North West Scotland’s Jewel in the Crown

The south east facing corrie on An Teallach.

Of all the mountain walks in the Northwest Highlands, An Teallach must be the jewel in the crown. I had wanted to climb this mountain for a number of years but knew that it would be a strenuous day in the hills. With a spell of perfect weather in May this year, it was a good time to set out to bag these two Munro’s.

Nick Wild accompanied me and we set to set out from a roadside lay-by near to the Dundonnell Hotel which was just as well as the car park at Corrie Hallie (the starting point for many walks and Shenavall Bothy) was packed and the road either side was crammed with cars parked at all angles.

The hill path close to the Dundonnell Hotel was a little hidden from the road but as soon as we set out it was well defined and ascended gradually up the rocky hill side in a series of zigzags. As we climbed, the path later veered towards the stream called the Allt a’Mhuilinn which disagreed with the path shown on the map. The path stayed parallel with this stream and crossed it higher up. We now had the stream on our right which ran in a deep V-shaped gully filled with deep snow. With the stream running in a tunnel beneath the snow there were in places where great holes that had appeared in the snow and certainly not a place to venture.

Nearing the col after a long climb in very warm conditions. Further down, this snow filled gully had several holes in it under which a stream flowed.

After a lengthy and quite warm climb we eventually reached the spur at Sron a Choire where we got our first view ahead to the twin shapely peaks of Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill and Sgurr Fiona which are only two metres different in height. An ever steepening path led ahead to our first summit of Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill and we toiled up the rocky northern ridge. The 1062 metre summit provides what is arguably one of the best mountain views in the British Isles and today we were blessed with perfect weather conditions. We spent awhile on top which is crowned with a trig point which has seen better days. It was a good spot to stop for our morning break and take numerous photographs. Our route ahead looked awesome and now was a time to watch where you put each foot and stop only if you wanted to admire the view.

The view from below the summit of Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill of our route ahead. Note the path ascending on the right of the photograph. this was the route we took before ascending the northwest ridge to the summit of Sgurr Fiona.

Lord Berkeley’s Seat and Corrag Bhuidhe. We set out along this ridge before veering off to the right to take a very narrow terraced path below the pinnacle ridge.

We set off cautiously down the rocky southwest slope to the col before tackling Sgurr Fiona which looked even steeper. A path ran across the northern face of the mountain where we could gain the northwest ridge for the scramble to the summit. It was an exciting climb and the summit perch was our lunch stop. Shared with another party, there were precious few places to sit with steep drops on all sides but what a view of the roof top of Scotland on this perfect day.

The view across Loch na Sealga towards Beinn Dearg Mor as seen from below Lord Berkeley’s Seat.

We had not planned to do the pinnacle ridge over Corrag Bhuidhe but to take an easier path below the crags on the western side. From Sgurr Fiona we started off down the southern ridge towards Lord Berkeley’s Seat, an unusual summit which overhangs the corrie. Even on this section there was a bit of a scramble down. In the col prior to Lord Berkeley’s Seat we veered off to the right to follow a terraced path with cliffs above and below us. As we worked our way along, so the going became tougher with increasing amount of ‘hands on’ work. The path was becoming so narrow that when we met a walker coming the other way we had to find a passing point. It was a blessing in disguise that we had a conversation with him whilst he waited for his colleague to come along. These two men were the people we saw at Inverlael the day before and had undertaken a similar walk to us and had found Nick’s walking pole which he had lost. Not only that, they had taken the pole back to their base at Ullapool which was only a few hundred yards away from where we were staying. Nick was therefore able to collect his pole later that evening.

Looking back to Corrag Bhuidhe. We had taken a terraced path on the left side of the ridge.

With the two men reunited we were able to continue along the spectacular path but the terrain was becoming quite steep with scrambles involved. We were reassured by the two men that after a couple of hundred yards the going would become easier but not before a few awkward moves around a point where the cliffs above came out to almost meet the cliffs below. This involved a few airy steps and concentration. Once around these last rocky obstacles the going became easier and we returned to the ridge below the crags of Corrag Bhuidhe.

It’s a long way back as we descend the rocky southeastern ridge from Sail Liath. Note the black speck towards the end but in the middle of this rocky ridge which is a lone walker heading towards us.

The next rocky summit was Stob Cadha Gobhlach (960 metres) which we took direct and beyond we had one easier summit that of the 954 metre Sail Liath. It was now quite a long walk back to the car and we struck off down the rocky southeast slope from Sail Liath only to find walkers still ascending this route. For awhile the slope became steeper and this section proved fairly rocky before gaining easier ground. We eventually reached the path to Shenavall Bothy which surprisingly wasn’t that well defined. It was quite a rough path across the moors and I would gather quite a boggy one in wet weather. But with all the fine weather, the ground had certainly dried out. Heading northeast in the bright afternoon sunshine we eventually joined a stony track for the longer descent down to Collie Hallie. We did pass one walker loaded down with a heavy pack and supplies and making his way towards the Shenavall Bothy. He was going to spend several days in the hills. Not long after the sound of a quad bike drew towards us with a woman who turned out to have a load of shopping stacked up on her vehicle and a dog running alongside. The stony track was beginning to tell on our feet well before we reached the road. At Corrie Hallie the area was still crammed with cars which meant many people were still out and possibly camping out in the hills. For us, we now had a two and a half mile road walk along the A832. At least it was all downhill and there was very little traffic. It was a bit of an anticlimax but we did see some deer along this section.