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Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr

Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr


Postby Gareth M » Mon May 08, 2023 3:56 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Cùl Beag, Cùl Mòr

Date walked: 20/04/2023

Time taken: 24 hours

Distance: 26 km

Ascent: 1590m

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Lots of staring at maps over the winter had me set on a trip to Assynt. Weeks of updating the weather forecast and eventually a settled spell coincided with a time I wasn’t busy. So off I went driving into the night. At 1am I needed to get some sleep and made the mistake of curling up on the backseat of my small hatchback in a lay by on the A9. Unfortunately, the road seems quiet when you’re driving but once you stop you realise that there is a precession of lorries that continued throughout the night. Sleeping was made more difficult by the freezing temperatures and this led to about 3 hours of very broken sleep. At 4:30am I decided that I was suitably ‘refreshed’ and carried on northwest bound to make it to the start of the walk by half seven.

The plan was to ascend Cùl Beag before dropping down it's steep side to climb Cùl Mòr via Lochan Dearg a’ Chùil Mhòir and then camp at the end of Sròn Gharbh. It was all looking very good with not a cloud in the sky and spectacular views from the road at the start of the walk.


Cul Beag & Cul Mor(1).gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



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View to Cùl Beag from near the start of the walk


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View to An Teallach


The ascent of Cùl Beag was reasonably straightforward. I did lose the path from time to time on the gentle climb to the start of the proper ascent, but it was easy enough to find again as there were many little cairns. However, I did find lots of what must have been joke cairns that didn't seem to mark any path at all.

Once at the base of Meall Dearg there are two steep pulls, the first to its spectacular summit with a large collection of sandstone outcrops and a view to the last ascent to the top of Cùl Beag. Poking out from the shoulder of Cùl Beag, as if to say ‘look at me, look at me’, is Stac Pollaidh, which may be short in stature but still manages to steal the show.

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Stac Pollaidh peeping out behind Cùl Beag


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Sgùrr an Fhìdhleir looking very impressive


After the descent to the lochan it was a short, but steep, climb to the top of Cùl Beag. It's a compact, summit with an amazing view, comprising of mountains jutting up from moorland. This is peppered with lochs and lochans and beyond a view to the sea and the Outer Hebrides. Once I'd taken loads of photos, and cooled down in the strong easterly wind, I surveyed my planned route off the hill. No thanks! The route down looked incredibly steep, and with my big heavy bag, I was not very keen on taking the plunge off the summit to the north, in the strong gusty wind. If I had come up this way maybe I’d have been more confident, but, since it was an unknown, I opted for the safe option that added a fair bit of length to the walk.

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What a view from the top of Cùl Beag


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The next target of Cùl Mòr


I descended back to the small lochan between the summits and then to the south of Meall Dearg to avoid climbing it again and get some different views. Here I saw a Golden Eagle patrolling the hillside with wings tucked in to fight against the strong wind. I then headed back towards Loch nan Ealachan, via Creag Dhubh, where I picked up an off-road track to the west down into Gleann Laoigh. At this point I’d dropped lower than the start of the walk with the daunting ascent of Cùl Mòr now towering above me. The unique thing about the hills in this area is they very much stand alone from one another, this does, however, add a lot of vertical feet when trying to climb more than one.

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That's a lot of height to lose


At a slight rise in the track, I broke off and traversed the steep pathless slope towards Lochan Dearg a’ Chùil Mhòir. Here I was greeted with an imposing amphitheatre of the towering cliffs of Creag nan Calman and An Laogh. Nestled between them was the lochan with its beach of golden sand. After a while relaxing on the peaceful beach, it was time to continue the big climb.

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Sandstone whale


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Relaxing on the beach


Behind the beach was a cascading burn, which I was able to follow, at a gentle gradient, until it turned north and entered a narrow gorge cutting into the heart of the mountain. Here I chose to climb up the less steep eastern edge of this gorge until I was at a large flatter area staring up at the summit still high above. I was now able to pick up the first path for a while which headed up between the two high peaks of Cùl Mòr before striking for the summit. Once near the summit, grass gave way to exquisite sandstone sculptures and my first views north which included one of the finest sandstone sculptures of all, Suilven.

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Lots of climbing still to go


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First view to Suilven


At the summit the sandstone abruptly gives way to a cone of angular quartzite rocks and expansive views in all directions. The views are a notch above those of Cùl Beag, not least because its smaller neighbour looks so good from this angle with its cone shaped peak surrounded by lochs. Despite the clear blue skies there was still a strong gusty wind that had me slightly worried about the night ahead as I didn’t fancy more broken sleep.

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Obvious change in geology


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Stac Pollaidh in front of the glistening sea


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I headed down onto Sròn Gharbh hoping that the summit of Cùl Mòr would provide some shelter. Ignoring some of the slightly more sheltered spots I headed for the end where I knew the views would be superb, but the wind, it turned out, would be just as strong as the summit. At this point I decided to try my luck with the wind rather than backtrack for a less scenic (all relative) spot to pitch.

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Not a bad spot (apart from the wind)


After battling to put the tent up I hid inside and had some food, waiting a couple of hours until the sun lowered. Eventually I ventured out dressed in all the clothes I had to wonder around and take some photos. I found a spot behind some rocks that was reasonably sheltered with a great view out to the sun setting behind the Outer Hebrides. Watching the sun go down on my grand vantage point high above the loch peppered moorland and the shimmering sea beyond made the wind bearable. After a while though, I had reached my limit, and went to try and get some sleep.

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Cùl Beag in the evening light


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Suilven glowing


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Canisp and Ben More Assynt


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Red light catching Sgùrr an Fhìdhleir


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Cùl Beag after sunset


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Sròn Gharbh juts out into a land of water


Throughout the night the 40 mph gusts rocked the tent but a combination of extreme tiredness and relaxing music in my headphones meant I got a good night’s sleep. I set my alarm early so I could pack up the tent and get back up to the summit for sunrise. When I emerged the wind was still very strong but the low cloud streaming between me and Suilven had me exited for what lay in store at the summit. The advantage of the wind was a bone-dry tent to pack away and I hurriedly got moving to the top. As I approached the summit the first rays of light lit up the layers of sandstone rock, and then came the summit. A sea of undulating cloud lay beneath me to the east with spectacular peaks rising through it. I’ve camped on too many summits to remember, but this had to be up there among the very best sunrises I’d ever seen. The wind was still roaring, but I didn’t seem to notice it as I took dozens of photos, and watched more and more of the magnificent landscape become illuminated by the morning sun.

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A decent morning view


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First light hitting the sandstone


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The view east was amazing


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Suilven, Quinag and Canisp


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Beinn Dearg (maybe)


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Morning light looking south


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Looks comfy


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Shadow of Cùl Mòr stretching out to sea


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Last nights home


I probably spent around half an hour on the summit taking it all in before I made my way down via the normal path which descends first to the northeast. Eventually, after the top of Meallan Dìomhain, I descended into the cloud and walked down the obvious path which becomes well-made. After a while of walking through the cloud I dropped out of the bottom to get a last glimpse of the views.

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Cùl Beag from Meallan Dìomhain


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Thankfully there were no traffic lights


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Emerging from the base of the cloud to a view of An Teallach


It was still nice and early when I reached the road. I had been an amazing walk without another person in sight and I think I saw the best of these two amazing hills. As anyone with kids knows it’s best not to have favourites but if I had to pick it would be Cùl Mòr, it has more bits to explore and better views. However, on a busy day, I’m sure you could find a bit more solitude on Cùl Beag.

Luckily this trip was not over. The weather was still forecast to be good, and I still had a day and a half of walking ahead. I headed the short drive up the road to Glas Bheinn for a walk and summit camp that would be different in character but no less enjoyable.
Last edited by Gareth M on Mon May 08, 2023 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Gareth M
 
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Re: Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr

Postby SummitStupid » Mon May 08, 2023 4:53 pm

Fantastic! This is what we all hope for when we camp up high. Looking forward to the Glass Bheinn report, it's a cracking hill.
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Re: Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr

Postby litljortindan » Mon May 08, 2023 5:44 pm

"A decent morning view" is a bit of an understatement.
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Re: Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr

Postby Gareth M » Tue May 09, 2023 10:10 am

SummitStupid wrote:Fantastic! This is what we all hope for when we camp up high. Looking forward to the Glass Bheinn report, it's a cracking hill.


Thanks, I got very lucky. Times like this easily make up for all the times I've woken up inside a cloud
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Re: Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr

Postby Gareth M » Tue May 09, 2023 10:13 am

litljortindan wrote:"A decent morning view" is a bit of an understatement.


It definitely is!
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Re: Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr

Postby Verylatestarter » Tue May 09, 2023 7:02 pm

Simply stunning, great pictures.
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Re: Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr

Postby rockhopper » Tue May 09, 2023 10:44 pm

Nice route - you certainly picked a good time for it. Cracking set of photos - cheers :)
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Re: Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr

Postby Gareth M » Thu May 11, 2023 11:33 am

Verylatestarter wrote:Simply stunning, great pictures.

Thanks very much
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Re: Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr

Postby Gareth M » Thu May 11, 2023 11:35 am

rockhopper wrote:Nice route - you certainly picked a good time for it. Cracking set of photos - cheers :)

Thanks, I knew the weather was forecast to be good, but didn't think it would be that good!
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Re: Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr

Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Thu May 11, 2023 3:51 pm

Thoroughly enjoyed that! Apart from the wind, really glad you had such great conditions :D
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Re: Cùl Beag and Cùl Mòr

Postby Gareth M » Sat May 13, 2023 10:30 am

EmmaKTunskeen wrote:Thoroughly enjoyed that! Apart from the wind, really glad you had such great conditions :D

Thanks!
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