Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Fionn Bheinn

Fionn Bheinn in all its glory
Monday, 21 August 2017

Ascent:      799 metres
Distance:   9 kilometres
Time:         3 hours 12 minutes

Fionn Bheinn     933m   1hr 49mins

Fionn Bheinn is a much derided munro, classified as part of the Fannaichs but detached from them by a distance of 15 kilometres and the presence of Loch Fannich. It sits above the small settlement of Achnasheen on the A832 where the road splits west to Gairloch and south to Lochcarron. It has a railway station on the Kyle of Lochalsh line but its former hotel burnt down in one of the epidemic of fires that raged through old, cold, costly stone highland hotels at the end of the last century. Fionn Bheinn is invisible from the road, or from virtually anywhere in the public domain. But we are not missing much as can be seen from above. Its greatest virtue is as a viewpoint and on a good day there are excellent views towards the Torridons, Slioch, the Fisherfield and Fannaich munros. 

It is a hill that tends to get left until late in a munro round, it is a loner incapable of being coupled with anything else unless you are prepared to drive to other hills and have two walks in a day. This is possible because it can be climbed in 3 hours, I once did the round trip in less than 2 hours but it was rainy and windy and I was so much younger then. On previous occasions I have tagged it onto Ben Wyvis or Beinn Alligin or climbed it whilst travelling north, 

Today, I had driven round from the Aultguish Inn and I started walking shortly after 9am from a parking area adjacent to the railway station. I had changed shoes in the public conveniences to escape the fizzing midges. Unlike the roads in the Highlands there were no European grants for toilet refurbishment but we should be pleased that they remain open. The start of the walk is from an access road to a clutch of barns next to the Scottish Water building. An eight track vehicle was being loaded onto a trailer as I passed. The usual route is through a gate and then a 400 metre climb up a convex scarp slope. I was tempted by a new hill track to the west that I presumed led to a new mini hydro development. I would save that for the descent.

Once on the lip of the scarp slope you are faced by a boggy plateau that climbs slowly towards the uninspiring grassy upper reaches of Fionn Bheinn. There is the alternative of the steep climb up Creagan nan Laogh to reach the ridge but it is less direct and after reaching the top of the scarp you are desperate to get the ascent over as quickly as possible. After recent rains the ground made the description of squelchy seem arid. There followed 45 minutes of plodding along with my trousers acting like blotting paper as the wet patches inched up to my thighs. At about 750 metres the slopes steepened again and the better draining ground meant that pace could increase. It made me think that hills like this should be climbed on cold winter days when the ground is frozen or in the spring when the vegetation is less profuse. 

Fionn Bheinn had yet to appear, the cloud level was at 750 metres so I aimed for the ridge and once reached it was only 300 metres along a good path to the trig point, which is a fine vantage point but surrounded by cloud. This hill was seeking revenge for all the times it has been called one of the least attractive hills. I sat down and had a drink and an orange. And then it happened, the curtain of cloud briefly lifted and I was looking at Fisherfield. I grabbed the camera but it had gone. I spent another 10 minutes waiting for another glimpse and it duly arrived, just seconds but worth the climb and giving me succour for the dreary descent. 

I followed the ridge down and then made a beeline for Creagan nan Laogh, it was a good choice of route with much drier ground until I reached the boggy plateau. I headed south west to a new hydro plant next to a dam and found an easy crossing with the aid of a wire. There was a narrow land rover  track that snaked its way down the scarp slope and it proved a good route to Achnasheen although there was some gate and fence climbing required at the bottom. So that's all the munros in the north finished, just Skye and Mull left now, I briefly entertained the idea of driving up Strathconon to climb a couple of corbetts but it would be 7pm before I was down and the prospect of driving down the A9 for 4 hours was not an appealing prospect. I called in at friends on the Black Isle instead and enjoyed catching up with them.
A glimpse of Slioch and Being Lair on the ascent
Fisherfield from summit
Looking to Fisherfield from the summit
Strathconnon corbetts from Creagan nan Laogh
The bogs from Creagan nan Laogh
New water intake with wire crossing, Fionn Bheinn behind

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