the first snows on sgurr na feartaig

Mon, Nov 11, 2013

Sunday dawned completely cloudless with a winter sun slowly rising from behind the snowy Knoydart peaks so I crammed everything into the ‘sac, gobbled down some porridge and hit the road, bound for Craig, up by Achnashellach.

Fuar Tholl from the stalkers path

I’d been wanting to go up Sgurr na Feartaig for ages and with the first big dump of the winter in the bag, it seemed the perfect opportunity to get out and wander around in a winter wonderland. Parking at the wee car park in the trees, I headed up the track towards the ‘shoogly bridge’.

Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

It’s a nice bimble up the track, up through the trees and into the wild upper glen where you head down to the burn for the crossing of the shoogly bridge. A lot of the bridges in this area are either too dilapidated to use or gone completely so I was pleasantly surprised to see it was in pretty good nick.

The Shoogly Bridge

Very very slippery though. As I inched my way across, my hands shoved ice shards off the hand wires, which tinkled and sparkled into the burn. Reflecting in tiny rainbows the bright morning sun.

On the other side I couldn’t find the stalkers’ path but I wasn’t in the mood for paths anyway. Instead, I just headed straight up the ice encrusted heather onto the top of Na Meallanan Buidhe. The ‘yellow tops’ decidedly white today.

Achnashellach hills from the path

A wee descent on decent snow took me to the start of the grind up to the plateau at 800m. The snow by now was knee deep in places as I ploughed through wind carved drifts. Place foot on surface, push down on thigh until foot connects with ground, foot and a half down through snow. Repeat until past drift! Very hard going but the light was ample compensation. As I reached the top of the slope everything was in a blue hue with subtle gradations of soft whites caressing the slope. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Approaching 819m peak

There was one point where I stopped for a breather and couldn’t believe my eyes. So clear was the air and extensive the view north to Torridon. I think this is one of my most favourite pics. Snow light. Stunning.

Achnashellach and Torridon hills from Sgurr na Feartaig 2

The long pull over, I sussed out the route over to the summit slopes, past the frozen lochan criss crossed by deer tracks.

Sgurr na Feartaig from pt 819

Up until now I’d been trail breaking but there was a line of footprints leading down to the lochan which I made use of and up the other side for a bit. They stopped at the foot of the summit slopes and veered off so I continued on my own again. Just how I like it.

Snowscapes at 800m

It was a marvellous romp up through the deep snow. The path had long gone under the deep powder and it was one of those days where everything is up to you. You choose the route, wind this way through the rocks, stay to the windward side of boulders or you’ll be in waist deep. I zig zagged up through the bright snow world, sometimes knee deep, sometimes crunching on a firm surface, sometimes linking up bare rock. Snaking a route through the winter wonderland. It was absolutely fantastic to be out on the hill, making my own decisions, getting myself out of dead ends, crossing pristine snow under a cloudless blue sky.

Moruisg and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

Eventually the slope eased, the snow hardened and I crunched up into a stiff breeze and the summit.

Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a'Chaorachain from Sgurr na Feartaig

Snowy mountains ranged in every direction. From the Achnashellach hills,

Maol Cheann Dearg from Sgurr na Feartaig

to the Torridon giants.

Liathach from Sgurr na Feartaig

Looking to the Achnashellach hills from Sgurr na Feartaig

I hung around for twenty minutes before the cold wind sent me back down to the lochan and I traversed up and across to the 819 summit, where I descended the north west ridge towards Craig.

Craig and the Achnashellach hills

I headed down to the fence next to the second forest indentation west of the long snaking treeline in Coire Dubh where it looked like the break went all the way down to the forestry road. In fact, when I reached the fence I found a very boggy vehicle track. Climbing over the locked metal gate I followed the fence line down and joined up with the track again, which took me down to the road. Taking a right I then followed it back to the main forestry road and back towards Craig.

Cloud over Moruisg

A fantastic day out. The forecast for the next two days is storm and storm though. Lots of mild air rushing up from the south. Hope the snow is still there for next time.

You can see all the pics here.

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