Beinn Fhionnlaidh East Top - 841m
Beinn Fhionnlaidh - 959m
Sgor na h-Ulaidh - 994m

Saturday 12th May 2012

Weather/Conditions: A desolate morning which cleared to a great sunny afternoon. Little wind. Light coating of snow above c. 900m.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 19.9km / 1500m / 6h 30m
Accompanying: Alone

Beinn Fhionnlaidh and Sgor na h-Ulaidh are two "outback" Munros, occupying a bit of a no mans land between Glen Etive and Glen Coe. They were also my last Munros in this region of mountains. I was of course ticking off the Munros and there weren't so many to go.

For reasons I really don't recall, I left home in the little hours of the morning, an arrived at a bleak and dark Invercharnan. The road into Glen Etive had gone on long enough and I was just keen to get started. It was 4am when I finally left the parking and headed up into the forests.

These mountains are usually done separately, and from other glens - Ulaidh from Glen Coe, and Fhionnlaidh from Glen Creran. But by approaching from Invercharnan, they become a short, easy duo, albeit over some rough ground. I once told Mick Coffield that you could combine them, but he made the mistake of doing so from Glen Coe. The result was a big trip out to Fhionnlaidh, then back over Sgor na h-Ulaidh where he'd come from, just to get back to his van. This video was the result.

Anyway, I reached the end of the forestry track just as dawn was beginning to break. Beinn Fhionnlaidh rose above - no path to follow now, so just trackless from here. The cloud was low, it was silent and grey. Not the most inspired moment, I'll admit. But I got on with it, up onto the flank of Fhionnlaidh.

From here, I could see right into the land between Etive and Creran. I've always meant to go here, but it hasn't happened yet. Only Beinn Sgulaird pokes above the 3000 foot contour, but there are many obscure bumps which deserve a visit at some point. I'd especially like to visit An Grianan, which drops to a gorge on it's southern flank.

I first visited the east top of Fhionnlaidh, then went on my way to the main summit. There were no views, but the weather was quite settled, and pleasing to see, a layer a snow that crowned the upper reaches of the mountain.

As I started on my way to Sgor na h-Ulaidh, the weather began to clear. It was a nice time to be up high, making progress, cloud clearing to reveal shafts of light spilling out over the surrounding hills. The north flank of Fhionnlaidh is rough going, but it was enjoyable to pick a route down through the rubble.

Sgor na h-Ulaidh really was a big slog, and snow and mist met me on the last bit to the summit. It was good to have these peaks done at long last.

All in all, this was a good route, and I did it again the following summer when I did my Munros. Another effort would be to add on Beinn Sgulaird but that really would be an effort!

The sun came out for the descent down to the forest. I know a lot of people that find descents hard work, but they are the pleasure for me. I love the flat flowing movement, all instinctual, less physical effort. Back in the forest, I plodded away on tracks as mountains now soared around about, unseen in the dark in the early hours of the morning. I was back at the car six and a half hours after setting out.

The trip home was fantastic, I just couldn't help but get the camera out. The quality of the light and clarity of air was inexplicably amazing, and the buttresses of the mountains I was shooting showed up in incredible relief. I was in Crianlarich just about the time a microlight hit Ben More, but didn't hear about it until I got home. Home late-lunchtime.


Glen Etive & Beinn Sgulaird from Beinn Fhionnlaidh
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 4.05am Parking, Invercharnan
(2.10) 6.15am Beinn Fhionnlaidh East Top
(2.35) 6.40am Beinn Fhionnlaidh
(4.35) 8.40am Sgor na h-Ulaidh
(6.30) 10.35am Parking, Invercharnan

Written: 2014-11-03