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The Kylerhea Quartet

The Kylerhea Quartet

Postby aaquater » Sat May 06, 2023 6:10 pm

Fionas included on this walk: Beinn na Caillich (Kylerhea), Sgùrr na Coinnich

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Beinn na Seamraig, Ben Aslak

Date walked: 22/04/2023

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 19.3 km

Ascent: 1465m

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Whenever people talk about 'the Kylerhea hills,' they always seem to mean the trio: Beinn na Caillich, Sgurr na Coinnich, and Ben Aslak. But when I looked at the map, I saw four baggable hills. Fair enough, Beinn na Seamraig might be a bit awkward to reach from Kylerhea itself, but it seemed to be neglected altogether. Well, not as far as I was concerned, as my only concern was coming up with a sensible route connecting all four!

Inspiration came from the two reports that Beinn na Seamraig had to its name. Both weaselmaster and Milo12 mention a possible parking spot in the first bend of the track heading up towards Beinn na Seamraig and Ben Aslak, and as far as I could see, that was by far the most convenient way of climbing the former. The decision was taken, so on the Saturday - worryingly enough, in the afternoon already - I was stopping the car on said bend and putting on my walking boots.

Sgurr na Coinnich - or, rather, Beinn na Greine, I suppose - from the parking spot

My first steps carried me downhill. As mentioned before, a good track led up the two Subs, and I definitely prefer leaving something like that for the end of the walk, and deal with more challenging terrain once I'm still fresh. So I locked in on Beinn na Greine.

After a minute of walking down the road, crossing the cattle grid, and sparing myself from having to climb over the fence. But once that was over, I turned left, and headed uphill through the sparse forestry.

The initial impression of the slope wasn't a positive one. It had been warm and dry for at least a week, so I wanted to go to a place that carried the threat of bogginess normally; more on that later. This slope wasn't boggy. It was, however, covered in long, yellow, lying grass that hid what laid beneath. I had been worried, perhaps unnecessarily, about snow; grass like that wasn't any better, except maybe temperature-wise. Ankle-breaking stuff if I wasn't careful.

What was quick to open up, however, were views to Ben Aslak and Beinn na Seamraig

And the Cuillin, which I expected to be packed on such a lovely Saturday, while I (spoiler alert) wouldn't meet another walker the entire day

While the ground ahead had started to look a lot more agreeable

Indeed, after the fallen grasses had given way, the 'proper' walk up Beinn na Greine could begin: just short heather and grasses with the occasional rock popping up from below. Such hillwalking is nothing short of pleasurable, especially with the sun overhead. :D

What should be said, though, is that Beinn na Greine had its fair share of false summits. The picture above? Nah, no way; I didn't make it to the top until some 25 minutes later.

Even the Cuillin look a fair bit further away than they did from the start of the ridge

Sgurr na Coinnich seemed to be within reach, though, and Beinn na Caillich not much further away. The map had given me the impression that Beinn na Greine would be much closer to the middle of the entire first ascent

The saddle E of Beinn na Greine - if it could be called that - had some boggy parts. When I'd been choosing where to go - the only real other contender being Baosbheinn - I'd mainly thought of Bealach na Cruinn-leum under Ben Aslak. But even this part would've been a lot more challenging any other day.

The actual ascent of Sgurr na Coinnich, though, was absolutely lovely

And 15 minutes later, I was feasting my eyes on some marvellous scenery

While the SW side of Beinn na Caillich, which I'd be tackling shortly, looked quite formidable - as did the clouds far beyond

I must say, driving past Loch Clunie, the low clouds had made me a bit nervous. But the forecast had promised they wouldn't reach Skye until late in the evening, and as is apparent from all the pictures, they weren't an issue in the slightest. The northeastern wind carrying them along was quite strong, though, so I didn't stay up on the summit for long, hurrying down to the shelter provided by Beinn na Caillich. As the official route mentioned easier ground being on the right when climbing up Sgurr na Coinnich, I was searching for routes on the left - but kept finding out the easier ground for descending was on my right, almost all the time. Regardless, I made it down to the bealach in what I thought was a surprisingly short time.

Okay, so how does one go about climbing up this?

When I was actually right there, though, finding the 'rake of scree and heather' was no problem. It was much closer to the top of the col than I expected. Trying to stick to the heather part at all times, or even walking on the grass beside if possible, I climbed up the steep slope, reaching the summit just 15 (okay, 17, if I don't round) minutes later.

There were views of Applecross and Kyle of Lochalsh to enjoy

As well as a slightly different angle of the Glenelg peninsula

On the way down, I was mostly focused on following streams of grass, so I ended up going down a line a bit further E than how I had gone up. But a short, painless scree crossing later, I was standing exactly where I had stood once before.

Beinn Bhuidhe, the hill people usually cross when climbing from Kylerhea

I had something different in mind, though, with Ben Aslak the next target on the list

So I went round the grassy E side of Sgurr na Coinnich, looking for the main burn of Coire Coinnich, next to which I wanted to descend, as the map showed gentler terrain on its other side. And, hey, the laid-back grasses were starting to show up again, too! :roll:

Once I was actually there and looking at the gully the burn was running in, I was starting to reconsider. The slope below me looked manageable, and annoying foliage was more likely to be found next to the water, I reasoned. So I stayed on the E side to descend, and the descent went well.

Eventually, though, I did end up crossing the burn when I was about to hit a different kind of annoying foliage: young trees. To be fair, the foliage on the other side had the potential to be extremely annoying in a few months, I thought, wading through fallen, yellow bracken. But,

It isn't gonna happen here
At least not today, not today, not today

Once again, there were some ankle-breaking grasses to be appreciated just above the road. But once I got through, there was firm asphalt underfoot. At the lowest point of the day, altitude-wise, but the next ~140 metres were gained effortlessly, and in Bealach Udal, I could start following the official Kylerhea Round route again, this time in the same direction.

The track leading up to the mast was nice, clear, and entirely too short

So this is how the official route descends Sgurr na Coinnich

Beyond the poles and the Kyle Rhea channel, the sun was still shining on the Glenelg peninsula and the Glen Shiel Munros

As this was the official, reasonably popular route, finding a kind of path following up on the track past the mast wasn't too surprising. Neither was the fact that it got fainter in the boggy sections, of which there were multiple. And me losing the path in said boggy sections doesn't even deserve a mention.

There came a point, though, when I realised I was just heading for the summit of Beinn Bheag with no path in sight. 'I'm just gonna use the Bosch IXO on it and bag it,' I thought, and carried on through the grass and heather.

And I'll never know
Who you do it for
Lost dinosaur

The 'dinosaur' part is up for other people's interpretation, I suppose, and a short detour wasn't losing my way yet. And I'll have you know all the hillwalking isn't for anyone's sake but mine. Sorry, I just couldn't get this song out of my head the whole time! :D

Ben Aslak. Is that the summit, on the right?

The Cuillin ridges starting to blend into each other's shadows as the sun was travelling across the sky(e)

There's a bit of a drop off of Beinn Bheag's SE side - maybe 10 metres, but 10 Caillich-worthy metres. And after another potentially-boggy col-crossing, I rediscovered the path.

The path then took me next to a lochan, above which the real ascent started. The slopes of Sgurr na Coinnich beyond, I think, looked more inviting from lower down

The ascent wasn't long or difficult, though, and a grassy gully at the end led me to the summit of Ben Aslak.

If you're descending towards Kylerhea, you'd want to then follow this ridge

My next destination was Beinn na Seamraig, so I headed down the SW ridge instead.

Although I couldn't resist taking another picture looking SE first

Or SW over the Sound of Sleat

The descent then was, I'd say, not too dissimilar from the one down Sgurr na Coinnich's SE side - both in terms of gradient and popularity. It was much more heathery, though, and lower down, where the ground levelled off by Allt Thuill, also potentially boggy in several places.

On the other side of the burn, a straight-line ascent up Beinn Dubh a'Bhealaich seemed unlikely, but no matter; I planned to contour it until I hit the next burn, upon which I wanted to head directly for Beinn na Seamraig

One thing the picture above shows quite nicely is that after some time, Allt Thuill starts to flow down a canyon. I'd started to descend heading too far S, as I was hoping to cross Allt Thuill after it was a properly established stream and not just a boggy, sodden patch of ground, so I had to correct my line to meet the burn a bit higher.

What followed was quite the energy-sapping bit of gentle ascent around the S side of Beinn Dubh a'Bhealaich, where I sunk into the foliage every step I took. Not dangerously - there was still firm ground under all the grasses - but I still had to take a breather quite frequently, especially as I wasn't that fit either more than 4 hours into the walk.

The burn... I imagined I'd just cross it without an issue and continue towards the trig. But it was just as much a canyon-forming little thing as Allt Thuill, so I had to take a sharp right and follow the bank until I could cross normally. In doing so, I also discovered the boggiest place of the entire walk. :roll:

Finally, the canyon gave way to a normal, ground-level(?) burn

The passing place wasn't that far below the saddle between Beinn Dubh a'Bhealaich and Beinn na Seamraig, so not that much ascent was left. On paper, although the terrain was quite undulating. But eventually, I reached the large, bumpy summit plateau of Beinn na Seamraig, crossing it to reach the trig, which - along with the summit - was positioned on its SW edge.

Down the Sleat peninsula with Rum straight ahead on the horizon

Another look at the Cuillin

And the Glenelg peninsula, with Loch Hourn coming into view too

Afterwards, I crossed the bumpy plateau again and made my way to Beinn Dubh a'Bhealaich. It was because I knew this would be my way down that I really hadn't been bothered by the difficulty of ascending this hill directly from the E. :lol:

Not from the summit itself, but a bump closer to the cliff edge, I managed to get this postcard-worthy view

'Managed' a word used deliberately, as it was still quite windy, which can make shooting a panorama tricky. It wasn't enough to impair walking, though, especially as all that was left was a simple downhill. A short while later, I even found the ATV track mentioned by weaselmaster, which made the going even easier.

And once on the track shown on the map, I could just amuse myself by how table-like Dun Caan on Raasay looked from this angle, while my legs carried me down to the car automatically

And once there, I was in for one more surprise of the day. With the exception of Beinn na Caillich, where I was a bit faster, the other ascents and descents had negated each other and I had walked side by side with Naismith. Sgurr na Coinnich 1h30, Ben Aslak 4h, Beinn na Seamraig 5h, Car 6h. :shock: That never happens! :lol:
Posts: 114
Munros:74   Corbetts:38
Fionas:40   Donalds:23+12
Sub 2000:52   Hewitts:18
Joined: Jul 8, 2019

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