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Seeing in the Bells in Fisherfield

Seeing in the Bells in Fisherfield


Postby malky_c » Fri Jan 18, 2019 10:17 am

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

Date walked: 03/01/2019

Time taken: 13.3 hours

Distance: 42.5 km

Ascent: 1700m

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Grahams: Beinn Bheag.
Date: 31/12/2018 - 03/01/2019.
Distance: 49 km.
Ascent: 1750m.
Time taken: 15 hours, 5 minutes.
Weather: Wet and windy on 31/12, followed by calm, cold and sunny (gradually getting warmer and more overcast).

A Hogmanay bothy trip has been a desire of mine for years, but up to now has been completely impractical. This year, it looked like it would finally be a possibility. Even better, Jackie was able to get away as well (actually I was joining her on her regular new year trip). We had discussed more possibilities than you could shake a stick at over the last couple of months, but we weren't committing to a specific plan until closer to the time as we wanted to follow the weather. Also Jackie's pulled chest muscle injury had worsened over the last few weeks so it didn't look like we'd be doing anything with too much ascent (and I would also be on coal carrying duties :roll: ). We had a whole week available, and decided to start off by heading for Fisherfield.


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Monday 31st December: Walk-in to Lochivraon bothy. 6.5km, 50m ascent, 1 hour 45 minutes. Wet and windy.

Monday was forecast to be dreadful on the west coast, even though it was reasonable enough in Inverness. I couldn't see us taking much more than an hour to walk into Lochivraon from the Destitution road, so we didn't set off until after 3pm. I was soaked through within 10 minutes of leaving the car - even my new boots filled up with water getting in through the holes in my waterproof trousers and running down my legs :? . With a backpack and a bag on my front, it wasn't the most comfortable walk, and swollen burns every few minutes made for slow going with the endless need to find crossing points (most of these burns are merely dribbles in normal conditions).

Even if we'd reached the bothy in an hour, we'd have been running out of daylight, but it took us much closer to 2 this time! My headtorch was buried somewhere in a bag within a bag, so we both relied on Jackie's light to make the burn crossings. Finally after a wider crossing, I could spot the silhouette of the bothy in the shadows - phew! Unsurprisingly, there were no photos from the walk-in!

It was quite a relief to reach the bothy and dry out, even if there were some problems there (water on the floor from a couple of leaks, a section of flue missing from the stove). I got the fire going immediately - a bit of a mistake actually, as it could have done with a cleanout first, and didn't draw very well. Regardless, it wasn't actually that cold outside, so once into dry clothes, we had a pleasant enough evening. Jackie had brought along some decorations for the festivities...

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Happy new year!

Then before we knew it, it was time for the Bells and a dram, and then bed. A more than satisfactory end to the year 8)

Tuesday 1st January: Beinn Bheag from Lochivraon bothy. 9.5km, 525m ascent, 3 hours 10 minutes. Dry/bright.

The weather was set to be reasonable on the 1st, improving as the day went on, so we didn't rush to get up. After a slightly chilly start and some tea and breakfast, we were finally ready to start walking at 12:30pm. Jackie was keen to see what she would be capable of that wouldn't aggravate her injury, but also nervous of buggering things up and putting herself back at square 1. We decided to walk towards Loch an Nid, with a detour up onto the shoulder of Creag Rainich for the views of the Sgurr Ban slabs. We could always head up Creag Rainich if all was well.

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A’Chailleach from Lochivraon

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Bothy at Lochivraon

It was a little squelchy due to last night's rain but the rivers had all returned to a much more reasonable level. Once we reached the ruin of Fainasheen at the highest point on the path, we turned right onto the slopes of Creag Rainich. The steeper gradient didn't really inspire Jackie with confidence that she wouldn't aggravate her injury, so we made a gently rising traverse up instead until we were overlooking the end of Loch an Nid.

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Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair and Sgurr Ban

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Mullach slabs

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Beinn Bheag behind

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Smile! Oh, ****

While the view was a little restricted, it was approximately what we'd hoped to see, and the slabs of Sgurr Ban were on display more than they would have been from the path. After a short break, we dropped back to the path to head back to the bothy. I got itchy feet at this point and decided that a quick diversion up Beinn Bheag would be a good idea.

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Sgurr Ban slabs

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Loch an Nid and Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh

It didn't take long to head up past the crag on the northern face of Beinn Bheag onto the summit. I've heard people dismiss this hill and its neighbour Groban due to them being fairly featureless, but they both have fine views into the middle of Fisherfield and a feeling of remoteness you don't get in many places. Add some impressive afternoon light over Torridon and this was definitely a winner of an idea.

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Crag near the summit of Beinn Bheag

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An Teallach and Creag Rainich

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Beinn Eighe and Slioch

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Slioch and Lochan Fada

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Monar hills

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Sunset over Torridon

I briefly considered waiting around for sunset up here, but it would be a good hour away and I knew Jackie would probably be envious enough to injure me when I returned :lol: . So after looking around for a little, I opted to drop back towards the bothy by the shortest route possible, which was straightforward enough.

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Loch a’ Bhraoin

I cleaned out the fire when I got back and was able to get a much better blaze going than the previous night. Right close to the fire was very pleasant but the bothy is so draughty that it didn't keep the heat in well - something I remembered from my previous stay. We played a few games of cards, ate cake and custard (orange and almond cake made by Jackie :D ) and had a couple of drams before heading to bed a little earlier than the night before.

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Fire at Lochivraon

Wednesday 2nd January: Lochivraon to Shenavall. 16.5km, 680m ascent, 5 hours 20 minutes. Dry/sunny/cold.

Regardless of the fire the night before, the temperature had dropped rapidly by the morning and we really weren't keen to get up - there was frost on the inside of the windows! After eventually struggling out of bed, we managed to get on our way - the morning was cold but stunning 8) . Although we had originally planned to spend 3 nights in Lochivraon, some looking at the map the previous evening had inspired us to walk through to Shenavall. This meant more coal lugging for me, although much less than I had carried in a couple of evenings earlier - probably 5 or 6 kg.

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Sunrise on the second morning

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Groban and Beinn Bheag

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Lochivraon bothy

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Heading west

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Looking back to Lochivraon

We repeated the previous day's walk towards Loch an Nid, which was made more fun today by a substantial amount of ice on the path. This time we dropped down to the loch, at which point I decided to take an out-and-back detour onto Meallan an Laoigh - something that I had been intending to do ever since I first saw the Sgurr Ban slabs in 2011. Jackie carried on towards Shenavall while I crossed the burn and headed for a massive slab with a waterfall running down it, which would lead me a large amount of the way up the hill.

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Heading for Loch an Nid

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Beinn Bheag and Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair

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Meallan Chuaich

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On the path to Loch an Nid

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Ice contour map

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Sgurr Ban slabs

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Meallan an Laoigh and Sgurr Ban

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Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair and Meallan an Laoigh

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An Teallach and Loch an Nid

Close up, these slabs are even more impressive, and absolutely massive. This was certainly one of the biggest waterslides I'd come across in the Highlands. I crossed over a couple of times to try and get better photos, before crossing back at the top of the slab and aiming for the summit of Meallan an Laoigh. The ascent was steep but on good ground, and the top was a great vantage point for the immediate surroundings. I would love to have carried on up onto the higher summits, but we hadn't started early enough and I knew I'd run out of daylight if I did. However I enjoyed a few minutes on the summit, where it was warm enough in the sun to sit there in my t-shirt.

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Allt Meallan an Laoigh

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Allt Meallan an Laoigh falls

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Allt Meallan an Laoigh

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Allt Meallan an Laoigh waterslide

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Down the waterslide

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Waterslide slabs

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Back to Loch an Nid

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Sgurr Dubh pinnacles

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Sgurr Ban slabs

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Creag Rainich and Loch an Nid

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Sgurr Ban from Meallan an Laoigh

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Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh and An Teallach

I briefly considered descending on the northern side of the summit to look at the Sgurr Ban slabs, which make up the largest expanse of rock in this area. In the end I descended by a similar route back to my bag as it was quicker - anyway, my brief experience on the waterfall slabs had shown me that they were often covered in a film of ice, and not the best place to walk on a day like this.

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Creag a’ Chadha Briste

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Deer on the descent to Loch an Nid

Lower down I spotted a figure crossing the river near my bag - I briefly wondered if Jackie had had a long break and was now heading up for a look at the waterfall. The figure veered off to the south and I never did actually pass it - Jackie later told me it was a guy who had stayed in Shenavall the night before and was off for a wild camp this evening.

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Sgurr Dubh

I then picked up my overnight bag and continued on my way down the shores of Loch an Nid, spotting another couple at the outflow of the loch. Fisherfield on the 2nd of January isn't actually that quiet! The walk down to the Achneigie track was slow but beautiful, and I was glad we had chosen this route as I have usually been on the hills on either side rather than in the glen itself.

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Sgurr Ban slabs

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Sgurr Dubh

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Gleann Loch an Nid

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Low light

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Further down the glen

At the track, the going was briefly easier as far as Achneigie, before returning to rough footpath with fun patches of ice to watch out for. I arrived at Shenavall at 4pm, only half an hour or so behind Jackie. It was my first time there since 2005, and I couldn't remember that much about the interior at all. Turns out it is really cosy, and I could feel the temperature difference as soon as I walked in the door. Quite a contrast to Lochivraon!

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Approaching Achneigie

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Strath na Sealga

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Beinn Dearg Mor

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Beinn Dearg Beag and Loch na Sealga

The remains of the fire were still glowing from the last occupants and it didn't take long to get it going again, before enjoying some food and a game of Cards against Humanity that someone had kindly left behind 8) . Just as we were thinking of going to bed, a couple with a dog rolled in and we made some room for them by the fire for a bit.

Thursday 3rd January: Walk-out from Shenavall. 16.5km, 495m ascent, 4 hours 50 minutes. Dry/overcast.

Because the bothy wasn't freezing in the morning, getting up and ready at a reasonable time was way less difficult than it had been so far. We were on our way shortly after 10am, with Jackie preferring to walk out on the slightly longer vehicle track rather than go straight up the path behind the bothy. She was a little concerned as this would be the biggest, steepest ascent of the trip so far.

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Shenavall

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Leaving Shenavall

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Strath na Sealga and the Beinn Deargs

However there was little to worry about and we made it to the high point of the track before striking eastwards towards the main road at Fain Bridge. The weather was nowhere near as good as the previous day, but the clouds were strangely atmospheric, and there were great reflections on the moorland lochans.

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East up Strath na Sealga

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Beinn Deargs from the climb up onto the moorland

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Fisherfield from Lochain Dubh

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Beinn Dearg from Lochain Dubh

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Lochain Dubh reflections

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Wisps of cloud settling on Creag Rainich

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Where An Teallach would be if it was clear

The ground was rough but not exceptionally so on our cross-country route, and it didn't take us too long to reach the main road for the hour-long walk back to the car. We could have hitched but there was some satisfaction in completing the circuit on foot, even if the road stretched way into the distance at some points.

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Fannaichs from the Destitution Road

The first part of our trip turned out to be a very satisfying circuit which stuck to the glens for a change and took us through places we hadn't been before. We fancied a chance to clean up a bit before heading further north, so decided to have a night in a bunkhouse. My immediate thought was IainK's bunkhouse at Forest Way on the Ullapool road, which turned out to be both open and welcoming, with the heating and freshly laid eggs much appreciated 8) .

Link to part 2
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malky_c
 
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Re: Seeing in the Bells in Fisherfield

Postby dogplodder » Fri Jan 18, 2019 12:39 pm

Despite the soaking you got this has just inspired me to take a walk along the loch to the bothy. Hopefully the burn crossings are easier in the light and without a load of coal! :lol:
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Re: Seeing in the Bells in Fisherfield

Postby Mal Grey » Fri Jan 18, 2019 10:18 pm

Very nearly nipped up Meallan an Laoigh on our descent from Stob Ban a couple of years back. Wish I had now, fine viewpoint, but we were knackered by then and wanting to get to low ground after stumbling across the snow-clad boulderfields above.


Image


Seem to remember a similar experience with the stove at Lochivroan - didn't clean it enough the first night, excellent the second.
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Mal Grey
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Re: Seeing in the Bells in Fisherfield

Postby Jaxter » Wed Jan 23, 2019 11:35 pm

:clap: :clap: :clap:

Coal Minion :wink:
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