For day one we met at Corrie Hallie for our walk into the lonely wilds of Fisherfield - Wrong. It was far from lonely. There was a charity walk on from there to Poolewe, so we shared the start of the walk with pipers, MRT volunteers (in seriously professional midge protective hats) and coach-loads of walkers. The ones in the kilts I really felt for!
Due to the fact we could hardly pause for fear of being drained of blood, Sue, Lisa, Mags, Steve O, Steve S, Martin and John made good time to the top of Sail Liath at 954m, where we got a good if intermittent view of the Corrag Bhuidhe pinnacles and the rest of An Teallach. We made our way across the ridge in a welcome cool breeze, (a little too cool for August at 6c) to the start of the steeper ground, where Dave took Steve S. up some more technical ground on a rope, whilst I led the team to the foot of the start of the scrambling. This is a short, steep but wet and slimy step, and we decided to protect it, which turned out to be the best decision. It was then a case of choosing the best line around paths, up shallow gullies and over the crest where amenable for some airy scrambling.
Some of the team were happy that the drops were often shrouded in mist, but everyone enjoyed a wee peep over Lord Berkeley's Seat, the precipitous perch on which the eponymous young aristocrat was supposed to have dangled his legs. From there it's a short scramble on to the first munro of Sgurr Fiona at 1060m, before dropping North North East to the bealach and ascending the second, Bidein a'Glas Thuill at 1062, our highest point of the day. The descent was down the grassy and remote Glas Tholl, and gradually down past a lovely waterfall, before a spell of Rhododendron jungle where we had some fun keeping to the path - 'Oh ye of little faith', I told you it was the path!
A really good day, but we weren't able to linger to congratulate each other due to culicoides impunctatus and her friends' welcoming committee!
Sunday we decided to drive to Lochinver to make the long walk to Suilven slightly easier. We met at Knockan Crag car park, where Dave and his lass were again doing battle with the Winged Hordes. I refused to leave my van until the very last minute, which unfortunately was to bump start his car. They had run the battery down using the blowers to minimise the midges in the car. Hell on Earth 'twas! 'Come on a wee camping trip, it'll be great'....he said ;)
Today's group was less Martin who had gone home, and Steve O who was on Slioch. We again made good time along the track, and only had one shower before the steep ascent of the Bealach Mor. This was the most midge-ridden ascent I have ever had due to the fact we were sheltered from the breeze, and we ate them, breathed them in and suffered the wee blighters right to the top. But what a top! Coming out on that bealach, out of the midges, to that view, and the applause of everyone else waiting there (we shared the route with a few other groups), will live with me for a good while. Anyone who has been up Suilven will know what I mean. If you haven't, go!
After a snack, it was upwards past the 'Crazy Wall', which is a dry stone wall of incredible quality. I tried to find out details of why it is there and why of such high quality, but there only seems to be speculation rather than fact. Either way, a lot of men must have had a back-breaking time up there for such a folly, but it is beautiful, if incongruous. The wide summit of Casteal Liath at 731m punches way above its weight for views, not least back to the Eastern summit of Meall Meadhonach. This is much narrower, and required some nifty rope work to get a couple of our party up the rocky step safely, but those that dared its rocky ramparts were very satisfied on the descent. Well done!
There is not much to commend the walk out from Suilven due to its length and initial bog, but the memories of this splendid mountain, along with its ever-changing shape as you walk, make the whole experience well worth it, munro or not.
Monday's forecast was even better, and the sunnier spells meant less midges, awwoohoo. Dave, Steve S and Mags left us, but Steve O returned, so it was another team of 4 that set off up Liathach with me. We made good time to the top of the scree path, and were just resting when a young girl and who appeared to be her dad joined us, but headed off towards the coire on a false trod. I sagely called after them to advise them of the way, but dad informed me that they were going to scramble up the coire instead. I recognised him then as Paul Tattersall, a mountain guide famous for rapid traverses of the Skye Ridge in record times, so I suppose he was going to be OK as they disappeared rapidly into the depths of the coire!
We continued on the 'trade route', with ever increasing views, which just stayed with us all day. The Coullin hills, East to Fisherfield beyond Beinn Eighe, North West to Beinn Alligin, North to Beinn Dearg and beyond. Beautiful. After a couple of 'moments' on the narrow ridge towards munro Spidean a'Coire Leith, one of our group was wondering whether this was for them. The rest of the group encouraged them on, and after the summit, we pressed on for the Am Fasarinen pinnacles.
The pinnacles are the 'main course' on Liathach, great stacks of sandstone pancakes with a myriad of ways over and around them. I always like to take the direct route if possible, as this gives the biggest impression, and I also find the bypass path precipitous. Myself and group encouraged the more worried members, and we moved with increasing confidence across the rocks. Steve O even opted for some 'gratuitous scrambling' as I call it, where take a deliberately more challenging line, despite his initial reticence for scrambling. Another convert.
Before long we were lunching with the scrambling behind us, all buoyed by the great weather, great views and marvellous rock. Even Sue felt proud of herself to have faced her fears head on. Very well done! The last munro summit of Mullach na Rathain came next at 1023m, before the long descent to the cars. The path builders have been continuing their work in the coire, so keep up the good work guys!
It would fair to say there were a few tired legs at the bottom, but what a triplet of classics in the long weekend. I can even put up with the midges for those.....just!