Hot and bothered in the Highlands (GM/NS-021 & GM/NS-013, 25-26 July 2021)

Rarely have we enjoyed summit conditions as good as those we had last weekend, but my goodness, we did have to work for them!

Enjoying the view North from Ruadh Stac Mor (GM/NS-021)

We were planning to complete the “Fisherfield Six” round of Munros over three days. In the end we managed only two of the summits in out-and-back style. The weather was a lot warmer than forecast, and the going proved to be hard, meaning we were slower and more tired than we had expected to be. We also underestimated those age-old Scottish foes: the midges and the horseflies!

We parked in the layby at OS grid NH114850. Our route took us South along the Cape Wraith Trail to Shenavall. The two rivers beyond the bothy were low, and the infamous bog all but dry after the recent hot weather, making our crossing easy. We continued up into Gleann na Muice Baeg before pitching camp. Although we managed to find a relatively midge-free spot eventually, by the next morning a swarm had gathered the likes of which neither of us had seen before, and we departed for higher ground in a rush.

Looking North back down Gleann Charoachain, or to use the English name we gave it, Cleg Valley :joy:

Shenavall bothy

There were hardly any midges here when we went to sleep - but loads when we woke up!

Public enemy number one swarming over our bivvy bags

A long, hot, upwards slog later and Ruadh Stac Mor (GM/NS-021) became our first activation of the trip. The weather couldn’t have been better for this. I spent a leisurely hour until 13:30z, working all the stations I could hear on 40m and 20m CW, running 5W from my Xiegu X5105. This included two summit-to-summit contacts: GM0GAV/P on GM/WS-053, and DL4TO/P, though sadly I copied only a partial summit reference (D?/??-5?6).

MM0RPK/P activating GM/NS-021, with the summits of (L-R) Sgurr Ban (GM/NS-010), Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (GM/NS-006) and Beinn Tarsuinn (GM/NS-016) in the background.

By this point we knew we didn’t have it in us to complete the round with our full packs, tired legs and bitten hides, given the heat and our concerns over finding & carrying enough drinking water. We decided to settle for one more summit and then to return the way we came. We therefore descended the scree off the back of Ruadh Stac Mor, made a small diversion to a stream to refill our bottles, and then ascended to reach the top of A’Mhaighdean, Scotland’s most remote Munro, by 1700z.

I chose to activate straight away, the weather still being amazing, in case something happened to prevent us from doing so the next day. The timing was suboptimal for EU contacts and I made only four QSOs. The views more than made up for the lack of activity though.

Eventually we descended to the plateau just below the summit and pitched camp. Although there were fewer midges at this height than in the valley, there wasn’t a breath of wind that evening, and we were still bothered by them to some extent.

Looking down on Ruadh Stac Mor from the summit of A’Mhaighdean

Appreciating the view South


Above the clouds

Striking the summit camp

The next morning we climbed to the summit once again for breakfast and a second activation, this time working 13 stations on 40m CW. Before long we were joined by two other groups hiking up from the other side of the hill. I chose to pack up before they arrived so that they could enjoy the ambience and views without all my clutter in the way.

We spent a long time sitting, chatting, drinking tea and soaking in the summit atmosphere before setting off back the way we came. Our return route avoided the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor, taking the path that passes to its West before circling back round into Gleann na Muice Baeg and retracing our steps to Shenavall. Although tired, we then decided we couldn’t face another night battling the midges, so we chose to slog on up out of the valley and back to the car - adding another seven to the 17 km we’d walked already that day. We made it back out to the road by 20:05z and had just enough phone signal to locate and reserve a room in a B&B in Ullapool, into which we collapsed just before their check-in closed at 21:00z.

These mountains are not to be underestimated - either in terms of the splendour of their situation or the commitment required to visit them. We didn’t achieve our original ambition, however I’m glad to have a good reason to make a repeat visit, to “bag” the remaining four of the Fisherfield Six.

Many thanks to all the chasers who helped make this a successful trip - and especially for your patience with this CW novice’s fumbling fingers!


Well done, some amazing views.

My experience of the midges is you simply have to retire to your tent in the evening. No sitting out watching the sun set. A head net essential too.