Three Fannichs: Bruce returns for the views

Having stopped off in Inverness last night we had an easy start to get up the road. Bruce having previously done these hills (all 9 in one day) was delighted to see the sunshine and clear skies, although less delighted with my garlic breath – the blue cheese and courgette pizza in Black Isle Bar is highly recommended (although not so great the morning after)!

Setting off, we followed a path. Reputed to be boggy, with the recent dry conditions the ground was instead cracked and bouncy, really quite pleasurable to walk on. We stayed on a clear track and had no challenge with crossings or bogs; bridges went across the streams, walking was easy.

Branching off, we headed towards the munro – it looked pretty impressive. Part way up a long slog directly up the slope, we stopped to take a bearing and ensure we were headed in the right direction. The clue should have been in the Garmin telling us for some time to go back, appearing to have picked up the return route. However, we’d chose to ignore it due to the clear day. Turns out we were actually targeting the second summit of the day, Sgurr nan Clach Geala, far more impressive in stature. I wouldn’t have been bothered – it makes no odds to me whether I do two or three – but Bruce had to do the circuit intended. We therefore veered left and zig-zagged up the steep slope, Bruce counting hundreds to break it down. Before long we’d reached the flatter plateau and it wasn’t too much further to the summit cairn.

Reaching the summit of Meall a’Chrasgaidh we met a young couple and blethered to them for a bit, swapping adventures of hills in the area. Another couple appeared with their dogs and we chatted to them as we headed off the summit. This took us down a steep path to a bealach before heading up again.

Crossing to Sgurr nan Clach Geala, I was a little intimidated by the ridge that lay ahead; it looked quite spiky in places. I was assured there was nothing tricky, but despite that I was not convinced; our definitions of ‘easy’ can be poles apart!

As it transpired, the climb was indeed easy and followed a clear path. Most of the time it stayed comfortably far from the crags that fell steeply away – especially good as the breeze picked up from time to time – and only once took me closer than I’d like to the edge. Bruce helpfully suggested leaning into the slope beside me and this did help me to feel more secure. Reaching the flatter plateau and the broken trig point, we’d arrived at the summit of Sgurr nan Clach Geala, the second summit of the day. Contrary to how it appeared from a distance, there was lots of room to move around!

We continued on to a long descent. This was pretty impressive looking back, far bigger than it felt at the time. Others were coming off the third summit, Sgurr nan Each, highlighting the final descent of the day. The path up was clear and presented no challenge – a very easy ascent to the final cairn of the day.

Here we met another couple that we’d chatted to earlier in the day and learned ‘their’ story – they met randomly while walking the Ring of Steall. As I’ve previously shared, I tend not to remember the hills but always remember the people. With a story like that, this is one I won’t forget! I love a good romance!

Descending, we retraced our steps for a bit, then heading down the steep slopes and picking up bits of a faint path. This led us down (along with the Garmin) to safely avoid the small sections of crags. Finally we reached a good path that led all the way back towards the forestry plantation and the car. Having had a few spots of rain and some cloud on the horizon for a brief time, the sun had now come out again and we were beginning to wish it would disappear, such was the strength even in the late afternoon.

I was very glad to reach the car and get a seat after a good seven hours out, so much so that I contemplated travelling onwards in my hiking boots. However, the fact that Bruce was making the effort to change shamed me into getting out of the car and swapping footwear.

Some day out and stunning views. I’d definitely do these hills again!

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