Ben Stack – Meall Horn
Sàbhal Beag – Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill – Càrn an Tionail – Beinn Direach
Meall an Fheur Loch – Meallan a’ Chuail
Loch Stack – Ben Stack – Meall Horn – Bealach Eadar da Shàbhal
19.3 km/1572 m/09:00 hrs
Corbett: Meall Horn (No. 69)
Graham: Ben Stack (No. 19)
This is the second half of a route I had originally planned as a six day backpacking trip, but I had to split it in two because I didn’t have enough days off to do it in one go. I had walked the first half of it in October 2013, and had been waiting for an opportunity to complete the route ever since (hardly any waterfalls in the second half though, I’m afraid!).
I parked in the small parking area between Achfary and Loch Stack, and after walking along the A838 for a few hundred metres, I cut across the boggy moorland to gain the SE ridge of Ben Stack. It was overcast but quite warm, and soon I could take my jacket off and walk in my baselayer only.
View E from Leathad na Stioma across the Reay Forest.
After passing a boggy bealach, the route leads up steep grassy slopes to the dome-shaped summit of Ben Stack.
The summit area, complete with trig point, summit shelter and radio antenna.
The continuation of the narrow ridge looked interesting, so I walked to the end of it to have a look down the other side.
View across Loch na Seilge and Loch Laxford to the sea.
Walking back along the summit ridge.
Meall Horn, my next target in the distance across Loch Stack.
After the descent from Ben Stack, I had a quick lunch break in my car. Then I put the contents of my daypack into my large rucksack and headed off along the track towards the locked bothy at Lone.
Boulders at the entrance to the small forest.
The track leads towards Bealach Horn and allows just a glimpse of Foinaven to the left.
When I had planned the route I was undecided if I should stay on the track up to its highest point and then climb the craggy W flank of Creagan Meall Horn, or leave the track further down and go up the easier-angled slope to the col between Creagan Meall Horn and Meall Horn.
Although the terrain looked boggy, I went for the latter option, avoiding the worst of the peat hags by keeping to the left and contouring above them.
This nice clear spring was a good excuse to stop and fill my water bottle, and to sit down for another break.
The Corbett Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill, one of tomorrow’s hills.
Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh.
Large snow bank on the way to the summit.
Meall Horn summit cairn.
Hazy view into Srath Dionard, with An Dubh-loch and Lochan Ulbha in the foreground.
Ben Hope and Ben Loyal.
From the summit I first followed the ridge towards Sàbhal Mhòr and then descended E to Bealach Eadar da Shàbhal.
After some wandering about on the bealach, I found a dry and flat spot for my tent, and even some running water a couple of hundred metres further S.
Bealach Eadar da Shàbhal – Sàbhal Beag – Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill – Càrn an Tionail – Beinn Direach – Doire Dubh
23 km/1329 m/12:00 hrs
Corbett: Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill (No. 70)
Grahams: Sàbhal Beag, Càrn an Tionail + Beinn Direach (Nos. 20 – 22)
When I got up in the morning, the clouds had lifted and yesterday’s hazy views were now crystal-clear.
Meall Horn and Foinaven.
Suilven and Quinag.
From my camp site, it was only a short ascent to the summit of Sàbhal Beag.
The descent S to Bealach na Fèithe along a wide grassy slope with Meall Garbh ahead.
I crossed the path that leads from Lone Bothy to Gobernuisgach Lodge and headed up the northern slopes of Meall Garbh. Again, the going is easy on grassy terrain, and I could even follow a faint track uphill.
Srath Coir an Easaidh, with Ben Loyal on the skyline.
Ben Stack and Srath Luib na Seilich.
Sàbhal Beag’s “thought bubble” floating above Meall Horn 😉
Meall Garbh summit.
The way ahead, over the 761 m top and on to Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill.
At this point, the easy walking came to an end, as the 761 m top is covered in boulders. On the way down the S flank I came across some large boulders that seemed impassable at first, but there is a bypass path along a grassy ledge on the left (E).
Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill.
Airy viewpoint above Coire Loch.
I left my rucksack on the wide plateau and made a quick ascent to Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill.
The views from this summit were fantastic in every direction.
Arkle and Foinaven.
Ben More Assynt and Conival.
I found it hard to leave this wonderful viewpoint, but I still had a long day ahead of me. I returned to my rucksack, had an extended lunch break in the sun and then continued along the wide ridge to Càrn Dearg.
The descent from Càrn Dearg to Bealach Lochan a’ Bhealaich took me longer than expected, because the ridge is covered in rocky outcrops and the way down is not always obvious.
A few times I had to retrace my steps because I found myself above some crags and had to find a way around them.
Looking back to Càrn Dearg.
From the bealach I took a direct route up Càrn an Tionail on a mixture of grass and stones.
My next objective, Beinn Direach, and Ben Hee behind it.
Rock slabs on Bealach nan Rath.
Beinn Direach summit.
Lochan na Creige Riabhaich and Ben Hee.
Lochan na Creige Riabhaich.
From here, I had planned to descend to Bealach nam Meirleach and to climb Ben Hee. But it was getting late, and I wanted to camp somewhere near the road to be in a good start position for the two Grahams on the other side of it the next morning.
That seemed impossible if I included Ben Hee, so I decided against it. I could always come back and climb this hill as a half-day on a drive up North sometime, but the two Grahams were not so easy to reach, I’d rather bag them now, especially in such good weather.
From the lochans I followed first the Allt Eilid a’ Chlèirich, then the Allt na Glaise, which was very rough going over peat hags, heather and stones. It was quite a relief when I reached the track leading to the road at West Merkland.
I followed the A838 to the N end of Loch Merkland, hoping to find a place to camp by the Allt Crìche.
But the ground was very boggy and lumpy, and the stream itself was more like a trickle. Besides, my tent would have been in full view from the road. After a lot of searching I eventually found a discreet place at the edge of the forest below Doire Dubh. The pitch was far from perfect, but it would do for the night.
Doire Dubh – Meall an Fheur Loch – Meallan a’ Chuail – Loch Stack
21.7 km/1066 m/08:30 hrs
Grahams: Meall an Fheur Loch + Meallan a’ Chuail (Nos. 23 + 24)
My camp site below Doire Dubh.
I returned to the road and walked about 700 metres W to the footbridge between two forested areas, from where a good stalker’s path zigzags up the hillside.
The ascent was easy on the good path, but I stopped frequently to look at the views behind me.
Clouds swirling around yesterday’s hills.
Unfortunately, the air was not as clear as on the previous day and the distant views were very hazy.
Loch More with Ben Stack and Arkle just visible.
I left the path at the 450 m contour and ascended the N ridge of Meall an Fheur Loch. It was still sunny, but the strong, cold wind near the summit made me stop and put my gloves on.
Descent to the bealach between Meall an Fheur Loch and Meallan a’ Chuail.
View back to Meall an Fheur Loch, with Loch Cùl a’ Mhill on the left.
The terrain on both Grahams consists of grass with a few rocks in between, and the slopes are easy-angled which makes for quick progress.
Ascent to Meallan a’ Chuail.
My return route along Srath nan Aisinnin.
Soon I reached the summit cairn on Meallan a’ Chuail which sits in an airy position above Lochain Meallan a’ Chuail.
Loch lol-ghaoith and Lochain Meallan a’ Chuail.
View to Ben More Assynt and Conival, and the vast area of peat hags and lochs I had to cross during my last visit in October…
At Drochaid Beinn Leòid the start of the path into Srath nan Aisinnin is marked by a small cairn.
Allt Srath nan Aisinnin and Meall na Leitreach.
There are even some (tiny) waterfalls! 🙂
Loch Srath nan Aisinnin.
Before Loch Srath nan Aisinnin, the path leads up the hillside and contours around Meall na Leitreach, passing several small lochs.
Lochain nan Ealachan.
The track eventually descends to Loch More, from where it is only a short walk along the road back to the car park.
This had been an interesting exploration of an area that was almost completely new to me, as the only hills I had climbed around here were Arkle, Foinaven and Ben Hope. I was somewhat surprised about the great scenery and the views, especially on the second day, and about the fact that – apart from a day walker ahead of me on Ben Stack – I had not met anyone else in the hills during the whole trip.