Sunday, July 20, 2008

62-67 The Fisherfield Six 13/07/08

Ruadh Stac Mor (276), A'Mhaighdean (187), Beinn Tarsuinn (238), Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (115), Sgurr Ban (157), Beinn a'Chlaidheimh (280).

This is rugged wilderness par excellence. A ring of 6 hills lies north of Torridon in Wester Ross and the only real way of climbing them is to stay in Shenavall bothy. Once here, if prepared for a long day, it is possible to climb them all, since once you've got to A'Mhaighdean (which boasts the honour of being the most remote of all the Munros - a 20km walk from the nearest road), you may as well come back via the ridge to the east.
With one day of sun forecast in the midst of endless drizzle, I set out from Inverness, hitched with a journalist and a 'white van man' to Dundonell and then hiked past An Teallach to Shenavall. I shared it with a philosophy teacher, his son and a Paraguayan! We made a fire and enjoyed the lack of midgies and the vistas of Beinn Dearg Mhor. I envied their baked potatoes.
Setting off at 8ish, I had to leap two rivers, but they weren't in spate so I escaped dry-shod (almost unheard of, according to the book). A long ramble along an increasingly good path took me to the slopes of Ruadh Stac Mor after about 3.5hrs - the entrance to the corrie south of this is particularly impressive, with one peak on each side. The final ascent was steep and one had to be careful to find the correct path for descent - a group of walkers coming after me missed it and looked like they would have benefitted from a rope.
A'Mhaighdean is a very elegant mountain, with fairly gentle slopes on the east and sharp ridges on the other sides. It also has excellent views of mountainous wilderness in all directions. A real cracker of a Munro if you are lucky with teh weather.
Making my way to Beinn Tarsuinn, paths petered out and there was a fair amount of re-ascent, so by the time I achieved the summit ridge, I had been walking for nearly 7 hours and was beginning to tire. I was still able to appreciate the scramble along the ridge to the top and fortunately I had now completed the bulk of the climbing. A pleasant walk along the ridge over Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair and Sgurr Ban then followed, both still just clear of the cloud. The former has a great summit, which unfortunately I forgot to photograph. The latter was much more rounded and was littered with awkward sized scree, which proved troublesome. Now, with scree, if the pieces are large, then they don't move much one can step along confidently, making good progress. If they are small, then one can slip and slide one's way down the slope rapidly and also make good progress. This scree was neither. It rolled under every step and though I was still feeling reasonably good at the top of Sgurr Ban, the descent over this sapped the remainder of my energy. If doing the walk again, I would descend more steeply down the grassy slope due north, despite this not being the obvious route. Still, I made it to the top of Beinn a'Chlaidheimh after about 10hrs, as the cloud was coming in over the highest tops. This, though I was unable to appreciate it at the time, is another of those hills whose pronunciation never fails to astound me - Ben ashleev!
I now had a weary descent left to get me back to Shenavall and in hindsight, I should have taken the gentler slopes NE of the top, but instead I descended the steep NW side between crags. Such was my physical and mental weariness, that this half mile took me 2hrs. I had to stop several times to keep the concentration needed for steep descents. I then had to jump back across the river, though I was beyond caring if my feet got wet.
Still, I arrived happily at the bothy to a dram of whisky and a large pan of pasta. I had covered 18 odd miles and over 2.5km of ascent in 12.5hrs. Needless to say, I slept well. Another group were staying in the bothy, planning the same walk in less good weather the following day - heh.

Beinn a'Chlaidheimh from Shenavall

The final three of the Fisherfield 6 from Beinn Tarsuinn

Looking west from A'Mhaighdean

The forge of An Teallach and Beinn Dearg Mhor from Ruadh Stac Mor

The summit buttress of A'Maighdean


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