Octoberfest: sun and snow on superb Achnashellach Munros

Route: Beinn Liath Mhor, Achnashellach

Munros: Beinn Liath Mhor, Sgorr Ruadh

Date walked: 01/10/2019

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 18.3km

Ascent: 1464m

A bit slow off the mark with this, work and lurgy have slowwwwwwed me down ... but it's worth sharing (I hope) because of the sheer fabulousness of the day we had (we = me and the dog, Maisie).
This was the First of October, early autumn at it's crisp and golden finest. The previous couple of days had seen us do the Attadale Munros with an overnight camp, but the legs were still attached after the long walk out, and the weather was irresistible.
The plan was to tackle Beinn Liath Mhor then see how we felt placed to go on to do Sgurr Ruadh, seeing as it's so close. My only concern about doing the pair was whether the river crossing would be ok with a feisty/stroppy/wriggling Border Terrier in tow.
Parking up at Achnashellach I bumped into a chap who I'd seen cycling into the Attadale Munros the previous day as I was walking out. Having done the pair of Munros then the Corbett Beinn Dronaig, and cycled out, I was relieved to find out he was only human after all as he was just ('just" - ha!) planning to pop up Fuar Tholl. I decided it was only fair to give him a head start ...
Standard route was followed, it was a quiet day on the railway:

Fuar Tholl soon crept into view, a fine and mighty hill, worth saving for a trip in it's own right:


And now Carn Odhar, off to the right ...

This was a truly lovely way in, initially along forest tracks, then a sharp cut back down to the river, with a delightful stalker's path then all the way up into the upper reaches of the glen, eventually the slopes of Beinn Liath Mhor come into view, initially "Point 876" (sounds like a 'Nam platoon outpost), with the sharp ascent up it's nose to the fore ...

The full ridge of Beinn Liath Mhor looks enticing in this weather, was looking forward to that!

Always worth looking behind you to see the unfolding picture, the cairn marking the path junction off to climb BLM. (Taken after we'd passed it :lol: :lol: )

Fuar Tholl:

A small cairn marks the left hand turn for Beinn Liath Mhor, the paths here were really good, even I was struggling to get myself lost.

Coire Lair, with Sgurr Rauadh now showing itself off to the left:

The ascent up the nose the hill to reach point 876 is just a heads down, no nonsense plod, didn't seem to take that long, and the views from the top spoke for themselves, across to Fuar Tholl and Sgurr Ruadh:

Summit shelter at point 876 with the ridge of Beinn Liath Mhor ahead:

North to the mighty Liathach, with the Corbett Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine in the foreground:

Sgurr Ruadh and Coire Lair:

The ridge walk was a delight, surrounded by awesome views, changing geology and more awesome views. Looking back up to Point 876, with rocky lumps to manouevre around:

Sgorr nan Lochain Uaine:

As progress was made along the ridge the views into Torridon opened up:

Finally we reached the summit of Beinn Liath Mhor itself:

Torridon panorama from the summit:

Looking across to Sgurr Ruadh, Fuar Tholl in the background to the left

An Ruadh Stac and Maol Chean-dearg:

And now for the tricky bit ... finding the right way down to the bealach from the summit required a bit of navigation, and for us a touch of luck. Initial scree path slopes were straightforward enough, but then the path seemed to head off to the left and after 5 mins I realised this was taking me too far down into Coire Lair, so I cut back off across the hillside and got myself onto slabby ground, and with good fortune found a cairn which seemed to be on the right route:

Carefully spotting further cairns and working my way down across some small crags I finally saw the cairn that marked the top of the steep path that takes you down a steepish face:

The path down:

This would be tricky indeed in poor visibility, I found the GPS with the downloaded route invaluable and accurate (from the WH site), and that was with excellent light. Looking back up at the path down through the crags:

At long last we got to the stalker's path that we'd left much earlier and turned up to reach the bealach with it's small lochan. The book route seemed to indicate going straight up the boggy flanks of Sgurr Ruadh's north-west ridge, and that is exactly what we did. At this point the weather was beginning to close in a bit as well. Looking back to Beinn Liath Mhor, above the bealach lochan:

Ahead to Sgurr Ruadh summit:

Again, the navigation on the lower parts of the ridge was not always straightforward, plenty of scree and occasional paths, but as long as you head for the ridgeline and keep going up you should be fine! :D :D

The final scramble up brought us suddenly to the summit itself, just in time for the clag to roll briefly in, you can see how disappointed Maisie was about the lack of views: :(

Rain over Loch Carron:

We followed the WH route off the summit, over essentially pathless ground, maybe there was another way following the ridgeline down to the bealach. At one point the rain shower turned briefly to flecks of snow, just visible in the photo, first token flakes of winter, lasting all of half a second on the ground ...

As we neared the point where we hit the stalker's path the clouds moved off and the sun came out. Looking back up to Sgurr Ruadh summit:

Coming round the east side of Loch a'Bealaich Mhoir, there was a considerable amount of picking our way round bouldery lumps and small water features etc until eventually we came across the path that would take us back down into Coire Lair. Waterproofs off and last bits of food and kibble, and it was time to go home. The weather was kind once more and we enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine.
Flanks of Beinn Liath Mhor:

Loch Coire Lair:


All that was left was the crossing of the River Lair. The weather had been dryish for a couple of days, but the river was still deep enough to cover my boots on occasion. Maisie managed to pick her way across with encouragement, and so it was poles away and bets feet/paws forward down the fabulous path back to the car.

A last word on the route. Although WH gives each of these Munros as a separate walk, many people will do them as a pair, giving a big but satisfying day (some will even add Fuar Tholl on as well, that would have been a hill too far for these old legs and paws!). If doing them as a pair, I would heartily recommend going round in the direction I chose, as that gets the steepest of the ascent out of the way early, and the long descent at the end of the day is a gentle one in terms of gradient, for those of us with old knees. Climbing up Sgurr Ruadh from the north is easier route finding than descending would be in my opinion at least, but one could say that the same applies to coming off Beinn Liath Mhor. You pays your money and makes your choice. The sting in the tail is the river crossing, some would prefer to get that out of the way at the beginning of the day, particularly if heavy rain is forecast - but then why would you waste this very best of mountain days on bad weather?? :lol: :lol:


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Location: York (ver 1.0)
Activity: Munro compleatist
Pub: Any
Mountain: Beinn Eighe
Place: Torridon
Gear: Arcteryx Softshell
Ideal day out: Ridge walking

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Corbetts: 15
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