Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Dundonnell and Fisherfield Hills: Beinn a' Chlaidheimh (280) BUT NOT Sgurr Ban (157), Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (115) or Beinn Tarsuinn (238)

Walk date: 19/06/08
My Munro #'s: xx153xx - UPDATE 13/9/13 - this hill has been regulated to Corbett!

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Byn a' shleev - hill of the sword - 916m

Duration - 10:00 - 20:00
Distance - 38.3 km
Total ascent - 1310m
Weather - Oh good god it was wet.
Team - with Paul.
Other hikers: 0 (no one else was up for this much punishment).

Not for bikes, the northern shore of Loch a' Bhraoin:

Paul P and George Ullapool Hills 2008 - Day 6 (Thurs)

Knowing that this central group of four Fisherfield hills was a big day out and that we were running out of time to take them in, I pushed us to go for them after our two lighter days. Unfortunately this turned out to be the worst day for weather of the whole week, with more rain than you could shake a stick at. And we tried.

This was also the only day of the week when we tried to use the bikes, and this was because of an attractive looking track along the north shore of Loch a' Bhraoin that we had seen from Druim Reidh on the previous day. However, up close this was not as advertised. The track was muddy, rocky, extremely undulating and peppered with stretches of pebbles which immediately took away any speed that you'd worked for and was impossible to cycle through. In all we made 6.6km in an hour which was only marginally faster than walking but which required a lot more effort.

Parking the bikes up just beyond Lochivraon cottage which was in the process of renovation for some true hermit, we made good progress on the remainder of the track. This dropped a little and became a path through some grassland complete with bemused cattle. The first river crossing of the day presented itself here but gave no cause for concern at this time and we continued on eventually rounding the corner of Creag Ruigh a Bhraghad.

Here, our first decision needed to be made as the wide river of Allt Cul Doireachan blocked our access to the four mighty hills ahead. I had planned to follow the river upstream and look for crossing points as the river thinned out, but that was rough ground walking, which is extremely tiring and for Paul, who was having both knee and ankle problems definitely not a kind option. Instead then we kept on the good path which followed the river downstream past Loch an Nid and then along Abhainn Loch an Nid as its outflow became and looked continuously for kind crossing options.

As the hills passed to our left just beyond the river, we kept walking and looking for some 4km, but nothing was happening as the river continued to grow. As were approaching Achneigie it became obvious that matters were only going to get worse. In sympathy at my wish to visit these hills, Paul offered to go for a full on wet crossing, but I didn't fancy the crossing point we were discussing as the riverbed seemed quite uneven there. Despite time ticking on, I still thought it was possible to return to the corner under Creag Ruigh a Bhraghad and head for Bealch na Croise again and this was the plan that we then started out for. However, as we were approaching Loch an Nid again, with Paul's wet crossing plan in mind I spotted a decent crossing opportunity, albeit a damp one. At the level the water was then at it actually wasn't that bad, although Paul did stop to wring out his socks!

Finally across, we then began a rough ascent over bog and water-soaked grass which led to some nice rock outcrops which were easy to cross as long as you avoided the parts which had become brand new streams. The ascent levelled out at 650m with Am Briseadh and we then aimed for the northern peak of this ridge, Beinn a' Chlaidheimh, already steeped in cloud.

Unfortunately, the wet weather that had plagued us low-down was something else entirely up at this height and as we made our way along the ridge we were battered by strong wind and lashing rain. I turned and confirmed with Paul that we would complete this hill and then make it home as direct as possible as this day truly did belong to the elements! The final rise to the summit continued in the same vein and despite temptations to stay and have a picnic, there was only time for a handshake of mutual respect before getting off this sodden peak.

Although losing some height meant that the wind was calmer it was certainly not the end of our problems, as returning to the river, the non-stop rainfall meant that it had changed its character quite extremely, with at least a doubling in its depth and speed. If it had been this way on the way to the hills I know we would not have crossed it, but given that it was now the way home, we were definitely going to cross as soon as we had found a safe spot. Our outward bound crossing was no longer practical, but we found a fairly deep but flat-bedded point a little way upstream and just went for it (see the helpful video below).

Now definitely soaked but grateful to be on the way home we made our tired way along the path which was doubling up as an impressive river in its own right. Progress was fine until approaching Lochivraon cottage we remembered the first river crossing of the day needed to be repeated and what had been an easy dry crossing was now a raging torrent. The crossing point before was now a dangerous gush of brown water. We did find an alternative that was safe but by no means dry, but by now we had accepted this as the order of the day.

Shortly afterward then we were reunited with our bikes and so began an exhausting end to an already tiring day. The bikes were helpful however as the multitude of small fords we had crossed on the lochside track were now wide torrents themselves and cycling through them was at least a quick if not completely dry option. A true epic mountain day that I felt we did very well to make work as well as it did, but, man, that hot shower afterward felt great!

A gloomy Loch a' Bhraoin in the morning:

The only other people we saw all day were in JCBs!
The last people who tried to live out here:

SW toward Bealach na Croise:

A wet, wet path already:

A grand land despite its abundance of water:

Looking north toward Loch an Nid:

Looking back south having passed the loch:

Finally climbing, over, guess what, wet ground:

Oh, and wet rock:

At least it cleared up at the summit of Beinn a' Chlaidheimh:

Can you believe there are some people who don't do this?

A video somehow captures the moment better:

A rather altered Abhainn Loch an Nid on the return crossing:

Farewell for now you lost hills:

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