A look back The North – South Walk 1976 – Loch Droma the Fannichs, The Nest bothy, Fionn Bheinn , Hospitality at Scardroy Lodge and not well?

Where were you 42 years ago in 1976 we had a plan, we used our leave for the full year nearly ? We lived on packet soup porridge and some compo rations. It was a North to South of Scotland basic kit and lots of pain.

Day 5 May 13 1976

Route. Loch Droma bothy – The Fannichs Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich, Sgurr Mor ,Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan, Meall Gorm, Meall A’ Chrasgaidh, Sgurr Na Chlach Geala Sgurr nan Each – The bothy the Nest of Fannichs.

We were glad to leave the damp wet bothy and head for another big hill day we had planned to climb as many of the Fannichs as possible. It was away early, the tea and porridge a ritual. The snow was down to the road and we had a day planned for the high peaks of the Fannichs. This range of peak contains 9 Munros and most lie on the A835 road to Ullapool. It is a route do  lightweight and in later years I did it in its entirety on at least on 12 occasions , twice in winter a long 16 hour day!. It was a classic training day for stamina for the newer team member’s. Not today though with a big bag and poor weather we would see what happens?  The main ridge is fairly continuous with outliers and the final two are separated by a big beleach of 550 metres. It was a big pull out of the bothy up the broad snowed up slopes and onto the main ridge a big pull in the winter weather. Our wet gear and feet were a worry as we were wearing the standard Curlies very basic boots and three pairs of socks to try to keep them dry and warm but no chance. We were soon on the summit of Beinn Liathach Mhor Fannaich. This is a good viewpoint but not today and now in cloud onto the big summit of Sgurr Mor with its very steep ridge and in the bad weather it was not easy to find the summit cairn perched close to the edge of the cliff.  We had thought of picking this up on the way back but the weather was worrying and better to get it done and if the weather improves skirt it in the way back!  This is a tricky place on a winter day not the place to slip with the snow very icy covered with fresh snow.

This is an impressive hill and stands proud with its summit like at times a big Alpine peak. There was little shelter so we kept moving on out to the far two Munros Meall Gorm, An Coileanchan. It sounds , simple but a long walk out into wind and wild weather. We were left with a dilemma, should we leave our bags on the beleach but the fresh snow made it an easy decision to make, No! It was then back along the ridge climbing Meal Gorm again ( does that count as another Munro) with the odd views of Loch Fannich below. We were back over Sgurr Mor the weather made any attempt at skirting it impossible and then out onto Meall A’ Chrasgaidh and back to the beleach and the Sgurr Nan Clach Geala and its huge buttress breaking through the and giving us great views. That day we saw the mighty An Teallach and the Fisherfield wilderness more remote Munros and of course the previous days Beinn Dearg hills and then the days to come with the great glens mountains sneaking a view, The final peak of the day is Sgurr Nan Each and the wild descent to the Nest of Fannichs bothy. There was no way in the conditions we could do anymore hills 6-7 Munros was enough for today, the weather was wild and we just wanted of the hill and into the bothy.  It was comforting to get out of the wind on to the Mountain Bothies Association bothy known as the “Nest of Fannich” situated on Sgùrr nan Each’s lower south-west slopes by the loch which a great help when climbing mountains in this area. (This bothy was burnt down in 1991 and never replaced) I loved the name “Nest” and it was great to get out of the wind at  comforting to get out of the wind on to the Mountain Bothies Association bothy known as the “Nest of Fannich”. (This bothy was burnt down in 1991 and never replaced) I loved the name “Nest” and it was great to get out of the wind at last and get the fire going with the dry bogwood left by previous visitors and some dry wood by the Fannich Estate.  On arrival we got changed and then the process of fire on, stove on and food on the go tea and soup were wonderful and then the evening meal. What a classic bothy I had stayed here before and it was in an  incredible situation a classic bothy . We were soon sorted and pretty tired with two hard days, we slept well as the weather again picked up and the snow turned to rain. I was always amazed as how Jim coped on arrival each night he was amazing and so organised everything was packed neatly everything in its place and me and Paul lived completely the opposite and Paul was definitely worse than me. By now our characters were showing Jim the driving force, Paul head down and getting stronger very day me just chugging along. My knee was hurting every day and I was getting left a bit behind. We saw huge herds of deer every day and no one, the hills and bothies were so quite this was a specail time in our lives. Each day we got more hill aware, the showers the weather we started to know when the changes were coming in weather. We bacame I feel at one with our surroundings a unique period in my 40 odd years on the hill.

Distance for the day 21 miles and 7547 feet of ascent. 7 Munros in total and grand Total 0f 15 Munros

The ruins at the Nest of Fannichs.

Day 6. May 14

Nest of Fannichs – Fionn Bheinn and Scardroy Lodge. The leaving of the bothy was not easy wet clothes on and huge rivers to cross that were pretty swollen by the rain and snow. These rivers were endless and we got soaked as we headed round Loch Fannich and into the back of Fionn Bheinn our only hill for the day. This hill is described as an uninspiring hill in many guides but from the Fannich side it is a wild place and we enjoyed once we got there the lovely North Corrie of the hill the Toll Coire was impressive.

From here it was down onto the road at Achnasheen and from here I felt awful. I told the other two to keep going and I would catch up on the way to Scardroy Lodge in Strathconnon. I had a bug and went downhill very quickly and the easy pull over to Scardroy left me wasted it was less than 5 miles and 500 feet but what a mess I was in when I arrived. The keeper and his wife were with Jim and Paul and had a meal and a dram for us I went straight to bed feeling awful and really worried about tomorrow! The keeper was a lovely man and his wife was so good to me, I must have looked awful.

Distance 21 miles and 7547. Total 1 Munro Grand total 16 Munros .

1976-scardroy-lodge-north-to-south-walk-

Day 7. May 15

It was a forced Day off at Scardroy looked after by the keeper’s wife and given drinks and lots of care, I thought for me the walk was over. I started to get better and after eating some soup that was brought later in the afternoon I felt weak but on the mend. We were given a great meal that night and I decided to carry on and see how it would go. I will never forget the kindness shown to me at Scardroy and unfortunately lost the name of the Keeper and his wife. Can anyone help? My mother phoned them when I told them of the kindness I had been given and thanked them for all their help. I was pretty weak when I went to bed but I prayed I would be able to cope with the big hill day?

1976-scardroy-lodge-north-to-south-walk-

Jim and Paul were fine but said they would make the decision if I was too slow, I remember these words even to this day. I was to go back to Scardroy and thank them after the walk and drop a few gifts and a bottle but it was little recompense for such great Highland Hospitality. My Mum even wrote and thanked them as they let us all use the phone this was 1976 no mobile phones then. This Glen was to be revisited on several call outs in the years to come both for aircraft incidents. One in 1982 for an USA F111 that crashed a few miles from Scardroy and both crew got out alive, the other was for a missing Cessna aircraft that was found on Liathach. It is a wonderful place and the two Corbetts are wonderful hills and view points for the area. Sgurr a’ Mhuilinn and Meallan nan Uan, Strathconon. I have huge memories of this area.

1976 Big bags n-s walk.

 

 

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Bothies, Corbetts, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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