Our blog - Fisherfield, Apr'17

A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Fisherfields Wilderness

17-20 April 2017
Hiking and backpacking into the Fisherfield and Letterewe wilderness. John was leading...

The Munros of the Fisherfield forest are quoted in the Walk Highlands guide book as 'the crux of any Munro round', and for sheer physicality, access and commitment, I would agree. I have done them a good few times now, in all seasons, and from almost all possible directions, and they never fail to impress and leave me footsore but fulfilled. This recent trip was no exception.

We met at the lay-by at Corriehallie on Bank Holiday Monday, where parking is usually at a premium during busy periods, and true to form, some folk had to park up the road a little. After some sorting of kit, (where it must be said some of the more excessive and luxurious items were pared down a little to say the least!), we heaved the crammed rucksacks onto our back and set off in dry but overcast conditions that were joyfully to remain with us for the majority of the trip. The track gives quick and relatively easy access SW before we cut off on the less easy Shenavall bothy path which skirts Sail Liath. The views really open up at the wee cairn and high point of the track, and all but Beinn Tarsuinn can be seen from there, often looking deceptively closer than they really are.

After a little bog-trotting and rocky quartz path hopping, you get to a delightful ravine that leads down to the bothy and Strath na Sealga, usually busy with deer as well as bothy-goers. Today there was a group of Dutch folks intent on An Teallach and a couple of chaps heading our way, and we chatted for a minute before setting off across the wetland that leads to the river. It is always a decision whether to head straight towards the stalker's lodge at Larachantivore and make two crossings, or more Westerly to the confluence and only make one. Latterly I have elected for the former, and have found it acceptable each time, but both can be a tedious slog.

We had all manner of river crossing wear, from kooky kayak shoes through crocs to a pair of dancing shoes and some natty plastic bags over the boots! The crossings were short and a few giggles were had before we parted company with the other two chaps and struck out for our camp at the foot of Gleann na Muice Beag.

The night was very cold at -4c, and the tents were well frosted in the morning, but it boded well for the day. We set off around 08:15, and steadily climbed towards Loch a'Bhrisidh up pathless ground. The climb was made a little more bearable by a golden eagle soaring majestically above us for a good while, and we oohed and ahhed together. After turning sharp left above the loch, it was up to the summit of the now Corbett Beinn a'Claidheimh, which is an excellent summit with wonderful views of Beinn Dearg Mor and An Teallach, and well worth the effort despite having been demoted from munro status. It was then back down and up the interminable quartz boulders, past the wee howff and on to Sgurr Ban, our first munro. It's a fair old slog, and having been going nearly 6hrs, you feel you deserve it!

After an easy descent to the high col, we then made short work of the normally loose but thankfully snowy path up onto the highest point of the day, Mullach a'Coire Mhic Fhearchair 1019m. Here we met one of the chaps from the day before, who had come up the gleann instead, lamenting how the snow had covered the tracks. Funny how one man's meat eh? Again, the views were fantastic, and using Paul's App that identifies peaks, we even managed to pick out Blaven on the horizon, before heading down towards Meall Garbh which always seems to block the way dispiritingly. I teased the guys a little before revealing the great little path that skirts below it directly to the Bealach Odhar, where we left our sacks and ground up our last munro of the day, Beinn Tarsuinn, once again, abounding with views, enhanced by the wonderful light.

Our descent was a new one to me, back to the bealach and down the coire directly into Gleann na Muice, and there are some lovely waterfalls and awesome sandstone rock architecture to marvel at en route. We were back at the tents well before dark, and the 12hrs we took was respectable enough to have had a thoroughly enjoyable day.

The night was markedly warmer, but with that came drizzle and lower cloud, but it dried up as we breakfasted, and stayed off all day. Our second day started with a much easier walk up a fine stalker's path which takes you through some of the most remote country in the UK, and into the atmospheric coire that holds the brooding Fuar Loch Mor. I love it here, and am sure I'll see a pterodactyl one day! We elected to summit A'Mhaighdean first, and zigzagged up the snowy path towards the top. I was relieved that the cornices I had seen the day before had gone in the moist warm wind, and we kicked a few steps onto the flat summit ridge.

All of this had been in cloud, and Duncan, our more 'senior' party member was stoic in the hope of a third-time-lucky summit view, as he had never had the famous A'Mhaighdean picture with the Fionn Loch backdrop. We plodded upwards in the snow, which was definitely brightening, and then Lo! The clouds parted. You couldn't have scripted it. We rushed to get the obligatory shots, and the cloud teased us, playing Peek-a-Bo for a while, but we got them. Duncan had promised me a hug if we did, and I claimed my prize on my favourite spot on the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor with a picture :)

We then had a rest in the sun in some shelter on the summit. It was there that one of the main rewards of my job was felt - The sheer unadulterated joy of satisfaction. Satisfaction of being in such a remote place, under your own steam, in such conditions. The team were brimming with such emotion, and it was a palpable pleasure, lovely to share.

Buoyed as were by all this, the loose and scrabbly ascent of Ruadh Stac Mor was a breeze, and in the breeze we high-fived and snapped picture after picture as the clouds had lifted and the views were super. The Fisherfield Six, or Five, whatever you want. A real effort, but one to savour. The final thing to do was to descend via Loch a'Bhrahad, which I believe is the most remote square kilometre of land in the UK, so we decided on this rather than the stalker's path again. We were back to the tents around 5pm, and we shared a toast with some Uisge Beatha that some thoughtful and kind guide had thought to bring along ;) Well done to us.

Thursday was the steady tramp out, the river crossing being reduced to a perfunctory splish-splash as wet boots reduced their severity, and only the haul up out of Shenavall being steep at all. That said, you are always glad to see the car and some clean dry clothes as you wallow in the warm satisfaction of effort well-rewarded.

A really enjoyable trip, so well done to Duncan, the two Pauls (the Buckaroo Brothers due to their esoteric rucksack loading), Vikki and Rachel, Raymond, and Scott, who must have walked more kilometres per calorie than any of due to his spartan diet! ;) Thanks for a great and memorable trip.

More photos by John are here on Flickr.

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