Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
22nd to 25th March 2007
Letterewe and Fisherfield Forests
The Great Wilderness
Now well into March I was still awaiting my first visit to the west coast for 2007. Continual miserable forecasts had prevented a sortie over to the other side of Scotland. I was surprised and delighted to see the forecast midweek predicting a number of good days stretching into the weekend. It was too good an opportunity to miss so I hastily arranged to have Thursday and Friday of work, packed my bags and headed off for a few days walking. I had planned for some time to take a trip into one of Scotlands great wilderness areas maybe not so big in world scales but certainly large in UK terms. After taking the Inverness road I headed up towards Ullapool but took the turning at Garve for Achnasheen and then Kinlochewe.http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/kinlochewe/kinlochewe/index.html
Kinlochewe is a small village situated on the edge of the Beinn Eighe nature reserve and on the doorstep of the Torridon Mountains. From Kinlochewe the road winds along the banks of loch Maree passing the huge bulk of Slioch which looms high and mighty above the loch shore.
Slioch across loch Maree
The road eventually leads to the coastal town of Gairloch and my final destination (by car) Poolewe.http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/areagair/index.html
It was now a four hour hike up to the head of Fionn loch and the causeway that separates it from Dubh loch, the causeway provides access to Carnmore on the opposite side of the loch and the hills beyond. From Poolewe I followed the private road around to Inveran and onto Kernsary and through the forest that leads to the path on the north bank of Allt na Creige. As I took the long walk up to Loch an Doire Crionaich the views of the cliffs above Carnmore and the distant A' Mhaighdean came more into view. The path after the loch tends up the Strathan Bhuide, one of two passes that give access to Letterewe on the banks of Loch Maree. A bridge was crossed at the entrance to the pass to gain the path which would lead down to the shores of Fionn Loch not to far from the causeway to Carnmore.
Fionn loch and Dubh Loch
The shores of Fionn loch opposite Carnmore would be my campsite for the next three nights.
The crags of Carn Mor and Sgurr na Laocainn
A' Mhaighdean at the head of Dubh Loch
After pitching the tent I headed across the causeway and followed the rising path along the side of Dubh Loch. I continued along the path for some distance before heading west over open hillside to climb Beinn A' Chaisgein Mor.
View of Ruadh Stac Mor and A' Mhaighdean Beinn A' Chaisgein Mor
It had been a long day and I was rewarded with a nice sunset while descending the path back down to Dubh loch and the causeway that would lead me back to the tent. As I approached Carnmore I noticed something the size of a dog scurrying along below. I was surprised to realise that it was a badger and moved forward a bit quicker as it looked like it was going to intersect the path. I hoped to get a better view and maybe a picture but as it gained the path it turned and looked briefly at me before moving off up the hillside at a fair pace. This was to be the first wild badger that I had seen and was totally unexpected.
Sunset across Fionn Loch
Back at the tent it was time for a wash before preparing my evening meal as the stars began to shine and the new moon cast a silvery shadow across the waters of Fionn Loch. It was bright but a bit chilly as I emerged from my sleeping bag the next morning. The tent lay in the shadows cast from the high cliffs above Dubh loch but I escaped the cold as I once again crossed the causeway to Carnmore, retracing my path from the previous evening. The way was marked by a thin layer of snow as I regained the path up beside Alt Bruthach an Easain but there were no footprints to indicate recent visitors. On reaching Lochan Feith Mhic-illean I continued on a south easterly path heading for Fuar Loch Mor and the north west ridge of Ruadh Stac Mor.
An Teallach in the distance over Lochan Feith Mhic illean
Reaching the foot of the ridge I decided on a steep line up its west facing ridge wall finding a route easily through the higher craggy ground. The ridge stretches out on a fairly level course towards the summit for over half a kilometre before there was a short pull to gain the top. Dubh Loch and Fionn loch could be seen in the distance beyond the dark waters of Fuar Loch Mor.
Fuar Loch Mor and Fionn Loch from Ruadh Stac Mor
After a leisurely break it was time to descend before heading up onto A' Mhaighdean.
A' Mhaighdean from Ruadh Stac Mor
There is apparentley a fairly direct line down to the col that separates the two mountains but I was a little unsure of the line and considering the many cragg's and steepness of the terrain I opted to follow a south east line and drop down through less obstructed slopes. I lost more height this way but it felt like a safer alternative. Looking back up to the heights of Ruadh Stac Mor I could see a large bird of prey gliding on the thermals gaining height before diving steeply, a process repeated several times. I guess by the size and actions it could have been a Golden eagle but I couldn't be sure at such a distance. I traversed across the hillside onto the broad south east slope of A' Mhaighdean passing frozen pools and waterfalls. There were many erratic's perched on stony outcrops taking in the warm sunshine.
Frozen pools, Sgurr Ban and Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair
My boots dipped into some deeper snow as I made the final few meters to what would be the highest point of the trip. With hardly a breeze to stir the air I could enjoy the warmth and views of my high vantage point. Great expanses of wilderness could be seen in all directions, the view north west across the large body of Fionn Loch was a sight to savour
The view north west from A' Mhaighdean
I was quite content in my surroundings and could have stayed much longer but wanted to be down in a bit more light than the previous evening. I decided to descend north west to Fuar loch beg before contouring round northward to find a place to ford Alt Bruthach an Easien and regain the stalkers path leading to Carnmore. There were one or two tricky sections on loose scree and some cragg's to avoid but the scenery remained spectacular. The long flat nose of Ruadh Stac Mor could be seen across Fuar Loch Mor and my ascent route looked an unlikely option from this aspect.
Fuar Loch Mor and Ruadh Stac Mor
I caught a number of deer grazing oblivious to my approach for a short while before they scampered off down the hillside. Approaching the causeway I bumped into two young guys who were going to stay in the barn at Carnmore before continuing on to Dundonnel the following day. This would be my only contact with anyone over my four day excursion. I enjoyed another glorious sunset and the onset of a starry night from the comfort of the tent this time before planning my outing for the following day. I decided that I would take a circuitous route up onto Beinn Lair, the highest point on a long ridge of hills south of my shelter. Heading along the shores of Fionn loch I took my inward path from Poolewe until I reached the bridge that crosses Strathan Buidhe. The paths follow the Strath south on both sides of the burn so I elected to stay on the east side unitil the two joined later.
Strathan Buidhe on the way down to Letterewe
The path effectively took me towards Letterewe on a broad sweep around Meall Mheinnidh. As the path crossed Alt Folais instead of continuing the descent to Letterewe I head up Bealach nan Sac to the head of Bealach Mheinnidh. Before making the ascent however it was time for a soup and a bite to eat.
Time for a spot of lunch
It was then a case of following the cliff line the two kilometres to Beinn Lair. After an initial pull on grassy slopes the going eased on firm gravel and rock until I reached an area of thick spongy grass which again gave way to a gravelly area and the summit. An impressive cairn dominated the flat top which gave little shelter from a cold breeze.
Cairn on top of Beinn Lair
Dropping slightly to the north I was rewarded with a good look at the steep southern flank of A' Mhaigdean.
A' Mhaighdean from Beinn Lair
After lunch I retraced my steps back down to Bealach Mheinnidh looking down toward the causeway trying to pick out the tiny outline of my tent.
The causeway at Carnmore from Beinn Lair
From the Bealach I dropped down directly to the shores of Fionn Loch in plenty of time to enjoy the the late afternoon sunshine. Another fine night led on to yet another glorious day. It was time to pack up the tent and make the long trek back to Poolewe. Before I left I made a last trip across the causeway to admire the views and mountain reflections in a very still Fionn loch.
Reflections across Fionn Loch
I made a few stops as I made the long walk out but was still back in Poolewe by early afternoon.
Time for one last picnic at Kernsary
On the drive home I couldn't resist the temptation to stop and photograph the impressive Slioch towering above Loch Maree.
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