An Teallach: an unplanned circular

An Early Start

An Teallach was on Bruce’s wish list for this week, previously having done it in pouring rain with no views. I could’ve gone either way, but, assured that the famous ridge was optional, and that there was nothing too tricky that couldn’t be avoided, decided to give it a bash.

An early alarm saw us up and out by 8 am in order to get along the road to hopefully bag a parking space. We were amazed to find we were the only car in the parking area (just up from the Dundonnell Hotel). I wasn’t sure if it was a good omen that the Dundonnel Mountain Rescue Base was also right beside it! Starting out and realising I’d left my sunhat in the car really made me doubt if this was ‘our’ day. However, Bruce came to the rescue with a spare hat from the depths of his rucksack so all was well.

Tough Ascent

From the roadside the climb began and pretty much continued all the way to the first munro. It was harsh and pretty relentless! We took our time, moving slowly and steadily. Again, thanks to recent dry conditions the path was relatively dry and there were few boggy patches to negotiate.

We headed towards Sron a Choire, relieved to skirt around it rather than having to go up and over. The path faded in and out at times but finally we came to the large sandstone slabs; these made for easy walking and allowed our weary legs a break.

Sron a Choire

As we progressed there were also some small cairns guiding the way up; we found these useful on the descent – more on that later!

Bidein a’Ghlas Thuill

Before we knew it we were on the way up the first munro, Bidein a’Ghlas Thuill. This was something of a relief as the scary looking ridge as we headed up was putting fear into me and I wasn’t sure what I was going to face! Part way, the rain started to spit – a few big spots and a very large, dark cloud hovered above the horizon. I made the decision to put on my full waterproofs rather than take the risk of a soaking. It came to nothing, thankfully.

The climb up this munro was relatively easy and on a clear(ish) path, worn in places, with scree and stones. Up and up we went, the Garmin giving some indication of height and comfort that the top was within reach. I have to confess, I was pretty chuffed with myself to reach the top, the only concern being how on earth to reach the next summit.

We stopped here for a rest and a sandwich, taking time to allow the cloud to drift in and out and to see if the views would open up for us. I’m delighted to say they did!

Heading down towards the ridge to approach the second munro, Sgurr Fiona, we couldn’t resist taking more photos!

Sgurr Fiona

At 2 metres shorter than Bidein a’Ghlas Thuill, Sgurr Fiona is the shorter of the two An Teallach munros. Despite this, to me it looked more intimidating. The options to go up were to follow the exposed rocky ridge with a very clear drop, or take the less exposed scree path across the northern face. We opted for the latter.

The path was easy to follow, the drop not too steep, and we managed to pick our way up to the ridge. There appeared to be various paths trodden on the higher reaches, all leading to the summit, and thankfully nothing too challenging. The sticks remained out the whole time; the waterproofs also remained on giving me a blanket of security despite the feeling of ‘boil in the bag’!

Reaching the summit cairn I was quite delighted. A small summit, the cairn gave sufficient room for two to sit happily and admire the views which we did. Retracing our steps to go back down was relatively easy and I was glad to get off the scree. I did fleetingly contemplate the more direct ridge, but looking back was glad we did the route chosen.

The views back to the first munro were good and we really should have retraced our path rather than trying to circumnavigate it and save a few minutes as this is where the trouble began.

The Unplanned Detour

The alternative to the very airy ridge was to retrace our steps. We did this for the most part, but instead of going right up to the summit of Bidein a’Ghlas Thuill we decided to cut off earlier onto what we thought was our path.

To cut a long story short, it wasn’t, and we ended up heading into another Coire. After some debate, we concluded that checking the map would be a good thing to do, and alongside OS Locate for a grid reference we quickly established our whereabouts.

Sadly this meant another ascent – joy – and some more bearings and compass work, finally ending up on an alternative path to the one we’d come up on. We were greatly relieved to finally find the little cairns to lead us down. Seeing the road and houses that we were aiming for was a great feeling, just the small matter of another 500 metres of steep descent to contend with.

The only blessing of our detour was that we were afforded even better views of the Summer Isles. How inviting the water below looked!

Plodding along, we eventually made our descent and reached the car. Back in our waterproofs again following the appearance of yet another big black cloud and some spots of rain, it appears that today was our day after all. The rain moved away from us, we reached the car dry, and it turned out it had been pelting down along the road, such was the surface water.

A true belter of a day. I’m delighted to have done these munros and really happy that Bruce finally got his views.

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