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One Munro to go after Alpine start in Fisherfield

By Peter Evans

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Peter Evans celebrates getting to the summit of his 282nd Munro, A’ Mhaighdean in Fisherfield.
Peter Evans celebrates getting to the summit of his 282nd Munro, A’ Mhaighdean in Fisherfield.


Fisherfield Munros

Distance – 11 miles to camp; 9.5 miles for the two Munros; 11 miles return to Poolewe.

Maps – Harvey British Mountain Map, Torridon & Fisherfield

Terrain – Rough paths, tracks, scrambling on steep ground, pathless mountain tops

Start/finish – Poolewe, Wester Ross

A long trek into the wilderness for a circuit of two fine Munros

J?OHN shook me awake. After a night of fitful sleep in the tent I had fallen into a dream-filled slumber and didn’t hear the alarm.

?It was 4 o’clock on a dark November morning with a freezing wind blowing, but at least the rain of the previous day had not returned.

We were camped in the Fisherfield wilderness near Carnmore shooting lodge, having opted for the tent rather than the dubious delights of the barn next door.

We poked our noses into it on arrival and in a box labelled "Carnmore log" I found a copy of Dickens’s Hard Times – very appropriate for the trials that lay ahead.

This basic shelter may be spartan, with a few bed frames and old mattresses to sleep on and an earth floor, but at least it offers a roof over the head in this wild corner of Wester Ross.

Our two-day expedition had begun with a bike ride along the tarmac road and track to Kernsary and beyond, to the edge of a pine plantation. John’s small bike trailer made the ride easier, at least for me, with him towing our heavy packs.

We left the bikes at the edge of the forest and shouldered the packs for an 8km walk to Carnmore, crossing the causeway between Fionn Loch and the Dubh Loch.

The rain had eased by the time we got there so the tent went up in the dry and we sat out in the fading light to cook dinner and down a few brews before the great amphitheatre of mountains turned to silhouettes and the stars came out.

Headlights on next morning, we emerged into the darkness from warm sleeping bags, donned waterproofs to keep out the cold and hurriedly ate some breakfast.

Our route would take us over Ruadh Stac Mor and A’ Mhaighdean and back to Poolewe – a long day in one of the most isolated parts of the Highlands, which meant an Alpine start if we were to get back to the bikes in the light.

Geared up, we set off at a brisk pace along the path which makes a rising traverse under the cliffs of Sgurr na Laocainn and past the long north-west ridge of A’ Mhaighdean.

The Scottish Mountaineering Club’s guide to the Munros suggests climbing this ridge to do the round of the two Munros. But in the dark we opted for the easier route which continues high above the Allt Bruach an Easain to reach Lochan Feith Mhic-illean, where a right turn leads down to some stepping stones over the outflow from the lochan.

A path then winds upwards past Fuar Loch Mor to a high bealach between the Munros. In the poor light it was difficult to pick a line across the rough ground for the last kilometre or so, and by the time we reached the bealach the sky to the east was turning a deep shade of pink as the sun rose.

We took a break and checked out the apparently impenetrable facade of Ruadh Stac Mor. Closer inspection reveals a path rising through the sandstone crags. It’s steep but there’s not much distance to cover so the trig point on the 918m summit arrives quite quickly.

We sat and looked across to my penultimate Munro – A’ Mhaighdean, The Maiden. Once she had relinquished her favours I would have just one of the 283 Munros left to do.

Taking care on the descent to the bealach, we left the packs and headed up the side of A’ Mhaighdean. From this easterly direction the climb is straightforward and grassy.

The western face is a different story. Cliff-girt, it plunges thousands of feet down to the Dubh Loch far below, emphasising the raw nature of this place.

We reached the top and I raised my arms in celebration while John captured the moment on his phone and immediately put the picture on Facebook. It took only seconds for a work colleague to spot it and congratulate us.

Back at the bealach it was still just 10.30am but we were keen to get going, knowing there was plenty of ground to cover yet before our day was over.

For anyone contemplating this trip, I’d recommend allowing three days – one for the trek in, another for the Munros and a third for the trek out. The total distance is nearly 45km and it’s worth taking time to savour this truly spectacular area.

With just two days available we had no choice but to grin and bear the long walk back.

The return to the tent was easier than the walk up. We had daylight, it was almost entirely downhill, and once past Lochan Feith Mhic-illean the path has a good, firm surface.

At the tent we packed up in short order, aiming to reach the bikes by around 4pm.

The mountains were looking their best in the afternoon sun as we re-crossed the causeway and settled into a walking rhythm, casting occasional glances back to A’ Mhaighdean.

A line of rugged crags stretching for four kilometres characterises the eastern side of the Corbett, Beinn Lair, now on our left. Further on, its equally impressive neighbour, Beinn Airigh Charr, is passed.

A couple more kilometres and we were at the bikes at exactly the predicted time with half an hour of daylight left. The ride out was exhilarating, and once we hit the tarmac it was an easy final stretch to Poolewe.

The venue for my last Munro party is already booked – but it won’t be done until June next year. In the meantime, there are plenty more mountain experiences to enjoy.

Stick with us as we tell you about our adventures.

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