Scottish scrambling inspirations Highland Scrambles North – Foinaven wild,rugged and remote.

Fionaven falls twelve feet short of the required 3,000ft for Munro status – and all the better for it! It is a long and complex hill with many hidden secrets in winter a find traverse. The views are superlative and it’s a massive amount of rock and shattered Corrie’s that with the view to the sea and the massive moors this is the wild North.

Foinaven is a range in itself, offering an abundance of wild and characterful terrain to explore. That said, the track down Strath Dionard has somewhat tamed that wild feeling though does offer an easy approach, particularly with bikes. But the mountain’s location at the extremity of the northern mainland will hopefully ensure its quiet demeanour remains intact. The scale and complexity of some of the cliffs only becomes apparent once you are stood beneath them. There is a lifetimes worth of exploring to do here – assuming you are not easily spooked by loose or unstable rock!

I climbed here a lot in the mid 70’s we had a long day on the routes South Ridge it was long loose and tricky route finding. The RAF Kinloss Team had put up a few routes in the past and we followed a tradition from the 50’s. It was the Team Leaders Pete Mc Gowan last weekend we climbed another route and got back about 0100. I remembered the walk out in bright Moonlight and seeing the fish in the river. It was an introduction to big mountain routes and a huge experience for me. Next day we were up Ben Kilbrek no stopping us then.

This was from my diary “I remember having a fun day but lots of crazy route finding and near misses with loose blocks and Jim Green missing me with a huge one that crashed down beside me. The smell of cordite stays with you as the rocks smash down the cliff. The climbing gear in these days was limited, protection basic and we had big bags and big boots it was a scary day but what a place to be. It was along climb 1000 foot but so many variations were possible and our route finding was basic. Thinking back it was a massive learning curb and a big serious place to be, Jim must have smoked 50 fags on that route.

We reached the top of the climb and then in true Mountain Rescue Tradition did the complete ridge, with bags bulging and heavy legs” may 1977

(We even took a boat into the loch by Sea king for the Estate many years ago and after we put it into the loch climbed all day. Was that cheating? )

We did many more routes over the years and never saw anyone on the cliffs. The winter potential was incredible and we climbed an ice fall with the late Mark Sinclair in the early 80,s. I know that Andy Nisbet did some wild climbing here on the main cliff. I took a few of the young rock jocks in to the cliffs and they learned about loose rock.

Scottish Scrambling Inspiration (9 of 15) – Highland Scrambles North, by Iain Thow

SMC Publications Fionaven Gannu Slabs . Photo SMC

Phwoarnaven (AKA Foinaven). Almost at the top of the country now, and we visit the beautiful Foinaven. Wild, rugged & remote (once you’ve left the NC500 superhighway), what more could you ask for? Our last route on the mainland is Ganu Mor Slabs (Grade 3 ***).

“I climbed this line twice with young troops it was a magical line. “

A huge plate of immaculate gneiss perched above one of the roughest and wildest corries in the country. Serious and committing but never technically hard, with views over hundreds of square miles of empty Sutherland. When combined with the (almost as good) North Face of Cnoc Duail and the Lower Coire Duail Slabs it makes a superb scrambling day.

https://www.smc.org.uk/publications/scrambling

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

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