Even though it was nearly three years ago, I remember the slog up A’Mhaighdean from Pollan na Muice with tired legs, like it was yesterday. It was worth the effort to see one of the most impressive summit vistas I’ve ever witnessed. My eyes were drawn in all directions, what to photograph first? A’Mhaighdean is one of those few special mountains that left an impression on me that I couldn’t shake off, it needed a revisit and only a summit camp would cure the Fisherfield itch I’ve had since my first visit.
The time had finally come. I was off work on annual leave and the weather was looking almost perfect. Kevin had yet to visit Fisherfield and he was keen to get his first taste. I picked him up and we set off for Forest Way Bunkhouse and B&B near Ullapool where we would stay and enjoy a couple of libations with Iain, a good friend and proprietor of Forest Way.
The original plan was to incorporate an initial summit camp on the Corbett Beinn Lair, but pouring over the map on the dining room table, Iain convinced us that we’d be better getting distance under our belts by walking to Carnmore and camping on A’Mhaighdean first. The thought of carrying heavy packs over 3 hills in hot weather was another deciding factor so we altered our plan with Iain’s suggestion in mind.
The next again day we made the short trip around to Poolewe and found a space to park in the lay-by opposite the campsite. We set off just after 10 o’clock and followed the excellent path around the north side of Loch Kernsary and to the farm at Kernsary it’s self. The dogs in the kennels barked away at us as we passed by. Not wanting to end up at Bad Bog, we ensured we took the right-hand fork into the woods. The name ‘Bad Bog’conjures up images of bog that would immerse humans in seconds. I did wonder if it actually lived up to its name, but I wasn’t going to find out.
It started off a bit overcast, but by the time we reached the woods the sun was beginning to burn through and it was getting a bit on the warm side. Signs are in place asking walkers to follow the track that doesn’t feature on older maps. The track is boggy in places, but it didn’t take too long to get out of the woods and onto the path to Carnmore.
As usual I did not carry any water with me. Once we merged with the original path, streams for filling up were plentiful along the way. With the sun beating down on us I hydrated at every opportunity.
The path to Carnmore is a bit of tease. The mountains ahead looked stunning but still so far away. We still had Beinn Airigh Charr for company and I was instantly drawn to the impressive rockfall. I wondered how many hundreds, if not thousands of years ago it happened and if anyone was around to witness it?
We finally reached the causeway that splits Fionn Loch and Dubh Loch. I was looking forward to visiting the causeway. I had seen so many photos of it in other trip reports. It did not disappoint. It’s an impressive location and from here it felt that we were entering the vast Fisherfield Forest at last.
By now the heat was intense. We stopped by the old barn at Carnmore, which the estate allows walkers and climbers to use as a bothy. The barn is a bit grim, mud floor and bracken and nettles growing inside. if I was to give it a rating, it would be a 2 Star bothy. Thankfully we were not staying here, we just needed a break out of the sun and something to eat.
Afterwards we continued on the path above Dubh Loch. We considered doing the Corbett, Beinn a’Chaisgein Mor. Time was marching on, so we opted to leave it for a another time. At Lochan Feith Mhic’-illean we took the path branching off to the south east towards Fuar Loch Mor. I had run out of water and it was proving difficult to find more. Luckily I found a trickle on some rocks close to the bealach. We both topped up and collected enough for dinner and breakfast. Reaching the bealach I realised there were several small lochans we could have collected from if we were really that desperate for water.
From the bealach we opted for a pack free ascent of Ruadh Stac Mor. It felt good to be free of the heavy camping pack and it made the boulder field easier, particularly on the descent. With roughly only 170 metres of ascent from the bealach, coupled with a steep approach, we were on the summit enjoying the fine views in no time at all.
We could see something glistening away in the light just below the summit of A’Mhaighdean. I zoomed in with my camera which revealed a tent, we’d have some extra company for our wild camp. We dropped back down and picked up our packs. The extra 2 litres of water we’d picked up previously made for a slower than normal climb up A’Mhaighdean.
We arrived at the summit, but didn’t see the owner of the tent we’d seen from Ruadh Stac Mor. We admired the views, but had more important stuff to attend to first, like getting our shelters up and dinner on the go.
After dinner we explored around the summit. A’Mhaighdean’s West face drops away before you and there’s lots of rocky outcrops to walk out to for photographs.
The chap who owned the other tent appeared at the summit cairn, he was up to take in the sunset. We didn’t catch his name, but he was a friendly lad. We got chatting and the three of us loitered around the summit watching the sunset and taking photos. The sun eventually disappeared below a bank of cloud on the horizon. I cracked open the hip flask and poured Kevin and I a dram before calling it a day.
It was a restless night. I really did not pitch my tarp very well at all. Not like me, as the tarp is usually as tight as a drum. But I was pitched over a slight ditch and a slope by the path. I gave up trying to sleep at around 4 o’clock and got out for a leg stretch. Kevin appeared out his tent shortly after, he too wasn’t having much luck getting any sleep. The bonus was we were in time for the sunrise. The other chap had reappeared shortly after too. Like the sunset last night, we loitered around waiting in anticipation.
The sunrise didn’t disappoint. The sun appeared by An Teallach and I slowly began to feel some warmth on my face. I could spy a distant hill that the sun was lighting up, the Peak Finder Earth app identified the hill as Ben Klibreck.
The wind had died down and I decided to go back to bed and try and get some sleep, as I was feeling rather groggy. Two hours later the warmth of the sun through my silnylon tarp woke me up and I felt much better for that extra snooze.
We got breakfast sorted and broke camp shortly after. Our plan was to traverse the 3 hills in Letterewe, starting with Beinn Lair and finishing with a second summit camp on Beinn Airigh Charr. Not wanting to return the way we came, we decided to descend south east off A’Mhaighdean, then south towards the minor top, Meallan nan Gobhar, before veering off to pick up the ridge of Beinn Tharsuinn Chaol.
The undulating ridge leading to Beinn Tharsuinn Chaol looked like a fine walk. I imagined that it would be rarely frequented by humans and wildlife would be plentiful. I wasn’t wrong. Within the first kilometre of the ridge we disturbed a small herd of deer, they scarpered off down and out of sight. We seen other deer further along, although it could have been the same herd we’d scared earlier.
A faint path can be found on and off along the spine of Beinn Tharsuinn Chaol, but there were more hoof than boot prints. I was slightly ahead of Kevin and I was thinking to myself that I hadn’t seen any raptors on this trip, when all of a sudden I startled a Golden Eagle within a stone throw’s distance of me. Huge dark brown wings, stealthily flying away from me, not a sound from the initial flaps and before I had a chance to get a good photo, the eagle had landed opposite us on the impressive crags of Beinn Lair.
The ridge of Beinn Tharsuinn Chaol is in a fantastic remote position. To the south you have around 4 kilometres of crags plunging hundreds of metres from the plateau of Beinn lair down to Lochan Fada and Allt Gleann Tulacha below and to the north , the craggy side of A’Mhaighdean towers above you and Gorm Loch Mor. We plodded on, over the many ups and downs before reaching the summit at 652 metres. Although this top is high enough to be a Graham, it falls short of around 20 metres of the requisite 152m prominence needed.
To my surprise I spotted another human being coming towards us. We stopped for a quick blether and he was as equally surprised as us to meet someone. Unbeknown to us at the time, it was Rob Woodall, the first person to bag all 1,556 Marilyns. I discovered via mutual friends on Facebook a couple days later who it was.
We found a steep grassy slope heading off towards Bealach a Chuirn. We then picked up the stalkers path to Bealach Mheinndh where we took advantage of some shelter out of the blistering heat to have some lunch.
Today was now much hotter than yesterday and we were beginning to struggle in the heat. The wind although warm had also picked up. We had a discussion and both agreed to leave out our second summit camp and instead settle for a pitch by the causeway. This felt a bit defeatist, but the thought of going over another two hills with camping packs in this heat didn’t appeal, neither did another sleepless night in windy conditions!
After lunch we continued on up the path until we veered off to begin the climb up Beinn Lair. We dumped the packs and took only 500ml of water each and our cameras. We initially cut the angle to miss the top of the crags, but I felt this was giving ourselves more work. I ended up making a direct line and arrived at the first cairn, here lied a vast flat grassy plateau with plentiful pitches, 5-aside football pitches that is! The last 50 metres to the summit is more stoney with the odd grassy patch for pitching a tent. The summit cairn is huge and unmissable.
Just as I arrived at the summit I spied two Golden Eagles circling above the summit. I paused and watched for a bit then decided to take a photo, but they were too far away. The eagles disappeared and we wandered over towards the crags for a better view of A’Mhaighdean.
We sat and relaxed in the sun for a bit, eventually deciding to return to our packs and head to the causeway to pitch up and have a more relaxed camp. On the way down, I worked out I had drunk around 4 litres of water!
We reached the causeway to discover someone had beat us to our pitch, oh well if you’re not fast, you’re last! Rather than encroach on other campers we opted to head back to Carnmore and pitch near the lodge. I was absolutely knackered and hungry by the time we got back to Carnmore. The tarp was erected and I set about getting some water for dinner.
After dinner we wandered up Carn na Paite, just south of Carnmore (unnamed on 1:50K maps). Sadly the cloud had rolled over the Atlantic, no sunset tonight, but we can’t really complain after last night. We dropped down to the jetty then up to the bothy and back to our pitch to crack open the hip flask and pour us each a large dram, before turning in for the night. The wind had dropped and the midges tried to put a dampener on the whisky, but the Monkey’s Shoulder went down nicely regardless of the midges’ presence.
It was a bit of a ‘School boy’ error with the tarp and low pitch. I don’t own a bug net for the tarp yet. So whilst the midges didn’t spoil my large dram, they were irritating the life out of me whilst I was trying to get to sleep. I couldn’t even escape them by pulling my sleeping bag liner over my face! Luckily I had brought my midge head net, which I ended up falling asleep with on. I woke up during the night to a midge free tarp as the breeze had returned, so I removed the net and fell back asleep.
I woke up again just after 4am needing the toilet, to discover a roe deer grazing within 10 metres of me. I sat up and watched for a bit. The deer was totally oblivious to my presence, until nature got the better of me and I had to get out and the deer scarpered.
I drifted off again and woke up at just after 7 o’clock. I got up and made breakfast. Kevin hadn’t surfaced yet. We got an update on the weather the night before, it was meant to be rainy with thunderstorms in the afternoon. The thunder never arrived but by the time we walked back to Poolewe and arrived Gairloch at 2 o’clock, the rain had started and didn’t really stop until the next again day.
At Gairloch we pitched up at the campsite, got hot showers and headed off to the pub to watch both the Scottish and English cup finals back to back. I had a few pints and played some pool with Kevin and the locals.
The Fisherfield itch has been cured, but the doctor reckons it will flare up again and only another backpacking trip into this truly stunning remote area will put it back in remission.
If you enjoyed this trip report, the video diary of this can be viewed here.