Munros: Gairich, Sgurr Mor (Loch Quoich)
Corbetts: Sgurr an Fhuarain
Date walked: 31/07/2012
On Tuesday I took the train up to Glenfinnan, arriving after 1pm in gorgeous sunshine. I've only ever been to Glenfinnan twice, and both times its been positively mediterranean - is there some secret about this place that nobody is telling me?
Heading up the glen towards Corryhully, toying with the idea of bagging Coireachan and Thuilm before heading into Glen Pean, but thinking the better of it thanks to the time of day and heavy pack - as a first time long distance walker I think I planned on eating too much food, better too much than too little though! I headed up over the bealach and down into Glen Pean, heeding the advice of a guy I met on the train and crossing the river early to avoid the lack of bridge down at the bottom. The glen was alive Scotch Argus (or should it be Argi), following me down the riverside and crowding me, and many dragonflies. Arriving at the River Pean I crossed over and headed up to the track in the woods, following it round to A'Chuil for an early night, and my first night in a bothy. Arriving at 6.45 there was a guy fast asleep so I tried to tiptoe and eat my dinner quietly...
Back towards Corryhully
A useful gate at the bealach
Down towards Glen Pean
Streap, what a fantastic hill
Dragonfly, one of many seen in this glen. One of them was about 3 inches long - I've never seen such a beast
My cosy corner for the night
View up Glen Dessary
Next morning, the guy left before I rose, and crawling out of my sleeping bag I popped outside to see this:
Ah, oh dear.
The plan had been to head over to Sourlies (possibly popping up Ciche) and aim to bag the Knoydart munros the next day, but having not seen the forecast (they're inevitably wrong more than a couple of days ahead) and not wanting to spend the day getting drenched only to find the famously busy Sourlies bothy fully booked on my arrival, I decided to change plan and head North, cutting a couple of days from my schedule. I crossed over Glen Dessary and headed down the track towards Loch Arkaig, before turning up the pass to Glen Kingie.
Cue the Indiana Jones music
Some downed power lines I had to gingerly hop over at the start of the Glen Kingie path
Up the pass, the wind and rain got heavy, buffeting me and my heavy pack, and arriving at the bealach, Sgurr Mor appeared briefly to beckon me daringly through the gloom. I just couldn't say no. I descended to the River Kingie and hopped across, dry shod, dumped the sack, and plodded on up the endless slopes to the ridge of Sgurr Mor, wind and rain increasing, occasional sudden glimpses downwards, until I was fully immersed in the cloud (and drenched to the skin, boxers included - I've never had such problems with my waterproofs, they're decent Rab Bergen made from eVent so I was disappointed that they soaked up the water like a sponge today).
Come on, up you come! Sgurr Mor from the pass.
Easy crossing the Kingie
Don't recognise this one, anyone?
Arriving on the ridge, I made a marker with stones on the path so that I could find my way back to the pack, and headed up the path towards Sgurr Mor (I say path, but it was more like the Tay that day). As I ascended, the buffeting got worse, having to crouch in a couple of really bad gusts, beginning to ask myself whether coming up here was such a great plan, and finally arriving on the summit. What a view (not).
A brief glimpse ahead
I hastily descended, hoping to reach the pack ASAP, and as I did so, the clouds suddenly began to clear, drawing my eye to a patch of blue sky above Sgurr an Fhuarain ahead. Come on, you know you want to...
Loch Quoich, going there tomorrow
I followed the ridge up to Fhuarain, seeing some haggard sheep on the way, and the hills in every direction clearing for my perusal. Suddenly elated, finally feeling that the toil had been worth it, I headed down to the pack, freezing from my soaked clothes.
From the summit of Fhurain - Ciche visible to the left of Sgurr Mor
As I descended, the weather came in again, and I longed for the roaring fire in Kinbreack which I knew I would have soon. Arriving back at the Kingie, things had changed:
What a difference a couple of hours can make! I headed upstream, painfully moving further away from that fireplace, eventually deciding just to wade across where it wasn't too deep (turned out to be between knee and waist - I was drenched anyway), grabbed a pile of bogwood, and bog hopped my way over to the bothy, having to wade another two torrents on the way.
The Allt a' Chinn Bhric by the bothy, another one to wade
Arriving at the bothy, I got the fire going nicely, had a hot brew, some dinner, and things began to feel OK again - this is a really lovely bothy, I'm going to have to revisit it someday. Then, half an hour later, the sun decided to come out again, so I went outside to admire the gorgeous Glen Kingie, only to retreat hastily as the midges attacked.
My home from home
By the bothy
Waking up to a stunning morning, I decided to attack Gairich, opting to traverse the Southern slopes to the East ridge and dump the sack, rather than carrying the thing over Gairich beag and over 3000ft. Hopping over the (now low again - amazing) Kingie, I headed up the the main path, crossing over the Allt a' Choire Ghlas and started a rising traverse over the endless, though full of interesting waterfalls and rock features, not to mention the deer, slopes of Gairich, at first donning only my trousers but eventually putting a top on after being plagued by clegs (not the deputy PM, though one could draw parallels...).
Lovely, Gairich across the glen
Back to the bothy, Fraoch Bheinn centre
A lovely oasis of trees and waterfalls on the Southern slopes of Gairich
Last view to the bothy
Arriving at the East ridge of Gairich, I dumped the sack and headed up the brilliant fun path to the summit, views of summits in all directions, and by this time getting a little sunburnt (only Scottish weather could drench you to a freezing wreck one day then burn you to a crisp the next).
Distant Quoich Dam
On top, Sgurr Mor centre with Sgurr na Ciche popping up over his right shoulder
On the descent to the rucksack, running low on water, I stopped to squeeze out some moss in order to drink (yes I was that desperate), the ground and path dry as the desert, what a contrast to yesterday. I reached the sack and headed down the ridge to the forest, marching over that last boggy path to reach the Quoich dam, on which I had lunch.
Anyone know what this is a larva for? There were loads of them on the boggy path
Gairich and a wee lochan
I walked along the road towards Kinlochhourn, turning down the several lifts I was offered (3 I think - I must have looked dreadful for so many passers by to have sympathy on me), crossed the bridge over the northern spur of the loch, and headed up the path towards Alltbeithe, passing a few people returning from either Sgurr a' Mhaoraich or just a walk up the glen. Arriving at Alltbeithe, I had to stop myself from knocking on the door: "'scuse me, how much for your house?" - what a stunning spot. The weather might have had something to do with it.
Gairich across Loch Quoich, quintessentially Scottish
I love Loch Quoich
Shame about this bit though. The loch was low enought to reveal the walls of an old house, buried by the man made loch
Mhaoraich's Am Bathaich ridge looking great in the evening sun
Back to the Loch
I headed East, passing some bemused highland cattle, hoping to reach the watershed before camping but giving up a little short after nearly 10 hours and at the sight of some lovely flat grass by the river. Out came the midges, into the tent I went.
Another beautiful morning, Mhaoraich looking very fine indeed. The plan was to reach Camban by nighfall, picking up my food parcel at Cluanie on the way. As it so happened, after a phone conversation on the pass over to Cluanie it became clear that I had to go home, though the regularity of cleg attacks prevented me from being too upset about it. Arriving at 12 I picked up my food parcel, stuffed it in the rucksack, watched the Glasgow bus go by about 30 seconds before I could have hailed it, and dutifully stuck my thumb out in a bid to make the 2.35 from Kyle.
Gleouraich - what a rocky hill, great contrast to the Southern side
Approaching Glen Shiel
After about 30mins of baking in the sun, a lovely couple who had been in the Inn and had seen me a few minutes ago offered me a lift, saying that they'd been very grateful to people picking them up in New Zealand. People don't really hitch here anymore - it's a shame that so many people assume that just because you have a beard you're a wierdo - in reality people hitching are normally just people trying to get to (or away from) their homes and wives. Ofcourse there are wierdos, so I'm not saying pick anyone up who waves a thumb at you, but when you're in a position when being given a lift is the difference between getting home or not you really come to appreciate people who do it.
After the mandatory stop at Eilean Donnan we arrived in Kyle, and bidding farewell to the lovely couple, I bought myself a ticket home and a beer (though not necessarily in that order).
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