Last gasp In Fisherfield

Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh – 916m
Sgurr Ban – 989m
Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair – 1018m
Beinn Tarsuinn – 937m
Date: 21st August 2012
Weather: Warm and sunny
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Stewart and Molly

Anyone who has completed a round of Munros will know that planning plays a vital part in reaching that goal. I am usually quite good at planning, so how was it, with a mere six days to go until my 4th Round completion party I found myself with the four Mullardoch Munros and four of the Fisherfield Six left to climb?

Things hit a major hurdle when Stewart and I arrived at the locked gate in Glen Strathfarrar on Sunday morning aiming for a swift round of the Mullardoch Four from the end of the glen. Booting up in the carpark Stewart realised he has managed to bring two identical left boots with him rather than a pair! Thankfully disaster was averted when a couple parked next to us offered to loan Stewart a pair of boots for the day and the walk was saved. After a successful walk over the four Munros, only incurring minor wrath from the gatekeeper for being 5 minutes late the Weather Gods at MWIS indicated that there would be a small weather window on Tuesday for our visit to Fisherfield. Stewart was keen to join the trip and promised to bring the correct configuration of boots this time.

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Beinn Sgritheall – Oh Deer

Beinn Sgritheall – 974m
Date: 20th July 2012
Distance: 5 miles
Ascent: 1, 300m
Weather: Glorious
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Bill and Molly

We were en-route to Kintail Lodge for our summer minibreak. We needed a shortish walk, just enough to give Molly some exercise and to make sure we got to the hotel early enough for the pre-dinner drinks. Beinn Sgritheall fitted the bill perfectly.

Despite searching each time we have climbed Beinn Sgritheall we have never been able to locate the cairn marking the start of the path through the woods and have always ended up in Arnisdale ready to tackle the hill from the west and this time was to be no exception!

A rustic handwritten sign indicated the start of the path to Beinn Sgritheall which passes through some scattered birch and oak woodland alongside the burn.

This way!

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The hills less travelled

Carn an Fhidhleir – 994m
An Sgarsoch – 1006m
Date: 17th July 2012
Distance: 25 miles
Ascent: 1,250m
Weather: Warm, dry and sunny
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Bill and Molly

These are two much maligned and overlooked hills which give a great feeling of space and freedom in proper big sky country. I enjoy visiting these hills but I really don’t enjoy getting to them. Cycling and I have never really got on, but these are hills where the bike comes into its own unless you enjoy having sore, aching feet. The alternative option of an overnight camp was even more unappealing than using the bike……….so biking it was.

Bill had never climbed these hills and after being bribed with the promise of a fish supper, he agreed to join us.

Bikes send Molly into a frenzy of excitement and for the first half an hour of each ride she runs around in circles barking madly and chasing the bikes.

The long cycle ahead, Molly in one of her calmer interludes.

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Weather 1 – Anne 0

Ben Starav – 1078m
Beinn nan Aighenan – 957m
Ghlas Bheinn Mhor – 997m
Distance: 12 ¾ miles
Ascent: 2,200m
Weather: From perfect to dire
Date: 26th June 2012
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Molly and Milly

It was definitely a day of two seasons.
We started our walk in beautiful summer weather, blue skies, warm sunshine, fluffy clouds and a cooling breeze, the grass was green and the birds were singing. When we arrived back at the car the dogs looked like they had been through a car wash, my boots contained an inch of lukewarm rainwater and I was soaked down to my underwear.

The early morning drive up Glen Etive was stunning and I was looking forward to a big day bagging Ben Starav, an out and back trip to Beinn nan Aighenan and then over Ghlas Bheinn Mhor on our way back to the glen.
On previous visits to these hills the approach routes have always been a boggy slog through an endless squelchy mess before reaching some more solid terrain on the ridges. Today I was pleasantly surprised to find the paths soft and dry after the relatively dry spring. The going was easy under paw and we made quick progress onto the steep north ridge where the views got better and better, even Molly and Milly seemed to be stopping to take it all in rather than dashing around the hillside as per usual.

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It’s not What you Know, It’s Who you Know!

Ben Cruachan – 1126m
Stob Diamh – 998m
Date: 20th June 2012
Distance: 6 ¾ miles
Ascent: 1,250m
Weather: Atmospheric
Two Feet Four Paws:  Anne, Andy, Molly and Ali

They say it’s not what you know but who you know. How true!

Ben Cruachan is Andy’s local hill and taking advantage of his contacts we were able to drive up to the dam, saving us 300m of ascent and more importantly 300m of knee jarring descent at the end of the day. I am still mentally scarred by the trauma of a previous descent back to the station, through trees and head high midge infested bracken.

After a leisurely start from Oban we were at the dam putting our boots on busily trying to avoid the evil glances from a group of walkers who had sweated up the path from the station. As we walked across the dam and along the western shore of the reservoir Andy pointed out all the security cameras positioned around the reservoir and the dam. A word of warning………………..don’t stop for a pee until you are well up into the corrie or you will find yourself immortalised on CCTV.

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Taking it all in at Achnashellach

Sgurr Choinnich – 999m
Sgurr a’ Chaorachain – 1053m
Maoile Lunndaidh – 1007m
Date: 13th June 2012
Distance: 21 ½ miles
Ascent: 2,400m
Weather: Warm, dry and overcast
Two Feet four Paws: Anne and Molly

I was really looking forward to this walk as it was one that I have always enjoyed on previous occasions and I was delighted that the day could not have turned out more perfectly. I had decided to complete the route on foot as all the faffing about when using my bike always results in a massive sense of humour failure by the end of the day; lifting the bike over the level crossing gates, struggling through kissing gates, pushing it up the steep bits and being eaten by midges getting it on and off the car, it seems far more trouble than it is worth.

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The best view in Scotland?

Beinn Lair – 859m
Beinn a’ Chasgein Mor – 856m
Date: 28th May 2012
Distance: 23 miles
Ascent: 2,150m
Weather: Hot, hot and even hotter
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Stewart and Molly

A’Mhaighdean – 967m
Ruadh-stac Mor – 918m
Date: 29th May 2012
Distance: 22 miles
Ascent: 2, 050m
Weather: Hot in the glens and cloudy summits
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Stewart and Molly

On all my previous visits to Fisherfield I had been based at Shenevall and climbed the Munros as a circuit from the bothy, then on my Corbett round I had visited Beinn Lair and Beinn a’ Chaisgein Mor from Poolewe. Stewart was in the final stages of his Corbett round so the opportunity to tackle A’ Mhaighdean and Ruadh-stac Mor via an alternative route seemed too good to miss. The promise of high pressure across the north west miraculously coincided with us both having a commitment free week so the trip was on.

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Hot dogs in Glen Dessary

Sgurr nan Coireachan – 953m
Garbh Choich Mhor – 1013m
Sgurr na Ciche – 1040m
Date: 22nd May 2012
Distance: 16 miles
Ascent: 1,850m
Weather: Warm, overcast and heating up
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Molly and Milly

Our first two visits to these hills had been in disappointing weather on days when the forecast failed to live up to expectations. The third visit had been during the stunning spring of 2011 where views were limitless and the only difficulty faced on the route was whether we would make it back to the car before we were overcome by heat exhaustion. As a result, I had vowed never to visit the area again unless we were guaranteed the same perfect climactic conditions.

Summer had arrived early in the north west highlands and unlike the rest of the country it seemed keen to stay. I arrived at the end of the road after the nausea inducing drive along Loch Arkaig with the car thermometer already reading 18oc and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself the only car at the start; one of the joys of midweek hill walking.

Glen Dessary……………it’s a long way from everywhere.

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Five go to Skye

Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh – 918m
Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh – 973m
Sgurr na Banachdich – 965m
Date: 7th May 2012
Distance: 6 miles
Ascent: 1,150m
Weather: Overcast, cool, dry
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Andy, Robin, John Norton, Steve Forsthye, Edward Rush

Following on from a few days in Kintail we travelled across to Skye for a week of unashamed Munro bagging. Andy is an MIC guide who knows the Cuillin inside out, having climbed over every inch of it for over 30 years and in a moment of weakness, he had agreed to lead a group of us over the Cuillin Munros. It was Steve, Robin and John’s first visit to the Cuillin and on our first day we were joined by Edward who was keen to complete his last three Skye Munros.

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Knoydart: A Virgin’s Tale

Ladhar Bheinn – 1020m
Meall Buidhe – 946m
Luinne Bheinn – 939m
Date: 21st & 22nd April 2012
Distance: 14 miles & 17 ½ miles
Ascent: 1800m & 1780m
Time taken: 10 hours (both days)
Weather: Glorious
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Bill and Molly

Despite Molly and I visiting Knoydart several times on our Munro and Corbett rounds, Bill had never visited before so was keen to see what he had been missing. We were staying at the dog friendly B&B at Knoydart Lodge and unusually our trip coincided with some fantastic dry weather.

Mallaig was teeming with tourists, the pile of luggage on the quay next to MV Western Isles looked like it was about to gain Munro status before it was all loaded onto the boat and the voyage to Inverie begun. After a few minutes we rounded the headland and Inverie came into view nestling below Sgurr Coire Choinnichean. On arrival at Inverie we were greeted by our host Morag and driven to Knoydart Lodge where we strolled down to the beach, luxuriated in our comfy room and enjoyed the sunset over Inverie Bay from the conservatory.

Molly enjoyed the beach,

Ahead of us lay a whole weekend to indulge in our favourite activities…………..hill walking, eating and drinking. No internet, no mobile phone reception and a real sense of getting away from it all.

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