Four final Fannichs: Sgurr Mor and the eastern summits
I enjoyed a wonderful walk of the four eastern Munros of the Fannichs. I have now summited all nine Munro summits in this the range called the Fannichs, south of Ullapool, as I close in on my first full round of Munros.
Sgurr Mor and the eastern Fannichs
It was two years ago that I walked my first five Munro summits in the Fannichs. Over the course of a couple of days, I ticked off Sgurr Breac and A’Chailleach and then a trio, Meall a’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr nan Clach Geala and Sgurr nan Each.
Read the post: Three days nine Munros in 2017
So that left four of the nine Fannichs to walk and with good weather forecast, G and I decided to do them all in one outing.
The Fannichs are located in a mountain range above Loch Fannich and south of Ullapool. From Glasgow it is a fairly long drive and having arrived late on the Friday evening we were pleased to be able to quickly sort the bed and curtains in Fern the Van, enjoy a snack and a drink and crash out.
The forecast had seemed good but when we awoke we realised it was going to be better than good. We were thrilled because the Fannichs offer some amazing views and they are not Munros to do in rain or cloud.
We were aware that it would be a long day walking some 25km/ 15.5 miles (Walk Highlands reckoned nine to 11 hours) and a total ascent of 1435m. That is not a huge day, in my opinion, but the terrain would be boggy and rugged.
Having read the route description I felt trepidation about the amount of unfriendly terrain that we would encounter. I was sure I would cope with the distance because I have been walking plenty of Munros and Corbetts recently, but my hips, knees and ankles do not like boggy and rutted routes.
In addition, everyone talks about the long hike back from the fourth Munro to the start. G was not looking forward to this having done it before on his first Munro round.
However, on the day, I found the route to be very enjoyable and a lot less arduous than I had feared. Perhaps my legs are finally feeling more Munro fit, or it was the weather and fabulous views that helped to keep me going.
Walking the four eastern Fannichs
The four Munro route starts and finishes on the A835 just north of Torrandhu bridge. We decided to walk the summits in an anti-clockwise direction, leaving the longest section, the walk back to the road, until last.
We started out feeling fresh and with a spring in our step. This was a good way to begin because the first Munro, Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich (954m), takes a while to summit.
The first stretch is on a wide track through forestry and it feels at times as though you are walking away from your first summit. I can see that it might be tempting to try to go cross-country but the track is helpful and while it twists and turns and even descends at one point, it is far easier to walk on a hard-packed track than go off-piste.
G took a bit of persuading of this but he quickly saw the merits. When the track descends it crosses a bridge over a small river and then heads further along a boggy ATV track.
It’s necessary to leave the wider track for a hill path to ascend the first big rise in the landscape, Creag Dhubh Fannaich. While a couple of walkers behind us headed over this rocky minor summit we contoured around to the north.
I confess we cursed the boulders and rocks as we contoured because it felt like very hard work to reach the bealach between Creag Dhubh Fannaich and Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich yet in retrospect we may well have made a good decision.
It seemed that couple behind us took far longer to reach the bealach (although it may well be that they stopped for a snack or a breather!).
From the bealach, it was one of the Munros that kept on giving. Every time I thought we were close to the summit, there appeared to be another lump over which we needed to walk to reach the 954m summit.
Luckily, there were few steep inclines and it was a very enjoyable climb upwards with the views over the surrounding mountains growing ever more expansive.
It was wonderful to see the jagged ridge of An Teallach in the distance and to recall when we were last there (we reckoned it could be almost a decade ago).
The weather was mostly sunny but changeable at times, too, and I stopped frequently to add or take off a layer, or put on gloves.
Munro one to two
Looking up towards Sgurr Mor, at 1110m the highest summit of the day, was incredible. The steep, rocky face is impressive. Fortunately the walk skirts around the side of the rock face and I did not feel my usual vertigo.
It’s possible to walk close to the edge but I chose to hike up the rounded side of the Munro. This is also the steepest section of the walk but for some reason it felt easily manageable.
As I pushed on, G took his time, looking over at the steep rocks. He had recently climbed some of this gully with a friend but poor weather meant he had not seen a great deal. I am sure he was scoping out a route for a future trip.
The views from the summit of Sgurr Mor were fantastic. Mountain peaks and lochs spread out as far as the eye could see and I enjoyed surveying a full 360-degree panorama.
It had taken about 50 minutes to walk from summit one to two. On Sgurr Mor we bumped into another walker. He told us he was walking all nine Fannichs that day. That is impressive! He had started at 5.30am in Dundonnell and had already walked six of the Munros. (I wish I’d asked his name.)
Munro 2 to 3
The next Munro was hidden behind another minor summit on a wide and rounded ridge that heads south-easterly. First there was a descent, then another fairly gentle climb, a bit more of a descent and then the climb again to Meall Gorm at 949m.
To be honest, this seemed to fly by. We met a few other walkers along the way and enjoyed chatting to them in the warm sunshine.
One woman and her collie dog were planning to walk seven of the Fannichs including an overnight camp out.
G and I talked about this and that between ourselves and admired the views. I can’t recall a more pleasant long-distance Munro hike in recent years.
Munro 3 to 4
G had warned me earlier in the day that I would reach Meall Gorm and be shocked by how far it looked to the next Munro, An Coileachan (923m). I actually thought it looked fine.
I think the weather really helped our progress and we were eating small amounts regularly so I never felt exhausted or drained. As the day went on, the weather became warmer and brighter, too.
The next descent felt a bit disheartening because I knew we would need to climb again to reach the final summit. The last 200m of that climb felt a little soul destroying but it was only for a short stretch.
Again, the views from on high were spectacular. Visibility was brilliant and with sunshine and some clouds the vista was breath-taking. This part of Scotland is frequently gorgeous.
G was keen for a rest before we set off for the long hike back to the van. I let him snooze for a while before I decided that we just needed to get on with it. Thiis was the section I was dreading.
The walk out from a Munro is often hard but I knew this was going to be a long one. We reckoned about two hours for 8km. We did just that but it was tough in places.
There are stretches of hill path but mainly we plodded across heather and grassy tussocks, interspersed with bog. Some of the peat bog was deep and yukky. I also slipped on rocks and put one foot fully into a river, too, so I ended up with a sodden foot.
And, yes, that hike out did go on and on. And on and on.
Yet it really was not the worst hike out that I can remember and I found it tolerable mostly. Eventually we found ourselves on a narrow and boggy path next to a stream before we then rejoined the ATV track that we had walked out on.
I had forgotten about the descent on the way in, which meant a steep climb on the track to get back to the road. That was the hardest section of the day, but it was short and we were soon back on a more gently descending track.
The total outing took us eight hours including plenty of stops for food and to take off and put on layers. The weather had been lovely but we encountered one short hail storm and there was a chilly wind at times.
Over the final 20 to 30 minutes of the walk I kept reminding myself that I now have “just” 35 Munros to summit to “compleat” a round. It felt really rather good!
Final Munros count down
When I started walking Munros I had no intention of reaching the summit of all 282. As the years went by and I slowly but surely ticked off more I began to think about whether I might start to hike them more seriously.
When I realised I had walked more than half of the Munros, I knew then that I would try to finish them all. But there was the significant matter of the In Pinn and various other gnarly ridges. I do not like heights!
I managed to get to the top of the Inn Pinn in 2016 and ever since I have been sure I will finish the Munros one day.
Now I have 35 to go and I feel quite surprised. Many of the Munros that I have left are remote. These include the Fisherfields, as well as the very out lying Bidein a’Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhor (I plan to walk the latter two as part of the Munro Table legacy project this year.)
Who knows when I will finish them all and I am in no rush, but it does feel that bit closer now.