Hill: Foinaven
Date: Saturday 13th June 2009
Company: Myself, Dave, Anne & Stuart
Distance: 20.7km
Ascent: 1398m
Time: 7Hrs 45Mins

Back in February, Anne came up with the wonderful idea of a summer meet to Foinaven. A plan began to take shape and the date Saturday 13th June was eventually set.

Weather forecasts were quite variable leading up to the big day and forecasts were still changing within the final 12 hours. MWIS got the forecast correct, unlike the Met Office, as it stayed dry throughout the day.

En-route to our rendezvous, Dave, Anne and Stuart were fortunate enough to spot some Divers. I was fortunate to spot ..... a deer!

A stag at Inchnadamph:

We met at the Rhiconich Hotel not long after 07:30 and continued on along the A838 to leave one car at NC293555 at the end of Loch Tarbhaidh. We then all piled into the other car and drove round to NC297402, near Achfary. By 08:20 we were on our way along the road/track towards Lone bothy.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

Stuart and Dave on track to Lone:

Arkle from track en-route to Lone:

Ben Stack (photo by Dave):

It took just over 30 minutes to reach the bothy where there is now a good bridge over the Abhainn an Loin.

Lone bothy:

On reaching the boulders, efforts to scramble to the top of them were soon abandoned. We settled for a photo instead.

Stuart, myself and Dave:

After passing the boulders and small wood, we followed the path alongside the Allt Horn for nearly five kilometres and 500 metres of ascent. Views of Arkle and its coires An Garbh-choire and Am Bathaich looked impressive.

Arkle from the lower slopes of Foinaven:

On reaching the bealach next to Creagan Meall Horn we left the path and started our ascent towards the 778m top of Foinaven.

Ascending initial slopes of Foinaven:

Stuart and Dave with Creagan Meall Horn in background:

Arkle and Loch na Tuadh:

Looking across Coir’ a’ Chruiter to 808m top of Foinaven:

On reaching a height of 700m, we skirted the 778m top via a nice grassy line. This saved us 70m of ascent much walking on stones.

Grassy bypass:

Arkle and Loch an Easain Uaine from top of Coir’ a’ Chruiter:

At the bealach between the 778m top and the 808m top we saw a young deer in the distance. Instead of running away the inquisitive deer ran towards us and then proceeded to run back and fore doing a wee dance.

Young deer (photo by Dave):

As we approached the 808m top we began to see why Foinaven is regarded as a ‘classic’ hill.

First glimpse of Lord Reay’s seat:

Foinaven ridge:

The ridge beyond the 808m top is truly wonderful. From a distance Lord Reay’s seat looks quite intimidating.

Lord Reay’s seat (zoom):

Foinaven ridge from 808m top:

It is however the descent from the 808m top to Cadha ne Beaucaich that is the most technical part of the ridge. A descent of over 100m is required. This involves descending scree and some scrambling. It is important to stick pretty close to the ridge during the descent. It would be easy to start descending West on what looks like paths in the scree. These will not take you to Cadha ne Beaucaich.

Hands-on (photo by Anne):

Descent from 808m top to Cadha ne Beaucaich:

Descent from 808m top to Cadha ne Beaucaich (photo by Dave):

On reaching the scrambling section I threw my poles down about 15m; easier with hands-on. On reaching Cadha ne Beaucaich, we stopped to re-group, took the opportunity to admire the incredible A’ Ch’eir Ghorm ridge and have a look at the wee Howff.

Looking back to 808m top:

Lord Reay’s seat from Cadha ne Beaucaich:

The A’ Ch’eir Ghorm ridge is long and narrow.

A’ Ch’eir Ghorm ridge:

Cadha ne Beaucaich howff:

Looking back to 808m top:

The ascent of Lord Reay’s seat is straight-forward. On reaching the rocks towards the top if you want to avoid scrambling keep a look out for a path to the left. The ridge to the 869m top is easy. Views of the A’ Ch’eir Ghorm ridge are impressive as are the views West across barren, flat ground with dozens of lochans.

Looking towards 869m top of Foinaven from top of Lord Reay’s seat:

A’ Ch’eir Ghorm ridge:

View West (lochans, lochans and more lochans):

On passing the 869m top, it was interesting to note the difference between the South and North faces of the A’ Ch’eir Ghorm ridge. The North side is quite rocky, the South side is just scree.

A’ Ch’eir Ghorm ridge (photo by Dave):

Summit of Foinaven in distance from 869m top:

A’ Ch’eir Ghorm ridge (North side):

After nearly five hours of walking it was great to see the final stretch leading to the summit of Foinaven. Although Foinaven is only Corbett hieght, the traverse of its ridge involves more ascent than climbing Ben Nevis from sea-level.

Final stretch to Foinaven summit:

On reaching the summit we visited both cairns. According to Dave’s GPS, the smaller cairn is three metres higher than the larger cairn.

Lower of two Foinaven cairns:

At the summit we met four other walkers who had ascended from the A838, the way we intended descending. I don’t normally eat much on the hill, however, by the time we reached the top my energy levels were low and I felt hungry. Inchnadamph Hotel packed-lunch tuna sandwiches never tasted so good! After a quick group photo we set off towards the final top, Ceann Garbh.

Group photo at Foinaven summit:

Stuart and Dave en-route to Ceanh Garbh:

En-route to Ceanh Garbh, and during the descent, we spent some time looking at the flora and the surrounding geology. We each took a wee stone back with us in our rucksacks.

Thrift (photo by Dave):

Dwarf Cornel (photo by Dave):

The descent was easier and drier than expected. During the descent we spotted some ptarmigan chicks.

View towards Kinlochbervie:

On reaching flatter ground, we took a direct line towards the car.

Return to the A838 and Loch Tarbhaidh:

Looking back to Ceann Garbh:

During the final fifteen minutes of walking, we could see very dark clouds approaching, already covering Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh. We just made it back to the car without getting wet.

This was my 150th Corbett and Anne’s 50th-last Corbett. We couldn't have picked a better hill.

This hill may not be a Munro but it is one of the best mountains in Scotland.