My partner Nicola entered us both in the competition to be one of the lucky 50,000 people to cross the new Queensferry Crossing over the Firth of Forth and lo and behold, we were one of the lucky couples to be chosen. Nicola went through to the kitchen to mark the occasion on our calendar, only to discover we were already booked up for the Inchnadamph meet on the same date. We both momentarily considered cancelling the hill walking trip. In the end we decided to hand back our places to cross the bridge, so someone else could go instead.
The plan was to travel up from Edinburgh on Friday and meet with some others to do Canisp, but for one reason or another we didn’t leave Edinburgh as early as we would have liked, or at least as early as ‘I’ would have liked. A quick Plan B was implemented and Nicola and I walked up the Corbett, Beinn Liath Mhor a’ Ghiubhais Li (surely a contender for one of the longest hill names).
We arrived by the weather station at 12:40pm, a few cars were already there. Most likely Munro baggers. We set off eastwards along the A845 for a short distance before picking up the track at NH279740 through the relatively new forestry. The track gently meanders through the new woodland, we opted to come off the track early before it began to lose height. This meant we had to negotiate a deer fence without a stile further up hill. I hopped over without too much difficulty, Nicola opted to squeeze under the wire, skilfully avoiding the wet bog on the other side.
Now on the open hillside we plodded up the Corbett’s western shoulder. At the flat section around NH272719, some peat hags attempted to thwart our ascent, but we managed to weave in and out of the hags. With the hags behind us, only 200 metres of ascent was left between us and the summit.
A golden eagle effortlessly glided above us. I attempted to take some photographs, but in the end I settled for watching through the viewfinder as it disappeared towards Ullapool.
We reached the summit, stopped for some lunch and took in the vistas around us. To the north Beinn Dearg dominated. In the west the Fannichs ridge stretched along the Skyline. To our south lay the distant Strathconon Forest and the huge bulk of Ben Wyvis dominated to the east.
The Corbett can be done in a loop to add more interest, time however was marching on. We opted for quick return by retracing our steps. We startled a large herd of deer within the confines of the new woodland, they somehow managed to get over the fence too.
We returned to the car, and headed north to Ullapool to pick up some bits and bobs before heading off to our accommodation at the Inchnadamph Lodge hostel.
When travelling north from Ullapool, Ben More Coigach commands your attention with a huge curtain of intimidating rock. From a walker’s perspective it looks almost impossible. However this fine mountain can be tackled from Achiltibuie without any real difficulty.
I initially had Ben More Coigach lined up for a wild camp. But the forecast was tantalising and I didn’t want to delay it any longer. After a decent breakfast we left the hostel at 9am and it took just over an hour to drive around to Achiltibuie. There is parking for around 4-5 cars (NC061041) just before the end of the public road.
I was a bit apprehensive because Nicola doesn’t like steep terrain or exposure. She asked a couple of times what to expect. I was honest and said to expect some steep ground and an airy ridge. She seemed okay with it, so once we got our boots on we set off down the road towards Culnacraig. We followed the muddy path before branching off up the hillside towards the impressive gorge, we crossed the burn and made our way up hill following the path on to the south side of the gorge. We watched the Calmac ferry, MV Loch Seaforth sail out from Ullapool along Loch Broom.
Once above the gorge the gradient eases off, we crossed over a pathless section to reach the bottom of Garbh Choireachan. I could spot a what looked like a path to the left of the crags. I decided to make a beeline for this. As it turned it, it was a path and from here, we zigzagged up without any drama. Those looking for a bit more excitement could scramble up the Torridonian sandstone instead.
The blanket cloud was slowly beginning to break up, shafts of sunlight hit parts of the hills around us and by the time we reached the ridge the sun had all but broke through completely. A group of sheep stood and watched us before scarpering off the ridge. Nicola used the bypass path that runs along the north side of the ridge, but the crest of the airy ridge involves mostly walking with the odd bit of easy scrambling.
The views were fabulous; behind us was Loch Broom, An Teallach and the Summer Isles. But it was the vista in front of us that really drew the eye. The mountains of Coigach and Assynt lay before us. We reached the 743m summit of Ben More Coigach (Graham) and stopped for some lunch.
After lunch we packed up and made our way towards Sgurr an Fhidhleir. For more interest and to keep the views intact, you can follow the ridgeline and crags around. The wind was rather chilly with an autumn feel to it, so we dropped off a bit earlier to enjoy the warmth of the sun out of the wind. We met another walker and we all commented on the fine day we were having.
We reached the bealach, leaving us around 160 metres of ascent to reach the summit of Sgurr an Fhidhleir. With its fine airy ridge, Ben More Coigach is arguably the finest of the two peaks, however the views from Sgurr an Fhidhleir are more dramatic, within a metre or two from the summit cairn the crags plunge away in front of your feet.
We had another decent break at the summit taking it all in, but the wind was still chilly though so we layered up. Afterwards we decided to call it a day and head off back down, shedding the extra layers pretty quickly. Two ravens swooped in and landed on the cairn to see if we left any crumbs behind. We picked up a decent path further down on a good gradient before the last section steepened before reaching Culnacraig and the last few hundred metres back to the car.
We were disappointed to discover someone left their dog in van a parked next to us in the direct sunlight. The dog wasn’t panting, so we reluctantly left hoping the dog would be okay.
We stopped off at the shop in Achiltibuie for an ice lolly and enjoyed the leisurely drive back to Inchnadamph.