worn path descending alongside the waterfalls on Allt nan Coisiche. The slope was steep initially, but soon the angle eased off and after crossing the stream, we had to bog-hop over a wet pasture full of sheep (they were not very happy to see us, judging by their bleats of disapproval ).
The western end of Garbh Choireachan from the road close to the car park:
We spent nearly 8 hours on Ben More Coigach, but only just under 6 hours walking, over two hours of stops for pictures, scrambling and overall, sinking in the views and having fun. We just couldn't get enough of this fantastic landscape. Assynt is a place one in a million and we are so lucky to live only a short drive from this world of weird and fascinating shapes. We will surely come back here in the future, and probably take another 800 or so photos
Apologies if this TR was a bit long. I ended up replying to myself just to fit in the best photos but I hope my report gives the true justice to Ben Mor Coigach, Sgurr an Fhidhleir and the whole crazy world of Assynt.
by Alteknacker » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:27 pm
"Under the spell of the Assynt landscape.." absolutely, and I'm only saying that on the basis of pics. IgottahgoIgottahgoIgottahgo.....
by rockhopper » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:52 pm
by BlackPanther » Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:18 pm
Alteknacker wrote:I STILL haven't managed to get up to Assynt, but if anything would push me into it, it's this collection of pics, especially those taken from the Garbh Choireachan ridge. Just wonderful...
"Under the spell of the Assynt landscape.." absolutely, and I'm only saying that on the basis of pics. IgottahgoIgottahgoIgottahgo.....
I'm sure you will enjoy Assynt, it's scrambler's paradise. Ben Mor Coigach is perhaps the less visited hill (maybe because it's just a Graham) but it is just a good example of what this area has to offer. An old Norse legend says that the gods came to northern Scotland to practice mountain building, before they created the peaks and fjords in Norway, that's why the Assynt hills look so "unfinished"
I know it is a long drive even from Dundee, but well worth the effort!
rockhopper wrote:Informative, detailed and helpful as ever - thanks Like you, I don't think I'll ever finish the Grahams having missed too many en route to other hills so far. However, there are some I'd like to walk and these are two of them - cheers
We never intended to finish the Grahams to be honest. Munros, yes. Corbetts, maybe (depends if we ever manage to visit the outer Hebrides). The thing with Grahams is, too many of them down south, out of our reach for day-trips. We wanted to get to half-way point, we did so now it is just picking the ones we liked most and repeating them, perhaps using alternative routes.
We are currently half way through the second round of Assynt hills (M+C+G). Maybe we should concentrate on the remaining 22 Munros or 57 Corbetts but we get distracted too easily
by jmarkb » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:41 pm
This is a real favourite of ours which we keep coming back to - done it 5 or 6 times now. I can't recommend it highly enough. The proximity of the sea and the ever-changing views of the other Coigach/Assynt hills makes it very special, and it's short enough to be done in all seasons. If you do include Conmheall, you can say hello to the family of trolls that live in the col:
by Mountainlove » Mon Sep 14, 2020 9:38 pm
by Anne C » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:27 pm
by TheseKnivesMan » Thu Sep 17, 2020 11:13 am
Great report though, making me miss home!
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- Joined: Dec 19, 2010