Last week I went on a 2-day expedition into Letterewe (also known as Fisherfield). This area of Wester Ross in north-west Scotland is one of the most wild and remote areas of the Highlands and it contains 6 munro summits. These munro summits are considered to be amongst the most remote and inaccessible of any. I had been wanting to do a major walk here for years but had never had the opportunity before.
Walking to all 6 summits in one expedition is possible, but quite difficult. I decided to aim a little lower and walk to the 2 summits of Ruadh Stac Mòr and A’Mhaighdean, for a round-trip of about 41km.
I started the walk at Corrie Hallie and the route followed the good track south to Shenavall bothy, with great views into the eastern corries and ridges of An Teallach. The weather was a bit overcast but the cloudbase was above the summits so views were still great. This sort of weather is perfect for long walks as you don’t get burnt in the sun, but it’s not so good for photography.
Just before Shenavall there is a fantastic view across the flat plain of the Strath na Sealga towards Beinn Dearg Mòr and its northeast-facing corrie Coire nan Clach. This corrie has perhaps some of the best glacial moraines visible on any Scottish mountain – the outline of the furthest extent of the tongue of the last glacier to emerge from this corrie is easily discernible on the slopes below the corrie. You can see a photo this here.
At Shenavall the route crosses the river known as Abhainn Srath na Sealga. This river is apparently a major obstacle to walkers as it has no bridge crossing, and at times of high water is completely impassable. However, the preceding weeks leading up to this walk were rain-free and nearly all the winter’s snow had gone from the mountains (one reason I decided to do this walk now), and I easily crossed it on boulders without even getting my boots wet as the water level was so low.
May is definitely the best month for this sort of walk – the midgies have not yet arrived, the days are long, deer-stalking is not an issue, the weather is often just right, and there are still patches of snow at high elevations to give the summits some grandeur and exhilarating walking.
After the river crossing I saw 2 workmen with ladders and a cement mixer working on the old farm buildings at Larachantivore (I have no idea how they got all their equipment to this remote spot). There is also a brand new hut nearby which is not on the OS map. This made me feel that this was not quite the empty wilderness I was expecting. I met several walkers throughout the expedition and I always felt that civilization was never very far away (even if this was in the form of the bothy at Shenavall).
The route from here followed a good stalkers’ path nearly all the way to a small rocky plateau with a couple of small lochs to the east of Ruadh Stac Mòr, where I camped after 6 hours of walking.
Early the next morning I set off to the summit of Ruadh Stac Mòr then descended some difficult crags with care, and then got to the summit of A’Mhaighdean across a rocky high col, all before 8am. The view from this summit is often described as one of the best in Scotland, and indeed it is a fantastic viewpoint with stunning views of Torridon, Assynt, Skye and the Western Isles. The view is also prized for its relative unattainability. It was fairly gloomy for me though, being so early in the morning and there still being a covering of high cloud.
There is a small plateau on the summit of A’Mhaighdean that could be an adventurous camping spot – if the weather cooperates this would be an incredible place to see the sun set and rise.
I descended from A’Mhaighdean back to the col where I saw a stone shelter that had been constructed by walkers – a useful bivvy option but one that detracted somewhat from claims of wilderness for the area.
I continued the descent on the path that follows the eastern shore of Fuar Loch Mòr. This is a great place to see the discontinuity (the posh word is unconformity) of the rock types that runs through the whole area of these 2 summits – the contrast between the purple Torridonian sandstone on one side and the bright white Lewisian gneiss on the other is quite striking. You can see a photo of this here.
I picked up my tent and retraced my steps for a total walking day of about 10 hours. The final 300m ascent of the eastern slopes of An Teallach above Shenavall bothy to get back to the starting point was very punishing and is a definite disadvantage of this particular route.
All in all, this was a fantastic hike with stunning scenery, but I am left feeling that this is not the wildest bit of Scotland or indeed the most remote or inaccessible – the good stalkers’ paths mean that large distances can be covered in good times and there is no escaping the observation that this land supports a working estate and hence is not really wild. I had the same impressions of visiting Barrisdale in Knoydart a few years ago. I believe that some areas of the Cairngorms are wilder, and emptier, and are much more of a challenge for a hiker.
You can see photos from the walk on my website here.