A'Chailleach and Sgurr Breac - First walk report

Route: Sgùrr Breac and A' Chailleach: The Western Fannichs

Munros: A' Chailleach, Sgùrr Breac

Date walked: 17/01/2011

Time taken: 7 hours

Ascent: 1300m

Hey guys,

This is my first walk report after browsing them on the site for a year or two now. I'm "between cameras" at the moment, so sorry for the blurriness of my phone pictures.

After being defeated the previous day (Sat 8th Jan) by very poor visibility and heavy snow, which cleared up after we got back home at lunchtime-ish, we decided to have another go at a route in the Fannaichs, taking in the impressive munros A'Chailleach and Sgurr Breac, and a number of connecting peaks, gullies and ridges. Conditions were very cold and snowy with some parts of our route perhaps reaching Winter grade 1 in places where we had to kick and axe our way up solid ice. The clag set in for most of the day, but cleared allowing for some amazing views.

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We set off around 9.30 in the morning from near Ullapool, reaching the Loch A'Bhraoin car park at about 10, quite a late start for Winter. After a short walk along the path we crossed the river where it meets the loch and started heading West along the South shore of Loch A'Bhraoin, ascending slightly up the slope as we walked, enjoying views up to the peaks we would soon be on top of, as well as Westwards to Slioch and beyond.

After an hour or so, we reached the corrie in between Toman Coinnich and A'Chailleach and climbed up to Loch Toll an Lochain (Not quite as impressive as it's namesake on An Teallach, but still very cool indeed)

Sron Na Goibhre: The ridge/top which leads South ascending to A'Chailleach. We took a route straight up the side.

Looking Westwards along Loch A'Bhraoin from near the corrie. Views to Groban and Slioch.

We were now well into the proper hardpacked snow and ice so we put on our crampons and chose our route up the side of Sron Na Goibhre, the top of the subsidiary ridge leading Southwards to A'Chailleach summit. This route was a very wide and steepish gully, which then flattened out then led to another wide slope of snow a few hundred metres up. Feeling like true alpinists, we set off up the first gully, which was steeper than it looks on these photos! Very exciting stuff.

Start of the Wide gully route we took up Sron Na Goibhre. Steeper than it looks here!

Gully route from above. Me and Joe

We then traversed over (with the mist now rolling in) to a wide snowfield and made a final push up onto the ridge.

Ridgetop leading Southwards to Sron Na Goibhre and eventually A'Chailleach

On the ridgetop a line of rusted broken fence posts runs Southwards firstly to the small rocky summit of Sron Na Goibhre, then up to A'Chailleach itself. When we reached Sron Na Goibhre, we sat and ate a small lunch and enjoyed a break in the clouds to the West. Conditions up here were very icy, and the ridge is quite narrow and precipitous at points! Especially back to the corrie to the East.

Break in the clouds to the West at lunchtime on Sron Na Goibhre

After lunch, we then set off along the every narrowing ridge to the start of the summit push up to A'Chailleach. the final ascent is of typical Fannaich quality, a very wide slope, topped with shattered rock, with a gaping huge cliff to the Northwest, that the ridge runs into. After a slog upwards we made the summit plateau, which was heavily shrouded in mist. This made navigation pretty difficult and it took us a fair while to find the cairn, but we eventually did. It was freezing cold on the face, and my hair froze into some kind of 80's throwback. Thank god for puffy jackets, thick gloves, and my buff is all I have to say.

Joe's axe on A'Chailleach summit

My hair frozen into an 80's new wave style. Pink nose only temporary, I wish the hair were not.

We retraced our steps back to near the cliff edge, which we then followed as it lead into the ridge Westwards towards the bealach before Toman Coinnich. The ridge became narrow again, and was heavily corniced, still very much crampon territory.

Ridge leading East from A'Chailleach to Toman Coinnich. Very corniced!

Eventually, as we were descending to the bealach some 20 minutes after summiting A'Chailleach, the clag began to disappear and we could see Loch Fannaich revealing itself to the SW, looking very golden turquoise in the Sun everyone else seemed to be having.

Loch Fannaich as the clag lifted.

When we reached the bealach, almost all the mist was gone, and looking back, we could see the true nature of the ridge we had just come down, as well as a partial cloud inversion to the South and West. It was absolutely stunning, I could have stayed there all day.

Joe looking back West to the ridge leading off A'Chailleach

Cloud inversion to the South and West, seen from Toman Coinnich

However, it was not to be, as the break in the clouds had showed us that the sun was lowering, so we briskly paced up the slope to Toman Coinnich (not without finding the steepest routes up some small ice slopes on the way to pretend we were on the Eiger) where we could see the second Munro of the day, Sgurr Breac, across another bealach. It was as if the ridge was symmetrical.

Kahti in front of Sgurr Breac, a very quick up and down on hard snow-ice then back to the same spot to descend from.

We quickly paced and glissaded down the slope to the bealach, and powered up to Sgurr Breac in about 10 minutes of hard effort. As soon as we got to the top however, the clag quickly enclosed again, and again we were left with about 50 metres of visibility, so no more photos I'm afraid!

Luckily, our planned way down was off the Northward sloping Drum Reidh, which leads gently off Toman Coinnich where we had been 30 minutes previously. Backtracking was not very pleasurable and was time consuming, but eventually we made it, and started ambling down Drum Reidh with the mist clearing again as we descended. By about 5pm we were back at the path, and a short walk took us back to the car!

All in all it was a great day, with everything I like about Winter in the Scottish mountains: steep front pointing sections, narrow ridges, fantastic light and views, and of course good craic.

An Teallach followed the next day, it was ultra-impressive and even more fun, but seeing as there are so many reports on here already, I will show you one of the only identical pictures I managed to take due to cold fingers and sheer over-awed-ness.

An Tealach the following day.

Happy new year to you all!

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Comments: 6


Occupation: Student in Edinburgh
Interests: Mountaineering, Music, Films, being a student.
Activity: Stravaiging
Pub: The Seaforth, Ullapool.
Mountain: Beinn Eighe
Place: Northwest Highlands
Gear: Buff!
Member: Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club
Ideal day out: A Winter Munro with plenty of fun ridges, crags and the odd bit of exposure to get the pulse racing.

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Trips: 1
Ascent: 1300m
Munros: 2

Joined: Dec 19, 2010
Last visited: Sep 17, 2020
Total posts: 7 | Search posts