(right) Ready to start at Poolewe. I'm supposed to be in the picture here, but something went wrong with the self-timer on the camera!
We enjoyed the cycle up the tarred road on the east side of the River Ewe, continuing on a good landrover track up to Kernsary farm, then through a gate into the forest.
A few 100 metres into the forest, we decided the bikes should be abandoned, and continued on foot, before leaving the track onto a new path, soon crossing a high stile (left) onto the open moorland.
Beinn Airigh Charr dominated the view ahead initially.
A small detour to cross the burn running out of the Strathan Buidhe meant we were past the half way mark, and soon the path started the descent towards the head of the Fionn Loch (right).
(right) Fionn Loch and Dubh Loch, with A' Mhaighdean behind
Soon we were down to the shoreline, and followed the shore round to the causeway, passing a couple in a small tent, camped at the head of the loch.
The causeway (left) was a slight disappointment, not as dramatic as expected, as the loch water level was fairly low.
It was now 7.30pm, and time to pitch the tent, on a level area just across the causeway (right), with a view to the Dubh Loch, dominated by A' Mhaighdean.
With some midges starting to appear as the sun dropped towards the horizon, we headed into the tent for an early night, ready for an early start next morning.
After crossing the outflow burn, we headed on up onto the NW ridge.
Once on the crest, fantastic views opened up down to the Dubh Loch, the causeway, Fionn Loch with Beinn Airigh Charr beyond, and righ out to Poolewe on the distant horizon (right).
Initially easy, the first obstacle n the ridge was a slightly exposed clamber up a sandstone step straddling the ridge.
Beyond this, the going was pretty straightforward for the next kilometre or so up to the 850m contour, until we suddenly found ourselves on a sandstone platform, peering over a 10m drop to a notch in the ridge. A dramatic place!
(left) Iain peering over the notch in the ridge. Fuar Loch Mor and Ruadh Stac Mor behind.
Just to the left, we found that we could descend a few metres down a sandy gully, then clamber up to the right to a notch which led out to the arete below the sandstone outcrop. A slightly less secure descent might have been possible on the right, but we didn't try it!
(right) Looking back past the pinnacle to the sandstone platform, where the last photo was taken,
(below) Looking back to the tricky section of the ridge form near the summit, with the "football pitch" to the right
From here, the summit was quickly reached up an eroded sandy path, and at 10.40am we were standing on the highest point of one of Scotland's finest Munros.
We remarked on the similarity of the Gaelic name A' Mhaighdean, to both of the English translations words "virgin" and "maiden." Do they all have a common root? And how did the mountain get such a name?
(left) The views all around were dramatic, with steep falls to Gorm Loch and Lochan Fada to the south, and across a jumble of complex craggy ridges to Ben Lair and Slioch.
By contrast, the eastern side of the hill sloped gently away toward the bealach between A' Mhaighdean and Beinn Tarsuinn.
This was place to linger awhile.
(right) View from summit of A' Mhaghdean across the "football pitch" to the rounded top of Ruadh Stac Mor
The climb up to Ruadh Stac Mor was short but steep (left), following a gully up through the initial rock band, then a clamber over boulders to the summit.
From the first Munro to the second took exactly an hour.
Once again, the views were superb, especially to the north towards An Teallach and Beinn Dearg Mhor.
Spent 20 minutes or so surveying the scene, before heading of along Ruadh Stac Mor's NW ridge. This involved a short rocky drop off the summit, then a stroll along the almost level grassy ridge for a few hundred metres, before choosing a spot to descend steeply off the ridge on grass and scree to reach the main path coming down from the bealach. From here, there were great views across Fuar Loch Mor to A' Mhaighdean's NW ridge, with the notch and pinnacles clearly visible in profile (right).
The stalkers' path led steadily downwards to the outflow of Lochan Feith Mhic' illean, then joined the main path through from Gleinn na Muice. This path led us rapidly back down to Carnmore at 2pm, where we packed up the tent, had some lunch, then loaded up our rucsacs for the walk out.
(left) Dubh Loch reflections from the causeway
From the causeway back to Poolewe took us 3 hours 15 minutes - 9 km walking and 6 km cycling.
A superb expedition - long anticipated and now completed. Many thanks to Iain for acting as sherpa!
Total walking 30km, cycling 12km, climbing 1300m, time 14 hours (+ overnight)
Munros 232 and 233
Tops 387 and 388