A' Chailleach - 997m
Toman Coinnich - 935m
Sgurr Breac - 999m

Sunday 21st August 2011

Weather/Conditions: The weathers looked bad initially and we started by walking into a rain shower. But it cleared up and the sun came out on the walk to A' Chailleach. Plenty of wind... The cloud closed in over the Munros a bit and lifted on the walk out. The moines surrounding the Destitution Road were starting to look autumnal.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 18km / 1000m / 8h 15m
Accompanying: Dougie

A' Chailleach and Sgurr Breac form the western bulk of the Fannaichs, a mass split from the central area by a deep saddle. I was staying at the Smiddy with Bealach M.C., and Dougie and I walked these hills on the Sunday, our last remaining day. On the Saturday, we'd been across the An Teallach pinnacles in wild winds and swirling mist and the Fannaichs felt more like a warm-down.

The Fannaichs seem to be Inverness' hills like the Arrochar Alps are to Glasgow, and a last gasp of grass in the stony north. The volume of cars parked hinted at their popularity.

The Auld Woman
- (A Chailleach, not Dougie)
Dougie and I started on the Destitution Road and walked down to Loch a' Bhraoin which lay below our hills of choice. I resigned myself to another drenching - my gear was still damp from An Teallach and a wall of rain swept up the valley. There was no escaping the weather: just put one foot in front of the other, and hope for the best...

A ruined fishing lodge sits on the edge of the loch, but there is talk of it being rebuilt. The grey stone of the building set against the colourful landscape made for interesting photographs. And it was a colourful landscape: autumn had begun here. We walked through saturated peat and grass to Druim Reidh, which is a long broad spur leading to Toman Coinnich, a Munro Top. On it's right is A' Chailleach; on the left, Sgurr Breac. Both have their respective corries, but only A' Chailleach holds a lochan which is named Loch Toll an Lochain, similarly to An Teallach. But although the names are the same, the corries are so different. An Teallach is probably one of the most enormous corrie's we have - this one seemed tame and unthreatening by comparison; indifferent and unassuming to our passing.

We met a couple of guys on their way down Druim Reidh who have come up the day before, only high winds to turn them back before the summits. Today they made it to the top, although they'd been to the summits in the bad weather. The weather was rapidly improving and yesterdays desolation had warmed to golden moors and sharp-edged blue sky. The moors were vibrant again; the stony grey was gone.

We traversed Toman Coinnich to gain the saddle to A' Chailleach, and we stopped for a break. I couldn't be bothered moving form this comfortable spot. Fionn Bheinn dominated the scene southward and the high summits of Monar were obscured by cloud. Even so, the sun was out and the moors glinted and shimmered to it's tune in every direction.

A' Chailleach was completed in cloud and allowed unproblematic ascent by means of the path that swept it's ridge crest to a cairn. I walked onward to check higher ground didn't elude us. A' Chailleach was just off the edge of our map, but we were in luck and continued back to the saddle.

Misty summits and a glen full of deer

Toman Coinnich and Sgurr Breac were both completed in deteriorating conditions: the wind had got up and the cloud clamped down on the hills. Both summits were grassy walks capped by small cairns. We met a girl who was camping at the bealach beyond Sgurr Breac and was going out to A' Chailleach and back. We thought this a good effort and she had more planned for the next day.

The cloud opened once more on the descent of Sgurr Breac. We looked down to see a twisting ridge and lower, on our right, Loch Fannich was dark. Veils of rain were drawn like a curtain, blotting out the detail and reducing the surrounding slopes to shades of grey. We saw the girls tent on our way back to the road (it was too late to do any further hills) and restrained thoughts of stealing the inner and leaving the outer pitched for her late arrival back! (Joke, of course)

The walk back down the glen was long, but wonderful. The path followed the course of Allt Breabaig, and it was here I saw the first of autumn. We spotted vast numbers of stag low on the hillsides - all were curious but they usually ran away. I counted about 120 in the end. And as we arrived back at Loch a' Bhraoin, the sun had dipped and shifted, leaving a winter sky of piercing blue and tattered cumulus. It was the first winter sky of the season. The slanted sun cast golden light across the hills.

I changed into sandals and we walked back to the Destitution Road. The air was cold, and we stood with thumbs out with an unusual problem: far from being passed by cars, there were none about! It was Sunday night after all. But the first car came in about 10 minutes and stopped for us. It was a woman who lived on Isle Ewe and was returning from seeing family in England. That's a long drive, I thought. She dropped us off at The Smiddy and Diane had a great meal cooked for our arrival.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 11.45am Destitution Road
(3.30) 3.15pm A' Chailleach
(4.10) 3.55pm Toman Coinnich
(4.40) 4.25pm Sgurr Breac
(8.15) 8.00pm Destitution Road

Written: 2011-09-13 + 10-24