10th May, 2016
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.
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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Distance: 9.63 miles (15.50 km)
Total ascent: 1,442m
Steepest Gradient: 51% (1 in 2)
Time: 8:30 hours (Walking)
SummitsAn Teallach - Corrag Bhuidhe Buttress 945 m
An Teallach - Corrag Bhuidhe 1040 m
An Teallach - Sgurr Fiona 1060 m
An Teallach - Bidein a'Ghlas Thuill 1062 m
An Teallach - Glas Mheall Liath 960 m
Layby on the A 832 at Corrie Hallie, NH114850
The initial approach is on a vehicle track, and then a path, while the ascent to Sail Liath is on rougher, more DIY ground. From here the route along the crest is well trodden and obvious, with the best line on the Corrag Bhuidhe pinnacles generally indicated by signs of wear. Here the direct route on the crest is a serious grade 3 scramble, though easier options are available on the south flank. The final section of the traverse over Glas Mheall Liath begins with more ridge scrambling (max grade 2) and ends with a long rough pathless descent where a little care has to be taken to avoid crags. The finish over the moors below can be a bit soggy.
In full winter conditions this is a long, challenging grade II climb - classic stuff. If the flanking paths around the pinnacles are banked with snow there may be no softer get-out options.
Weather and Hill Conditions: mwis: Northwest Highlands – Met Office: West Highlands
Occasional buses pass through Dundonnell en route to Gairloch, Ullapool or Inverness; or so legend maintains.
Scotland's Mountain Ridges, Dan Bailey, pb. Cicerone http://www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail...
OS Explorer 435 (1:25,000), OS Landranger 19 (1:50,000)
Sail Mhor Croft bunkhouse, Camusnagaul 01854 633224 Badrallach bothy and campsite 01854 633281
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Ullapool (0845 22 55 121)
by Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com