Winter walking: Sgùrr Breac.

December 30, 2016

Approaching the summit of Sgùrr Breac in cloud and with a 40 mph SW wind.

To counter the excesses of Christmas, I made an attempt to bag the last two Munros in the Fannaichs. A small weather window opened up on Tuesday (27th December) after the second of two very intense low pressure weather systems had blown through leaving a fresh breezy day to attempt the walk. I had no idea how much snow was left on the Fannaichs at this time, so went equipped with winter gear including ice axe for traversing snow fields which may (or may not) be frozen and extensive on the lee slopes of the hills. My targets were Sgùrr Breac and A’ Chailleach, the two most westerly of the Fannaichs.


Loch a’ Bhracin near the starting point on the A832. A morning shot.

As it turned out, the wind was too severe to allow a climb of both Munros in the short time available in mid winter with dusk at around 15.45 hrs. depending on cloud cover. I was not keen on clambering back down through Allt Breabaig in near darkness, not even with a head torch and other light.


I climbed up onto the ridge at Leitir Fhearna at the start of the walk to reach the start of a ridge walk along Druim Reidh that would take be to the top which lies between the two mountains. The wind chill and speed made walking challenging and with the turn back time approaching, I decided to leave A’ Chailleach for another day and concentrate on climbing Sgùrr Breac. Once completing the top, I walked down the south east side towards Allt the pass or bealach (Allt Leac a’ Bhealaich to the south of the pass and Allt Breabaig to the north of the pass) which separates Sgùrr nan Each and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala from Sgùrr Breac. The bealach was the route for the return walk which turned out to be relatively sheltered. I have used the Allt Breabaig bealach route from the north before and in much better weather conditions too!



The view west from Druim Reidh on the approach to Toman Coinnich, a top which sits between the two Munros. The picture was taken just before entering the cloud sitting over the hills.



A panorama from just below the summit of Sgùrr Breac. The shot was taken just below the cloud base. Loch Fannich can be seen in the distance and the Munros Sgùrr nan Each and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala also make it into the shot.


Approaching the top of the bealach or pass from the south for the return leg of the walk.



Shelter at the top of the pass. Beyond, to the north is the walk-out through Allt Breabaig which was very wet with snow melt. Even the path had assumed the role of a small burn!


A sight for tired feet – Loch a’ Bhracin at the end of the walk at dusk. Only half a mile to go to reach the car!






Sgùrr nan Each, Sgùrr nan Clach Geala, Meall a’ Chrasgaidh and Sgùrr Mòr (again)

October 11, 2016

Allt Breabaig looking south up the pass.

A desire to hit the mountain trails reached crisis point this weekend past as a period of calm Autumn weather settled over the Scottish Highlands, presenting reasonably clear air and a good chance of cloud-free Munros. Back to the Fannaichs (Fannichs) to tackle a trio of tops which form a second arm of the mountain range with a north-south axis from Sgùrr Mòr towards Loch Fannich. The walk started at Loch a’ Bhracin near the A832 with a gentle ramble south up Allt Breabaig to a pass or bealach.


The saddle between Sgùrr nan Each and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala looking back down towards the top of the pass.



Mountains and more mountains – a long walk plus altitude equals happiness.

Upon reaching the top of the bealach, I turned east and climbed the saddle between Sgùrr nan Each and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala. Sgùrr nan Each is the most southerly Munro of this arm of the Fannichs and rises to 922 metres.


Sgùrr nan Each 360 degree panorama with Sgùrr nan Clach Geala to the left of centre of the picture.

From Sgùrr nan Each, I turned north to retrace my steps back down the saddle of the mountains which was followed by the long climb up Sgùrr nan Clach Geala (1093 metres).


Looking town the crags of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala with a rocky top called Càrn na Chriche in the back ground.



360 degree panorama from Sgùrr nan Clach Geala. Summit cairn (south) to the extreme left of the shot. Centre of the image looks east with Sgùrr Mòr to the right.

Timing on this walk was important if Sgùrr Mòr was to be climbed again. I had to leave the summit of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala no later than 13.30 hrs to be sure to fit in all four Munros within the planned walking time. I have walked up Sgùrr Mòr before, in poor conditions which made good photography impossible. On this expedition, I approached the mountain from the opposite flank, starting with a good scramble down the loose rocks on the north side of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala, over the rocky top of Càrn na Chriche and a long clamber over the boulders of the north west flank of Sgùrr Mòr. Last time, I approached the mountain from the south east after climbing Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich.

Sgurr Mor OMWB

Last time!


Second visit and a cloud-free summit!



The 360 degree panorama impossible to obtain on my last visit to Sgùrr Mòr with some fellow walkers enjoying the views.


From there. I retraced my steps back down the north west flank and back over Càrn na Chriche to reach the last Munro of the day: Meall a’ Chrasgaidh (934 metres). Nothing spectacular: a rounded summit with a cairn and shelter. The ground between Meall a’ Chrasgaidh and Càrn na Chriche presented some of the easiest walking of the day allowing some time to be made up by running part of it.


Approaching Meall a’ Chrasgaidh as a brisk walk with Sgùrr nan Clach Geala in the back ground.



360 degree panorama from Meall a’ Chrasgaidh allowing a view of Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich for the first time that day. Sgùrr Mòr is centre with Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich behind left and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala right of centre.



A five-minute break to admire the view and pay due respect to the four Munros of the day before heading back to the car.



Allt Breabaig on the walk out towards Loch a’ Bhracin.



Mountain time again.

October 10, 2016

Early morning at Loch a’ Bhracin in the Fannaichs.

Out and about Munro-bagging in the Fannaichs once again – more later!

IMOG Harvester Run 2016 – Minis, mountains and Loch Ness!

September 19, 2016
Classic Minis - the same car, but all sorts of colours, fittings and character!

Classic Minis – the same car, but all sorts of colours, fittings and character!

Yesterday, ‘The Min’ and I joined in the Inverness Mini Owners Group (IMOG) Autumn run along Loch Ness to Fort Augustus via a circuitous route over the A887 and A87. The group calls the trip its ‘Harvester Run’ and the circuit around Loch Ness, the ‘Lochnessring’.


The route was: Inverness – Drumnadrochit – Invermoriston on the A82, running west along the north side of Loch Ness.

Invermoriston – Beinneun Forest up Glen Moriston on the A887 Kyle of Lochalsh road.

A87 to Invergarry, A82 east to Fort Augustus.

Return was east along the south side of Loch Ness on the B862 for 10 miles; B852 to Foyers, finishing off at Dores Inn just west of the Inverness outskirts to complete the ring.

Right, on to the road! Plenty of thrash and a great deal of attention from tourists and other motorists as we powered along the A82 past Drumnadrochit and on to the junction with the A887 at Invermoriston. Minis can shift when they want to and the road is a great one to test their superb road holding capability. I really began to appreciate the road holding performance of the Yokahama A539 tyres I had fitted this spring, despite the relatively high cost of them. Turn right on to the A887 for more thrash – increasingly uphill at this point.

Turned left on to the A87 at Beinneun Forest after some pretty spirited running 15 miles along the A887 where the first stop was made in the lay-by just beyond the junction. A lay-by crammed with classic Minis by the time we had all arrived.


Showing off and why not when your car looks a good as this!





Ready to move off – the silver BMW was lead car.

From there, A87 to Invergarry, turning left back onto the A82 for the short run to Fort Augustus, the town at the head of Loch Ness where the Caledonian canal starts once again with a fine ladder of locks. The Minis headed to the point where the canal enters Loch Ness for a photo stop. The popularity of the classic Mini seems unabated judging by the reaction from tourists on our pretty chaotic and noisy arrival.





After lunch, a trip on Loch Ness on one of the small cruise boats, ‘The Legend of Loch Ness’ ( was followed up by a run east along the south side of Loch Ness along the B862 for ten miles before turning on to the single-track and winding B852 to Foyers to see the Falls of Foyers.


Legend of Loch Ness with Fort Augustus in the background.


Departure, with swing bridge and lock gates.


Heading east down Loch Ness. No sign of Nessie…


Return run back to Fort Augustus with west coast mountains dominating the skyline.


Entering the Caledonian Canal with a wee light house on the left bank.

From there, a run along the south side of Loch Ness to Dores and a final blether at the Dores Inn to finish the trip. Fortunately, the threatening rain held off until that point and did not last too long. A brilliantly arranged tour with the bonus of a trip on Loch Ness. Sixteen classic Minis, of various shapes, sizes, colours and character took part in the run and no one suffered any technical issues or break-downs either. A perfect day!





‘The Min’ in the thick of the action at Fort Augustus.


Fun in the Fannichs

August 28, 2016
Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich 27-08-2016OMWB

Panorama taken from Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich before the mist closed in. Loch Broom and Ullapool can be made out in the distance.

I could little resist the call of the mountains once again. Just over an hour from home are the Fannichs, easily accessible from the Ullapool road. I started the traverse of the long eastern ridge from Sgùrr Mòr to An Coileachan with a long walk-in from the top of Loch Glascarnoch. The first Munro of the day was Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich (954 Metres) accessed via a top called Creag Liath Fannaich. From there, one drops off the western side of Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich to a convenient saddle linking Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich with Sgùrr Mòr. The summit was reached by climbing up the shoulder of the mountain (in the mist) with due regard to the drop to the right!

Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich OMWB

Sgùrr Mòr is in the background of this image taken from Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich.

Opportunities for photography in these beautiful mountains were hampered by the low cloud and subsequent drizzle. The sheer drop off Sgùrr Mòr (1108 Metres) is no less impressive in not being able to see the bottom…

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Sgùrr Mòr summit cairn and the drop off to the left. Scottish mountains might not be the biggest in the world, but they are still dangerous.

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Looking down into the cloud…

Careful navigation through the low cloud brought me to the top of the third Munro of the day: Meall Gorm (949 Metres), not the most impressive one in the Fannichs. However, it has a lovely shelter stone to the east of the cairn and I am sure the views are spectacular when there’s no cloud.

Meall Gorm shelter stone

Meall Gorm shelter stone – comfortable, especially when a foam sitting pad is used.

Meall Gorm cairn

Meall Gorm in the cloud…and drizzle.

With three down and time to spare, it was decided to go for the most southerly Munro of the range: An Coileachan (923 Metres). There were signs that the low cloud was lifting and sure enough, as the top was reached, it cleared sufficiently for photography.

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An Coileachan summit and the view around the mountain. Loch Fannich can be seen from this summit and the saddle of land on the approach to the mountain from Meall Gorm SE Top

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An Coileachan cairn.

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Some sun light on An Coileachan. The weather window was not to last as higher cloud with rain on it was moving in from the south west.

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Loch Fannich in the distance.

The walk out was east, down the side of An Coileachan allowing superb views of Loch Gorm. It is a long, boggy and pathless route down to the river path.

Loch Gorm Panorama OMWB

Loch Gorm with Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich in the distance.

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Loch Gorm with the top of Sgùrr Mòr behind.

It was a long traverse – four Munros covered in nine hours. The long walk out to the car was made much more pleasant by meeting a fellow wanderer, Roy, on the flanks of Meall Gorm.  He was grabbing as much mountain time as he could whilst on holiday from Sherborne in Dorset, although he was originally from Caithness. We had a good old blether!



Creag Meagaidh at New Year

January 4, 2016

Creag Meagaidh_Nigel OMWB

A little snow and ice is not enough to put Sarah and I off taking a low level walk in the Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve. The walk into the Coire Ardair along a well-defined path up to the crags of the mountain itself was the objective – nothing too long given the short daylight hours of January and dull conditions which would mean dusk would be early.

Creag M Tree OMWB

The area is being slowly reforested with native tree species, linking up fragments of ancient woodland and individual trees of considerable age, despite their small size. The gnarled trunks and coverings of moss and lichen are indicators to how long thees birch trees have coped with the harsh mountain climate.

Creag Meagaidh_sarah OMWB

The Munro from which the nature reserve gets its name is behind Sarah in the image above, together with Stob Poite – perhaps one of the most unremarkable Munros I have climbed.

Snow or not – the landscape is breath taking, even on the first day of the year, with winter conditions dominating.

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Creag M. Winter Panorama 1

Creag M overall diorama OMWB

Sron a Choire in the Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve. The summit of Creag Meagaidh is behind this top.

In contrast, here’s  roughly the same panorama taken in August 2015 when I tackled Creag Meagaidh, Stob Poite and Carn Liath as a circular walk around the nature reserve.

Walk-in Sron a Choire OMWB

Roll on the spring and longer days!


A November day in the Cairngorms: Derry Cairngorm.

November 4, 2015
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Sarah grabs a picture of me basking in the mid-afternoon sun on Derry Cairngorm looking towards Ben Macdui. Derry Cairngorm is a nice mountain to tackle and this was the second time I have climbed it.

Whilst the Scottish Highlands can enjoy some great weather in Autumn, this year has seen some truly beautiful days making a trip into the mountains really rewarding. This time, Sarah came with me and we successfully tackled Derry Cairngorm (1155 metres) in the beautiful Mar Lodge Estate, starting at Linn of Dee near Braemar, despite the shorter days of November when it is fully dark before 18.00 hours.

Derry Cairngorm Sarah-1 copy

Sarah knows these mountains really well, having completed the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award project camping and walking in these mountains as well as completing plant and wildlife transects on their flanks and in the adjacent Lairig Ghru.

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Lui Water in Glen Lui.

The walk in to the foot of the hills is quite long and time could be saved by using bicycles as far as Derry Lodge – something I will do when next tackling Munros in this area of the Cairngorms. However, the trees and scenery along Glen Lui and Lui Water makes the walk very pleasant indeed and the remnants of the now regenerating Caledonian woodland contrasts with the montane plateau and granite top of Derry Cairngorm and the surrounding mountains. The area around Linn of Dee and Glen Lui, part of the National Trust for Scotland Mar Lodge Estate, is perfect for low-level treks and walks of various lengths as well as access to the Munros of the southern Cairngorms and the southern end of the Lairig Ghru. The famous River Dee, an important salmon river, rises in the Lairig Ghru.

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The footbridge over Derry Burn near Derry Lodge.

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Starting the climb up through the woods to a small top called Creag Bad an t-Seabhaig which them leads onto long flat plateaus towards Carn Crom Derry Cairngorm.

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Up hill through the trees.

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Looking down Glen Lui towards Linn of Dee (Braemar) to the south from the slopes of Creag Bad an t-Seabhaig.

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The track up towards Carn Crom and Derry Cairngorm behind. Ben Macdui can be seen in the middle distance.

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On the trail over montane plateau in brilliant Autumn sunlight . This faint trail is part of a popular north-south traverse route from Cairngorm to Linn of Dee.

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Sarah again – one of the advantages of having someone walking with you is being able to take more record photographs of our trek.

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Sarah is handy with a camera too.

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Lounging against the rocks at the summit with Ben Macdui in the back ground. It’s warm too! Photo is by Sarah.

In the very, very short time we had available to us at the summit – it was approaching mid -afternoon  – Sarah grabbed some shots of me to record the visit.

Derry Cairngorm summit panorama OMWBA near 360 degree panorama from Derry Cairngorm. At this point, the sun was too low in the sky to take the last shot to the west to complete the circuit. The middle of the picture looks to the east.

Summit cairns-pan OMWB

The cairns at the summit which is composed of a range of rounded boulders. Shadows were lengthening, so it was time to ‘foxtrot oscar’ out of there before it gets dark…around 17.30 hours in November.

Apres summitJust down from the summit, we paused for a snack before walking out back to Linn of Dee – note the lengthening shadows. Despite the apparently barren nature of the landscape, it teems with life. Sarah spots some interesting spiders lurking among the stones. There were quite a few grouse and ptarmigan to be seen during the walk too. We made it back to the car by 18.00 hours, completing the last mile along Glen Lui with the help of torches. A great day and an example of how spectacular Scottish mountains can be in Autumn.