Saturday 7 June 2014

Beinn Liath Mhor and Sgorr Ruadh

Fuar Tholl from near Achnashellach Station

I often think that the best hill is the hill that you are on!

But there are always hills and hill days that stick out in your memory. This is one of those hill days..,

Rafe - Fuar Tholl from the forestry track near Achnashellach (NG998486)

We followed the track from the layby on the A890, past Achnashellach station and over the railway tracks, through rhododendrons and beeches, into the forestry plantation.

The guide book had stated "after a short distance" (very helpful!) we should be on the look out for a small cairn which marks the path onto the hill. Just at the point when we felt that we had exceeded a short distance, we spied a large cairn and a signpost, a short distance away,

We trotted off, through the trees and along the Allt an Lech-chreig and out onto the open hillside.

First views of Beinn Liath Mhor from Coire Mac an Leasgadair (NG993497)

The sun poured down, a beautiful day...

Beinn Liath Mhor from Coire Mac an Leasgadair

A good path led us up, out of Coire Mac an Leasgadair, from the greens and yellow of the glen, to the greys and blues of the mountains...

Beinn Liath Mhor from Coire Mac an Leasgadair

The views were breathtaking.

Jim - Beinn Liath Mhor from the top of Coire Mac an Leasgadair

As we ascended, today's whole route opened up in front of us - the enormous horseshoe of the two Munros' around Coire Lair - we would start with an ascent of the shining Beinn Liath Mhor and its long undulating ridge, followed by the brooding Sgorr Ruadh.

Sgorr Ruadh, Coire Lair and Beinn Liath Mhor from Drochhaid Coire Lair

There were a few people about in Drochhaid Coire Lair, a group of DofE'ers making their way south through the glens and a chap who was doing a tour of the bothies an the area...

North east from Drochhaid Coire Lair

The ascent to Beinn Liath Mhor's Far East Top looked steep!

Sgorr Ruadh, Coire Lair and Beinn Liath Mhor from by the start of the ascent

It certainly was a pull up. There was an obvious path, zigging and zagging up the nose - it was steep, but mercifully short - and the views opened up with every step...

Fuar Tholl from the ascent of Beinn Liath Mhor Far East Top

Fuar Tholl from the ascent of Beinn Liath Mhor Far East Top

We soon found ourselves on silver rock, reflecting back the spring sunshine - proper Torridon!

Sgorr Ruadh and Coire Lair from the ascent of Beinn Liath Mhor Far East Top

The ascent relented as we neared the summit plateau.

 Rafe and Jim near the summit of Beinn Liath Mhor Far East Top

We topped out to the most wonderful views...

Rafe - Beinn Liath Mhor Far East Top (876m) - views north and west to Torridon

Torridon in all it's glory...

Beinn Liath Mhor Far East Top - Torridon - Liathach and Beinn Eighe

And we had it all to ourselves!

Jim and Rafe - Sgorr Ruadh, Coire Lair and Beinn Liath Mhor ridge

The ridge just went on and on...

Beinn Liath Mhor ridge, Lochan Uaine and Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine with the Torridon Biggies beyond

Seemed like a good spot for a first lunch!

Rafe and Jim on the Beinn Liath Mhor ridge

We could see red deer cooling themselves off in the lochan's below us.

Looking back (east) to Beinn Liath Mhor Far East Top from the ridge

Jim - Sgorr Ruadh from Beinn Liath Mhor ridge

Lochan Uaine and Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine from Beinn Liath Mhor ridge with Liathach and Beinn Eighe beyond

Jim and Rafe - Beinn Liath Mhor ridge

Jim nearing the summit of Beinn Liath Mhor - views west over Loch Torridon to Skye

As we neared the Munro summit, we could see people - it turned out to be another group of young people on an exped - this time from Gordonstoun (just along the road from us at Hopeman!), enjoying the wonderful weather.

Beinn Liath Mhor summit (Munro 258, 926m)

The summit of Beinn Liath Mhor (Munro 258, 926m) was crowded - there was a mountain marathon taking place, lots of super-fit fell runners checking in at the cairn and setting their compasses before running on, dropping off the ridge and down towards Lochan Uaine - a different breed!

Looking back to Beinn Liath Mhor

As we descended towards the bealach through rocks and scree, we met quite a few more runners, huffing and sweating as they climbed.

Jim and Rafe - Sgorr Ruadh from above bealach of Coire Lair

The bealach was a series of rocky terraces, not at all easy to find a suitable route with Rafie - eventually, after messing about a bit, we found a scrambly route down to the lochans, only to see a reasonable path only 20 odd yards away.

 Jim - Bealach above Coire Lair - looking east

It had clouded over - a few drops of rain were falling, was the day dereriorating? - but No, as we descended, the sun came out and the temperature increased again.

Time for a second lunch...

Rafe cools off in lochan in bealach of Coire Lair (NG956512)

Rafe thinks that the best lunch spots are beside lochs/lochans/tarns/llyns/lakes/ponds/pools/rivers/streams/burns/the sea!

There were a few people about again here. Mostly mountain bikes crossing the bealach from Coire Lair. They were the last other people we saw on the hill today...

Beinn Liath Mhor, Coire Lair and Sgorr Ruadh - looking east from NG954511

The ascent to Sgorr Ruadh was hard work, but the views kept us going. They just went on and on...

Sgorr Ruadh from ascent to north west ridge

Maol Chean-dearg and Torridon - looking west from ascent of Sgorr Ruadh

Sgorr Ruadh from western shoulder (NG954508)

Beinn Liath Mhor and Coire Lair from ascent of Sgorr Ruadh

Sgorr Ruadh summit (Munro 195, 962m) - views to Fuar Tholl and Loch Carron - Rafe must be tired!

Once on the summit of Sgorr Ruadh (Munro 195, 962m), the terrain changed. From hard rock and scree, to grassy slopes. Probably better for the descent at the end of a long day.

Jim and Rafe - Fuar Tholl from start of descent from Sgorr Ruadh

Fuar Tholl from Bealach Mor, Sgorr Ruadh

There were a few more opportunities for Rafe to get a swim.

We dallied (for about four seconds) with the idea of trolliing up Fuar Tholl (it did look rather good!), but decided that that could wait for another day...

Fuar Tholl and Coire Mainnrichean

Once in Bealach Mor, we picked up the excellent stalkers path, winding through the boulders and lochans...

Sgorr Ruadh, Beinn Liath Mhor and Loch Coire Lair from stalkers path by Allt Coire Mainnrichean

And over the River Lair, to meet our outward path. Excellent walking at the end of a long day.

We were soon back at Achnashellach Station (it's always worth checking the timetable, you never know when you might want to catch a train!) and a few minutes later at the car.

The Chippie in Beauly is a really good option when you can't be bothered to cook!

Rafe gets a plodge in the River Lair - Sgorr Ruadh, Coire Lair and Beinn Liath Mhor

Route:  Lay by on the A890 opposite telephone box and private road to Achnashellach Station (NH005483), follow road to the station and cross the railway line here, continue on this footpath for about 100m, pass through a gate and turn left, follow forestry track for about 500m, turn left at cairn and sign onto path, initially by Allt an Lech-chreig and then out of the forest onto hillside, continue on path through Coire Mac an Leasgadair to Drochaid Coire Lair at NG991506, turn left and take path N and ascend to Beinn Liath Mhor Far East Top (876m), W along ridge over various minor tops to Beinn Liath Mhor (Munro 258, 926m), descent via W ridge to lochan at NG960510, descend to another lochan at NG959515 via rocky steps and an intermittent path, contour around minor top (765m) to lochan at NG956511, cross stalkers path from Coire Lair at summit of bealach and pick up path up NW shoulder of Sgorr Ruadh, Sgorr Ruadh (Munro 195, 962m), SE to Bealach Mor on open hillside, pick up stalkers path at NG974496, NNE to cross River Lair, soon after turn E on stalkers path, at NG990503 turn S onto outward track and return to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 16.5km  Ascent: 1400m  Time: 9 hours

Rafe and Jim at Achnashellach Station

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