The charismatic Munro of Sgòrr Ruadh, buttressed by an even more characterful Corbett, makes an excellent outing from Achnashellach, says Norman Hadley.
The hills of Coire Làir are formed from magnificent soaring buttresses of Torridonian sandstone and richly studded with lonely lochans. Although lower and not as spiky as the celebrated peaks to the north of Glen Torridon, the Coulin Forest hills are well worth exploring and may often be enjoyed in solitude. The tiny railway station of Achnashellach is an ideal launchpad, with good stalkers’ tracks leading into wild territory of Sgorr Ruadh that would otherwise be a shin-kicking obstacle course of boulder and heather. Be aware the route requires fording a burn late in the day, but there is an opportunity to scope it out in advance.
Sgorr Ruadh and Fuar Tholl: route description
START/FINISH: Achnashellach station if arriving by train. If arriving by car, close by is a layby on the A890 at NH005483. | MAPS: OS Explorer 429 (1:25k) or Landranger Sheet 25 (1:50k) | DISTANCE: 19km / 11.8 miles | ASCENT: 1148m / 3,766ft | DURATION: 7 hours
1 NH005483: Assuming you’ve arrived by car, follow the track up to the station and cross the line with all due care. On the north side of the train track, slant up to the right then quickly zag back left to gain a good forest track gently climbing to the west. This has a little left-right chicane after about 800m that gains the easterly bank of the Coire Làir burn. Follow this upstream.
2 NG990502: Where the path levels out, there are two turns to avoid. The first, to the left, is where you’ll be coming down in a few hours so make a good mental note. Be especially mindful of the need to cross the burn here on the return leg so be sure there isn’t a nasty surprise waiting for you at the end of the day in times of spate or snow-bridges. The right turn, a few paces later would take you over the Drochaid Coire Làir to Glen Torridon so don’t do that. Instead, follow the gradual leftward sweeping curve, past Loch Coire Làir and under the impregnable castellations of Sgòrr Ruadh into the inner sanctum of the coire. There are likely to be deer here, so tread softly. Keep following the coire up to the rocky col at the top.
3 NG956511: At a narrow notch in the watershed, by a nameless lochan, the ground abruptly falls away to Coire Grannda. Swing sharply left to gain the high ridge coming at Sgòrr Ruadh from the back. This avoids the apparent impossibility of the direct ascent as viewed from point 2. The views across Coire Fionarraich to Maol Cheann-Dearg and An Ruadh-Stac are sensational from here.
Follow a tapering ridge to the delightful summit of Sgòrr Ruadh. If the weather is fair, look out for Ben Nevis’s characteristic profile overtopping the Glen Cluanie hills. From the summit, head south to the complex pass of Bealach Mòr.
4. NG967494: As above, this is a complex col, with hummocky ground and dotted with dozens of lochans. If the weather is sketchy, make a note of the descent toward point 2. If time is tight or spirits low, there is the obvious option to omit Fuar Tholl and descend straight away. But if the light and the will are strong, head up steep slopes on an arc starting on a south-south-west bearing to point 857.
From here, curve to an easterly bearing past the false summit of Mainreachan Buttress at point 895, finishing on a north-easterly line to the slightly higher true summit of Fuar Tholl itself at 907m.
5. NG975489: Retrace your steps back to the Bealach Mòr.
Pick up the eastbound stalkers’ track from here. This will take you down Meall Teanga Fiadhaich to the ford at point 2.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Trains can be taken to Achnashellach on the line running between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh/Caol Loch Aillse.
TOURIST INFORMATION: Visit Scotland, 01854 612486
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