Last week was glorious, the weatherman predicted balmy weather for the weekend and my xyl was happy to give me a pass for Saturday.
Oh foolish child!
The Friday weather forecast was all gloom and doom, short of the world ending nothing could be worse and this area would be plunged into a massive depression with torrents of rain (and probably plagues of frogs too). The answer was to head north of the Great Glen and the cooler but bright weather forecast for North West Highlands.
Oh foolish child!
I decided to head for Achnasheen and the rather lovely named Fionn Bheinn which rises above the village. This is a not very popular Munro and is geologically an outlier of the Fisherfield hills but much more accessible. Heading north the weather cleared after Inverness and the hill could be seen in all its glory from the A832. It is possible to park on the South side of the road at NH173589 where a road cuts down to the railway, the access track is through the gate on the north side of the road. Through the gate the “track” leads obviously upwards to a power line pole then you are on your own (after about 50m!). Head for the obvious gate in the deer fence – note your navigation has to be accurate you need to find these gates on the way down – pass through it and up the indistinct track that leads through the forest and another gate in the deer fence. Passing through this you are on open hillside and head upwards to yet another gate at a corner of another deer fence. All well and good, but at this time the weather gods decided enough was enough and the cloud started to sweep in and so it was to remain for the rest of the trip.
From the last gate it is possible to see a rather indistinct, but old, track up the hill, take care to keep to the straight and narrow for it has many detours to encourage the unwary. The track cuts through a “starvation” wall and from here it becomes less and less obvious. Once you are on the ridge at NH176615 cut WNW up the obvious ridge line. If you plan to return this way I would advise leaving a marker of some kind as the junction point would not be obvious in poor visibility. Follow this ridge until you come on the wall you passed through some time ago (hint….?), this wall ends at the edge of the corrie (I think, visibility was so poor by now I just saw the wall end at some sort of void). You will see quite a distinct track heading upwards near to the corrie edge, this is the ascent route but the track is only visible in places. Once the crest is reached at NH151620 turn west and contour above the corrie to finally reach the summit trig point.
The wind was perishing cold, the cloud was condensing on everything and there was no shelter, ideal conditions for a SOTA activation – not! I set up the antenna, eventually managed to get a spot out via SMS (the only one that worked) and I was off on 17m. – EA1DFP, DL3XX, HB9TNF (for a summit to summit), HB9AGH and IZ1GCV. Then this solitary walker appeared and started chatting, my mind was addled with the cold anyway so if anyone else called I missed you, sorry. I managed two contacts on 60m, the band was very quiet and probably dead but G4ZRP and GW4JUN made it. Why did they sound so smug about the warmth and sunshine where they were? No other takers so I tried to make myself heard on 40m but with just a solitary contact with MM0UDI – who had worse weather than me, it was hissing down in Huntly! By now I was shivering and couldn’t get my mind to work, getting people’s calls into the log was taking forever, phonetics didn’t make sense and my transcribing of reports was rubbish – get off the hill.
My planned descent route was the reverse of the ascent but I knew in the almost zero visibility this was going to be difficult. There are two steep corrie rims to keep away from and the terrain is very confusing especially at NH156621. I have to admit that this area challenged my navigation skills to the maximum (I am old fashioned and use map and compass, not GPS). Careful pacing and some equally careful map work got me back to the wall and an obvious handrail for the descent. This wall is excellent, except it has sections missing! Keep the faith as the foundation line can be seen on the ground and the 100m sections that were never built cause little problem. Once I found where I had passed through the wall the descent to the deer fence gates was relatively easy once I dropped below the cloud.
I think this hill would have magical views, just at one point on the way up the cloud briefly swirled away to reveal the Fisherfield floating in a sea of mist and I am sure that Liathach and Bheinn Eighe would be equally visible once the summit is reached; but not today. Needless to say, to the far North West the sky was blue and the sun was shining!
Time for the Met Office to put its’ Krays onto Ebay and buy a Mackintosh and some seaweed?
Thanks to the chasers as always