Regardless from which side you look at it, whether from a great distance or at close range, An Teallach (‘the forge’) is a formidable sight. The jagged pinnacles of Corrag Bhuide appear like black shattered teeth protruding into the sky, so sharp and pointed that it’s easy to imagine cutting yourself at the summit whilst the ridges look to be so knife edge narrow that a traverse could require the skills of a tightrope walker. Even a glance at a map is imposing, densely packed twisted contours reflecting the deep corries, buttresses and sandstone spires encircling Loch Toll an Lochan. I remember seeing its distinctive profile from the north for the first time some six years ago from the summit of Seana Braigh during a long backpack with James and have felt a need to return ever since.
The previous two days had been spent in Wester Ross backpacking and wild camping the Fisherfield Six, a round of munros in a wild and remote area of the northwest highlands where it was largely possible to look around in every direction and see no evidence of modern civilisation. The conditions had been unbelievably dry and hot with barely a breath of wind on the summits, heatlines had been visible at 8am, the absence of sunblock evident in our bright red necks and dry chapped lips. We spent the previous night camping high alongside a pair of connected lochans under Ruadh Stac Mor, a tranquil place to spend the night and wake up, an early walk amongst the lochans to shake off the tiredness became an adventure in itself. Various bird and animal tracks were imprinted on a golden belt of sand on the lochan shores, a pair of ptarmigan darted back and forth over rocks before taking flight with an unusual cry. The higher lochan fed into the lower through a series of mini waterfalls and smooth fast channels which in turn overflowed to streams that all converged down into Gleann na Muice. It was possible to walk far out into the higher lochan via a natural rocky pier, I found a place to sit with a flask of coffee and listen to the water make its journey whilst the sun rose higher. We followed the course of the stream to a well trodden track that skirted Loch Bearn Dearg, a warm breeze had picked up but otherwise we continued to feel the warmth of bright sunshine and hazy blue skies. During the descent it became apparent that my friend had unknowingly become a good meal for a number of deer ticks, neither of us had bought a pair of tweezers so for the time being we had a little extra company. After the track reached the river we headed towards the estate building Larachantivore, to its rear lay a shed sized shelter which remained unlocked for emergency use, things would have to be pretty desperate to spend a night in there. Two further river crossings were required to get to Shenavall bothy, both were fairly shallow and not flowing too fast, though sloshing through the vast plain of soggy marsh grass that stretched across the glen probably got our feet wetter than both the rivers could have.
There was nobody home when we arrived at the bothy in the early afternoon, most of the rooms had been claimed with roll mats and sleeping bags laid out on the stone floor surrounded by camping gear. I was keen to make an attempt to get up on the An Teallach ridge before the day ended. My friend wasn’t in the mood for more ascents and headed to explore the glen and take a swim in the river for the afternoon. We agreed to meet by the alder woods where we’d camped on the first night and parted ways.
I ditched my pack at the bothy and headed up the track behind the bothy passing two hardy looking walkers from Edinburgh. They were walking off the ridge as the wind had picked up and become quite cold, they also mentioned that they’d completed the full round of Fisherfield yesterday and felt completely broken. Rather than head for the easier but slower approach of the eastern shoulder I went for a quick ascent of Sail Liath by scrambling straight up the south side, a tough grassy pathless climb peppered with pink sandstone buttresses. A strong wind howled over the broad summit which narrowed towards the approach Stob Cadha Gobhlach, I had to place rocks on my gloves to stop them blowing away as I stopped to take photos of the narrow spiked summits that lay ahead. The sheer drops either side were breathtaking, some nerve wracking scrambling was required to get to the tops and peer over down the corries to dark blue of the lochan far below, the fact that large boulders of torridonian sandstone periodically wobbled loosely when scrambled over didn’t offer much reassurance. A hazy light obscured any clear views from the summit, some faint snow capped silhouettes could be made out on the horizons but the reward of being up on the ridge was more than enough. The wind appeared to drop past the overhanging outcrop of Lord Berkeley’s seat as the rocky pyramid form of Sgurr Fiona grew closer. From the fine summit of Sgurr Fiona there was a stunning view over to the second munro of the ridge Bidein a Ghlas Thuill, the evening sun shining a golden light across the crooked ridge and steep plummeting slopes. To the south the snow flecked vertical drops from Corrag Bhuidhe menacingly remained in the shadows. The gusts were still strong enough to whip away an unsecured hat and send it flying off into the glen. The ridge walk to Bidein a Ghlas Thuill took little time but brought perhaps the finest view of all looking back to Sgurr Fiona and Corrag Bhuidhe, I could have stayed up there all day. The bealach between Sgurr Creag an Eich and Sgurr Fiona made a steep but direct way back down to the bothy, fresh springs providing some much needed hydration. The sunset over the loch felt like a generous pat on the back for getting up and over in good time. I dropped into the bothy to pick up my pack and met the walkers from Edinburgh again who very kindly let me use their stove to make a hot cup of tea, a roaring coal fire was on the go. We sat around and talked for a while before succumbing to staring at the flames in a state of tiredness. Leaving the warmth and comfort of the bothy I walked another mile up a track to camp in the woods for a final night.
I had the excellent company of my very good friend Ian Nesbitt during this trip, as well as providing the emergency use of camping stoves and bringing eclectic mix tapes for 10 journeys to the far north of scotland he is also an obscenely talented artist and film maker, please go and find out more here.