…Five Munros and a Night in Shenavall Bothy
Fisherfield Route Introduction
The Fisherfield Round comprises of five Munros in the Scottish Highlands. The five Munros are – Sgurr Ban, Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair, Beinn Tarsuinn, A’ Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor. This route card explains the quickest and easiest way of getting to all five summits for a peak bagger.
Adventurer Nic walked this route on Saturday 21st September 2019 as part of her Munro Bagging Challenge. These were Munro numbers 230 to 234 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these Munros too.
Fisherfield Route Stats
Mountains: Sgurr Ban (989m), Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (1,019m), Beinn Tarsuinn (937m), A’ Mhaighdean (967m) and Ruadh Stac Mor (918m)
Total Distance: 43.9km / 27.28miles
Total Ascent: 2,040m / 6,693ft
Approx Walk Time: 1.5 days
Grid Reference Start: NH 115848
Fisherfield Route Report
The Lead Up
We spent the morning walking up An Teallach in glorious sunshine. It was definitely one of the best weather days of the year.
After making it down to the car at Corrie Hallie that afternoon, we switched out our day packs for our overnight packs, scoffed dinner by the car and set straight back out.
Once again we found ourselves on the same stretch of the Cape Wrath Trail that we’d started on earlier that morning, along the Gleann Chaorachain.
We pondered numerous times whether or not we should have stowed gear that morning and somehow linked the seven Munros.
It had seemed like too hard to do at the time…. but now we weren’t so sure!
We passed the point on the trail where we’d turned off for An Teallach earlier that morning and continued on towards Shenavall bothy. Darkness fell quickly so we continued under the light of our head torches.
As we got closer to the Mountain Bothies Association shelter, the path thinned out and the trail to Shenavall became less obvious. Battling the disorientation that nightfall brings, it constantly felt like we were headed in the wrong direction but we persevered.
It was comforting that we were not alone in the dark that night though. We saw lots of head torches in the distance, possibly from other hikers finishing the Fisherfield circuit in the dark. Shenavall bothy eventually came into view and we descended to it, relieved the night walking was coming to an end.
There was already a large group settled in the bothy so we favoured setting up camp on the grass outside in our tent. We bedded down straight away and set an early alarm for the morning.
6:50am – our departure time for the long walk of the Fisherfield Munros.
As we were not what you’d consider ‘morning people’, any day we set off walking prior to 8am was something to celebrate!
The beautiful orange, pink and purple hues in the skies helped lure us out of our grogginess.
So many factors could influence how long the walk would take us – the weather, meeting other hikers, number of breaks and so on, but we made a rough estimate that it would take around 12 hours. So an early start was imperative.
We walked alongside the river for well over 5km, passing a derelict house and a woodland area with at least seven tents and bivvy bags set up, with their occupants either still snoozing or just waking up.
At the river’s edge, we stopped to eat a scrambled egg freeze-dried breakfast meal with coffee, but the midges were out in force so we didn’t stay long.
We carried on and soon stumbled across a foil helium balloon in the middle of the trail.
It was a sad reminder of how far waste can travel if not disposed of properly.
These were the most remote Munros in all of Scotland and I wondered how far the balloon must have drifted to get there.
We picked it up and packed it out of course.
We carried on beside the river until we found a suitable suitable crossing point. Ironically, our guidebook had made specific reference to the fact that wet feet were an inevitability on this section but we made it across successfully on stepping stones.
The dry weather of the previous two days had helped us greatly.
The Fisherfield Ascent
We walked across terrain which was a mix of heather and grass up to a boulder strewn ridge. Describing it as ‘boulder strewn’ is probably the understatement of the century. It’s most likely the longest stretch of boulders I’ve ever hiked across – over 2km of quartzite blocks and large stones.
Up to the right was Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh. If I had been walking the Munros back in 2011, I’d have been heading up there but Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh was actually relegated from Munro status after being remeasured and found to fall short of 3,000ft.
The original name for this route was the Fisherfield Six, referring to Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh as one of the six Munros along the route.
Continuing on, we headed up to the left towards the summit of Sgurr Ban.
Our decision to tackle the route clockwise was one I didn’t regret. Reversing the route would involve descending over the sea of rocks. I could foresee lots of accidents here as tired and weary legs made their way down.
Ironically, four walkers descended past us just as I’d had that thought. As it was still quite early, they must have wild camped up on the tops.
Out of nowhere, the wind picked up a great deal of strength on the big, flat summit top of Sgurr Ban.
James tucked into a big slab of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate as we appreciated views across the Fisherfield forest and to An Teallach in the north.
Unlike the previous day there was no sun in the sky but the cloud base was high and we rested for a short while by the large summit cairn, which provided a small amount of protection from the wind.
We crossed the large plateau summit of Sgurr Ban across yet more boulders and descended in a southwesterly direction towards the col between this and the next Munro – Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair.
As was often the case, James descended faster than I did, but I caught up with him down at the col.
We looked ahead and could see the steep line of ascent of Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair.
It looked rather intimidating but there was a clear path up and the weather was certainly improving.
As we hit the ascent, it was remarkable how much sand there was underfoot. At times it was so soft it was like walking up a sand dune!
The distance between these two Munros felt negligible, but I guess that’s in comparison to the really long walk in to the first Munro.
Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair
We needed to keep an average pace of 2.5km per hour (including breaks) in order to finish the remainder of the walk within the 12 hour target.
This kind of goal setting motivated me to keep going as the hike of the Fisherfield Five got tougher.
From the summit of Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair we looked at the route ahead. We would be able to skirt around the bulk of Meall Garbh before heading west towards Beinn Tarsuinn.
Heading south, we descended down to another col. We had lunch here and I checked my legs for ticks and found six of the little buggers!
Luckily they were all tiny and I removed them all easily and completely. The risk of contracting Lyme disease from one of these tiny ticks was low due to me spotting them and removing them quickly. But I stayed vigilant for symptoms throughout my challenge.
A friend later suggested that maybe I’d walked through tick eggs just as they were hatching and maybe that’s why so many tiny ticks (larva) where found on me at one time. As getting so many ticks in one sitting is fairly rare.
We used the bypass path around Meall Garbh before ascending over terrain which was less sandy and more grassy with small rocks up Beinn Tarsuinn.
The summit of Beinn Tarsuinn marked the ‘halfway point’ of the hike. We’d been moving for exactly six hours.
The weather was now really nice.
It was still breezy but the views were simply incredible and the blue skies made everything look less foreboding and more inviting.
I particularly enjoyed looking at the shape of the river as it flowed into the valley with the jagged pinnacles of An Teallach noticeable in the distance.
To the other side sat Slioch, a Munro which we’d hiked the previous month.
But I was the most enthralled by the tennis court shaped flat plateau of rock part way along the ridge in the direction of A’ Mhaighdean. It was a geological phenomenon. A slightly slanted shelf of rock suspended along the ridge.
We descended steeply from the summit of Beinn Tarsuinn to see that the ridge wasn’t quite as razor sharp as it looked initially.
As I walked along the ridge, I was beginning to understand why this area had been given the nickname – the Great Wilderness.
There were no buildings in sight, no signs of civilisation, it was just an expanse of mountains, valleys and lochs as far as the eye could see, in every direction.
We descended steeply, following a faint path into a boggy peaty section between Beinn Tarsuinn and A’ Mhaighdean.
In our guidebook, we’d read that it could be wet here but the ground was firm and dry in the main.
This was a relief and we made decent progress.
We headed uphill, following a faint path most of the way, whilst bypassing crags.
After seeing nobody since the ascent on Sgurr Ban we were surprised to summit A’ Mhaighdean at the exact same time as another hiker. He approached from the northeast as we arrived from the southeast.
We were now stood on (what’s widely reported to be) the most remote Munro on the whole list of 282. Another Munro bagging milestone achieved. It felt great!
Ruadh Stac Mor
As we left the summit of A’ Mhaighdean, we put our waterproofs on as it started to rain lightly.
Luckily, a clear path led us to the col between A’ Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor – our fifth and final Munro of the day.
Next came the scramble up red stone scree. This was such a stark difference in terrain from the soft sandy approach to Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair and the grey blocks of Sgurr Ban. It was amazing to think these peaks were all part of the same walk!
There were a few awkward big red blocks to scramble over before we reached the summit of Munro number 5 – Ruadh Stac Mor.
The Fisherfield Descent
With all five Munros now in the bag we readied ourselves for the long descent. We started down a short bouldery section, taking our time on the slick rock, before aiming for the gap between two lochans – marked on the map as Lochan a Bhraghad.
The groans of the rutting stags were echoing all around us.
Keeping Ruadh Stac Beag on our right, we dropped downhill following a burn to the north west.
The rain kept coming and going but luckily it was never too heavy.
We crossed some lumpy bumpy ground to join the stalkers path which would lead us along Gleann na Muice Beag. Our average hiking pace was up to 5km as we enjoyed a gentle descent deeper into the valley. The path then ran alongside the western bank of the Abhainn Gleann na Muice.
We crossed the river just before Larachantivore. We managed to get half way across on stepping stones before realising we couldn’t complete the crossing with dry feet. So we sat on a large rock in the middle of the river while we removed our boots and paddled the second half barefoot.
This worked quite well as it was refreshing for our tired feet but kept our boots dry.
Then came the notoriously boggy section. People have been known to fall into waist high bogs here. We avoided the worst parts by testing the ground with our hiking poles. Prodding to test the depth of each section of ground.
We finally reached the river opposite Shenavall bothy and we removed our boots again to wade across.
We met a Belgian couple in the bothy who were walking a section of the Cape Wrath Trail from Fort William to Ullapool. They’d originally intended on walking the whole trail but had been caught in a bad storm in Knoydart and Iris had an accident during a river crossing which almost saw her swept away. We swapped adventure stories for a while before going to bed early.
This time we slept in the bothy itself rather than the tent. I found a total of two more ticks – bringing my total for the day to eight. And then found an additional one on James. I removed them all before settling down to sleep (removing ticks was certainly becoming second nature!)
In the morning, we got up leisurely and said goodbye to our two bothy-mates. It was a 2.5 hour walk back to the car, which was parked by the Dundonnell River.
Upon reaching the car, I immediately scoffed two bags of crisps back to back.
We then had one of those delirious moments, common during our Munro round, where we went a bit wappy. We put High Hopes (by Panic at the Disco) on high volume as we drove to Ullapool for food supplies, singing the lyrics at the top of our lungs.
Food, Shower and More Food
We bought food to last two days and drove on to Ledgowan Lodge in Achnasheen.
We dried the tent on the grass by the bunkhouse and prepared a massive lunch.
My portion alone consisted of two toasted bagels, three poached eggs and half a smashed avocado.
Doing a challenge like this means there is zero guilt associated with eating large meals. I certainly made the most of it!
Food came before showers on this occasion, as it often did on the challenge.
In the bunkhouse we were given rooms 1 and 2 (single rooms only) and we had the place to ourselves for the night.
We caught up with family, friends and social media after a few days off-grid in the Fisherfield wilderness.
Before long our thoughts turned to food again. We cooked sweet potato, pepper, onion and spinach curry with naan bread, rice, poppadoms and dips. All washed down with a pint of Irn Bru and an episode of the IT Crowd.
My tick removal duties weren’t yet over as I found yet another two ticks on James’s foot before we went to the main hotel so that James could do some work on the WiFi.
At one point a man walked past us and said “so this is where the cool kids hang out” but I heard it as “so this is where the coke heads hang out” and looked at him horrified. The Fisherfield Munros had scrambled my ears!
We nicknamed the Fisherfield Munros:
- Scary Bants – Sgurr Ban
- Male Ache Covers My Fear Of Chairs – Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair
- Beef Chop Suey – Beinn Tarsuinn
- A Mega Deal – A’ Mhaighdean
- Rude To Stack More – Ruadh Stac Mor
Find out why we nicknamed all 282 Munros here.