4 days Fisherfield + An Teallach + Lost maiden on The Maiden
by Mancunian » Thu May 22, 2014 12:53 pm
Munros included on this walk: A' Mhaighdean, Beinn Tarsuinn, Bidein a'Ghlas Thuill (An Teallach), Ruadh Stac Mor, Sgurr Fiona (An Teallach), Slioch
Date walked: 07/05/2014
Time taken: 90 hours
Distance: 72 km
Ascent: 4600m13 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).
It is May and so it is time for us german migrant birds to fly northwest to the Highlands to go for a little walk. After an uneventful flight from Germany to Edinburgh we collected our two rental cars, did some necessary shopping (mainly noodles, rice, porridge, whisky and beer) and left the cars at lay-bys near Corrie Hallie and Loch a’Bhraoin.
An Teallach looming ahead
As predicted the highlands welcomed us with rain and a bit of wind but nothing serious like we had last year. As it was already getting quite late we walked in and pitched our tents in the rain below the mighty Sail Liath at the little Lochan na Brathan and soon fell asleep to the sound of raindrops on our tent.
view over Lochan na Brathan to Bheinn a'Chladheimh
The weather forecast was not particularly good. Light to heavy Rain every day, temperatures between 7 to 12 C and low clouds were predicted.
Day 1 - The Forge conquered ... us! -
We did not wake up very early but after a short breakfast consisting of porridge, bread with chorizo and honey, coffee and tea we were ready to start. To make things easier and more enjoyable we left the tents in place and unpacked everything unnecessary from the rucksacks. Just the rain gear and some energy bars were taken with us.
And so we started our ascent of Sail Liath on the amazing An Teallach. On the drive from Inverness to Dundonnell the day before we had already seen the Forge which looked somewhat sinister and threatening boosted by dark clouds covering the ridge.
But Sail Liath is none of that and soon enough we were on the top and continued to Stob Cadha Gobhlach.
The scramble up to Corrag Bhudhie was more serious.
Ascent to Sail Liath
The sandstone is eroded and the steep section shortly before the bypass turns left can be tricky. Our Walkhighlands Guide states that the pinnacles of Corrag Bhudhie should only be attempted by skilled mountaineers and were the place of some fatal accidents. It was this sentence together with BobMcBob’s fine TR that convinced me and us to take the bypass instead of attempting the pinnacles. In addition the clouds were low and there were was nothing to be seen. But even the bypass is quite exposed in certain places.
Strath na Sealga peeks through the mist
Loch na Sealga, Beinn Dearg Mor seen from An Teallach
one of the many bypasses
I did however want at least take place in Lord Berkeleys seat which was nowhere to be seen from the bypass route. Therefore we scrambled up into the direction of the famous rock and were surprised when we stood in front of it. Seen from the backside its quite small and the gaping abyss on its other side was in the clouds. In the end no one took at the seat because the rock was wet (and maybe slippery) and without the visible drop it doesnt look that amazing anyway. After searching and finding the geocache we continued on our way to Sgurr Fiona when suddenly the clouds opened a bit and we saw Loch na Sealga far below and the beautiful corbett Bheinn Dearg Mor behind. The ridge’s other side with the lochan was however still in the mist.
Sgurr Fiona from Lord Berkeleys seat
panorama shot from the Lords seat
Shortly after, we arrived on Sgurr Fiona an celebrated our first Munro of the year with a bit of the famous grouse. From there to the next Munro Bidein a Ghlas Thuill it is a pretty straightforward walk and at the next Munro’s trigpoint we did some planking and posing but sadly the photos were taken with a camera that was lost on the flight back.
At the saddle between the 2 Munros
Sgurr Fiona's rock face
a saddle below Glas Mheall Liath
From here we decided to head back to the tents via the top of Glas Mheall Liath and from there to the little lochan which is surrounded by An Teallach. After having scrambled down from the top to the loch I can only advise strongly not to go this way. The scree field is huge and steep and some rocks are loose so that going down is a constant stumbling and skidding. I had used my poles for balancing but they were not of much use and before I could stow them away I was falling and my pole was stuck between two rocks. It is clear what happened next. The pole was badly bent and when I tried to straighten it, it cracked. Should have used it in its bent state instead of trying to straighten it!
A spot of red in the sea of green and grey!
On the descent from Glas Mheall Liath - view to Corrie Hallie
After an endless time on the scree and later heather slope we finally arrived at the lake and were glad to be back down. Just when I thought it could not get any worse it started to rain heavily. We quickly went back to the tents and waited for the rain to stop so that we could have some pasta. The remainder of the day was quite uneventful. Because of the rain we decided against moving on towards Shenavall and just crept into our sleeping bags to get some sleep.
Day 2 - A dangerous day -
After 13 hrs of sleep (I dont get that much sleep at home) we finally woke up. The morning welcomed us with no rain an even Sail Liath was out of the clouds (but not for long). We crawled out of the tents and gazed over the Lochan to Bheinn Chladheim which had a wonderful reflection in the water. As so often in the early hours there was no wind and the water was as smooth as a mirror.
Later on wanted to boil some water for tea and porridge but then there was a slight breeze and so I got my foldable wind protection out and placed it around the stove and pot. After I few minutes there was this smell like burned plastics in the air and to my shock I saw that the stove was on fire. What had happened? The wind protection was wrapped to tightly around the pot and the heat could not escape which in turn melted the plastic housing of the stove and set it alight. We quickly removed the pot and extinguished the flames and counted ourselves lucky that the gas canister did not explode (if that is possible?). Would have made a nice headline “7 germans killed by explosion near An Teallach”. And the Sun could have written: “Too much Sauerkraut? At least these Germans cannot beat us in a game of footie again” But then we are in Scotland, not England!
Well, we had 3 stoves with us and therefore the loss of on wasn’t really severe.
We left Lochan na Brathan and headed for Shenavall.
The burned stove - it did still work but the valve was leaking gas so we did not use it again
The bothy was empty and we continued towards Larachantivore but before arriving there we had to cross the two rivers. Their level wasn’t really high and wading through would not have been a problem but I had the idea of wading through the single river after the confluence instead of wading through two. The idea wasn’t bad and so we crossed the river close to Larachantivore and were astonished to find the river arm coming from the east almost completely dry. There was a large trunk in the stream and a dead young deer hanging from one of its branches. It must have drowned during the last flood and looked dreadful. The reason why one arm was dry is that the confluence is now a few hundred meters upstream and the OS maps are no longer showing the real course but the satellite imagery from Google or Bing does.
Crossing the river
The grass flats between Shenavall and Larachanitvore
The walk up Gleann na Muice was lovely. There is a fine path along the river with fantastic scenery around. To the right there is Beinn Dearg Mor while to the left the ex-Munro Beinn a’Chladheimh thrones. After a few kilometers we had some ready made soup and coffee and even enjoyed some sun light but this did not last long and soon enough a cloud came over Beinn Dearg Mor and it started to rain.
We arrived around 4 pm at a flattish area called Pollan na Muice and decided to place our tents here next to a small stream, leave all the heavy stuff behind and walk up A’Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stuc Mor.
The eastern Fisherfield Munros
The long walk from the lake below Sail Liath to the camp location had obviously taken its tool on us because while a few flew up the mountain the rest of us had to walk slowly even though the rucksacks were left in the tents. This led to a serious problem that none uf was aware of at the time. By the time the first had reached the summit our group was stretched over 300 meters. While this was fine below the clouds it became suddenly a serious situation when a huge cloud rolled over the summit shrouded the view and reduced the visibility to twenty meters. To our rearmost friend all the others suddenly disappeared in the mist and were basically gone. She tried to follow the general direction to the summit but since we had not followed any distinct path this was difficult. All other (that includes me) waited at the summit for her to arrive and for the mist to disappear. But neither of that happened. After a couple of minutes one of us headed back to look for her and finally saw her going apparently down the mountain. With that information he returned and said that everything is fine and that our friend is heading back to the tents (at least that is what he thought).
me on A'Mhaighdean (The Maiden)
view from The Maiden to Dubh Loch and Fionn Loch
view from The Maiden to Lochan Fada and Gorm Loch Mor
At the summit there was a very nice man from Glasgow (I think) with whom we had a discussion about maps (Harveys are better), locations (Liathach is the place to go) and a few other things. It is always to have a word with locals but for some reason this was the only chance we had this year to speak to someone.
There was also a magical moment. First we were all quite sad to find ourselves surrounded by mist with no view whatsoever. But then all of a sudden the clouds opened up to reveal the breathtaking view to Dubh Loch and Fionn Loch and beyond. It was absolutely stunning. We just stared at the scenery and almost forgot to take pictures. But after a few minutes lows clouds closed this window and we were surrounded by white nothingness again.
It was time to move on to the second Munro of the day, Ruadh Stac Mor. It is only a short distance and once we were out of the clouds the path was quite obvious.
view from the saddle between the 2 Munros over Fuar Loch Mor
By then I felt like I was hearing some kind of shout or cry. I reckoned it could be one of those ptarmigans that we had seen earlier but then it sounded almost human. So I stopped, drew the hood of my rain jacket back and listened more carefully and there it was. Somewhat muted but still perceptible there was a long “Hiiiiiil-feeeee!” scream (which is german for help) from a voice all of us knew straight away. Our friend who was supposed to be already at the tents was crying for help. Immediately three of us started to run in the general direction where the cries came from which was from somewhere at SE flank of A’Mhaighdean. We had no idea what could have happened were all nervous and worried.
It took us some time of searching, shouting and listening to find her at around 850m close to the SW drop. Her brother was the first to arrive. His sister was pretty devastated but also relieved that we had found her after 30 minutes and so we walked gently down the back to the tents trying to calm her down while blaming us for having been too fast and not looking after her.
This was clearly our fault. All others in the group had been to the Highlands before, bagging Munros, walking through the rain and mist but it was her first time up here. She was of course properly equipped in terms of clothing but had no GPS nor map nor any idea of the places where we intended to go. So as soon as she had lost the sight of us in the mist she was lost and had no idea where we were or where she had to go. It is easy to panic under such circumstances but she kept her senses and tried to find the way back alone and after that had failed she did the only sensible thing, she cried for help.
Finally we saw the tents again and from there she walked the last couple of meters alone and we could finally continue to Ruadh Stac Mor but not without a feeling of guilt. It took us some time to get to the bealach between the two Munros again. Finding the path through the cliff was easy (because there is frequently the question on the forum where the path is) and not long after we stood at the top.
Descent from Ruadh Stac mor
After a couple of minutes in the clag and rain we decided to head back when this magical moment happened again. This time the mist opened up and revealed a breathtaking view of Fuar Loch Mor (in the shadow) and the little lochans beyond Fionn Loch which were illuminated by the last rays of sunlight. Absolutely jaw-dropping. I do not know how many photos we took but we stopped on the path down several times just to look.
a magical moment - 1
a magical moment - 2
a magical moment - 3
Finding the path down was a bit of a problem because from above the cliff the path through the rocks cannot be easily seen. There are a few cairns but we ended up 50 m away from the path where we came up and had to scramble over rocks along the cliff before we reached the path down again. The way back to the tents was uneventful but a bit of a slog after this long day.
Looking back to Ruadh Stac Mor
Day 3 - A day in the clouds -
We woke to rain and if the forecast was correct had to expect more rain. But at least it wasn’t cold. The mood in the group was a bit down after yesterday's events and so we packed and then trudged from Pollan na Muice towards Lochan Fadas NE shingle beach.
Below Beinn Tarsuinn
Along the way was the last of the Fisherfield Munros that we had not bagged and so we left our rucksacks behind a large rock at 550m and quickly went up to the summit of Beinn Tarsuinn. The views must be great in good weather. We could however see in every direction and the clouds were hanging low above us, but in the rain and dim light the scenery was just bleak, wet and grey.
The tennis court!
view north from Beinn Tarsuinn
some snow was still there
Beinn Tarsuinn ridge and A'Mhaighdean panorama
Our friend that we had lost the day before had decided to stay away from any summit for the remainder of the tour and had therefore continued to Lochan Fada. This time I had equipped her with GPS and walkie-talkies (yes, we had those with us). To keep her from waiting too long we quickly descended, grabbed our rucksacks and followed her to the shingle beach were we put up the tents and had soup. We then decided to attempt Slioch although the summit and also the top of Sgurr an Tuill Bhain were in the clouds. But since we come to Scotland only once in a year this did not stop us.
Again we travelled light and carried only rain gear and some fruit bars as well as water and some whisky. The walk along the shore to the Gleann Bianasdail is nice and easy and crossing the river was not all too difficult.
Crossing the river
Beyond the river we followed the path for one km or so, quickly found the geocache along the way and started our ascent of the east face of Sgurr an Tuill Bhain. Despite the narrow contour lines on the map indicating a steep slope, going was not too rough and once we were up the SE ridge we were quickly at the top. At around 800m the view was gone and we were in the mist again.
More clouds and more rain
ridge walk to Slioch
The ridge walk from SaTB to Slioch must be fantastic in great weather with views over Lochan Fada to the north and Bheinn Eige and Liathach to the south. Well, these were nowhere to be seen and so we walked through the grey mist until we finally reached Slioch, our last Munro of this years tour. We celebrated with a dram of whisky each and donned our warm jackets for the long way back. Somewhere along the ridge we were startled by a golden eagle that took off just a couple of meters in front of us. Wow, what an elegant bird! But long before we got the camera out it had disappeared in the mist.
The way back was rather long and 2 hours later we arrived back at the tents. After 3 days in the wild a few of us (me included) were in urgent need of a bath and so we quickly jumped into Lochan Fada which was horribly cold. No photos were taken even though I told my mates ”Look, there was once this thread on walkhighlands were a girl posted a bikini photo of herself on a Munro. Come on, we do that as well!” But then the photos would have been blurred anyway because of the shaking hands.
Beach art Lochan Fada
For dinner we had rice with dried tomato sauce and garlic (to keep the vampires away) and not too soon after we were fast asleep.
Day 4 - The sun is seeing us out -
I was not really looking forward to that day. The initial idea when planning the tour was to start from Corrie Hallie in Dundonnell and finish in Kinlochewe but because it was quite late when we arrived in Dundonnell and leaving a car in Kinlochewe would have ment to drive for 2.5 additional hours. Therefore we quickly dropped that plan and came up with the idea to walk from Lochan Fada to Loch a Bhraoin at the A832 instead. It also meant that the walk would be a long slog over boggy ground until we would finally reach a path that takes us from the valley south of Loch an Nid to the car park near Loch a Bhraoin.
After breakfast we had to wait for a quick shower to pass which produced a fantastic rainbow and then we started in a northeasterly direction to Loch Meallan an Fhudair.
Here is a short timelapse video from Slioch and Beinn aChlaidheimh:
Rainbow over Lochan Fada
Going was not too difficult but after the Loch deep trenches of peat had to be avoided. Finally we reached the Bealach na Croise and from there things improved a bit.
Crossing the Allt Choire Mhic Fhearchair
At the Bealach na Croise
Loch an Nid with Teallach in the background
There is even a path (it is on Openstreetmap) that takes you to around the SE flank of Sgurr Dubh and veers to the north while we had to head to the east. We had an argument whether to follow the path further or leave it (my opinion). I was sure that leaving the path was the best option and thus let the others walk on and turned right to walk a kilometer over heather, crossed the two streams and soon reached the path to Loch a’Bhraoin. Once there I saw that the others had walked a few hundred meters further north but were now heading for my place as well. I took them roughly 15 min to arrive and by then it was raining again. I welcomed them with a smile (but without saying a word) and the satisfaction that I was right about route finding. Hehe!
Following the path to the east was alright and after a while even the sun came out. In the rain gear it became quickly too warm and so we paused at a ford to have couscous, cookies and jellybabies. It was truly scenic here. In the sun it was warm and the little stream flowed happily over the pebble stones while we boiled some water. We even took the time to build a little cairn. This little interlude lasted no longer than 45min and once our couscous was ready it was raining again.
How long will it last?
At the Lochivraon bothy we were stopped by a new fence which had not been in place 3 years ago. The gates were not locked but then we were also not sure if we could walk over the premises and thus decided to walk around along the fence. A sign, stating if walking over the premises is allowed or not, would be helpful.
Loch a'Bhraion boat house - almost there
Done - Back at the car!
The remainder of the walk was quickly done and I was surprised how fast we had arrived at the car as it was only around 4pm.
The rest of the story is quickly told. We collected the second car, then drove to Inverness to do some shopping (typical stuff to bring home from the UK: tea, salt& vinegar crisps, hot cross buns, orange marmalade, ...) and decided to camp at the Rothiemurchus camp ground.
Day 5 - Lost! -
The drive back to Edinburgh was uneventful apart from a traffic jam near Dunfermline and soon we sat in the plane back to Cologne airport. And there it happened. I must have dropped my camera and it slipped below my seat. On the connection flight to Dresden I realised that the camera was gone and I asked a stewardess what I could do to get it back. She pointed out that I should contact the luggage tracing office in Cologne the next day because after every flight the items left behind by passangers are collected and taken to that office. I have called them since my arrival a week ago at least 4 times but no camera has been found so far. I guess someone else found it and did not hand it over. It is a shame. The 3 month old camera and the 500 photos I took in Scotland are lost.
And the funny thing: The plane that flew from Cologne to Dresden was the same that flew earlier from Edinburgh to Cologne. I did not realise that because we had to go through immigration and get our new boarding cards from the transfer desk. So when I realised, that I had lost my camera it was maybe only a few seats behind me! AAARGH!
Dont wrap the wind protection too tightly around the stove.
Stay together as a group, always wait for the slowest member. Weather can change quickly!
The “Check and collect your hand luggage!” anouncment on the plane is not just for fun!
Here is our route:
by rockhopper » Thu May 22, 2014 2:37 pm
by dooterbang » Thu May 22, 2014 4:47 pm
Thankfully no harm came to that poor girl left behind, she must have felt awful!!
Such a shame about the weather but it didn't hold yous back and it appears to be a good trip, albeit losing the camera!
I also camped when doing these munros and loved it, it's a special area.
The girl in the bikini you mention is also German (living in Scotland), her name is Maja and she's mad for the mountains.
Hopefully next year the weather gods will be kinder for your annual trip to the wilds of Scotland.
by SAVAGEALICE » Thu May 22, 2014 5:14 pm
by Mantog » Thu May 22, 2014 7:53 pm
by AnnieMacD » Thu May 22, 2014 8:07 pm
by Bob the Dog » Thu May 22, 2014 8:11 pm
by The Rodmiester » Thu May 22, 2014 8:33 pm
by Mancunian » Thu May 22, 2014 8:37 pm
rockhopper wrote:Certainly quite an epic - had a fair bit of just about everything in it An entertaining and enjoyable read - pity about the camera but good job you had a backup. Yet to get to these hills - hopefully not too long though. The weather doesn't seem to play ball for you - maybe next year it'll improve - cheers
Thanks. Think I got used to the weather this year. Its been better than last year (not as cold, less rain). And in addition it was easier because we usually left the heavy stuff and the tents in the valleys and climbed the hills with only a few kilograms on our backs. That made a HUGE difference. We were faster which is probably why we lost our friend in the clag.
by Mancunian » Thu May 22, 2014 8:46 pm
dooterbang wrote:Very detailed descriptive read which I thoroughly enjoyed
Thankfully no harm came to that poor girl left behind, she must have felt awful!!
Oh yes, she did. She tried not to show it but I think she was very upset about the whole situation. Being left behind on a bl**dy mountain in the middle of nowhere! I still feel very sorry for what had happened and tried comfort her because she even felt guilty for having been not able to follow.
dooterbang wrote:The girl in the bikini you mention is also German (living in Scotland), her name is Maja and she's mad for the mountains.
Oh, really? She is also german. Now that explains a lot Its always those germans! Guess what: When we camped at Lochan Fada we met another walker. He was also german. I must admit when I am in Scotland the last thing I want to come across is (apart from my mates) fellow germans. But somehow they are everywhere.
We once have been to Arizona on the Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon. We did not see a single soul until we arrived at the rest area half way down the canyon. And guess who was there? Germans from the town were I was born
by Mancunian » Thu May 22, 2014 8:48 pm
SAVAGEALICE wrote:What an adventure! I really enjoyed reading your report. You guys are 'hardy'! Well done. Glad you got some views through the clouds
Many thanks. Sometimes its the view through the clouds that gives the best view. When there is just that little hole through which you can see some distant landscape. Truly amazing!
by Mancunian » Thu May 22, 2014 8:51 pm
AnnieMacD wrote:Fantastic report and photos. It's the best way to learn lessons - as long as no-one is hurt or harmed in the learning!
Thanks Annie. The only thing that was harmed was the mood between us and the self-confidence of our friend. It will take some time to rebuilt that.
by spiderwebb » Thu May 22, 2014 9:01 pm
by inca » Thu May 22, 2014 9:53 pm
by Mancunian » Fri May 23, 2014 2:49 pm
spiderwebb wrote:Stunning pics, very atmospheric
You're right. The hills can be beautiful and mysterious in mist and rain as well. Maybe even more so than in bright sunlight.