walkhighlands

A'Mhaighdean summit camp

Munros: A' Mhaighdean, Ruadh Stac Mor

Date walked: 21/09/2019

Time taken: 15.5 hours

Distance: 49.8km

Well hello!
I haven't contributed to the forum for a long time. Moving house, a new job, the usual excuses....
So a report was long overdue and what better occasion to write one than for munro 282!

I never intended to do all the munros when I walked out of the Forestry Commission car park at Rowardennan on my way to Ben Lomond in June 2011. Yet two and a half hours later, when I arrived at the summit, I was hooked. The bug had bitten, and how! Not sure how that happened, given that it was cold, wet and windy, and views were nowhere to be seen.

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Ben Lomond, June 2011

But really my journey began in 2004 when I visited Scotland for the first time for a three and a half week trek that would take me and two friends from Milngavie to Cape Wrath. This trip left a huge impression. It was wild and remote Knoydart that dunnit. I'd never seen anything like it before and fell in love with Scotland there and then.

Back home something was missing: my heart was still in Scotland.
The year after I moved to the UK, to England. Not quite where I had set out to be, but never mind. Then in 2016 the planets aligned and I finally moved to this bonny country. It only took me 12 years to arrive....

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Knoydart did it

I remember when I first heard about the munros. It was on the Cape Wrath Trail actually, we were staying at a bunkhouse in Killilan and chatting to other walkers. The day before we had walked from Kinloch Hourn to Shiel Bridge. The other walkers asked whether we had done The Saddle. 'What is the saddle?' 'It's a munro.' 'What is a munro?' 'It's a hill.' 'Oh.'
Back home I looked up what munros were and found out that going up them apparently is a thing. Being into long-distance walking, I did not understand this. Why would you walk up a hill just for the sake of it? Glens are equally nice if not nicer. And there is so much to see and discover when wandering through a landscape. Why limit yourself to a hill? Besides, climbing hills is for the select few, people with the right gear, ropes and so on, not for me with my walking boots and tent, I used to think. Without me realising it, a seed had been planted, but in the mean time I continued exploring and enjoying the Scottish glens.

When in 2011 I was looking for a reason to go to Scotland again, I somehow remembered the munros and decided to try a few. Well, we know how that ended, that was me sorted for my summer holidays for the next eight years!
The first six years were a bit manic in retrospect: cramming in as many munros as possible over a two week period. Obsessed, me? Not at all! :crazy: Consequently, the remaining fifty weeks of the year were spent pining for Scotland. I only remained sane thanks to your trip reports on here and by poring over maps and making plans for the summer after. Below is a bit from my blog, about how I managed to survive the eleven months after my first munro holiday. It was written as a bit of a joke, but it was not that far from the truth :shifty:

July 2011: give up fighting withdrawal symptoms and surrender to munro bug.
August 2011: identify munros to be climbed in 2012.
September 2011: purchase required maps.
October 2011: research, analyse and dissect routes in Munro Bible and on Walkhighlands.
November 2011: concoct insane plans of combining as many munros as possible in one day.
December 2011: reject insane plans of combining as many munros as possible in one day.
January 2012: work out sensible plan de campagne.
February 2012: mark maps, upload routes and waypoints onto GPS.
March 2012: revisit insane plans of combining as many munros as possible in one day. Upload alternative routes and waypoints onto GPS (just in case).
April 2012: hire car, book accommodation, check gear, pack. Ready to go!
May 2012: count down weeks, days, hours until holiday
.

Since moving to Scotland I have definitely slowed down. How good is it to be able to take a day off when the weather is nice and do a munro; to explore Scotland in all seasons; and to do some hill walking in winter? Very good!

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Walking in winter

With a few exceptions I have done the munros on my own. I like other people's company very much, but I'm not afraid of my own company either. When walking solo it is easier to be 'on the way' and soak up all the impressions.
It also tests your decision making and gives instant feedback about your skills. When things go well it is a great boost for confidence. When things go pear shaped it is not so great, but you'll have to sort it and hence you'll learn fast. Also, the few occasions when things went wrong definitely increased my (already healthy) respect for the hills, which is never a bad thing.

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Navigating out of a tricky situation (Sgor an Lochain Uaine, June 2015)

Yet, the thing I love most about walking on my own is meeting random people from all walks of life on the way and having a chat with them. I probably won't see them again, I have forgotten their names, but I will remember meeting them and that it made me feel part of this wonderful community of lovers of the outdoors.

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Enjoying the views in companionable silence with strangers (Mullach nan Dheiragain, June 2016)

It would of course have been very fitting to finish my munro adventures in Knoydart. Returning to where it started for me back in 2004. Revisiting this wild land, which is the reason I now live in Scotland. Closing this symbolic circle. It was very tempting.
In a way it seemed too finite though. I like to look ahead. So I looked North to the great wilderness that is the Fisherfield Forest, to The Maiden, who was whispering promises of a long walk in, a summit camp and fantastic views.

But I was being unfaithful to Knoydart it seemed, and these hills took their revenge last November: I slipped when coming down Luinne Bheinn, badly sprained my ankle and as a result had to camp on Mam Barrisdale in a gale. Getting down to the col was interesting to say the least. The terrain is challenging enough without having a gammy ankle. I limped back to Inverie the next day, tail firmly between the legs. And then there was the drive home. Clutch control was not great.

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Pure wilderness. A moment of bliss before it all went pear shaped (Luinne Bheinn, November 2018)

So the already slim chance of compleating in 2018 was reduced to zero and any plans for winter hill walking had to be shelved.

With unfinished business in Knoydart, I returned for Ladhar Bheinn this June, albeit with some trepidation. But it seemed I had (almost) been forgiven for my betrayal. I just got roasted and eaten alive by midges :lol:

And then there were only two.

21/9/19
Ruadh Stac Mor, A'Mhaighdean
49.8km, 15 hrs 30min


Obsessive compulsive weather forecast watching had been going on from the end of June onwards. But sadly nice weather up North seemed to coincide with weekends when I had other commitments. Arrgghh!
Finally some weather that hadn't been looking great at the beginning of the week improved slowly but surely towards the end of the week.

The walk started in Poolewe. First along the road to Inveran, then continuing to Kernsary on a track. Just beyond Kernsary a helpful sign on the fence tells you where to turn right into the forest for Carnmore.

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Helpful sign

Apart from some rather large puddles (and this was after a dry spell) the forest track was fine. The OS map shows a path leaving the track at NG905788, and that had been my intended route. But blue signs asked walkers to stick to the track to reduce further erosion, which I did. Eventually the track became a path which led to the edge of the forest, the real start of the walk. I never spotted the turn off for my intended route by the way.

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Gate to the wilderness

I had met 2 people, both on their way back to Poolewe, but now I was on my own.
The long walk in was no hardship at all. The colours were just starting to change from greens to yellows and browns and the warm autumn sun gave everything a golden glow. I was in my element, surrounded by stunning scenery. Putting one foot in front of the other, nobody else around, only accompanied by the wind and the sound of my boots occasionally scraping some rock.

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Ruadh Stac Mor and A'Mhaighdean in the distance

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Beinn Airigh Charr

Time seemed to move like a concertina. I'd forgotten to take a watch and my phone was in my backpack. When I stopped to top up my water bottles at a footbridge, I'd been walking for more than 3 hours, though it felt like it had only been one hour.

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Approaching the causeway

My perception of time might not have been great, but I was very aware of the wind. So far there had been a fair breeze, but as I was going over the causeway the gusts got very strong. The plan to camp on the summit of A'Mhaighdean might not be a good one....

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Causeway

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A'Mhaighdean

On the way uphill I got chatting with two walkers coming down. One of which had just compleated the munros on A'Mhaighdean! I offered my heartfelt congratulations. They also said that it was much less windy on the summits, which was music to my ears.

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Way up

The scale of the Fisherfield Forest is immense. Turning right at the cairn near Lochan Feith Mhic'-illean was like entering an antechamber to the heart of the wilderness. I was getting closer to my destination but wasn't quite there yet.

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Beinn a' Chlaidheimh in the distance

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Ruadh Stac Mor

The wind was now back with a vengeance and I started looking out for alternative pitches for my tent, should it be too windy on the summit. They were few and far between, and I was not being picky! Trying to make mental notes of their location so I would recognise them was not easy either: at that pointy rock next to the puddle with the big tufts of grass around it. Erm....

For such a remote place the path network really is very good, and I was even more impressed when it turned out there was a path along the boulder strewn flank of Ruadh Stac Mor, leading all the way up to the bealach. After nearly 7 hours of walking and a bit longer to go this was very welcome.

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There is a path out there

At the bealach there is a small cairn where a faint path strikes off to the left for Ruadh Stac Mor. Follow the path to the rock wall, turn left along it and the way up will become apparent. Care is needed further up at a steep and eroded section, even more so on the way down. The boulder field is steep but manageable.

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Fuar Loch Mor

It was beautiful on the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor. The surrounding hills stood out against the clear sky and the long shadows gave everything in the landscape more definition and depth, even down to the individual rocks and blades of grass on the small summit plateau.

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Munro 281

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An Teallach and Beinn Dearg Mor

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Sgurr Ban, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Beinn Tarsuinn

There was one downside, the low blinding sun made the descent a bit trickier. Memories of last November's unfortunate occurrence in Knoydart tried to haunt me, but I managed to dispel any unhelpful thoughts and got down to the bealach safely.

From the bealach a clear path heads onwards and upwards, though I lost it for a short while. To busy looking around. On the way up I met around 15 people in smaller groups coming down. They were heading for their basecamp near Shenavall, so they still had quite a walk ahead of them.

And there was A'Mhaighdean.
No guard of honour, no bells, no whistles, no cheers (nor tears). Just the wilderness and me feeling happy and contented being there. The fact that I had just compleated the munros almost did not matter.

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Towards An Teallach

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Towards Lochan Fada

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THAT view

I could easily have stayed on the summit for much longer. The Maiden had delivered on her promises of a long walk in and fantastic views, but if I wanted that summit camp to happen I really needed to get a move on and find a less windy spot for my tent and pitch it while there was still enough light.
I found a flattish relatively sheltered space behind a low hump at the edge of the grassy slope. With my home for the night ready, I went back to the summit for some more hanging around and watching the sun set.

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Home for the night

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Sunset

After a while it was getting quite chilly in the wind so I retired to the tent to warm up and have some food. I was just getting comfortable, when I thought I heard a cough or grunt and the sound of something or someone walking past my tent.
I sat still, listening hard if I would hear it again, but it was difficult to make out anything with the flysheet flapping in the wind. I waited for a while and then decided to have a look before my imagination had the chance to run wild.
There were 2 deer, maybe 20 metres away, just standing and looking in my direction. Magic :D

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Deer at dusk

Later I got out of the tent again to look at the amazing starry sky. It was mesmerizing.
I managed some sleep despite the wind doing its best to keep me awake all night.
The alarm went off at 5.30am, quite early but it did allow for a bit of snoozing and leisurely packing before sunrise.

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Sunrise

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Breakfast view

After breakfast I packed up the tent, wandered to the summit to enjoy the views again and vowed that I would return. What a place, just out of this world.

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So whilst all the munros have now been 'ticked off', the whole experience has been much more than getting to summits. I have found huge pleasure in just walking. Putting one foot in front of the other and life becoming really simple. Walk, eat, sleep and repeat the next day.
Seeing wildlife, unusual cloud formations, sitting in a sheltered spot and watching the wild weather pass, listening to the silence on a wind free day, taking in desolate landscapes, hearing frozen grass rustle in the wind, feasting my eyes on rich autumn colours.
But also learning to trust my navigation skills; learning that things (tricky river crossing, seemingly impossible rocky ascent/ descent etc) are hardly ever as bad as they seem, and are possible when done carefully and with deliberation; and learning that it is OK to turn back.
And the best thing: discovering that Scotland is getting bigger, the more I get out there.

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Simple pleasures

The munros have been a great means to explore some of Scotland's wild places, especially before I came to live here. But I know I've just been scratching the surface. There are vast areas and loads of little pockets I still have to discover.
I'll no doubt do some corbetts, grahams, donalds; revisit munros where I never got the views; revisit munros via a different route; try some scrambling etc. But most importantly I'll just continue getting out there.

Thank you Scotland, you are wonderful.


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Comments: 33



Ladhar Bheinn

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Ladhar Bheinn
Date walked: 28/06/2019
Distance: 22.5km
Ascent: 1399m
Views: 58


Meall Buidhe and Luinne Bheinn

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Luinne Bheinn, Meall Buidhe (Knoydart)
Date walked: 17/11/2018
Distance: 27km
Ascent: 1586m
Views: 107


Beinn Eighe

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Ruadh-stac Mor (Beinn Eighe), Spidean Coire nan Clach (Beinn Eighe)
Date walked: 14/10/2018
Distance: 18km
Ascent: 1116m
Views: 97


Beinn Alligin

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Sgurr Mor (Beinn Alligin), Tom na Gruagaich (Beinn Alligin)
Date walked: 13/10/2018
Distance: 10km
Ascent: 1110m
Views: 95


Sgurr na Banachdich

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Sgurr na Banachdich
Date walked: 01/10/2018
Distance: 8km
Ascent: 948m
Views: 103


Sgurr Ban, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Beinn Tarsuinn

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn Tarsuinn, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Sgurr Ban
Date walked: 03/09/2018
Distance: 32km
Ascent: 1534m
Views: 165


Slioch

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Slioch
Date walked: 02/09/2018
Distance: 19km
Ascent: 1144m
Views: 136


An Teallach

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: Bidein a'Ghlas Thuill (An Teallach), Sgurr Fiona (An Teallach)
Date walked: 19/08/2018
Distance: 12.6km
Ascent: 1386m
Views: 124


Western Fannaichs

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: A' Chailleach, Meall a'Chrasgaidh, Sgurr Breac, Sgurr nan Clach Geala, Sgurr nan Each
Date walked: 07/08/2018
Distance: 24.2km
Ascent: 1942m
Views: 122

Silverhill


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Munros: 282
Corbetts: 3



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Statistics

2019

Trips: 2
Distance: 72.3 km
Ascent: 1399m
Munros: 3

2018

Trips: 18
Distance: 325.95 km
Ascent: 23561m
Munros: 39
Corbetts: 1

2017

Trips: 12
Distance: 193.7 km
Ascent: 11053m
Munros: 19

2016

Trips: 11
Distance: 222.3 km
Ascent: 16690m
Munros: 34
Corbetts: 1

2015

Trips: 14
Distance: 390.1 km
Ascent: 28529m
Munros: 43

2014

Trips: 19
Distance: 473.6 km
Ascent: 26076m
Munros: 60

2013

Trips: 14
Distance: 218.5 km
Ascent: 20845m
Munros: 34

2012

Trips: 13
Distance: 228.4 km
Ascent: 18570m
Munros: 36

2011

Trips: 9
Distance: 139.5 km
Ascent: 11434m
Munros: 17

2005

Trips: 1

2004

Trips: 1


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Last visited: Nov 29, 2019
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