Fisherfield backpacking, 17-20 July 2019

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. Guided hillwalking and backpacking adventure into the Fisherfield wilderness Al Ewen was leading.

Fisherfield backpacking

Fisherfield deserves plenty of respect, it's vast, remote and wild! There are huge mountain crags, quartz boulderfields, extensive bogs and big rivers, unchecked by dams or bridges. And there are midgies, especially in July! So it wasn't a surprise to see that my group, six in all, were a little nervous about the next four days.

We'd met up at Corrie Hallie near Dundonnel in north west Scotland. Before setting off, there was to kti to check - camping gear, exped food for four days, midgie hood, waterproofs and crocks for river crossings. Then one last check of the weather: light rain with dry sunny spells was forecast. Most importantly no heavy rain was expected. This was important in being able cross the rivers and key to the success of the whole expedition: the ascent of five remote munros: Ruadh Stac Mor, A'Mhaighdean, Beinn Tarsuinn, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair and Sgurr Ban.

The plan for our adventure was as follows: Day 1, walk south to Sheneval bothy (about 3 hours), cross the rivers, then continue on to our base camp in Gleann na Muice; Day 2, make an ascent of Ruadh Stac Mor and A'Mhaighean (Scotlands most remote munro); Day 3, ascend Beinn Tarsuinn, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Sgurr Ban and possibly a fourth hill, a corbett called Beinn a'Chlaidheimh; Day 4, break camp and return to Corrie Hallie.

The walk in went to plan. We had rain off and on but not enough to affect the water level in the rivers. Getting across Abhainn na Strath Sealga was straightforward. The next 1.5km to the south however, between us and the next river crossing, was hard work. There is no easy way across the blanket bog that spans the valley floor. We picked our way across as best we could, then donned crocks and trainers again to cross the second river - Abhainn Gleann na Muice. After that we had another 1.5km to go to reach camp: a flat area of grass by the river in Gleann na Muice. We set up camp, made dinner and got an early night, ready for tomorrow's mountain day.

The morning was dry and bright. The cloud had cleared and for the first time we got a chance to admire to the awsome hills around us: the jagged peaks of An Teallach lay to the north; to the east was Beinn a'Chlaidheimh, its broad and steep mountainside - rising 800m straight up - filled our view; and to the south lay Ruadh Stac Mor, with a mountain cap of brown red Torridon sandstone.

The day's route began with an excellent stalkers path, helping us make good progress up to a plateau at about 500m with pretty lochs and great views. The mounain crags flanking Ruadh Stac Mor and A'Mhaighean are huge and imposing, plunging into the deep water of Fuar Loch Mor. Approaching the summit of A'Mhaighean the weather turned: the cloud came in, we got some light rain and the only fleeting glimpses of the amazing views to the west. After summiting A'Mhaighean we descended to a col and then made the steep but short ascent to Ruadh Stac Mhor. The rain presisted at the top and so we didn't linger, heading down to the north and linking back with the stalkers path we started the day on.

The next day, early morning sunshine warmed our tents and a gently breeze kept the midgies away. The twelve hour mountain day that followed was pretty special. Stunning views, sunshine, beautiful light, some exciting scrambling (on Beinn Tarsuinn) and great company to enjoy it with. We had paced ourselves well through the day. Although it had been a long day and we were all in good shape by the time we got to camp at 9pm, buzzing from a wonderful day in the mountains.

The weather on the last day couldn't have been more different. Mist enveloped the hills and it was drizzling. We broke camp and began our journey back to the road at 8:45am. Again the water level was low and the river crossings posed to problems for us. We took shelter in Sheneval bothy for lunch, brewing up tea and soup and drying off a little. On the 7km walk back to the road the drizzle stopped and it brightened up, giving us some good views of An Teallach. Much chat was enjoyed about what foods (bacon rolls, fish and chips and mushy peas!) would be consumed on the way home. We finished our expedition at about 2:15pm, five hours plus since setting off. We were tired but very pleased with ourselves. It had been a big adventure, full of challenge but full of rewards too.

More photos by Al Ewen are here on Flickr.

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