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Scorcher on Slioch

Scorcher on Slioch


Postby andygunn23 » Sun Aug 01, 2021 7:54 pm

Route description: Slioch, near Kinlochewe

Munros included on this walk: Slioch

Date walked: 23/04/2021

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 19 km

Ascent: 1284m

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Scorcher on Slioch

With a delightful 9-day fortnight (admittedly the only delightful thing about work, at that point in time…), the forecast looked to provide the perfect window on the Friday/Saturday to attempt a something I had planned for years.

Since I would ‘need’ to be in the Northwest Highlands early Friday evening I began searching for a warm-up for the Friday morning. Slioch, with an 8–9-hour round trip didn’t fit the bill perfectly, but with guaranteed wall-to-wall (hazy) sunshine I couldn’t resist.

Being late winter, 23rd April to be precise, I had a quick scan of surrounding hills when I arrived to determine if I would take the winter kit or not. Beinn Eighe and co. looked somewhat wintery, but what I could see from the carpark and the drive down to Kinochewe, Slioch appeared to be safely into summer. Decided as this was a warm-up I would go light and take a light summer pack and hope luck was on my side (it was!).

Setting off
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There are worst places to be dead, I guess?
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The first couple of kilometres alongside the Kinlochewe River were extremely peaceful and beautiful, however my mind kept drifting off to my plans for the next day (another Walk Report to follow, obviously). I had to keep reminding myself to be present, enjoy this walk and not under-estimate the fact it wasn’t an easy warm-up. At least for me anyway.

There was one other couple who set off 5-10 minutes before I left my car, they had overnight packs and I had caught up with them relatively quickly, which was a good reminder to keep the pace slow!

Loch Maree – ground was tinder dry
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Noisy little Chaffinch
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It took about an hour to reach to bridge at the southeast end of Loch Maree near the remains of the Iron Works. At this point there was a sign advising not to use the bridge dated April 2021. I did have a quick look around but couldn’t see any alternative crossings, and I could see a couple of walkers in the distance higher up towards Meall Each. I decided to gamble and managed to cross safely. If for some reason the bridge had crumbled by the time I was returning then this would be a problem for future me to worry about.

Said bridge
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I lost the path soon after I had crossed the bridge but decided to bash through the heather (cautious of ticks) towards the opening between Sgurr Dubh and Meall Each. I quickly re-joined the path, wondering how I had ever lost it… Often the way when out in the hills.

It stopped briefly to reapply some sun cream as it was roasty toasty and scan for any ticks ready to get stuck in – shorts and t-shirt from the moment I left the car.

Initial slog up
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Once you reach ~525m, the bowl of Coire na Sleaghnaich is quite impressive. What was most notable to me at the time was the current colours in comparison with the pictures featured on the main Walk Highlands route. Brown vs green. Early spring vs height of summer. Almost looked like a different hill.

Brown version
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As I mentioned earlier the ground was tinder dry on the route up, but now it became slightly spongy underfoot – I can only imagine would be a bit of a bog-fest in wetter times. There was a clear path and thankfully plenty great spots to replenish water supplies, which I duly obliged.

Looking down, Sgurr Dubh shoulder on right and Meall Each poking up near the centre
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I stopped at the first of the two lochans and enjoyed my first lunch. It was delightfully warm, hardly a breath of wind and dead peaceful. I was almost content to have an afternoon nap and patch the rest of the walk. Maybe that is exactly what I will do in my retired years…

Lunch spot
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Looking down to my lunch spot
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The section from the lochans up to the 933m spot was easily the most physically demanding part of the day, starting off steep and with eroded scree underfoot. Thankfully the great, albeit hazy views, made convenient reasons to stop every so often.

Once I was over the hardest of the ascent the final few hundred meters towards the 933m marker at a much more gradual incline was welcome.

933m looking towards the 980m trig
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Now I was extremely relieved that I hadn’t taken the winter boots or crampons etc. There were a few patches of snow lying around, but nothing that would have required anything special. In fact, as it was so dry I could probably have got away with trainers rather than boots.

980m trig looking towards Sgurr an Tuill Bhain
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980m trig looking towards Slioch summit
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There were two other walkers enjoying their lunch just off the Slioch summit as I approached. Presumably those I had seen when in my cross the bridge dilemma. We had a quick chat, and they were also heading on towards Sgurr an Tuill Bhain – it would turn out this would be the only other people I crossed paths on the hill with all day. As it was a Friday, I imagine it would be a different story on the weekend.

Enjoying my second lunch at the now abandoned summit
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After some quick self-timer photos, I relaxed for a good half an hour on the summit enjoying my second lunch and the views. The visibility southwest towards Beinn Eighe was slightly hazier than north into Fisherfield and there was no chance of seeing out to the Hebrides.

By now the other couple were close to approaching Sgurr an Tuill Bhain so I decided I should probably make some onwards movements. It was just after 13:30 when I left the summit, which if I kept a steady pace would work perfectly for when I hoped to be back at the car.

Looking towards a hazy Sgurr an Tuill Bhain
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Although Slioch was the Munro and the main objective for the day, it was the route between this and Sgurr an Tuill Bhain that I was looking forward to the most and it really did deliver. I wouldn’t class it as a full-on ridge, but it certainly narrowed, there was a bit of exposure, and it wouldn’t be my favourite place to be on a gusty day.

Enjoyable!
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The summit is a great viewpoint, arguably better than Slioch itself.

Looking back towards Slioch
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The descent down southeast from the summit starts off rocky underfoot before quickly turning grassy and pathless. I am sure Slioch and surrounding area is a natural playground full of wonders for the geologists, I remember thinking this when coming off Beinn Eighe. The photos probably don’t do it justice, but some of the rocks scattered across the initial descent were astonishingly green. I did have a quick Google but there is an abundance of material on Wester Ross Geology. A good reminder to spend some time digging through the Hostile Habitats books (excellent resource!).

A bonnie rock.
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I made impressively slow progress down from Sgurr an Tuill Bhain towards Meall Each and found myself stopping significantly more than normal for a solo day walk.

I’ve been spotted
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I hadn’t really appreciated it on the way up, but the cliff of Sgurr Beinn a’ Mhuinidh are really impressive
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After I had re-joined the path I made light work of getting back down to the rotting bridge, which I must admit looked somewhat more rotten on this side…

Gently does it
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Rain was not in any of the forecasts, but in true Scottish fashion there were a few drops which came out of nowhere, prompting an increase in the leisurely pace I had enjoyed up until now. Thankfully it never came to anything substantial enough to require waterproofs.

The walk back to the car was pleasant and I even found one of the brand-new baskets that had fallen off one of my walking poles – I hadn’t realised I had lost it until I reached my first lunch stop so I assumed it was a goner. Odds of this must have been tremendously long!

I hadn’t been fortunate enough to see any of the wild goats on the hill side and assumed my chances were gone, until…

Look how happy they look
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I made it back to the car relatively fresh all things considered and got myself packed up to make the short(ish) drive across to Dundonnell for tomorrow’s adventure.

I thoroughly enjoyed Slioch, but the views of the hill across Loch Maree are possibly more impressive the walk up the hill. That being said at least when I next stop at Loch Maree I can say “I was up there”.

I would certainly do Slioch again in less hazy conditions, more as a viewing platform than anything else, but as far as warm-ups go – they don’t get much better!

Cheers
Andy :D


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Re: Scorcher on Slioch

Postby Sgurr » Sun Aug 01, 2021 8:54 pm

Never really thought of Slioch as a warm up for anything, until I saw Dundonell mentioned. Nice (if a bit hazy) pics.
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