Hills: An Stac and Meith Bheinn
Date: Thursday 24th May 2018 to Saturday 26th May 2018
Company: Myself and Alan
Distance: 42km, Ascent: 2,325m
Time walking: 16Hrs 45Mins

There are 219 Scottish hills between 2,000ft and 2,500ft with a drop of at least 150m all round. These hills are collectively known as the Fionas. I ascended my first Fiona, the Hill of Wirren, back in 2002. After completing the Munros, the Corbetts, the Donalds and the Furths, I have mostly been concentrating on also trying to complete a round of the Fionas.

Completing a round of the Fionas is not as some might expect. The Munros are not the hardest simply because they are the highest. To complete the Fionas you have to regularly get off the beaten track, venture into some fairly remote parts of Scotland and get used to being "Billy-no-mates" on the hill as all your friends are still doing their Munros or Corbetts .

In November 2017, I ascended my 217th Fiona leaving only two to complete the round. The remaining two were however my nemesis in that despite pondering over the map for countless hours on countless occasions, I could see no simple or straight-forward way to tackle them. I debated doing the two hills together or doing them seperately. I debated going in from Glenfinnan, Arienskill or from Strathan. I debated one seriously long day or more than one day via use of my tent, Pean bothy or Oban bothy.

Having ascended equally remote Beinn a' Chaisgean Mor as my final Corbett on an absolutely stunning, perfect day, I really needed a good weather window if my final two Fionas were in any way going to compete with my final Corbett. That special weather window presented itself this weekend .

On Thursday afternoon, I finished work at 16:00 and subsequently drove to Strathan via the rollercoaster road along Loch Arkaig. I arrived at Strathan shortly after 20:00, got suited and booted and set off with an exceedingly heavy pack towards Pean bothy.  I always carry way more than I need! On this occasion I did however decide to leave my DSLR at home and rely on my iPhone for pics. I hoped I would not regret this decision.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken (then zoom in for more detail)

From walk start to finish there was nothing but wall-to-wall blue sky.

Streap through the window of the ruin near Strathan:

Strathan with Glenfinnan hills beyond:

Beyond the first kilometre I was into new territory as I had not previously visited Glen Pean. I enjoyed the walk through the forest as the excellent track made the job of carrying the heavy pack so much easier.

Shortly before descending to Pean bothy, I did regret not having my DSLR. I heard a rustling in the trees and expected another deer to jump out as several had already done during my walk through the forest. But no, a badger stood ten feet in front of me, we had a good look at each other and it then disappeared into the undergrowth. If I had my DLSR, I could have had it in hand and photo taken with 2 seconds. With my phone, I had to unzip the case, unlock the phone, go into the camera app and then take the photo. This must have taken around 10 seconds by which time the badger was long gone.

Glen Pean forestry track:

Around 21:30, I could see the glow of the sun beginning to set in the distance. It was a lovely sight.

Approaching sunset on descent to Pean bothy:

During the descent to the bothy I made a schoolboy error in not checking the map. I followed a good track leading to the river which I crossed only to have to re-cross it again a few minutes later. There was no need to cross the river.

On arrival at the bothy, I was pleased to find I had the whole bothy to myself. I went in, had a good look around and selected the nicest of the available rooms.

Arrival at Glen Peam bothy (An Stac in the distance):

I got my bed ready for the night and suspended my rucksack from the rafters with my food encased in a metal tin inside as there is almost always a bothy mouse.

Inside Pean bothy:

I think I fell asleep around 23:00 but had quite a disturbed night. I heard a strange noise in the room next door so I popped through for a look. There was a bat flying around inside the room so I opened the door to let it out. I then went back to bed. An hour or so later I heard the same noise again but closer. There was now a bat flying around the inside of my room. I decided to just ignore it and the noise stopped after a few minutes so it must have found a way out. Around 03:00, I awoke again to a different sound, the sound of a mouse.

I heard the mouse scuffling about and shone my headtorch in the general direction of the noise. The noise stopped. I could however see the mouse's tail moving so I got up and continued to shine the light in the direction of the mouse. I guess I may have dazzled it as it made no attempt to escape. Instead it simply froze presenting me with the opportunity to take its photo. Thank you Mr Mouse.

Awakened at 03:00 by the sound of a bothy mouse having some Super Noodles:

I awoke again around 06:00 and decided to get up, pack and safely stow away my overnight belongings until I returned later in the day. I then took a chair outside and waited for my friend Alan to arrive who would be joining me for my ascent of An Stac and Meith Bheinn. Alan's timing was impeccable as we agreed to meet at 08:00 and he arrived exactly at 08:00.

Sunrise from Pean bothy:

Selfie outside Pean bothy:

After also safely stowing away Alan's overnight belongings, we set off on what would turn out to be an epic day on the hill.

The initial section of walk beyond Pean bothy was fairly wet underfoot. We followed the River Pean as it wound its way towards Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt.

Following the River Pean towards Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt:

Following the River Pean:

On reaching Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt we had to backtrack a little to get across the river. We knew we had to skirt Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt to the south. Do not attempt to skirt the loch to the north as there are various crags and cliffs on that side of the loch.

At Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt:

To skirt the loch we followed a rising path the start of which is marked by a small cairn. The path is narrow and precarious and is definitely no place for a fall, so take care if coming this way.

Following a high, narrow, precarious path to the south-side of Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt:

Subsequent to the precarious path we crossed another couple of kilometres of grass and much wetness to reach the start of the second tricky section of the day. We had to negotiate numerous large boulders which would appear to have resulted from a rockfall at some time in the distant past.

Arriving at the rockfall area circa two kilometres beyond Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt:

In between the two sections of rockfall there was a wet area which was fairly easily skirted on the left.

Wet area between two rockfalls:

After negotiating the second area of rockfall we made our way towards the stalker's path leading up towards the Munro, Sgurr nan Coireachan. It was a delight to find and follow this excellent path albeit only briefly.

On crossing a burn, we stopped for the first time to refill our water bottles which I sterlised with my Steripen - a great bit of kit that uses ultra-voilet light to rid water of bacteria, protozoa and viruses.

Ascending the stalker's path leading towards Sgurr nan Coireachan:

Having already been walking for a few hours, it was good to start gaining height as we ascended to the summit of Cnoc Gorm and then beyond towards An Stac.

Looking back towards Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt during ascent of Cnoc Gorm:

An Stac was now looking not too distant and certainly achievable. It was however boiling hot and we knew that Meith Bheinn lay at least six kilometres beyond An Stac with a considerable drop in between.

An Stac from Cnoc Gorm:

The ascent of An Stac was not difficult from this side. If you want an easy approach to An Stac you definitely want to do it from the east.

Ascending An Stac:

The bothy in Glen Pean was now a considerable way off, with our starting point at Strathan a further 6km beyond that. It felt great to be in such a remote area but I was glad of company as I had had no mobile signal whatsoever since Loch Arkaig the night previous.

Looking back towards Glen Pean during ascent of An Stac:

It was fantastic to eventually reach the summit of An Stac which I have to say is an awesome hill with spectacular views. It definitely makes it into my Top 50 hills and is one of the best Fionas along with the likes of Suilven, Stac Pollaidh and Ben More Coigach.

We didn't spend long at the summit, just enough time to take a few photos, have a bite to eat and a drink and also time to post up a photo on Facebook and Twitter. We had 4G!

Loch Morar from the summit of An Stac:

Alan at the summit of An Stac:

Myself at the summit of An Stac:

The descent from An Stac was however far from straight-forward. We initially tried to follow the ridge in descent but arrived at the top of a small cliff which can be seen at the top of the hill in the next photo. After considerable searching we found a fairly good way down that was mostly grass following a deer track down the hill. The way off is to the left in the following photo.

Looking back to An Stac:

On reaching the col between Meith Bheinn and An Stac, we were conscious that time was not really on our side if we wanted to get back before dark. We stopped long enough to again refill our water bottles and sterilise the water before we began our ascent of Meith Bheinn.

The initial ascent of Meith Bheinn was straight-forward but via fairly rough ground. We saw and made our way towards the top showing in the next photo thinking it was the summit only to find the true summit lay circa 1km beyond!

View towards the East top of Meith Bheinn during ascent of Meith Bhein:

Not great to think you have reached the summit to see we still had this far to go .

Looking towards the summit of Meith Bheinn:

We reached the summit of Meith Bheinn a full nine hours after setting off from Pean bothy. We also knew that we had at least five hours to walk back to Pean bothy. A fourteen hour day!

We therefore didn't spend long at the summit. Alan congratulated myself on completing the Fionas, we took a few pics and I again posted a pic up on Facebook and Twitter. I can't believe I carried a half bottle of whisky up there to forget I had it in my rucksack. Never mind, we would enjoy it back at the bothy and alcohol was probably the last thing we needed given how hot it was and how dehydrated we were.

View from the summit of Meith Bheinn:

View from the summit of Meith Bheinn:

Myself at the summit of Meith Bheinn:

Alan at the summit of Meith Bheinn:

While Meith Bheinn is perhaps not as nice a hill as neighbouring An Stac, it is arguably a better viewpoint.

Panorama from the summit of Meith Bheinn:

From the summit of Meith Bheinn we made our way back down to the col where we had refilled our bottles a few hours previous. We then followed a stalker's path round to Oban bothy. By the time we reached Oban bothy, at 19:00, I really wished we were staying there instead of at Pean bothy, as Pean bothy was still a three hour walk away.

Visit to Oban bothy:

We therefore did not get too comfortable at Oban bothy and were on our way after a welcome ten minute break out of the sun.

Inside Oban Bothy:

From Oban bothy, we continued to follow the stalker's path leading to the rockfall area that we had passed many hours previous.

Looking back to Loch Morar during the walk back to Pean bothy:

Once onto familiar terrain, covered previously in the day, it was just a case of heads down and plod on, that is until I misjudged an area of wetness and went into bog to just above my knees. I was glad I had carried in a full change of clothes which were awaiting me in Pean bothy.

On eventually arriving back at Pean bothy around 22:00 we got changed, had our tea, some whisky and then crashed out.

The following morning we set off a few minutes apart as I walked out and Alan cycled out.

One of my favourite days on the hill.