Sunday, 1 October 2017


On the NW ridge of A' Mhaighdean
If you were keeping an eye on the weather forecasts last week and contemplating a backpacking trip in the North West Highlands you may have thought twice about that idea. That's exactly what Karen and I were doing from Tuesday onwards. With constant weather systems quickly moving in from the Atlantic it was a case of good weather one day, wet and windy the next. So a two night camping trip wasn't looking too hopeful. But we headed up north anyway!
Rainbow over Fionn Loch
The Fisherfield Forest up in the North West of Scotland is an area of wonderful remote mountains. There are five Munro summits among other lower, but equally impressive hills, many miles from a public road. The two main access points are Corrie Hallie near Dundonnell on Little Loch Broom or Poolewe on the west coast near Gairloch. Most folk 'bagging' their Munros usually walk in from Corrie Hallie and use the bothy at Shenavall. This makes it an easier option to walk them all in one day. I prefer to enjoy savouring the area at a more leisurely pace and climbing the hills via  the more interesting, exciting and scenic routes. We walked in from Poolewe with the aim of scrambling on the fabulous NW ridge of A' Mhaighdean.
Karen swimming below Beinn Airigh Charr
Before we arrived at our camp spot we passed many beautiful wee lochans on the fine trail that heads to Carnmore. As well as bagging a new Munro for Karen, it was an opportunity for her to go swimming in some remote and scenic lochans. Despite the weather forecast predicting rain by the afternoon we enjoyed some fine, long sunny spells and it was relatively warm for a swim or two.

The mountains of the Fisherfield Forest and Fionn Loch
It takes around 4 hours from Poolewe to Carnmore (not including stops for swimming) at the head of Fionn Loch. There are some great places for a wild camp around here. The estate owners offer walkers and climbers the option of staying in a camping barn at Carnmore. We set up camp beside Fionn Loch with lovely views out to the west. This time of year is the rutting season for the Red Deer. Our two night stay was accompanied by the wonderful soundtrack of the stags roaring away. They seemed to be right outside our tent, maybe they were during the night!
Our campsite for two nights
5 star views from our tent
The mountain we came to climb was A' Mhaighdean (The Maiden). This is widely regarded as the remotest Munro, however, there are a few contenders for this if you take underfoot terrain as well as distance to the summit into consideration. You can decide for yourself! As well as being remote, it is stunningly beautiful. For me the finest way to gain the summit is via the NW ridge from Carnmore. This pathless ridge also has some sections of scrambling which can be avoided but you miss all the fun! The final 100m to the summit plateau requires a wee steep down climb and bypasses two fine Torridonian sandstone pinnacles which are spectacular. Great views of An Teallach from here.
Dubh Loch , Fionn Loch & Beinn Airigh Charr from the foot of the ridge
The NW ridge of A' Mhaighdean (left skyline)
Scrambling along the ridge, Dubh Loch below
A distant An Teallach from the Pinnacles
The views from the summit of A' Mhaighdean are just stunning, particularly out to the West. It's a view of loch and mountain splendour. We were so lucky to get a fine day. Despite the weather forecast looking doubtful for most of Friday and Saturday, we had a glorious day. Not a single drop of rain!
The view from A' Mhaighdean's summit
We descended via the 'normal' route between the adjacent Munro of Ruadh Stac Mor. Karen fancied a swim on the way down. Spoilt for choice in this area! We headed over to Lochan Feith Mhic Illean ("bloody freezing") and then at Dubh Loch ("less freezing"). I was delighted to get some stunning light for photography.
Dubh Loch
Spot the swimmer in Dubh Loch
Skies clearing
Beinn Dearg Mhor & An Teallach
Another beautiful sunset on Saturday evening. The winds died down and it was quite warm for the last day of September. A brilliant weekend. We packed up sharpish on Sunday and it was a quick march back to Poolewe before the winds and rain really did arrive, timed to perfection!

Carnmore Crag

Sunset on Fionn Loch

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