UKH

An Teallach Walking

Spearing out of the moors on the northern fringe of the wild Fisherfield Forest, this complex multi-topped massif is a major contender for most impressive mountain in Scotland status. The two Munros can be bagged without much more than some rough walking, but that misses the point in a big way because the full traverse of the hill is arguably the best hard ridge scramble on the British Mainland. The action centres on Coire Toll an Lochain, a monumental cirque of tiered walls and crazy sandstone towers, the famous Corrag Bhuidhe pinnacles. Taken direct these prove pretty exciting, though if you insist there's a way to outflank the best (ie. hardest) of it. The circuit is described clockwise so the steepest sections are met in ascent.

Sgurr Fiona and the Corrag Bhuidhe pinnacles from Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill , 198 kb
Sgurr Fiona and the Corrag Bhuidhe pinnacles from Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill
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NH1145485017 Take the track up wooded Gleann Chaorachain, starting on the roadside opposite the layby. This climbs past a waterfall to open ground above. Soon after, turn right onto a cairned path heading for Shenavall bothy.

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NH1001582263 Follow this for just over 1.5km, and soon after crossing the burn that flows from Lochan na Brathan keep your eyes peeled for another right-had turn - marked by a cairn but less well trodden than the Shenavall trail. Turn onto this to slog up the rough southeast flank of Sail Liath - you might lose the path at some point but it's not much use anyway. The slope eases at about the 800m mark, leading quickly to the summit - and your first proper view of the fun to follow.

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NH0717882466


The next peak, Cadha Gobhlach, is just a rough walk. From the col beyond a scree path runs left of the shattered crest to reach a nick in the skyline at the base of the forbidding Corrag Bhuidhe buttress. Things are about to get interesting. Climb the first slabby sandstone tier on good holds. From here there are three choices:

a) The direct route - the crux of the entire traverse (arguably Moderate grade rock climbing?). Bear right of a little rock mass to reach a steep exposed wall. Climb leftwards up a short diagonal crack, traverse slightly right on a ledge, then climb a chimney-crack set in a little corner. Bear right at the top of this to summit the first pinnacle.

b) The middle way - easier scrambling but harder route finding. Traverse left on a path that runs along the left flank of the ridge below the steeper rock of the buttress proper. There are various ways to reach the ridge crest from this path - try a rib followed by a gully leading to the top just beyond the first pinnacle.

c) A cop out? As per option b) but instead of climbing to the ridge simply keep traversing its left flank. This bypasses all the quality scrambling before rejoining the crest for the climb to Sgurr Fiona.

If you've chosen a) or b) continue in fantastic style along the pinnacled ridge. There's generally a choice of exact line, with the easiest options being the most well worn. Don't slip - it's about 500m down to the lochan. The final tower, Lord Berkeley’s Seat, overhangs the corrie floor improbably.

From this descend blocky ground to a col, which is where option c) also re-enters the game. Now take the south ridge of Sgurr Fiona. There's some light scrambling on the crest - avoidable to the left.

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NH0639683674 From the summit of this Munro there's more of the same - a rugged but not particularly difficult ridge leading down into a broad saddle, then sweeping on up to the top of Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill, Munro number two. This gives an awesome view back along the crest you've just negotiated.

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NH0688884364 It's fairly standard to continue north from here to a col before descending quite steeply by way of the Glas Tholl corrie. Personally though I prefer to complete the Toll an Lochan skyline. To do so, head for Glas Mheall Liath. The initial ridge is narrow and pinnacled, its crest offering some under-appreciated scrambling at about grade 2 max; for the non-sporting there's a get-out option just down on the right flank. Soon there’s a sharp geological shift from rounded sandstone to shattered, angular quartzite. The summit must have one of the best views of the corrie skyline.

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NH0777484098 It might have been a pleasure thus far but unfortunately the descent from Glas Mheall Liath is payback time. Go east down a nasty boulder field, then continue down steep vegetation, weaving a line between treacherous bands of slimy crag - there's not much by way of paths to guide you. To negotiate the final bigger tier of crags slant right and then back left on heather terraces; or consider erring even further right to outflank the obstacle altogether. Once down on the moors below take a prominent moraine ridge east-ish, then ad-lib your way across soggy terrain to meet the path marked on maps. This follows the Garbh Allt back to the road.


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