Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Eastern Fannichs

Sunday 12th May 2013

A long day over some very rough ground in the Eastern Fannichs 

Distance: 21km; Ascent: 1040m; Wet & windy after a dry start; Solo

I had two days of walking around the Inverness-Ullapool road and today was forecast to have the best weather (although it would still be wet at times!)  My two options for Munro bagging walks near here were the eastern Fannichs, as I still had two left to climb there, and Am Faochagach to the north.  I opted to spend the day in the Fannichs and therefore shortly before 9am I set off walking from the car at the west end of Loch Glascarnoch.

The route in the SMC Munro guidebook follows the boggy ground alongside the Abhainn an Torrain Duibh.  However I was enticed by an sign which intriguingly signposted a recommended route to Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich by way of a forestry track on the east side of the burn.  Given that this was roughly the direction I wanted to head, I decided to check it out.

Looking north to the Beinn Dearg hills
There were good views north to the Beinn Dearg group of hills as I began to ascend on the good vehicle track through the woods, and soon I also got views of my hills for the day: An Coileachan and Meall Gorm, which were both currently clear of cloud.

Meall Gorm and Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich
An Coileachan & Meall Gorm
After a couple of kilometres I came to a fork, with the right-hand fork signposted to Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich by way of a footbridge.  I followed the track down into the glen to reach a sturdy bridge over the fast flowing Abhainn a’ Ghiuthais Li.

The Abhainn a' Ghiuthais Li
Lower of two bridges over the Abhainn a' Ghiuthais Li
Here I rejoined the route in the SMC guidebook and continued on a boggy path along the north side of the burn.  The vehicle track however appeared to ascend up the slopes of Creag Dhubh Fannaich, although it was not clear how far it went.  After a further kilometre and a half I reached a second footbridge over the burn.

Upper of two bridges over the Abhainn a' Ghiuthais Li
I crossed here and now had a bit of a decision to make.  I could either continue to follow the route in the SMC Munros book or I could opt for a bit more a circular walk; I went for the second option.  I had read about a faint path that ascends Meall Gorm from Loch an Eilein and therefore I decided to go and investigate that.  Initially there was a boggy path to follow along the south side of the Abhainn a’ Ghiuthais Li, however after a few hundred metres this seemed to peter out.  I crossed much rough heather and bog, together with a couple of burns, to eventually arrive at Loch an Eilein.

Loch an Eilein
From here I could clearly see the path ascending up the slopes to the west, so I decided to follow it.  The path appeared to be an old stalkers path that had perhaps fallen out of favour as it appeared to be little used but very well built!  There were good views down to Loch Li from here, and I could now see that the vehicle track I followed earlier in fact goes all the way to that loch and as far as I can tell it is not currently shown on OS maps.

Loch Li
Snow melt
As I gained height on the path a problem presented itself: the upper reaches of the path were covered in a large snow patch that appeared to still be corniced!  However the snow was not continuous, so I traversed west across some very rough rocky ground to avoid it.  I now ascended steeply across rocky ground, with occasional small snow patches – I was glad I had my ice axe with me!

Sgurr Mor from the steep N slopes of Meall Gorm
Eventually I reached the west ridge of Meall Gorm a few hundred metres away from the summit.  It was good to be on much less steep ground and I was soon at the summit cairn of Meall Gorm (Munro, HuMP), where I stopped for lunch whilst admiring the views.

On the summit of Meall Gorm
A rock a few metres away from the cairn appeared to be slightly higher to me, so I visited that before beginning to descend the east ridge.  After a few hundred metres I reached what the SMC guidebooks optimistically describe as a hut!

Stalkers' shelter on Meall Gorm
Looking towards An Coileachan
By now the rain had definitely set in, so I donned my waterproofs before heading over to the summit cairn on the south-east top (Munro Top).  By now the cloud had begun to cover the peaks and after dropping down to the Bealach Ban I ascended up the stony slopes to reach the summit cairn of An Coileachan (Munro, HuMP) at around 2pm.

Summit of An Coileachan
I took a brief break in the shelter afforded by the summit rocks before descending on a compass bearing down the north ridge.  After a while I dropped below the clouds and there was a good view of Loch Gorm below me.

Loch Gorm
I picked up a narrow path around the west side of Meallan Buidhe, but it petered out in the boggy ground further north.  Therefore I took a traversing line in a rough NNW direction to reach the Abhainn a’ Ghiuthais Li a short distance west of the upper bridge.  I crossed the bridge and retraced my steps back along the now boggier path to reach the lower bridge.

By now the rain was beginning to ease a little and become more showery.  I opted to ascend the 50m so that I could follow the vehicle track back north to the A835 road, where I reached my car just before 5pm after a long, but good, day on the hills.  Today also marked my completion of the section 14 of the Munros :-)

See here for my Social Hiking map from the day's walk. 

N.B. 16/06/13 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 12/05/13 (from 13/05/13).  Links to social hiking and hill-bagging also added.

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