Seana Bhraigh: A Long Day

Leaving Ullapool we opted to head for Seana Bhraigh, the munro we could have added on yesterday but didn’t due to the inclement weather. Having now done it I’m still undecided if I would have enjoyed it yesterday. It was quite a lengthy walk, although didn’t look that much of a leap from Eididh nan Clach Geala.

Starting out at the same car park we followed the good fire road for a time before branching off. While the track remained good, it did climb quite steeply to begin with, and I was glad of Bruce’s company on reaching the deer fence as I couldn’t get the gate open. I really wouldn’t have wanted to climb over it!

Continuing to climb, coming out of the trees the views opened up and with beautiful clear skies they truly were stunning. As the path flattened it also became a little boggier, although even crossing the peat hags we were fortunate in not getting too clarted in muck, and conditions underfoot were better than we’d expected.

Further on, crossing the Allt Gleann a’Mhadaidh was easy with stones to hop across. Even I wasn’t phased by it! As we progressed we could see yesterday’s hill and the views in all directions were stunning. An Teallach looked particularly impressive and we could see Stac Pollaidh, Cul Mor Suilven and Canisp.

Passing the lochans we headed towards the gully. This took us quite steeply down the side of a stream, the path ahead for Seana Bhraigh tantalisingly visible, but frustratingly far with regard to distance still to cover. This area was quite marshy and had the potential to be boggy and a directional challenge if not walking on such a fine day. Debating the best route, we found our middle ground and were soon on the final ascent.

This proved to be the most challenging part of the day. The ground was very wet and boggy and we had to diagonally traverse the hillside in order to gain the summit. There are two cairns, the first being the lowest, so we skirted around this and headed for the main summit. The final pull was blessedly short and we managed to reach the top ahead of the rain that we could see moving in towards us, drinking in the lovely views before donning the waterproofs for the descent.

At this point, Bruce suggested this may be the equivalent of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. However, although we did have the jackets on and off a few times, we did also get a couple of brief, but heavy showers and a short spell of more persistent rain before the skies cleared again. An Teallach provided our weather forecast – when it was in cloud or with rain visible we knew it wouldn’t be long before it reached us.

Gate of Ca’-derg

The return route was simple, retracing our steps for the most part. It was a long walk back (as it was a long walk out) but we made decent time overall, finally reaching the car just after 8 hours from leaving, 17.5 miles in our legs! Mission accomplished. How glad was I to get to sit in the car!

Unfinished business in Ullapool: Eididh nan Clach Geala

Search the walkhighlands website for this munro and you’ll find it as part of the Beinn Dearg circuit. Most commonly done as part of this, it’s the fourth munro of the round, and for us, the one we missed back in 2012. It was Super Saturday of the Olympics, we were novices with regards to this hill walking malarkey, time was knocking on and the route guide suggested care would be required on the descent. With tired legs we decided to leave it, maybe for another time, not realising the magnitude of this decision down the line with one single red pin on the munro map taunting Bruce and meaning a frustratingly long walk for what could have been an extra hour’s walking then.

The original plan for today was to tag on an additional munro, Seana Bhraigh. However, a substantial amount of rain had fallen overnight and navigation looked tricky combining these two routes, so we opted to play it safe.

Waterproofs on, we headed off on a good path, optimistic that the skies were clearing and we’d be in for a fine day. The initial part of the walk was on a good fire road and quick time was made. Although we weren’t gaining a lot in height, we were warming up pretty nicely and before long we stopped to strip off the waterproofs as the rain appeared to have stopped.

Our path continued onto a smaller track, again pretty good, although it started to get wetter underfoot as we headed gradually upwards meeting the earlier rainfall outing off the hill. Unfortunately we also met another shower of rain, and having progressively moved from a light spot to something more persistent, the waterproofs went back on again. Despite this, we concluded our day wasn’t going quite so badly as this poor chap …

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Turning off we had our low point of the day. The Garmin was jumping around, one moment suggesting forwards, the next back, and regular navigation checks were required, all the while the rain getting frustratingly heavier. On the upside we were gaining height gradually and although the single track path was even wetter underfoot and a little stonier all was well.

Branching off to ascend a grassy slope we anticipated the big climb of the day. This turned out to be easy and took us onto the wide shoulder of the hill. Crossing the grass and boulders we found our way to the first cairn. The mist was thick and visibility was restricted so a navigational check was required to ascertain that the true summit cairn was a short walk away.

Summit cairn: Eididh nan Clach Geala

Reaching the true summit we didn’t linger as the weather was pretty horrible still. Misty, drizzly and my hands getting sore from the wind chill, I stopped to put on gloves, nearly requiring assistance as I realised my fingers were no longer functioning properly. This was rectified pretty much instantly, much to my relief and comfort.

Retracing our steps we made good time, stopping for a sandwich. This tasted so much better than it would have done indoors! Not far off the summit the mist finally cleared, albeit briefly at first, allowing us glimpses of the beautiful views we’d otherwise have missed.

Although dry by now the waterproofs stayed on as not nearly as much heat is generated on the descent. It was with great joy that we finally reached the fire road again, safe in the knowledge that we only had a couple of miles left.

A long day – 12 miles and around 6 hours. The question remains, had we known 7 years ago what we know now, would we have changed anything?