Another mammoth trip in Fisherfield – [# 271 & 272]

A’ Mhaighdean (967m) & Ruadh Stac Mor (918m)

  • Pronunciation:             Uh Vaygian, Rooa Stac More
  • Translation:                  The Maiden, Big Red Hill;
  • Total distance:              51.2km
  • Total time:                     11hrs 35mins
  • Total ascent:                  1905m
  • Weather:                        Mixed – generally overcast, but with one or two sunny intervals. Appeared sunnier out to the west beyond the coast of Poolewe and Aultbea.
  • Start / end location:     Camping & Caravan Club site at Poolewe [OS Map Sheet 19 – Grid Ref: NG 862 811]
  • Map:                                 A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

Looking SE towards the northern escarpment of Meall Mheinnidh and a darkening sky

Last night we stayed at a lovely site in Poolewe, just a few hundred metres away from the famous Inverewe Gardens on the shores of Loch Ewe. This was the ideal location from which to begin today’s walk of the two remaining Munros of the Fisherfield Six.

Better weather out to the west beyond the myriad of small lochans that stretch to the coast between Poolewe and Aultbea

Approaching the causeway from the west with Fionn Loch (foreground) and Dubh Loch behind - also seen are Carn Mor (L) and Polt Fraochain (R)

We got up nice and early and after breakfast made a start on our outing right from the campsite. As we were booked in for another night we didn’t even have to get the ‘van organised before we left.

Jumping on our bikes we cycled 400m south along the A832 towards Kinlochewe before turning left onto an unclassified road just before we reached the bridge over the River Ewe. This road, which was tarmacadam for the first 3km, ran along the entire length of the very short River Ewe before it gave way to a gravel track as it swung east towards Kernsary (with only a few estate houses). We passed Kernsary and continued our cycle to reach the western edge of a small forestry plantation. As we entered the plantation the quality of the track deteriorated and we found ourselves pushing our bikes through some fairly deep muddy sections. A notice by the trackside indicated that the course of the track had changed from where it was marked on the map as the estate was trying to reduce some of the effects of erosion. We followed the signage and soon arrived at a stile by the eastern boundary of the forest. A walkers’ path continued on the other side of the stile.

Carn Mor (L) and Sgurr na Laocainn (R) gaze down on the pebble beach at the east end of Fionn Loch

The causeway between Dubh Loch (L) and Fionn Loch (R) with Meall Mheinnidh in the background (R)

We locked our bikes to the fence (after having cycled 8.15km) and climbed over the stile to join the end of what looked like a narrow but well constructed footpath that ran ESE over some fairly level terrain – thankfully the path looked reasonably dry underfoot.

We walked in an ESE direction passing a myriad of small lochans on our left and beneath the towering cliffs of Spidean nan Clach (705m) and Beinn Airigh Charr (791m) on our right. One or two other paths diverted off on either side from the main path: either providing access to some of the lochans to the north or climbing over to Loch Maree in the south. After 4km we came to the incised little Strathan Buidhe glen, which our path intersected at the glen’s northern end. Our path, as marked on the map, swung into this little glen for 1/2km before crossing the burn running through the glen and then returning along the other side back to the northern end. However, we found that a short connecting path had been established that crossed the little burn directly and avoided this deviation.

Carnmore (house) with Carn Mor (L) and Sgurr na Laocainn in the background

Looking back on the causeway between Dubh Loch (L) and Fionn Loch (R) to the hills of Meall Mheinnidh (centre) and Beinn Airigh Charr (R)

From the shore of Dubh Loch looking ESE to A' Mhaighdean topped with cloud

Having crossed the burn we continued ESE towards Polt Fraochain, a small set of crags facing north that were situated at the end of Fionn Loch. En route we passed beneath the impressive north face of Meall Mheinnidh, which, with a backdrop of dark cloudy skies, took on a brooding appearance as shafts of sunlight radiated in narrow columns down its craggy face.

As we approached Polt Fraochain we got our first glimpse of the causeway that separated Fionn Loch (a large, deep, freshwater loch) from its ‘semi-detached’ neighbour, Dubh Loch (a smaller and shallower freshwater loch). We were also rewarded with a great view of Carn Mor and Sgurr na Laocainn – two impressive buttresses of rock that gaze down on the causeway from the northern side of Dubh Loch.

After passing Polt Fraochain we reached the lovely pebble beach lying at the SE head of Fionn Loch, which we walked along to bring us to the south end of the causeway. The causeway was constructed out of huge boulders to form the basis of a path 1m wide onto which some rough concrete had been poured to give a smoother walking surface. It was perfectly effective and had a few small channels to allow the run off of freshwater coming into Dubh Loch to flow into Fionn Loch, with the excess in Fionn Loch flowing out to sea at the other end via the Little Gruinard River. We crossed the causeway and stopped at the opposite side for something to eat and to admire the scenic landscape. Unfortunately, the highest hilltops, our Munros included, were hidden from sight beneath some stubborn cloud cover.

The two Munros of Ruadh Stac Mor (L) and A' Mhaighdean (R) from Carnan Ban

After our brief pause we headed NE around the side of a little mound to reach Carnmore (an impressive looking white-washed estate house). A notice by a gate invited climbers and hikers to use the barn 200m to the west of the house for shelter and accommodation if required. This barn is essentially a bothy but offers only very basic shelter with an earth floor and no wooden structures for sleeping on. We didn’t bother looking in the barn but got this information from an elderly couple we met near Polt Fraochain who had spent the previous night there to avoid pitching their tent in the rain.

A' Mhaighdean (The Maiden) from the north side of Fuar Loch Mor

Elaine climbing up the summit slopes of A' Mhaighdean with Ruadh Stac Mor in the background

Cameron at the tiny summit cairn on A' Mhaighdean

As we passed Carnmore our path veered to the east as it climbed slowly and diagonally across the lower slopes of Sgurr na Laocainn until it reached the Allt Bruthach an Easain burn, where it turned NE and followed the burn’s course. We stayed on the path for another 1.5km to its highest point before we took to another path that forked to the right to cross the burn at the outflow from Lochan Feith Mhic-illean. We crossed the burn without much difficulty and headed SE over some undulating ground until we arrived high above the north-eastern side of Fuar Loch Mor (the ‘big cold loch’) from where the path skirted close to the precipitous cliffs of Ruadh Stac Mor as it ascended the craggy corrie head to reach a complex bealach separating the two Munros.

Although the top of Ruadh Stac Mor was only 300m horizontally and 180m vertically away to the north of the bealach, we chose first to bag A’ Mhaighdean by climbing in an arc south and then west up some lovely crags. Just before we ascended into the cloud covering the top we glanced back to the bealach and to Ruadh Stac Mor immediately beyond and were rewarded with the briefest of glimpses of the second Munro’s summit. All too quickly, however, it was gone – shrouded once more in the high mist and cloud that had plagued the tops all day.

A Brocken Spectre seen from the summit of A' Mhaighdean

Cameron ascending Ruadh Stac Mor with Fuar Loch Mor behind

Elaine at the summit Trig Point on Ruadh Stac Mor

We returned to the task at hand and made the climb to a subsidiary top at 948m, and then in the mist, crossed SW for the final bit of climbing to reach the small cairn marking the summit of A’ Mhaighdean at 967m or 3,173ft. As we sat eating a snack we got the sense that the cloud cover above us wasn’t very thick: as if we were almost protruding above it from our lofty position on the Munro summit. We were absolutely right and moments later a shaft of sunlight from over our shoulder cast an amazingly vivid Brocken Spectre around our shadows onto the mist clinging to the cliffs below us. As quickly as it appeared it was gone as the mist swirled above us and cut off the sun’s illumination. Luckily, in the short time that the ‘spectre’ stayed with us we managed to capture it on camera.

We descended back to the bealach to begin the very steep ascent of Ruadh Stac Mor, only a few hundred metres away. Near the bottom of the ascent the approach followed the base of some beautiful red Torridonian sandstone crags before moving onto a section of very steep and loose scree. Finally, on a slightly easier angled slope, we hopped up amongst a field of large boulders to reach the summit cairn at 918m or 3,012ft. All views were denied by the mist and no ‘spectres’ joined us either, so we turned around and began the very long return leg back to the bikes left at the edge of the forest, followed by a tiring cycle back to the ‘van at the campsite.

It had been another long and fairly exhausting day out – but at lease we were now able to say that the Fisherfield Six were behind us as we contemplated our final 11 Munros.

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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