The Fannaichs (East)

The beginning of this hike started promising about 30 minutes before the sunrise: clear sky and calm air, though the thermometer in my car showed only 4 degrees Centigrade. I’d planned to climb three Munros, but on the map two other were beckoning, and walking along the farm track towards Loch a’ Mhadaidh I was pondering on climbing those two as well. It look quite likely as the three planned ones seemed an easy walk. But it was deceptive. I decided to climb my first top – of Meall a’ Chrasgaidh – by a direct approach, up the steep east slope. It was time consuming, but not particularly tiring, mainly thanks to quite strong wind, cooling me down much better than sweating. Actually when I finally reached the top I wasn’t sweaty at all. The views were stunning, but very quickly I had to think about putting my fleece and jacket on as well as goggles, as the wind on the top was really strong. The only way of staying on the top was by lying behind a low wall of a small shelter.

From that top I noticed the distance to and height of Sgurr nan Clach Geala: the mountain looked massive! Climbing it and Sgurr nan Each would require quite an effort and time, because I’d have to return to Carn na Criche and then still follow my original route. Maybe I’m too weak, but I considered that too a risky excursion, and decided to stick to my original plan.

After 15 minutes stop I started going down from Meall a’ Chrasgaidh. Soon I could strip off my outer layers, back to a shirt. When I climbed Carn na Criche, a wee top leading to Sgurr Mor I was overwhelmed by the massive pyramid of the latter just towering in front of me; the impression deepened by a very limited visibility of any features due to the sun shining directly from above the top, but keeping most of the slope in deep shadow. I applied my good old attitude P&P (peace & pace), better known as ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’. Fortunately there was a path winding up the slope, and almost exactly at 12:00 I reached the top, in my route marked as Waypoint 12 – a nice coincidence. The summit is topped with a cairn about 2 metres tall and of substantial perimeter, but sitting just a couple of meters from the north wall going vertically down. It was a very exposed place to stay for lunch, so I was trying to find some shelter behind the cairn – rather in vain, as the wind had got stronger.

The path down at times led dangerously close to the edge of the cliff, concerning the wind blowing towards it. One stumble could prove deadly. After I’d gone down the top to my surprise it was too windy and cold to take off the jacket and fleece. I did it eventually just before climbing the slopes of Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich. When I reached the top I had to lean against the wind at about 45 degrees; there was no shelter on the top and staying there would be really unpleasant, so I left the top almost immediately, hoping for a quieter spot somewhere below. In vain! instead I had to go down through annoyingly unstable scree, with stones covered with slippery moss and mud. Finally I reached the north ridge, making a nice difference. Not for long. At one point I had to start going down to Coir a’ Mhadaidh across rough and pretty nasty ground, with wholes and stones hidden under the heather. Inintially I’d planned to go north-east, but that nastiness changed my plan – I crossed the heather north-west in order to reach the farm track as quickly as possible. I reached the banks of Alt a’ Mhadaidh at 14:45, where surprisingly was very quiet; at last I could have a proper stop. From there it was straightforward return to the car park.