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Ullapool Weekend

23-25 June 2023

The Ullapool / Fannaichs weekend was a select gathering of just 6, with Bob & Jane already in the area in their campervan, joined by David, Ken, Gillie & Alan. However it seemed that nearly everyone had their own plans, so there were a number of different walks over the few days.

David’s trip got off to an early start, arriving on Friday morning to tackle the 5 Western Fannaichs of A'Chailleach, Sgurr Breac, Sgurr nan Clach Geala , Sgurr nan Each and Meall a'Chrasgidh. The weather was mixed, with sun, rain and strong winds, although visibility was good throughout the day, allowing this shot of Sgurr nan each from Sgurr nan Clach Geala.

The round was about 22km with 1750m of ascent taking around 8 hours, so I was ready for a very large fish & chips when I arrived at Ullapool.

Unfortunately there was a mistake (of my own making) with the booking at the Ullapool Hostel, so I ended up on the Broomfield campsite for Friday night, creating some tent envy (amongst a certain demographic) when I pitched my 42-year-old Vango Force 10!

Saturday brought a similar mix of weather, again requiring waterproofs, hat & gloves, but at least the cloud base was above Munro height! The day’s objectives were the 4 Eastern Fannaichs of Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich, Sgurr Mor, Meall Gorm and An Coileachan. After a long (and slow) slog up Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich, the rest of the day was fairly straight forward undulating ridge, and the round totalled about 24km and 1300m of ascent.

I had managed to get a bed in the hostel for Saturday night, and we all gathered in the Caledonian Hotel for a meal

Sunday’s forecast was for the weather to close in the afternoon, so an early start was made to head for Oykel Bridge to tackle Seanna Bhraigh from the North. This entails a 12 km drive up Glen Einig almost as far as Corriemulzie Lodge, then cycle 8km up Strath Mulzie before starting the walk, with views towards Assynt and the approaching weather.

The views of An Sgurr on the cycle in were so enticing that I decided this was the route for me! It was a bit of a scramble up An Sgurr then along the Creag an Duine ridge, and round corrie lip to the top of Seanna Bhraigh with this view back towards An Sgurr. This was a very satisfying route, and I was very pleased I had made that decision.

On the drive back down to Oykel Bridge I came across a minibus with the logo “Jamie’s Munro Challenge” – and thought nothing of it until the news on Tuesday. It seems I was just a couple of hours ahead of Jamie Aarons, as she was coming over Seanna Bhraigh to then cycle north on to the final leg of her record-breaking compleation!

On Saturday Ken & Bob climbed Cul Mor from close to the Knockan Crag visitor centre on the A835. An excellent path crosses the moor to the base of the hill before curving round to the NE ridge to the summit. There were great views in all directions with Suilven & Stac Polly particularly evident. After a short break the outlying tops were climbed before descending from Creag Nan Calman and crossing to join the main path back to the car. A quick visit to the Knockan Crag geological visitor attraction was very interesting with older layers of rock above newer rocks causing much discussion between early geologists. The visitor centre also had a toilet and even an electric vehicle charging point.

On Sunday - with a forecast of high winds, Ken set off early to climb Stac Polly. The track up, round and then up to the col between the E & W tops was excellent. The scrambling across the ridge was generally quite straight forward in spite of the gusty conditions. There was however one short, steep, exposed section just before the main summit. A steep path was taken off the ridge to rejoin the main path that circles the hill. Stac Polly is certainly a spectacular little hill and offers numerous scrambling and exploring opportunities as well as fantastic views across the lochan dotted moorland to neighbouring Davus hills.

On Sunday Bob did the Corbett Beinn Liath Mhor a Ghiubhais Li - it's close to the Ullapool road and was ideal for the way home and is short so he was back down well before the forecasted rain. There are good views of the Fannichs from the summit.

On Saturday Alan and Gillie climbed Breabag, a Fiona/Graham, partly to have a look en route at the caves which once held the bones of ice-age mammals.

The approach follows the lush gully of Allt nan Uamh, a large stream which is fed by a spring so large that it has been given a name on the OS map - Fuaran Allt nan Uamh. What appears at first sight to be a large puddle turns out to be a considerable stream welling up on one side of the footpath and pouring off down the gully, unlike any other little boggy,mossy or peaty 'spring' usually seen on an OSmap.

The gully was teeming with wildlife - frogs or toads of all sizes, grey wagtails, wheatears, pippets, two small flights of noisy fledgling wrens, sand martins feeding over the river and lots of flowers, including orchids.

Confused by the book directions which seemed to direct us up both sides of the gully, we chose the left side. The climb up the left side gave us a better view of the right (in both senses) side. So down and up again we went, pretending we meant it. As we climbed the rest of the hill several small herds of red deer disdainfully turned their backs and walked off. Nearer the top the temperature dropped and the wind rose. We waited only to eat and take in the panoramic views, especially over the evocative hills of Cul Mor, Cul Beag, Stac Pollaidh, Suilven, and out across the Minch beyond. On the way down we were lured away from an area of large rocks by a lone red hind who stayed relatively close watching us until we disappeared downhill. But we sneaked back and watched her return to the rocks where presumably she had hidden a calf.

As we returned to the gully and the homeward path the clouds, which had been coming and going on other tops throughout the day, covered the top of Breabag. We decided to forego a look at the caves and read the information signs in the car park instead.

Our Sunday target was Cul Beag. A good stalkers' path takes walkers close to the base of the hill. The first challenge was finding the start of the path during the bracken season. With the aid of Gillie's Grid Reference App we got close to it. The second challenge was finding somewhere to park near the path - not easy on a 'passing places' road with assorted vegetation hanging over the edges. Eventually we found a spot where we could safely squeeze into a bit of earthy gravel between the gorse and the tarmac at the edge of a passing place. The stalkers' path is easy to see once you're standing next to it.

As the weather forecast had predicted wind and rain in the afternoon, we were aiming to be down by mid-day. We made good time along the path and up to a flat "saddle' below Cul Beag peak at about 500m. The 'walkers' path up to the saddle is relatively steep and involves some high-stepping between rock and earth platforms which really tested the thigh muscles. From the saddle to the top the slope was easier to walk on but was much steeper. At about 150m from the top we decided it was a bit too steep and airy for us and headed back down.

On the way down, discussing bagging lists of Fionas Grahams Corbetts Munros etc we decided there is a need for a list of mountains we have only just failed to climb. We decided to call those mountains Hillarys after Hillary Clinton, who just failed to reach the top job.

Happy Hillarys!

Everyone contributed to this blog!


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