One of the best Corbetts (yet): Fuar Tholl


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Fuar Tholl means “cold hole” in Gaelic. It’s said the name comes from ancient settlers in Glen Carron and refers to the eastern corrie, which is shaded from sunlight.

On the day that my friends Ben and Tansy and I walked to the 907m summit it was hot sunshine and we did not experience any kind of “cold hole”!

Just missing out on Munro status, the Corbett is one of the tallest of the list of 221 mountains with a summit between 2500ft (762m) and 3000ft (914.4m). It is set amid the most magnificent scenery and, around almost every corner, I was wowed by fabulous views.

Fuar Tholl also has a nickname, Wellington’s Nose, because the summit ridge looks like the profile to an upturned face which is apparently like Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington. I could sort of see what people mean…

Walking Fuar Tholl

Many Corbetts are trackless, but from the start at Achnashellach there was an obvious path. It’s apparently a popular place for mountain bikers, with a possible route to Torridon or the Achnashellach Loop.

The walking route that we took extended to 15km with 977m of total ascent. We followed the suggestion by Walk Highlands to the peak and then looped back via a steep path down a scree slope to the north of the summit. We then rejoined the outward path.

It would be possible to walk a shorter out-and-back route on the zig-zag scree slope but, on this occasion, the climb of the Creag Mainnrochean and Mainreachan Buttress to reach Fuar Tholl top was very rewarding.

The long stony path at the start of the walk winds fairly gently uphill and offers stunning views of the nearby mountains and steep-sided valley. Looming up to the north and north-west was the ridge of Beinn Liath Mhor and the Munro, Sgorr Ruadh.

To the south-west was the dramatic cliffs of Fuar Tholl. It is one of the most amazing valleys I have visited – and I knew I’d been to the area before although not when.

It turns out it was an area I walked in when I first met Hubby G and back then the mountain terrain of the Highlands was new to me. Even after more than a decade of mountain walking, the landscape still seemed very impressive.

As Ben, Tansy and I walked the path, we chatted and laughed and stopped at frequent intervals to take off layers of clothing, snap photographs and eat our snacks. Where there was a fast-flowing stream, we refilled out water bottles and drank the refreshingly chilled water.

The day had started warm and a little overcast but suddenly it was very hot and we were walking in direct sunlight.

Ascent of the steep, rocky slopes of Fuar Tholl

Although we could see it was possible to head left and more directly up a grassy and scree of the Mainreachan buttress, instead we followed a longer but lesss intense route over Creag Mainnrichean.

We passed a lochan and then came to the base of a much steeper slope. The path was not so obvious but we could see the general direction that many people had taken through the rocks and crags and we started upwards.

Some sections involved a short scramble up rocks – and I occasionally used my hands to balance – but it was never too vertiginous (well, at least, I found it to be okay).

Stopping to look back over my shoulder, it seemed like each vista grew better and better.

It was one of those walks where you think you are almost at the top – and there was a nice cairn, too – but in reality the summit is further away. The weather was good and the air was clear so we could spot where the top was in the near distance.

From Mainnrichean buttress, the path heads north-easterly to the top of Fuar Tholl at 907m.

There is a stone shelter on the summit and we stopped for a short rest and to enjoy the panorama. We felt lucky to be walking in such an awesome landscape and, on a Monday, when normally we would all be at our desks and working.

The return walk

From Fuar Tholl, we retraced our steps to the high bealach between the Corbett top and Mainnrichean buttress. A small cairn marked the top of a steep descent path to the north.

The path zig-zagged neatly down the scree slope. While a tad precipitous, it wasn’t too daunting.

We continued north, sometimes on a path and sometimes not, until we rejoined the stony path back along the valley.

As ever, the path back seemed longer than on the way in but it was a hot day and I felt weary because it was the third consecutive day of mountain walking.

Tansy, Ben and I continued our non-stop chatter and rejoiced in our surroundings. I still can’t believe I have so many fantastic mountains so close to the doorstep of my new home in the Scottish Highlands.

Corbetts bagged: 55.