Alex, Frank and me had rented a bungalow very close to the ultra-scenic camping ground in Clachtoll perched above the sandy beach by the Atlantic Ocean. We spent two nights there before we took the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway. The sunset was very beautiful to watch but the whole spot was a wee bit windy and consequently marvelling at the sea, cliffs and sun left us feeling quite cold before we retreated to our living room.
The program for the next day was simple and plain but nonetheless filled Frank and me with anticipation: We finally wanted to climb Foinaven, a hill whose ascent we had postponed for more than a decade because its remote location and lowly Corbett status had kept us from taking a day off from our Munro-bagging quest. Nuts. Indeed.
So, the three of us drove up the A838 to Gualin House where we parked our BMW at the hikers parking lot. We went back along the road for a few hundred metres past Gualin House and then struck a more or less direct line across the moor towards the north-west ridge of Ceann Garbh. On the way to the foot of the ridge both Alex and me each inadvertently sunk one of our booted legs into one of the many water holes and tiny pools the heathery land held in store for the inattentive hiker. Once on the first grassy than rocky shoulder of Craig na Claise Camaich and the ensuing ridge of Ceann Garbh we made good progress. Some of us went faster, one of us was not so quick. I struggled to keep up with Alex and Frank but finally they disappeared out of sight. Soon I was greeted by the whirring sound of Franks quadro-copter drone, indicating the lads were having a break at the summit. Then I joined them not without having inflicted some significant scratches and bruises to myself: When ascending the boulder field below the summit I had lost my footing and fallen sideways and backwards into a cavity between three large stones. Rats, beginners mistake.
From the summit of Ceann Garbh the view opened up and the ridge ahead swung into full view. It was a delightful walk over shattered white quartzite to the side ridge which boasts the perfect viewpoint of Gannu Mhor, Foinavens highest summit. What a beautiful hill and oh what a lot of crumbling stone. I was reminded of the limestone climber’s and hiker’s paradise of the Karwendel Mountains in Tyrol, which are much steeper and much more Alpine of course, but which also crumble beneath your feet and in your hands when you climb there. Even though the day was fine and sunny we did not linger all that long at Gannu Mhors summit but pressed on towards Point 869 from which the crumbling side ridge of A Cheir Gorm branches off to the north east.
Descending this absolutely shattered stony spine was fun, one could say, as it were, if you will. The shifting surface of the ridge did not instil much confidence in the reliability of the footholds we were constantly forced to look for on this path of sorts. Then we reached the spot where the path drops into Braigh a Choire Leachaich. Alex and me met Frank there who had decided to look for scrambling options on A Cheir Gorm but had called it a day very soon when the rocks kept crumbling in his hands. We descended/floated on scree towards the corrie floor. From there we followed the developing stream until we turned left and used a cut in the bounding ridge to switch to the next corrie, Coire Duail. Following a developing path, we descended to the lip of the upper corrie and then headed towards the Landrover track in Srath Dionard.
Once on the track it was a mere four or five miles of easy hiking towards Gualin House and our car. We accomplished this task in lazy style without too much effort, even though there are some minor ups and downs in the track, not to mention the final extra bonus of a stiff-ish 100m climb back towards the road. Well nothing in life is for free!
This hike proved to be exactly what we had hoped for: Great weather, stony ridge, marvellous views, nice scrambling. The Far North at its best! Only my bruised shoulders and knees kept hurting. Glad I did not sprain an ankle or break a leg when I pulled my stunt: An SMC Munroist Certificate does not prevent you from making stupid errors.
Max elevation: 896 m
Min elevation: 71 m
Total climbing: 1102 m
Total descent: -1102 m
Total time: 09:21:30