The intrepid ladies – [# 257 – 260]

Eididh nan Clach Geala (928m);
Meall nan Ceapraichean (977m);
Cona’ Mheall (980m) & Beinn Dearg (1084m) 

  • Pronunciation:             Eye-tee nern Klach Geeyaller; Miaowl nern Kee-aprikan; Kon-eye-val; Bine Jerrack
  • Translation:                  Nest of the White Stones; Hill of the Lumpy Hillocks; Joined Hill; Red Mountain
  • Total distance:              27km
  • Total time:                     8hrs 38mins
  • Total ascent:                  1715m
  • Weather:                        Beautiful sunny and warm day. A few clouds brewed up in the afternoon, but didn’t really amount to much.
  • Start / end location:     Walkers’ car park by Inverlael at the head of Loch Broom on the A835 south of Ullapool. [OS Map Sheet 20 – Grid Ref: NH 183 853]
  • Map:                                A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

Dawn from our campsite in Ullapool - looking west out to sea

It was only a few miles from Ullapool, where we’ve been camping for a few nights, to the starting point for today’s walk at Inverlael by the head of Loch Broom. An excellent off-road parking area, sign-posted “walkers’ car park”, just by the River Lael was where we parked and sorted out our gear. Our aim was to cycle three kilometres through the forestry plantation before leaving our bikes and continuing on foot.

Looking back towards Inverlael from just above the forest line in Gleann na Sguaib

The long Diollaid a' Mhill Bhric ridge running WNW from the summit of Beinn Dearg (on the left out of shot)

The cycle along the forestry track was a reasonably easy uphill journey all the way to the forest’s edge. Here we locked our bikes and continued on the footpath running along the north side of the River Lael. The river, cascaded its way through Gleann na Sguaib, which in turn was flanked by the long ridges of Diollaid a’ Mhill Bhric and Druim na Saobhaidhe.

Two and half kilometres from the edge of the forest the path divided and we took the left hand branch that climbed in a diagonal line up the slope of the ridge to the north before arcing to the NE towards Lochan a’ Chnapaich. Before we reached the western edge of the lochan we left the path and climbed northward over areas of heather and scattered boulders to the crest of the west ridge extending down from the summit of Eilidh nan Clach Geala. Once on the crest we had an excellent view of the Diollaid a’ Mhill Bhric ridge that hemmed in Gleann na Sguaib and to the west the mighty profile of An Teallach. We climbed the broad grassy ridge to the summit of our first Munro at 928m or 3,045ft.

Cameron relaxing at the summit of Eididh nan Clach Geala

From the summit we had a great view of Seana Bhraigh, the Munro that we’d climbed only a few days ago and now only a few kilometres away to the NNE from our present position. The “mini Matterhorn-like” peak of Creag an Duine at the eastern end of Seana Bhraigh was also prominent from this angle. To our south, the other three Munros to be climbed today were all visible, although only by virtue of Beinn Dearg being the tallest, did it protrude above Meall nan Ceapraichean sitting in the foreground.

An Teallach from the summit of Eididh nan Clach Geala

We left the summit bound for Meall nan Ceapraichean by descending easily SE to cross a broad flat col containing three little lochans. Crossing between two of the lochans we then picked a line up the SW slope of Ceann Garbh (967m). From this subsidiary top we dropped a few metres before climbing to the summit of our second Munro, Meall nan Ceapraichean, at 977m or 3,205ft. The views south and east clearly showed us the line to our next Munro that appeared as an outlier to the other three.

From the summit of Eididh nan Clach Geala south to Meall nan Ceapraichean (foreground) and Beinn Dearg (background)

Nearing the summit of Meall nan Ceapraichean from the north with Beinn Dearg rising above in the background

Elaine at the summit of Meall nan Ceapraichean

We descended SE down a broad shoulder towards another wide col containing three lochans (just like the previous col). On the way down we met two absolutely marvellous ladies – of a certain generation – coming in our direction. Greta told us that she’d done one of the cairngorm Munros on her 70th birthday and completed her first round of the Munros about 15 years ago. Anne, who was still gainfully employed, had also completed her round and was now well on her way to finishing off a round of the Corbetts. We spent at least 15 minutes chatting to these two delightful and inspiring ladies from Inverness. We talked about hills that we’d each climbed recently and then discussed the merits of different approaches to tackling the Fisherfield range of six Munros. They offered us some useful advice on accessing the Fisherfield area.

We parted company, with Greta and Anne heading north to bag the two Munros that we’d just climbed, whilst we continued our descent to the col. From the col we proceeded east and crossed a small rise (Point 886 on the map) before veering slightly to the SSE to climb the easy-angled boulder-strewn cap of Cona’ Mheall to its summit at 980m or 3,215ft. This summit gave us a fantastic vantage point to view the impressive eastern cliffs of Beinn Dearg and the heavily incised corrie and glen that hosts Loch a’ Choire Ghranda.

East towards Cona' Mheall from the summit of Meall nan Ceapriachean

From the col between Cona' Mheall (L) and Beinn Dearg (R) looking SSE into a deeply incised corrie containing Loch a' Choire Ghranda

We crossed back to the col, avoiding the top of Point 886(m) this time by skirting round its south side. A rather steep ascent of Beinn Dearg’s north ridge followed, over a jumble of large boulders. We reached the cairn at 1084m, or 3,556ft, the highest Munro of this range. To the west we could see some clouds brewing over the distant An Teallach, although to the NNW all of the iconic Assynt hills remained cloud free.

An immaculately constructed dry-stone wall had accompanied us most of the way up from the col before it swung west to continue along the crest of the Diollaid a’ Mhill Bhric ridge. We descended from the summit of Beinn Dearg to intersect this wall and followed it for over 4km along the ridgeline – the construction of the wall must have been a real labour of love for some poor estate workers in times gone by! At the lower end of the wall a lovely cairn set upon a huge block of rock marked its termination. We continued to follow the broadening ridge until we reached a little gully carrying a small burn down to the River Lael and right to the end of the forestry where we’d left our bikes. Descending this gully was a real ankle-twister through knee-deep heather complete with hidden holes and mudslides.

From the boulder strewn top of Cona' Mheall looking west to Beinn Dearg (L) and Meall nan Ceapraichean (R)

We eventually made it to the south side of the river with its crossing being the only obstacle left before being reunited with our bikes. After a bit of searching we found a safe place to cross and moments later we were back on our bikes and enjoying an effortless freewheel descent back through the forest. About halfway down we came up behind the two ladies we’d met earlier. Another 15 minutes conversation ensued where we re-discussed options for conquering the Fisherfield Six along with finding out that our adventurers had been given the title of “The Intrepid Ladies” by there fellow walking friends. We were left in no doubt why such a title was appropriate – they really had inspired us with their stories and knowledge of the Scottish Highlands. Hopefully we’ll be privileged to meet them again on another mountain.

The view north from the summit cairn on Cona' Mheall towards Seana Bhraigh (L)

Cameron and Elaine on the summit of Beinn Dearg

Cloud thickens over An Teallach as we descend from the summit of Beinn Dearg

About to descend the long Diollaid a' Mhill Bhric ridge - complete with an impressive dry-stone wall running the entire length

Looking back to the summit of Beinn Dearg from part way along the Diollaid a' Mhill Bhric ridge

A lovely cairn marks the western end of the dry-stone wall running down the Diollaid a' Mhill Bhric ridge

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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