An Teallach
Sgurr Fiona & Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill

Sunday 28th July 2013

Weather/Conditions: The aftermath of rain - leaden sky, dull mountains and muted evening light. Humbling, actually...
Distance/Ascent/Time: 12.9km / 1450m / 5h 05m
Accompanying: Alone

Having used up all my easy hills last week, I've been left with a solid week of upcoming big hill days. An Teallach and Fisherfield were to be the first two that I tackled.

I didn't head out early for An Teallach - it rained solidly. Struan left in the morning for Fionn Bheinn, and I waited and watched An arc of rain was sweeping up Scotland, but after lunchtime, it began to fizzle out. Time to go.

When I did Affric last week, my rucksack seemed far too heavy, even though I was really just carrying essentials. For Fisherfield, I was keen to trim the weight down even further, so I took a day rucksack, plus a sleeping bag, and nothing more. Instead of tins of food or pasta, I just brought bread, bananas, apples, etc.; nothing hot that would need to be cooked with a stove and pot. This reduced-sized rucksack, combined with a pair of trainers (which now have gaping holes) meant I was actually carrying little weight for the size of trip I was about to do. Mum and dad finally saw me off from Corriehallie at 4pm (Note June 2019 - it was more like quarter past). It was a bit late for comfort, but I knew myself well enough to know I'd get over An Teallach fine.

For those who don't know An Teallach, it is commonly ranked among the top two mountains in Scotland. It really is absolutely magnificent. It may have been the time of day that I climbed it, but not often have I been so humbled by a mountain. I did feel a sense of unease all the way up, as if I were treading on 'it's patch'. It was a mountain content to the gloom of its own making - the Torridonian Sandstone here weathers into a especially sick style of turret and pinnacle; the soils are dark rusted red.

I went into Loch Toll an Lochain first, until the cliffs were closing in all around. The leaden sky didn't help either. I slogged straight up the flank to the first Munro, Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill, and the mist swirled in and out.

Sgurr Fiona followed shortly after, and from there, the celebrated pinnacles of An Teallach were very close by. I did think about putting them off in favour of a non-exposed descent to Shenaval but since the Cuillin days, if I threaten to bottle out of climbing something in favour of an easier option, I have Jo-lynne's words ringing in my ears: "Nah, keep it real!" I had been half-temped to bash down grassy slopes to Shenaval but it really had to be the pinnacles.

They were good fun. I hadn't done them in a couple of years, but with vague memories of the route to draw from, I got over them with ease. By the line of least resistance, they were actually easier than I'd remembered, a lot easier than Liathach and hardly a scramble at all.

I phoned my parents from the far end to let them know An Teallach hadn't claimed me, and also texted Steve my mountains for the Facebook update. Then I headed over Stob Gobhlach and down the scree and heather to Shenaval. It's a relentless, trackless slope of 3,000 vertical feet. Lower down, I disturbed some deer. They let off an amazing throaty grunt when communicating, a lot different from the call of the autumn rut we're used to. More slipping, sliding and climbing, and I arrived at Shenaval in twilight.

The bothy was occupied by three others, and I sat up chatting to a couple of Germans. One guy seemed to be bumming around the Highlands; the other was doing the Cape Wrath Trail. We all got to bed fairly early. I found a spare sleeping mat since I'd left mine behind, and set my alarm for 4am.

360° Panoramas

Sgurr Fiona

Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 4.15pm Dundonnell
(2.35) 6.50pm Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill
(3.00) 7.15pm Sgurr Fiona
(5.05) 9.20pm Shenaval

Uploaded: 2019-06-04