Fannaichs October 2004

Helen Rose Hill Diary

Photo: Ullapool. There are ten Munros in the group of mountains known as the Fannaichs located close to Ullapool in Wester Ross in the north east of Scotland deep in the heart of the Highlands. My preconception of these hills was they were just big grassy lumps as that is all that could be seen from the road at Braemore Junction. However, I was proved pleasantly wrong on this view when I climbed six of them this summer as they were full of interesting features and despite poor weather there were good views of the entire ridge on some of the better days.

Before describing the hills, I must put in a good word for Ullapool, a lovely little fishing port with daily landings of fish available in the restaurants locally although the bulk of the catch is transported abroad, mainly to France in vast refrigerated trucks. My favourite seafood was a half pint of whelks at the Seaforth Bar where a pin is supplied to pick the whelks out of the shells. Be warned, these are an acquired taste and not for the faint hearted as the appearance can be very off putting. The town has an excellent choice of live music in the pubs mainly based on traditional music but the talented musicians will play anything on request. There is nothing better than a day in the hills followed by a good nosh, a pint of ale and live musical entertainment.

Photo: Ridge. The Fannaichs are in a group of hills from Loch Maree to Loch Broom also including the famous Fisherfield Six which are very remote and I have still to climb. As the Fisherfield hills will require camping out to complete them, they will have to wait until next summer. There are ten Munros in the Fannaichs which can be completed over four days in reasonable weather. Unfortunately, I have only climbed six of them and the remaining four will be on my list of hills to climb next summer. These are Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich, Sgurr Mor, Meall Gorm and An Coileachan, three of these being on the main ridge and one on a spur. The most direct route would be from Fannaich Lodge along a private road but unfortunately the owners will not give access to hill walkers? cars on this road. This means a much longer walk of probably around 11 hours and will need maximum daylight hours in the summer.

The first Fannaich I tackled was Fionn Bheinn, lying south of Loch Fannaich. It was an easy hill with a path to the top but the weather was atrocious and it was a case of just getting to the top as quickly as possible and going down immediately. I can?t really describe the hill as there was a thick mist, a high wind and heavy rain and my head was down most of the time looking at the mud I was walking in!

The next two hills were Sgurr Breac and A?Chailleach. Incidentally, A?Chailleach means Old Woman and there are several hills with that name in Scotland. These are the most westerly Fannaichs and we had good weather. This was a very pleasant walk from the road passing Loch a?Bhraoin along the glen at Allt Breabaig to beyond the rocky eastern flank of Sgurr Breac towards the bealach where a path led to the top of Sgurr Breac and then down and around Toman Coinich up to A?Chailleach. Good views all around these hills and the descent was along the spur to Sron na Goibhre and rough walking down the glen to Loch a?Bhraoin. On the entire day, we only met two other walkers. What a tremendous feeling of freedom in these lovely hills with so few people around and a hill walking chum for company.

Photo: Loch Bhrain. The three hills of Meall a?Chrasgaidh, Sgurr nan Clach Geala and Sgurr nan Each were walked over two days due to inclement weather. Again, it is difficult to describe the first one as it was wet and windy and we reached the top and made a decision not to continue over to the others in such poor visibility. However, we returned some days later in much better weather and walked up the Allt Breabaig towards the bealach again but then headed east up to Sgurr nan Clach Geala where we had good views onto the fine asymmetric double curved ridge leading to Sgurr nan Each above the buttresses of mica-schist. From this vantage point, we had views around all of the Fannaichs and all the little delights of lochans, cliffs and lovely ridges which cannot be seen until you are in the hills. I particularly enjoyed the ?skywalk? around the ridge on Sgurr nan Each.

I can?t wait to return to the Fannaichs next year, not only to tick off the elusive four Munros but also to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the views!

Coming attractions: Munros at Loch Quoich, the Monadh Liath and anything else I remember to write about!

Contact me at [email protected]

Thanks to Frances Rickus for the photos

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