Sunday, 3 July 2011


Aonach Beag and Aonach Mor    2nd July 2011

Compleated at last!

(full story to follow in due course, but here's a few pictures ...)
(... and a link to the local paper ....)

setting out up the Glen Nevis path, 10.30am, sun shining!
Frank, Malcolm and Anne on Sgurr a'Bhuic, 1.30pm
approaching Aonach Beag, with Aonach Mor beyond - the last 2 in sight!
and he's made it!  top of Aonach Mor,  3.30pm, Saturday 2nd July 2011
and the full summit party:  L to R  Ben Nevis, Fiona Bethune, Anne Bethune,  Allan Findlay (compleated), Ann Findlay (compleated),  me (just compleated!), Frank Frame, Frances Bethune, Malcolm FIndlay
Thanks to all who climbed with me or joined me on the summit (especially those who brought the champagne, cake and other goodies!);  special thanks to Winky O'Neale for the "In Pinn"; sorry about those who couldn't make it - I wish you could all have been there, but we'll have a Munro party in Selkirk in the Autumn for anyone who's been with me on a Munro over the last 35 years!

May God shield us in the valleys,
May Christ aid us on the mountains,
May the Holy Spirit embrace us on the slopes,
In hollow, on hill, on plain, mountain, valley and plain.
May God's goodness be ours
And well, and seven times well, may we spend our lives.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

3,2: A'Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-Choire

A' Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-Choire    16th June 2011

Steadily closing in on that elusive last Munro!   The final quest has been plagued by one of the most unsettled early summers for years.  Finding good weather days that coincide with work-free days has proved to be a challenge.  And so, needing only two more good days, the long weekend of Selkirk Common Riding looked like an opportunity.  I was working in Glasgow on the Wednesday, and Anne wouldn't be free until 3pm, so we planned to meet up in Stirling at 7pm.  Anne travelled up by bus and train;  I drove up from Glasgow after my meeting.

We had a lovely run up via Loch Lubnaig, Tyndrum, Rannoch Moor and Glencoe, and reached Spean Bridge where we had booked B and B at The Braes Guest House.  In  addition to the comfy room, friendly welcome and good breakfast, this proved to be an inspired choice, as the lounge provided panoramic views to the Grey Corries and the bedroom to Aonach Mor ....

Aonach Mor from Braes Guest House, Spean Bridge
But, before "compleating" on Aonach Mor, I still had to climb A' Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-Choire above Loch Cluamie, so that was the immediate target.

So, on Thursday morning, we set off from Spean Bridge;  we were a little later getting to the starting point on the shore of Loch Cluanie, as road works meant a diversion round by Fort Augustus and Invermoriston.

So it was 10.50am when we set off from the tiny car parking area, crossed the road, walked 10m up the track, and then struck off right at a cairn up a small and initially rather damp path, heading directly up the steep slope ahead.  Behind us, the views across Loch Cluanie  opened up nicely, and the overcast sky started to show signs of breaking up.  Loch Cluanie itself was like a sheet of glass.

view across Loch Cluanie to the South Glen Shiel ridge
The path quickly climbed out of the damp lower ground,  and started to climb steeply up alongside a small burn.  We continued relentlessly upwards on the path until it reached the broad southern ridge of A' Chralaig ("the basket") at around 750m.  An hour an a half into our walk, and most of the hard work was over!

gradient lessening as we reached the ridge - view across to Am Bathach
By now, the summit was in view, about a mile away, up a broad, stepped, grassy ridge.

on the ridge of A' Chralaig at about 800m
We continued over a couple of minor bumps on the ridge;  although I usually like to visit any Munro tops,  I decided against a detour out to A' Chioch ("the breast"), a Munro top on a long grassy ridge out to the east, which didn't look very enticing, and would have added a tiresome re-ascent.  Maybe I'll come back and visit it some day!

on the path round the rim of the eastern corries, before the final rise to the summit of A' Chralaig
Despite the earlier patches of blue sky, the clouds were beginning to build up, and there were clearly some showers around - hopefully, they would all miss our hills.  Two and a 1/2 hours from the car, we arrived at A' Chralaig's massive summit cairn - reminiscent of the Three Brethren back home!

Anne at summit of A' Chralaig
Time for a rest and a bite to eat, sitting on a nice ledge of flat stones with our backs to the cairn.   As we sat there, the clouds were rolling up behind us, and the first few wisps of mist started to catch the summit.  It was time to move on.

Anne sheltering while the shower passed over
The ridge ahead to Mullach Fraoch-Choire ("hill of the heathery coire") looked good, and we set off along it, descending slowly at first, then down a few rocky steps.                                    
Less than ten minutes after leaving the summit, a squally shower caught us - wind and cold rain.  Fortunately, there was a handy sheltering place behind a little rock wall to the right of the path, so we "cooried doon" there for 10-15 minutes while the shower passed by.

The sun and blue sky re-appeared, but there was still a cold wind, so we kept on our extra layers as we descended down to the next bealach, then made a gentle ascent to the next top, Stob Coire a' Chralaig.   From here, the full profile of Na Geurdain ("the jaggies"), the south ridge of Mullach Fraoch-Choire, came into view.  Looked like fun!

Na Geurdain from Stob Coire na Cralaig

looking back towards A' Chralaig from Stob Coire na Cralaig
First, a short descent down a narrow ridge to the next bealach at 950m, then a short ascent up to the start of the pinnacles.  A traverse along the crest itself would have been tricky in places, but it was straightforward to follow the path all the way as it wound its way through the pinnacles, first on the right, then crossing over to the left.

A' Chralaig from Na Geurdain
Anne on the split rock just before the final climb to the summit
The walk from Stob Coire na Cralaig to Mullach Fraoch-choire was definitely the best 40 minutes of the day!  Once past the final pinnacle, a short climb up a grassy slope led to the summit - with another (not quite so) large cairn, and a circular stone shelter.

summit of Mullach Fraoch-choire   - 2 to go!
The weather had improved again, so we found a comfy spot to sit an enjoy the view down Glen Affric and eat our second instalment of lunch.  Only 2 more Munros to go!

Glen Affric from the summit of Mullach Fraoch-choire
After half an hour on the summit, we headed back along the pinnacled ridge - making a few detours this time to explore the crest.  

on the way back along Na Geurdain
At the bealach, we decided not to take the path down into Coire Odhar, but climbed back to Stob Coire na Cralaig, and descended down its SW ridge - grassy all the way, but quite steep lower down.  This gave good views of the waterfalls of the Allt Coire a' Ghlas-thuill, but was quite a tiring descent.  Perhaps Coire Odhar would have been a better choice.

Eventually, we reached the valley floor right on the watershed, and followed the boggy and intermittent path south until it joined an old metalled track, which led down An Caorainn Mor to the car - about 3 miles.

An excellent day.   The big question:  would the weather hold for "compleating" on the Aonachs tomorrow?

Aonach Mor from the Command Monument above Spean Bridge
A check of the on-line weather forecast at 7.30pm showed persistent rain and low cloud for tomorrow and Saturday, so we decided the celebrations would have to wait.  Who wants to get soaked on their last Munro?!

Looks like the weekend of 2-3rd July will be the next opportunity!  Maybe see you then?


2 Munros + 1 top (twice!)
14 km walk 
1200 m climb
7.5 hours 


left car

reached ridge

A' Chralaig (M)
13:20 - 13:40

Stob Coire na Cralaig (T)

Mullach Fraoch-Choire (M)
15:10 - 15:40

Stob Coire na Cralaig (T)

back at car

written 18/06/11

Friday, 3 June 2011

6,5,4: Fisherfield Trio

Beinn Tarsuinn, Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair and Sgurr Ban   3rd June 2011

Yesterday had been a 10 hour day for only one Munro, and had left me feeling pretty tired.  Was I up to another big day with 3 Munros and 2 tops?  These were the questions going through my mind as I woke early in the car park at Kinlochewe.   At least the weather was looking good ...

Base Camp - Kinlochewe car park!

Beinn Eighe - a dramatic backdrop above Kinlochewe
After an initial start up the wrong road (!), I set off by bike at 8.20am, and made good speed along the excellent farm road on the north bank of the Abhainn Bruachaig, towards Heights of Kinlochewe.  

On the way, I passed a young couple heading in the same direction (later referred to as "the greyhounds" by another group I met on the hill!).  The first significant obstacle appeared after 5km, when the bike had to be manhandled up over a high ladder stile.  The track continued now, uphill, for another 3km up Gleinn na Muice.  Most of this required pushing the bike, but I knew it would be worthwhile for the return journey.

At the top of the track, a confusing sign indicated 2 footpaths - but with arrows pointing in the wrong directions!  Someone had helpfully scrawled "consult your map" on the sign!  I followed the excellent, newly rebuilt path heading towards the mountains.  Directly ahead lay all my target hills (except Sgurr Ban, hidden behind the Mullach) ...

L to R: Beinn Tarsuinn, Meall Garbh, Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair, east top and Sgurr Dubh
To the left, Slioch ("the spear") rose steeply above the moor, looking more like its name from this less often viewed direction.

Slioch, from the east, with Sgurr an Thuill Bhan the prominent spear-like peak on the right
A couple of miles up the path, Lochan Fada came into view (and I was overtaken by "the greyhounds" - the benefit of having young legs!)

view along Lochan Fada, with Beinn Lair on the left
Just before the main path dropped down to the shores of the loch, I struck off to the right on a small path heading roughly towards my hill.   Unfortunately this path soon petered out (it might have been better to continue down to the shore and find a better path from there), but the way ahead was fairly easy going across gradually rising moorland towards Meall Garbh.

view across Lochan Fada to its outflow down Gleann Bianasdail

the Mullach from just above Bealach Odhar on my way up Beinn Tarsuinn
The slope gradually steepened as I toiled upwards keeping to the right hand side of a prominent ravine coming down below Bealach Odhar.  Crossing the burn above the ravine, I made my way up a series of sandstone layers on the left, and then more steeply up grassy slopes to join the path leading up to the summit of Beinn Tarsuinn ("the transverse mountain").   The "greyhounds" scurried past on their way down!

4 hours after leaving Kinlochewe, I arrived on the dramatic summit of Beinn Tarsuinn.  The approach had been up mainly grassy slopes; in contrast, the north side of the mountain was composed of sandstone cliffs dropping away to the top of (another) Gleann na Muice.

from the summit,  looking down to "the table" on Beinn  Tarsuinn's west ridge

from Beinn Tarsuinn,  Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair looked dauntingly massive

looking north from Beinn Tarsuinn's summit
After taking in the panoramic view, I "cooried doon" in a wee hollow behind the cairn to eat my sandwiches, and to get out of the strong breeze blowing in from the west.

a fine spot for a bit of lunch! - 6 Munros to go ...
After a chat with another group of walkers, I set off back down the east ridge towards the Bealach Odhar - nice to be going downhill for a while!

Meall Garbh ("rough lump") sits between Beinn Tarsuinn and the Mullach, but fortunately there is a handy little by-pass path skirting under the cliffs on the north side.  Once at the next bealach, the climb to the summit of Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair was easier and shorter than it had looked earlier.  The 250m climb was initially up through sandstone outcrops, then on quartzite boulders, so there was plenty to think about, using hands and feet and walking pole to progress.  Soon enough, the slope eased, and the huge summit cairn was just ahead around the final curve of the ridge above shattered cliffs. 

approaching the summit of Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair, with Sgurr Ban beyond
Only 5 to go!  Stopped for a while to chat with a "cheery trio".  It turned out than one of the three was on her 4th last Munro - so just one ahead of me - and planned to continue over Sgurr Ban and Beinn a' Chlaidheimh - leaving just two more - oddly enough, Beinn Bhuidhe and Meall Buidhe ("yellow hill" and "yellow hill"!)  I wonder which of us will "compleat" first?

On Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair - 5 to go - Beinn Tarsuinn in the background
Now it was time to pay for yesterday's decision - out and back to Sgurr Ban.   I scampered off down the steep path, leaving the "cheery trio" to descend more slowly.  In places it was possible to leave a footprint in the dry white quartzite sand on the path - almost like beach sand.  The next bealach was at 820m, so quickly reached, especially slithering down the last steep section of path on very loose scree.  

looking back to Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair from Sgurr Ban - scree path clearly visible
 The ascent to Sgurr Ban didn't take long - only 160m of ascent - then a walk across the huge level summit plateau to the cairn.  Again I was glad of the shelter from the strong westerly breeze, while I refuelled with food and coffee.

Sgurr Ban's amazing stony summit plateau - looking from the cairn towards An Teallach
Well, that was the last Munro of the day, but I still had to return over the Mullach (unfortunately), then take in its two outlying tops on my way "home".  

Once again, the re-ascent wasn't as bad as it looked, and probably vindicated yesterday's decision.  As I'm not intending to complete a "second round", I cut off from the path below the summit, and contoured across (over some massive boulders) to gain the east ridge.  The east top was only 500m away, with a re-ascent of only 20m, so hardly deserved its "top" status.  However, it was a good place of another short rest, and gave good views across to Sgurr Ban (below).

well seen why it is called Sgurr Ban ("the white peak")
Ahead lay one more top, Sgurr Dubh, reached along a narrowish ridge with "easy scrambling" according to the guide books. From the east top, it certainly looked inviting!

Sgurr Dubh from the east top
First a straightforward descent to the next bealach, Cab a Choire Ghuirm ("notch of the blue coire"), followed by a very "interesting" scramble up a rocky ridge, then over and round a couple of pinnacles to reach the top.  A faint path showed the best way, mainly keeping to the right side, but plenty of "hands on rock" was required to progress safely.  I was acutely aware that there was no-one else around to pick up the pieces if I made a mistake.

looking back over the scrambly section of Sgurr Dubh - Beinn Tarsuinn behind
Anyway, there were no mishaps, and soon I was safely on the top of Sgurr Dubh.  So, a "white peak" and a "black peak" only a mile apart!  I continued to the next little bump on the ridge, and sat down to enjoy the view.  Minutes later, I was surprised to see two walkers appearing up the east ridge, having come up over the Sgurr Ban slabs from Loch an Nid.

from Sgurr Dubh, looking down over the Sgurr Ban slabs to Loch an Nid
 By now it was nearly 5pm, and I was still far from base, so began the descent down the easy southern slopes of Sgurr Dubh, following a line of crags (below) down to around 700m, where a way could be made down through the crags into Coire Mhic Fhearchair.

looking back up from Coire Mhic Fhearchair to Sgurr Dubh, from just below the line of crags 
Once across the burn flowing out of the coire, it was possible to contour easily across a wide gently sloping grassy area to reach the foot of another parallel line of crags,  Creag Ghlas Bheag.  Beyond this, the moorland sloped down towards Lochan Fada, and the main path home.   

All that remained was the 2  mile walk back to the bike (it seemed a good deal further on weary legs!), then a fine downhill trundle to Heights of Kinlochewe, over the ladder stile, and a fast cycle back down the valley to Kinlochewe.

A great expedition!


3 Munros + 2 tops
19 km walk + 16 km cycle
1600 m climb
11.5 hours 


left car

left bike

Lochan Fada

Beinn Tarsuinn (M)
12:20 - 12:40

Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair (M)
13:45 - 14:00

Sgurr Ban (M)
14:45 - 15:00

MCMF east top (T)
15:55 - 16:05

Sgurr Dubh (T)
16:30 - 16:55

Lochan Fada
18:00 - 18:05

back to bike


written 13/06/11