Inverlael Munros

Inverlael Munros, 3-5 August 2019

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. In the far north of Scotland for 3 days of guided hillwalking bagging Munros including Seana Bhraigh and Beinn Dearg. John King was leading.

Inverlael Munros

Day 1 - Beinn Dearg and neighbours

Saturday was forecast to be the best day of the weekend and it was full sunshine from the word go. I met our group for the day - Laura, Isobel, Hayley, Alastair, Mark and Johnston - in the walkers car park at Inverlael but we didn't hang around long at the start as the light winds meant that the midgies were out and biting! We were encouraged to walk up the forestry tracks away from the road at a good speed and were soon leaving the forestry behind. From the edge of the trees we picked up the good stalkers path in Gleann na Sguaib with a fine view ahead to some of the day's peaks, including Beinn Dearg itself with it's spectacular cliffs towering over the glen.

It was hot work all the way to the summit of Eididh nan Clach Geala but the views were worth the effort. The panorama stretched over much of the northern Highlands and the peaks of Assynt and An Teallach out to our west were looking particularly fine. Descending from here we topped up our water supplies in a small stream then picked our way up through the crags and scree onto Meall nan Ceapraichean, Mark's 100th Munro!

Descending from Meall nan Ceapraichean we stumbled across a couple of ptarmigan, very well camouflaged in their summer coats against the grey of the rocks. Once they had scuttled out of site we carried on and left our bags at the next bealach to tackle the summit of Cona' Mheall. Free from the weight of our packs we were up and down in no time, then onto Beinn Dearg for the final summit of the day. The ascent is from the same bealach as for Cona' Mheall and we would be descending from here to finish the day, so we took full advantage and left our sacks once more.

By the time we were heading up the final slopes onto Beinn Dearg some high level cloud had bubbled up, keeping things a little cooler for the ascent, but all the hills remained clear, and the views from this summit, the highest of the weekend, were extensive. Descending back to our packs we picked up the path winding its way back down Gleann na Sguaib. This is a lovely little path that takes you down the scenic upper part of the glen and it was a pleasant walk down with some nice waterfalls right beside the path. Back in the forest the sun was back out and it was stifling heading back down through the trees but we were soon back at Inverlael, 9 ½ hours of walking and 4 Munros complete!

Day 2 - Seana Bhraigh

Seana Bhraigh is one of the remoter hills of the Scottish Highlands, tucked away in a vast area of wild land between Inverlael and Oykel Bridge. All approaches to the hill are long and there is a great feeling of isolation when up on the hill's high summit plateau. The most common way in is from Inverlael in the south, so we met again at the walkers car park on Sunday morning and started up towards Gleann na Sguaib once more. The forecast for the day wasn't great with heavy showers forecast for the afternoon, but as wandered through the trees the weather was looking promising and it was much cooler than it had been the day before!

While still in the trees a track strikes off up the northern side of the glen and gives access to a fine stalkers path that climbs up and over the moors to gain a high plateau just south of Seana Bhraigh. It was hot and sticky climbing steeply up the ATV track out of the glen, but nice to take a breather at the top and enjoy a fine view back to An Teallach which remained clear of the cloud. From here the old stalkers path begins and this gave us a welcome respite as it ascends at a much more gradual angle up into the remote backcountry.

Eventually the stalkers path comes to and end and by this point we were in the mist. Map and compass were required for the initial walk out over a high area of rough, trackless ground to reach Seana Bhraigh. but as we descended slightly towards the head of Cadha Dearg - an impressive glacial valley on the southern slopes of the hill - we started to emerge from the cloud. As we started to see more of our surroundings we got more of a sense of how vast and empty this high area of land is. A good spot for a wild camp in the future?

A boggy route took us up onto Seana Bhraigh itself. Once on the heath of the summit plateau it was a more straightforward climb to the summit and we reached the summit cairn almost exactly 4 hours after leaving the cars, a pretty quick time! The clouds were just above the summit now giving us good views over the spectacular hollow of Luchd Choire to the subisidiary top of Creag an Duine. This top is well worth visiting, but we decided to give it a miss on the day, conscious that bad weather was likely approaching and we'd been lucky so far.

We made our way back to the stalkers path with good views ahead to yesterday's hills. Cona' Mheall looks particularly impressive from this angle. Slowly the mist came back down, then the rain started and a fresh breeze picked up. Full waterproofs were on and we expected that to be the way of things all the way back. However, by the time we were crossing the river flowing from Coire an Lochain Sgeirich the rain had stopped and we were taking our layers off once more. The walk out was very pleasant in the end, with more good views ahead to the peaks of Fisherfield and we made good time too. Back at the cars in a little over 7 ½ hours, there was still time for a little shopping in Ullapool!

Day 3 - Am Faochagach

For our final walk of the weekend and to complete our round of the Inverlael Munros, we only had the isolated summit of Am Faochagach left to visit. This is a relatively short day compared to our last two days but with a river crossing and a bit of bog to tackle en route to the very pleasant walking high on the hill. Wendy joined Laura, Alastair, Johnston and myself for the day and we were heading away from the road shortly after 8.30am. If anything, the forecast for this day was worse than the day before, with heavy, thundery showers a real possibility, but again things were looking good at the cars. Sun block had to be applied before leaving and all the hills were clear.

The dry weather prior to the walk meant that the bog wasn't too bad and the river crossing went fairly easily as well. Then it was a steady walk up hill to gain the ridgeline above, with a brief stop by some nice little waterfalls on the Allt na h-Uidhe. Once the ridge was gained, the terrain changed to grass and montane heath underfoot making for enjoyable walking and we made good progress to the summit, reaching the top around 1145. As we climbed the views got better and better and from the summit you could see right up to Ben Loyal in the far north, Suilven out west and the Moray Firth in the east.

Heavy looking showers appeared to be cropping up over the hills of Glen Affric and Glen Cannich so we started back down shortly before 12. It was an enjoyable walk down the hill with great views of the Fannichs just across the Dirrie More and the showers all seemed to be avoiding us! Back down at the bealach where we descended off the ridge there were some impressive mushrooms at 700m altitude - I'm told orange birch boletus which are an edible mushroom and suggests there must have been some dwarf birch in the area. Down at the river a few spots of rains started to fall but we made it across and back to the cars before any proper rain kicked off. Another successful walk completed in a little over 5 ½ hours. Thanks to all in the group for a great few days on the hills!

More photos by John King are here on Flickr.

More photos by Johnston Orr are here on Flickr.

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