Like many people, we had taken the Domestic Holiday option this summer for obvious reasons (I loathe that "staycation" word !), and we ended up with a Grand Hebridean Adventure, joining separate groups of friends for a week in Iona at the beginning of June, followed by a week in Harris at the end of June. Both enormously enjoyable, and improbably enough for the West Coast of Scotland, we really lucked out with the weather ! The one disadvantage from my slightly selfish point of view was that neither Iona nor Harris boast any Munros (although Harris does of course have an excellent Corbett and three excellent Grahams). However, I negotiated permission to absent myself on the Monday and Tuesday from the Iona trip, for a couple of days' walking on Mull, staying overnight at the Tobermory Hotel on the Monday night (grand seafood !). This meant of course that I should hopefully be able to tick off Mull's one Munro, the very fine Ben More ...
I was keen to get an early getaway from Iona on the Monday morning, and the 06:10 Monday School Ferry certainly obliged ! It was an early rise all right, and I felt somewhat sorry for the rather dazed-looking schoolkids making their weekly trip to the Big School in Oban. However, it certainly got me across to Fionnphort well early in the day, and the drive up the Ross of Mull, and then up the challengingly tortuous B8035 to the starting point at the parking area opposite the Dhiseag farm track, didn't take me long.
Since I had a long day and a good weather forecast, my plan was to attempt the more interesting route up Ben More, via the neighbouring Graham, Beinn Fhada, then up the moderately scrambly A' Chioch ridge. I did deviate a wee bit from the website route description, though: instead of making the fairly long road walk north up the B8035 all the way up to the bridge over the Scarisdale River and then making the fairly straightforward ascent up Beinn Fhada's north-west ridge from there, I tried to cut a corner by heading initially up the side of the Abhainn na h-Uamha and then making a steeper ascent up a shoulder of Beinn Fhada about halfway up the glen, so that I joined Beinn Fhada's ridgeline a good bit further east. This worked out not too bad, on the whole, and it did save me a couple of kilometres or so plus avoiding a bit of road walking.
For once, I was the first car to arrive at the parking area opposite the Dhiseag farm track, although it would be full when I got back down later in the day!
The website route description warns that the route up the side of the Abhainn na h-Uamha can be a bit boggy, but it actually wasn't too bad after the recent relative dry spell . It was certainly a scenic approach, with some nice wee waterfalls on the Abhainn, and with surprisingly dramatic cloudscapes as the sun attempted to cut through the early-morning Clag. I honestly haven't photo-shopped this one at all; it really looked like that!
To gain Beinn Fhada's summit ridge, I cup up a grassy rake that is visible just to the left of the waterfall in the photo above, which manages to avoid several wee lines of crags on the way up. It was unrelentingly steep, but straightforward enough, and it got me almost all the way up to the ridgeline without incident, except for a dead sheep about halfway up . Presumably a lambing casualty, poor thing.
There was a dramatic and rather intimidating view of my ultimate targets, A' Chioch and Ben More, on the way up to the Beinn Fhada ridgeline:
The very last wee bit involved some very minor scrambling around a final couple of bands of crags, but it didnt take long, and wasn't as hard as it looked from below.
Once up on the ridgeline, there were wonderful views back out to sea, with the inhabited island of Ulva clearly visible out west (it has a fascinating wee museum and is well worth a visit, incidentally ), and with a smaller uninhabited islet, Eilean Eorsa, also prominent closer to the shore in Loch na Keal.
Beinn Fhada itself was dead ahead, with an entertaining rock castle on the way up the ridge, and a second one forming the actual summit. Thankfully there is a fairly clear path that finds an easy enough way up both of these. However, Ben More and its rocky eastern outlier, A' Chioch, were already looming in a rather scary manner over to the right.... There was also an interesting view northwards, with a whole host of hills visible back on the mainland in the distance:
A bit further up the Graham's fine castellated summit ridge:
Up the first rock castle now, and with Beinn Fhada's summit not that far ahead:
This rather impressive Graham sports a pretty reasonable summit cairn, as Grahams go, and it has fabulous views. This was the view out to sea again, with a grand view once more of Ulva and Eorsa:
Me at Beinn Fhada summit, with A' Chioch looking a bit menacing over my left shoulder:
And the Big View of A' Chioch and the ongoing ridge up to Ben More: definitely looking a bit formidable from this angle !
However, having dragged myself out of my warm bed in Iona for an 06:10 ferry, I certainly wasn't for giving up now! I descended a short distance back westwards from Beinn Fhada's summit cone, as per the website route description, to avoid a steep descent due south, and then cut southwards on easier ground to the Fhada / A' Chioch bealach. The ascent up A' Chioch wasn't too bad on the whole, with a couple of scrambly bits but a reasonably clear path most of the way up.
Once I made it to the top of this Top, A' Chioch itself also sported a nice wee cairn, and there was a fine view back to Beinn Fhada, with another rocky wee hill - the S2K Marilyn Beinn Ghraig - looking rather interesting over its shoulder.
Well, so far A' Chioch hadn't been too bad, but the ongoing west ridge of Ben More was definitely looking a bit, um, interesting !
There was a path of sorts, though, so I knuckled down and got on with it. On the whole it wasn't as bad as it looked, although I did find myself regularly heading too far south (i.e. the left side of the ridgeline on ascent) on various wee bits of bypass path around the more challenging pinnacles, and then having to cut back uphill on rather loose scree slopes to regain the ridgeline. On a fine day like today, this was actually quite exhilarating and funsome, but it could have been a completely different story if I'd had to tackle it in Clag!
About halfway up now, and that final section wasn't looking any less steep ...
The view back down the ridgeline towards A' Chioch was just glorious, however :
I plodded away uphill, taking fairly regular rest stops, and again it wasn't actually as bad as it looked. I eventually arrived at Ben More's substantial cairn and surrounding stone shelter, admittedly a bit peched but actually earlier in the day than I'd feared. There were further fabulous views, particularly back towards A' Chioch and Beinn Fhada:
Again there was a lovely vista westwards out to sea over Ulva and Eorsa. Ben More's cairn currently sports an interesting wee blue pottery thingy incorporated into it - Spanish or Portuguese by the looks of it? - rather pretty anyway.
Me at Ben More summit, in my lovely stylish sunhat :
Although I hadn't met another soul on the A' Chioch ridge or on Beinn Fhada, the descent via the trade route down to Dhiseag Farm was very busy - predictably on a fine day like this, I suppose. I was a bit bushed by now, and I took my time over it, enjoying more fine sea views.
There was an interesting view of the Paps of Jura off to the south:
And one last view of Ulva and Eorsa on the final descent to Dhiseag:
If you're lucky enough (as I undoubtedly was) to get good enough weather, I'd definitely recommend the A' Chioch ridge as the interesting way to tackle Ben More; and Beinn Fhada is a really good wee Graham in its own right .
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