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Mr Hickey finds the passage!

Mr Hickey finds the passage!

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Oct 08, 2021 3:51 pm

Route description: Quinag: three Corbetts

Corbetts included on this walk: Quinag - Sàil Gharbh, Quinag - Sàil Ghorm, Quinag - Spidean Coinich

Date walked: 04/09/2021

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 15.2 km

Ascent: 1196m

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Back in 2012, my first visit to Quinag was a Rite of Passage for me, at least in the subject of Corbetts. They are always harder to multi-bag than Munros, considering they must have at least 500ft of reascent. 7 Munros in a single day? Can be done (South Glen Shiel)! 7 Corbetts? Ehmm... :problem: :problem: :problem:

Well, I never managed to bag more than 3 Corbetts in a single expedition, but these days it is less about the actual bagging but more about the ADVENTURE. I'm not really sure what I'm looking for every time I set off to climb my next hill. Is hillwalking about proving to the whole world that I can do it? Is it a way of testing my limits? Or just having fun?...

For our second visit to Quinag it was going to be FUN. I just knew it. Weather looked promising and on such a complex mountain, it would be hard not to enjoy the ridge walk!
2021-09-04 quinag 002.JPG
Quinag, here we come!

We followed the usual route over the three Corbetts, starting from Spidean Coinich, finishing on Sail Gharbh:

Track_QUINAG 15.2KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

I have always been interested in the story of the doomed Franklin expedition, but having just read "The Terror" by Dan Simmons (the TV series based on the book is very good as well!) I was in the mood of finding the north-west passage! Quinag was definitely the right mountain to look for it - we were in the very north-west corner of Scotland :lol:
We decided we'd go up the closest Corbett, Spidean Coinich, first, then traverse the ridge to Sail Gorm. I set off first, looking for a path but as the slope is very rocky, all I found was a line of flat slabs. Easy to follow. That's a good lead!
Because I was the one finding the leads, I had to be the ice-master of this expedition :lol: I had nothing against it, as Mr Blanky the Ice Master is my favourite character from the book!
2021-09-04 quinag 005.JPG
Mr Blanky found the lead!

A bit too early for ice, but a certain ruined castle emerged from the mist...
2021-09-04 quinag 010.JPG

Kevin kept stopping every 10 minutes to take yet another panorama...
2021-09-04 quinag 022.JPG

Spidean Coinich and Sail Gharbh from half way up the ridge:
2021-09-04 quinag 026.JPG

The final climb to Spidean Coinich was steep-ish and rocky but an obvious path reappeared:
2021-09-04 quinag 033.JPG
Mr Blanky doesn't need any more leads ;P

Starting from the height of 250m, it didn't take us long to reach the summit. It is possible to take in some optional scrambling but the passage is easy enough to find:
2021-09-04 quinag 038.JPG
A bit rocky... Hazy Suilven and Canisp in the background

Resting on the summit of the first Corbett, I wondered which character from the Terror would compare to Lucy, and decided she has to be the mischievous Mr Hickey, because she always hitch-hikes on my rucksack. Baaad Sheep! :lol: :lol: :lol:
2021-09-04 quinag 054.JPG
Blanky and Hickey still on the same team...

In the meantime, Kevin was examining the surrounding landscape (looking for the passage, obviously):
2021-09-04 quinag 060.JPG
The ridge continues...

After a short break on the first summit, we continued to the first intermediate top (714m). The initial descent is very eroded, but since Quinag is such a popular hill, we found paths nearly everywhere:
2021-09-04 quinag 062.JPG

Breathtaking views in every direction... This mountain keeps on giving!
2021-09-04 quinag 085.JPG

Lochan Bealach Cornaidh and the northern cliffs of Spidean Coinich:
2021-09-04 quinag 075.JPG

Mr Hickey hitched the ride again!!! Heading for the next top (another unnamed one):
2021-09-04 quinag 088.JPG

Looking back at the 714m top from Bealach a'Chornaidh, the descent path visible to the left:
2021-09-04 quinag 096.JPG

By the time we hauled ourselves up to the middle top, high cloud has arrived and the landscape around us turned grey. It didn't intimidate Kevin though. He is rarely intimidated by anything. Obviously, he's the captain of the expedition :lol:
2021-09-04 quinag 215.JPG
He Who Always Knows It All Best posing with Spidean Coinich

From the middle top, we could now see the ridge running to Sail Ghorm. So much more delicious ridge walking still to come! I was meowing with delight!
2021-09-04 quinag 123.JPG

To get to the northernmost Corbett, we still had to negotiate two additional intermediate tops (one can be contoured around with only minor scrambling). But we simply couldn't skip the famous posing plynth on the first bealach:
2021-09-04 quinag 223.JPG
The captain is looking for the passage

The western cliffs of Quinag are vertical here and I doubt there is an alternative route to this mountain from the west, unless you are a rock climber:
2021-09-04 quinag 133.JPG
No passage here!

All that posing on the edge of the void was fun, but I was eager to push on to the second Corbett!
2021-09-04 quinag 132.JPG
Mr Blanky growing impatient...

The next stage (the path contours the eastern slopes below the summit of the 687m top) contains the only unavoidable minor scrambling if you stick to the path. I'd hardly call it scrambling though, just a few big steps. They can be negotiated either applying the bum-shuffling method...
2021-09-04 quinag 140.JPG

...or the pole-vaulting technique also known as Kevin's special move :lol:
2021-09-04 quinag 231.JPG

The "bad step" behind us, we could now see the rest of the way to Sail Ghorm - a delightful wander along the wide ridge:
2021-09-04 quinag 141.JPG

Could this be the passage? Doesn't look convincing...
2021-09-04 quinag 155.JPG

The Quinag complex is definitely one of the most picturesque mountains in the north of Scotland. So many superb spots to practice photography. We didn't have the bonus of blue sky, but even with some grey background, the ridge still looks spectacular:
2021-09-04 quinag 158.JPG

The Captain claims the second summit:
2021-09-04 quinag 238.JPG

Our third and final target, Sail Gharbh:
2021-09-04 quinag 165.JPG

Of course, Mr Hickey wouldn't be Mr Hickey without behaving badly!
2021-09-04 quinag 243.JPG
Corbett no. 130! And that without taking a single step myself! I'm a Baaaad Sheep!

We took a longer break on the second summit, enjoying our sandwiches (no lead-contaminated tins, thankfully) and gazing in the far distance. Looking NW from Sail Ghorm, all we could see was just water, water and more water (the sea, the sea, the open sea). Isn't that what the north west passage was about? Finding the open sea on the other side?
2021-09-04 quinag 234.JPG
The C, the C the open C...

To continue the traverse, we retraced our steps to the middle top (over the bad step which was hardly a problem when tackled uphill) and headed east to the last Corbett of the day.
On the way to Sail Gharbh:
2021-09-04 quinag 169.JPG

Spidean Coinich and Lochan Bealach Cornaid from the ridge just below Sail Gharbh:
2021-09-04 quinag 244.JPG

The climb to Sail Gharbh is bouldery and the path presents an advanced stage of erosion, but there are advantages, too. Like the views back to the ridge we walked earlier:
2021-09-04 quinag 176.JPG
Sail Ghorm and the minor tops

The summit of Sail Gharbh was busy with walkers, several large groups resting on the ridge close to the top. We managed to grab the spot by the trig point if only for a short time.
2021-09-04 quinag 260.JPG

Mr Hickey misbehaving again!!!
2021-09-04 quinag 251.JPG
I found the passage! Yuppieeee! And I bagged my 131st Corbett!

The descent path was not as badly eroded as I recalled from 10 years ago (maybe it had been upgraded since our previous visit, we actually saw workers repairing the lower reaches of the path today). It didn't take us long to drop to the lochan, passing some fantastic scenery...
Views from the descent path - breathtaking from every vantage point!
2021-09-04 quinag 178.JPG

Almost back to the car park, the expedition is over, but there will be more days out. And other passages to discover!
2021-09-04 quinag 186.JPG
No more leads, Mr Blanky heads for home...

In the meantime, onboard the HMS Terror...

As for Hickey and Blanky, their journey in the north-west will continue in my next story, this time on another famous far north Corbett. TR in progress.
Last edited by BlackPanther on Thu Oct 14, 2021 4:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mr Hickey finds the passage!

Postby rockhopper » Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:07 pm

Another good one, BP - looks familiar 😉 This is one set of hills I definitely plan to revisit - just wish I was as close to them as you are ! - cheers :)
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Re: Mr Hickey finds the passage!

Postby BlackPanther » Mon Oct 11, 2021 4:49 pm

rockhopper wrote:Another good one, BP - looks familiar 😉 This is one set of hills I definitely plan to revisit - just wish I was as close to them as you are ! - cheers

Thanks, RH, agree Quinag is not a mountain to visit only once, just as other Assynt hills. We are currently doing a second round of the Assynt/Coigach/Sutherland mountains (Munros, Corbetts and Grahams). Still some great hills to revisit: Foinaven and Suilven on top of the list. Kevin is injured at the moment so not much we can do for a few more weeks, but can hardly wait for winter conditions :D
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