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Fisherfield7-10 October 2016
An extended weekend backpacking into the heart of Fisherfield. John was leading a small group in fine conditions ...
Fisherfield is a challenge, however you choose to tackle the now 5 Munros and 1 Corbett that make up the classic Fisherfield Six. It is a challenge because of the long walk-ins, the heavy packs, the statutory burn crossings, the need to think about a shelter for the night, the weather, navigation and many other things before you even consider the 3600m+ of ascent and many, many kilometres on foot depending on how you do it. For me, it will always be remembered for the most midge-ridden trip I have ever had, coupled with rain and awful toothache...sheer hell it was.
But then I had this weekend.
Perfect weather, dry underfoot, beastie-free (give or take the odd deer ked), low river crossings, unsurpassed views and great company. That's what I am going to remember Fisherfield for now.
Jimmy, Morag, Kay and me walked in from Corriehallie on Friday afternoon, and due to a rather optimistic start time and some faff-time required for kit strapping, we didn't get to our chosen camp site at the foot of Gleann na Muice Beag until well after dark. The often problematic crossing of the Abhainn Strath na Sealga was a paddle with boots on, and the normal morasse between there and Larachantivore wasn't bad at all. The time wasn't an issue either, as the evening was so perfect, we just cooked, had a wee dram and turned in, ready for the route.
On Saturday we set off at 08:30 along Gleann na Muice, and cut up early towards Loch a'Bhrisidh due to how dry the ground was. After a long hard pull, the team decided they still wanted to do all 6 hills, so we doubled back and summited Beinn a'Chlaidheimh. The views to An Teallach and Beinn Dearg Mor were spectacular. The next three summits were the munros, Sgurr Ban, Mullach a' Coire Mhic Fhearchair and Beinn Tarsuinn, and we steadily ticked them off with a commendable rhythm. The effort was rewarded by a never-ending panorama to which justice cannot be done without pictures. Splendid.
Eventually we came to the descent, but not before posing for photographs on the famous 'tennis court', a surprising flat sandstone feature on the Tarsuinn ridge. It is loose and steep, but deposits you at the boggy and peat hag-ridden Pollan na Muice where you have to make the choice - Continue for a good few more hours and bag all six, or cut down to the tents on rough ground. We chose the latter, knowing the next day's forecast was equally good, and again made the campsite after dark. We were tired, but very, very satisfied as we made our dinner by head-torch, moon and starlight.
After a cooler but still pleasant for October night, we set off on the excellent stalker's path up Gleann na Muice Beag at 08:15. I won't rant on about the views and weather, as I think you're getting the gist, but yet again, it was magnificent. In no time we were traversing above the Fuar Loch Mor under Ruadh Stac Mor, a wonderful atmospheric corrie. There, Jimmy realised he had dropped his camera, and whilst he re-traced his steps to find it, which he did, myself and the ladies entertained ourselves by removing a few pesky ticks that had hitched a lift. 'It's an ill wind' as they say :)
After chatting to several happy baggers we met en route, as well as looking in at the howff on the high bealach, we made the summit of A'Mhaigdean. It is the most remote munro, (or 'remo-test' as Morag says) and reputed to have the best view in Scotland. Whilst I can think of some competition, it was indeed rather special in the conditions. The guys had the statutory viewpoint photo taken, and we then had a leisurely lunch, very happy, before striking back off down towards Rudh Stac Mor, our final summit.
The ascent is on loose eroded sandstone for a while, but rapidly takes you high to the stone-built trig point and yet more superlative views. From here you can see the return route to the stalker's path, and in the dry conditions, we were back at the tents by 16:30 for a game of Munro Top Trumps and a dram to celebrate.
The night was moonlit and cold, only just hovering above freezing, a price you have to pay for clear skies. I regretted my decision to bring only a lightweight down bag and a belay jacket - Ah well, one night out of three uncomfortable wasn't bad I suppose! We were awake sharp, and despite a leisurely pack-up, away just after 09:00 for the 3-4hr traipse back to Corriehallie. The ladies' had packed their sacks much better than on the way in, when they had much gear a-dangling, and the walk-out was as comfortable as it can be with such heavy sacks. We spent a while watching the rutting stags playing hind-chess as they bellowed and posed on the Strath, splendid in the morning sun. The weather stayed kind, with a cooling breeze as we took our last break at the wee cairn at Carn na Canaich before descending to the waiting cars.
A truly memorable trip, this time for all the right reasons. Thanks to Jimmy, Kay and Morag for being great company on a special weekend.
More photos by John are here on Flickr.
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