IT’S the hottest day of year and I’m about to head in to the Fisherfield wilderness to tackle two of Scotland’s most remote mountains.
A’ Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor are superb hills and the best option is to camp or bothy and spend a couple of days exploring them and the other spectacular hills in this area.
But time restraints meant this was a flying visit. To reach them and get back out in the same day takes a lot of effort and determination. Here’s how the day unfolded:
6.30am - Sunscreen and midge repellent applied, I set off from the car up the stony track at Corrie Hallie which leads into the heart of the Fisherfield mountains. Not a cloud in the sky and the heat is already oppressive.
8.30 - A short climb to the plateau, An Teallach’s spires rising up on my right, then a short descent to reach the lonely bothy at Shenavall. It’s a busy outpost but there’s no sign of life at the moment despite a few tents scattered around. Now for the double river crossing. In spate conditions this is a major obstacle, often impassable, but with the sun splitting the sky there should be no problem.
9.05 - Easily over the first one, the Abhainn Strath na Sealga, then a mile or so picking my way through boggy, waterlogged terrain to reach the second river. Again the crossing is no problem, and I’m soon on the path heading up Gleann na Muice. A mile further on and I take the right branch which leads up Gleann na Muice Beag.
9.45 - The path climbs gradually and with the sun beating down and hardly a breath of wind, my pace has slowed for the first time. The water bottles are taking a tanking.
10.40 - Relief at last as I hit the plateau. Now it’s a fairly level walk for the next couple of miles until I reach another cairn marking a path branching off to the left.
11.15 - I take the opportunity to refill my bottles at a stream - purifying tablets inserted of course -before heading up the rocky corrie. There won’t be much water up there.
12.05 - At the top of the col and ready for the final push. Had a close encounter with a curious stag which waited until I was within a few feet before it took off down into the corrie. I then watched it dive into a muddy pool and splash around to cool off. Movement on my right among the rocks - some young weasels playing chase.
12.45 - Six and a quarter hours into the day and I’m sitting at the summit of A’ Mhaighdean staring at the Heineken landscape ie. probably the finest view in the world. One other lone walker, Richard from East Lothian, also appears at the summit having come up the pinnacle ridge. After half an hour at this magnificent lunch spot in good company, I’m on the move again.
13.55 - Standing at the top of Ruadh Stac Mor after a short, sharp climb through scree and then boulder fields. Twenty minutes later and I’m back down at the col ready for the long walk out.
16.35 - Waders on and straight into the river crossings. The push across the boggy ground to Shenavall seems heavier going and the climb out from the bothy is laboured and much further than I remembered.
19.10 - Eight litres of fluid and 24 miles later I’m back at the car. Exhausted but exhilarated at the same time. Now for a pint, a meal and a good night’s rest.
(First published Daily Record, July 31, 2014)