Wednesday, April 06, 2011

128. Fionn Bheinn (246). 03/04/2011

With the adventures of the previous days behind us and the weather due to be a bit better, we were definitely up for half a day of walking. For this we chose the world-famous Achnasheen, which provided a relatively short munro (but one not lacking in character).

Arriving at midday, the ubiquitous morning drizzle had just abated and we sped up the start of the climb at almost a jog (compared to the previous day at least). The wind (still at gale force) was at our back most of the way up to encourage us, so it was less than 2h to get to the summit. We then had to sit down to avoid being blown off the steep north face, but took a moment to relax and ponder over the hills that would have made up our original tour itinerary.

For a way of descent, we then went to the east top, which took us onto gentle grassy slopes back down to the village. All in all a much more tame excursion than the camping, but still enjoyable because of this.
East from the summit

127. Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich(209). 02/04/2011

We didn't get swept away in the night, although the tent poles were bending inwards with the wind at times - we weren't as sheltered as we thought from the gale force winds. We were a little surprised by the mode of precipitation during the night though; we awoke to 3 inches of snow covering the tent(!) and it was still falling outside. Also it turned out that Christian had been awake most of the night due to the thinness of his sleeping bag - even hot porridge struggled to lift his spirits.

Anyway, we were worried that the weather had turned for the worse and didn't really fancy the idea of gale force winds coupled with blizzard conditions, therefore we resolved to make for the nearest road to the north rather than atttempt the ridge. This would at least allow us to take in Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich on the way out. Packing the tent away was interesting with numb fingers and the snow still falling, but we managed it in good order. It really had proved to be a great tent - I hadn't really appreciated it previously having not had to push it to the limits.

Tramping down across the corrie and up the slope on the other side was something we thought might be slightly uncomfortable in the conditions, but actually the terrain wasn't too bad under the snow and the stream we had to cross was managed dry-shod. We reached the ridge between Sgurr Mhor and BLMF, which was now blanketed in snow and quite pictureque - we momentarily considered taking in Sgurr Mhor too, but the fact that the wind was now back up to howling volume meant we continued walking out.

With the gale now at our backs and with the precipitation more or less finished, we were able to get up the final slope to BLMF without too much ado and from the shelter of the summit cairn we enjoyed the clear view of Easter Ross, which was jolly pleasant.

It wasn't the most comfortable of descents over rough ground down to the glen in the north, but we got there eventually and were then able to hitch a lift to the Alltguish Inn for a pint and a scone. By this time of course, whatever the Scottish version of Murphy's Law is had come into effect and we were provided with very good weather almost making us wish we hadn't decided to escape. Still, better to be safe than sorry.

The excellent weather by the time we'd fully descended

BLMF from the ridge

Christian at the summit of BLMF

Our campsite in the morning

125-126. An Coileachan (266), Meall Gorm (215). 01/04/2011

It was a blustery April morning that saw Christian and I set out along the road to the lodge on Loch Fannaich. The Plan was a three day tour of the hills, taking in some quality ridges and high-level campsites.

Progress along the tarmac was rapid and despite drizzle, we were soon tackling the shoulder of An Coileachan. However, the closer we got to the summit ridge, the most the wind began to take on biblical proportions (the forecast had predicted gusts of up to 100mph). Thankfully by this point any precipitation has disappeared and the clouds had lifted, but the wind had us literally on our knees. Still, we battled to the top and even found that being picked up and thrown around by the elements was quite fun.

Walking along the ridge to Meall Gorm was therefore quite tiring and at several points we just found it easier to lie down, since it was impossible to rest standing up. It was a bit like walking through jelly (I know, having tried this on many occasions) and I think our speed would definitely have been less than 1mph. The view was pretty good though and there was a nice stone shelter near the summit, behind which we cowered to admire it.

After the top, we descended into the corrie to the west of Sgurr Mhor (where we imagined it would be sheltered) to set up camp. We were only slightly daunted by the white horses on the corrie loch and the fact that we could actually see the gusts of wind churning up the air as they whipped around the corrie. It was slightly damp, but we found some clear ground in the lee of the ridge and had a pleasant evening feasting on couscous and sipping on Laphroig. The question was whether we would be swept away in the night...

Demonstrating the windspeed

South from Meall Gorm to Loch Fannaich

A sheltered campsite...