Our blog - Inverlael, 4-6 Aug'18

A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Inverlael Munros

4-6 August 2018
Exploring Inverlael and Strathvaich and bagging some remote Munros over 3 days. Kevin Woods was leading....

Above the banks of Loch Broom by Ullapool, an enormous plateau runs eastward, containing stunning summits and some enormous and impressive corries. Our three days out covers the six Munros on this mountain range, and includes some great diversity of terrain. It has one of the biggest river crossings on any standard Munro route, some shattered and broken ground on the central section, then the great northern corries of Seana Bhraigh.

Day 1

We gathered on Friday morning at Inverlael for the central four Munros, which also include the highest in the range, Beinn Dearg. The team was Julia, Neil, Mark as well as Rita, who joined us for the day.

Unfortunately our weekend also coincided with rain, but we were still hopeful! The ascent to Beinn Dearg from here must be one of the most gentle 800m climbs anywhere in the country.

Forestry track gives way to stalking track, which winds for many miles into the hills with barely a steep, stiff pull en route. As we made our way into the hills, dirty clouds closed in on Gleann na Sguaib and the drizzle commenced!

Up on the high ground, the walking track gives way to a jumbled wasteland of crag and lochans. From this, the subsequent summits rise, and we tackled Beinn Dearg first. The summit of crowned by a substantial cairn where we had lunch, in the drizzle!

Cona' Mheall was an out-and-back on grass and boulderfield, and then we returned to the bealach. The final two Munros lie to the north; Meall nan Ceapaireachan and Eididh nan Clach Geala. Unfortunate there was not a view to be seen, but each was patiently ticked off before we could get out of the incessant rain, and into kinder conditions below.

When we finally appeared from the mist (some hours after disappearing into it) there were traces of sun out on the coastal hills. The lower stalking tracks were bone dry and it occured to me that the mountain had simply generated its own weather.

Day 2

Day two, Saturday, saw us on Seana Bhraigh. I tend to think that in Munro bagging terms, this is like hallowed ground; a culmination of what you search for on the high tops of the Highlands. This is a mountain far from the road and civilisation, rising from miles from ochre-brown moorland to climb by sculpted corries. It's hard to believe it's marginally over 3,000 feet.

It's a long way to walk into Seana Bhraigh. Initially the weather had looked like more of the same, but things improved steadily. As we made the descent over the rough moorland to the foot of the mountain proper, the mist peeled back and gave these stunning ever-shifting views of the great corries. How I was grateful for this; it could be so different.

We made the final climb to the summit with wind blasting by, traces of cloud lifting off the tops and the Luchd Choire pulling into view. The quality of Seana Bhraigh is the sense of remoteness, amplified by the effort it takes to get in there. It is a notch beyond other Munros. And then of course you have to trace your inward track all the way back to civilisation.

Day 3

Day three brought us to our final Munro, Am Faochagach. The weather had also improved again. We were joined today by Robert who mentioned having spent decades living just down the road, but never having ventured onto the hills.

We set off across the moorland to arrive at the Abhainn a' Gharbhrain. This river crossing is marked by a couple of cairns at the best crossing spot, which helps as it is really a major river. No problems today though, and we were soon heading around the foot of the moraines to gain the broad open slopes of our hill.

Set beside our previous days, this hill felt a good deal shorter. The terrain is kinder as well. It works, as doing this on a Sunday also lets everyone get down the road at a reasonable time, and it would conclude our weekend haul of six.

The tortured rock of the main range gives way on this eastern summit to rolling heather moorland. It's very pretty, and easier walking too. With gentle sun breaking out, we came over the ridge and continued on rolling humps to gain the cairned summit and comments of "oh, we're here already!". That's what a couple of big days does to perspective! We descended by the same route, back across the river (wet feet this time; no need to stay dry!) and to the road. Congrats folks on the weekend; a pleasure to spend with it with you all.

More photos by Kevin Woods are here on Flickr.

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