Assynt – Ben Mhor Coigach Sgurr an Fhidhleir – The Fhidhleir

The Fhidhleir – photo Terry Moore

My friend Terry was up North visiting Assynt he had a couple of great days. I cover for him when he is alone on the hill. It’s a bit of back up for him he sent me a few great photos of this classic mountain.

Sgùrr an Fhìdhleir – the Fiddler

From walk highlands – The moorland walk to the peak of Sgùrr an Fhìdhleir disguises the drama of the peak’s far side. Approached up the fairly gentle south western flanks, from the summit there is an amazing contrast as the ground plunges away almost 500 metres vertically with amazing views down to the loch and of the surrounding Assynt peaks.

Straightforward hillwalk across moorland terrain; navigation could be difficult in misty conditions and there are vertical drops in the vicinity of the summit.

In the Corrie is the best view and this mountain is a classic when seen from the Stac Polly road.

226m, 9 pitches. Climb the slabs in the centre of the nose, follow a grassy right trending groove to a cave belay. step right under the roof to a slab with crampon scratches (difficult with tall sack) trend up and left to a large block belay. climb the ramp above to a ledge. head up on the right of the ledge and trend left onto the arete move up below the rusty peg, and climb above. follow the corner above to easier ground. First ascent N Drasdo & C Dixon – seemingly the Gary Latter guide gives a more detailed and accurate croute description.

N Drasdo & C Dixon.

The Nose of the Fhidhleir has always been a superb looking line. I summer many years ago I failed on it the gear was poor and there was grass and vegetation in places. In these days the gear was not great but we had an adventure and abseiled of a manky peg. I never returned to climb the nose but did many routes in the Assynt area on Quinag and Stac Polly. In season 2008/9, Simon Richardson and Ian Small completed a long sought line on the side of the Fhiddler.

This place has so many memories a remote mountain yet a huge part of my life. Among these memories are of a great pal the Team Leader of Assynt MRT Phil Jones was killed on Seanna Bhraigh in an avalanche in Feb 1991 it seems so many years ago. He was out training with the team in the Corrie when a slab avalanche broke away. He was such a good guy we had a good liaison with him and the Assynt team great folk covering a huge area.

When the news broke I was at just coming home from running the annual winter course for the RAF mountain rescue Teams this was 14 days away from home when the news was broken by the BBC. They just said that a MRT team leader had been killed, no name was given and it was an awful time for our families. These were the days before mobile phones etc. My partner was so upset as she thought it was me. It was my good friend Phil the Assynt Team Leader who was going to climb the Nose with me and had climbed it a few times before. Gear had improved by 1991 but it was not to be. So I never climbed that route yet every time I see it I think of Phil. He told us of so many local crags he and his friends climbed on and shared much of it with the team.

Glaciers, grinding West, gouged out

these valleys, rasping the brown sandstone,

and left, on the hard rock below –

the ruffled foreland –

this frieze of mountains, filed

on the blue air –

Stac Polly,

Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven,

Canisp –

a frieze and

a litany.

Who owns this landscape?

Has owning anything to do with love?

For it and I have a love-affair, so nearly human

we even have quarrels. –

When I intrude too confidently

it rebuffs me with a wind like a hand

or puts in my way

a quaking bog or loch

where no loch should be. Or I turn stonily

away, refusing to notice

the rouged rocks, the mascara

under a dripping ledge, even

the tossed, the stony limbs waiting.

I can’t pretend

it gets sick for me in my absence,

though I get

sick for it. Yet I love it

with special gratitude,since

it sends me no letters, is never

jealous and, expecting nothing

from me, gets nothing but

cigarette packets and footprints.

Who owns this landscape? –

The millionaire who bought it or

the poacher staggering downhill in the early morning

with a deer on his back?

Who possesses this landscape? –

The man who bought it or

I who am possessed by it?

False questions, for

this landscape is


and intractable in any terms

that are human.

It is docile only to the weather

and its indefatigable lieutenants –

wind, water and frost.

The wind whets the high ridges

and stunts silver birches and alders.

Rain falling down meets

springs gushing up –

they gather and carry down to the Minch

tons of sour soil, making bald

the bony scalp of Cul Mor. And frost

thrusts his hand in cracks and, clenching his fist,

bursts open the sandstone plates,

the armour of Suilven;

he bleeds stories down chutes and screes,

smelling of gun powder.

Norman MacCaig

from The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon, 2005) 

Reproduced by permission of Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd.

they gather and carry down to the Minch

tons of sour soil, making bald

the bony scalp of Cul Mor. And frost

thrusts his hand in cracks and, clenching his fist,

bursts open the sandstone plates,

the armour of Suilven;

he bleeds stories down chutes and screes,

smelling of gun powder.

There are many ways to climb this mountain you can scramble up from the sea along the ridge but to me the best views are from the Loch.


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, Avalanche info, Corbetts and other hills, Family, Friends, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Poems, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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