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The saddle - circular route

The saddle - circular route

Postby Verylatestarter » Tue Jun 13, 2023 9:37 pm

Route description: The Saddle, Forcan Ridge and Sgùrr na Sgìne

Munros included on this walk: The Saddle

Corbetts included on this walk: Am Bathach

Fionas included on this walk: Biod an Fhithich

Date walked: 24/05/2023

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 20.7 km

Ascent: 1870m

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Circular route.jpg
The route - clockwise

When Ben and I ascended The Saddle via the Forcan ridge I was acutely aware there was a lot more to this mountain than just the superb scramble (which WH combine with Sigr na Singe). When you stand at the summit trig point and look away from the South Kintail ridge you see superb narrow ridges stretching away toward Loch Duich and South towards Kinloch Hourn. The Saddle is not the last high point on the row of Munros just the last Munro. After a little research I found an outline of a route starting and ending at the Gen Sheil campsite which would include two outstanding Munro Tops but also a Graham (Biod a Fhithich) and a Corbett (Sgurr Mich Bharraich) – a Graham – Munro – Corbett combination which would be a first for me.

The stripy bed of the river near the campsite.

Low cloud and light drizzle in Gleann Undalain -

Approaching the sheilings, the faint ATV track can be seen at the foot of the spur.

Looking back towards Sgurr Mich Bharraich - I came down the long slope to the right of the rainbow - no pot of gold again

Parking at the chocolate shop (old petrol station on the A82 (NG940187) I walked past the campsite entrance and turned left walking up the path beside the river, which had a remarkable scoured, rubble free bed. The good path led upwards into Gleann Undalain then towards the Coire Caol. My plan was originally to follow the A M’huing ridge crest to Biod a Fhithich summit but decided against, given the heavily undulating terrain and the overcast sky – not wanting to get soaked on an exposed ridge early on in a long day. I therefore took the valley route and stayed close to the stream. I looked for a crossing point near some sheilings (NG 934163) and found some easy stepping stone. Ahead I could see what looked like an ATV track which I believe must be the path this hugged the flanks of Sgurr na Creig (the North ridge of The Saddle). Not checking the map I headed that way and the track soon faded out. Checking the map seemed like a good idea and I quickly realized I was on the wrong side of the stream. Cutting across diagonally to the stream and uphill beyond I found the good path.

The summit area of Biod a Fhithich looking down the A M’huing ridge towards Loch Duich

The lumpy ridge in zoom

Glen Sheil still cloudy

Cloud beginning to clear over Meallan Odhar and Forcan Ridge, Faochag in the background

Forcan ridge on left and the Sgurr na Creig ridge on right .

Biod a Fhithich from South, Mark from Manchester lines up a landscape shot.

Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe and her sisters

Coire Caol with Biod a Fhithich on right, the lumpy mass of Sgurr Mich Bharraich on the distant left.

Further up the Coire Caol I headed off uphill to the shoulder of Biod a Fhithich and approached the summit from the South. By this time the cloud began to dissipate and reveal the hills of the Sisters ridge, I couldn’t have timed it better. The summit of the Graham is a great viewpoint and a great camping spot (not that I will be indulging). The view down the ridge and towards the Saddle were opening up and I pushed on back down the South slope and over Meallan Odhar. At the bealach I met Mark from Manchester who was going through his list of top 100 hills cribbed from a magazine – having spent the previous evening in the Ratagan Hostel with two aficionados of the Relative Hill Society I sympathized with the straightforward approach – quality not metrics. I left Mark to wander around the bealach but he caught up with me at the foot of the Forcan Ridge where he handed me the hat I dropped going over Meallan Odhar (thanks Mark). We discussed attempting the ridge but I was reluctant given I had a long day and I’m not the quickest of scramblers.

Below the Forcan ridge is the boundary wall I followed - it turns out this is on the Cape Wrath Trail and the busiest part of the walk

More Forcan Ridge and Faochag

The top end of the Forcan ridge taken from near the trig point

The South ridge beyond the 950 point - last of the snow

I bypassed the Forcan Ridge having scrambled this with Ben on 31st August 2020, followed the wall of large boulders that skirted below and then up the steep slope of the unnamed shallow coire South of the trig point. I reached the trig point about 3 hours from starting out and had my lunch in the same spot I did in 2020. There was a hint of building cloud over Beinn Sgrithall to the West so I thought I’d better get moving otherwise I’d end up negotiating the best part of the walk in clag. The main ridge carried on from the trig point for about 500m undulating and rocky and then dropped down from 950m to a bealach and then up over rocky outcrops to the Top of Spidean Dhomhuill Brich at 939m. Good grade 1 scrambling but nothing too onerous, route finding was easy as there was an old fence line to follow. Light cloud came and went. The ridge then dropped to another bealach at 853m and then up to the second top of Sgurr Leac nan Each at 919m. The two tops are a real contrast when seen from the Munro, the first jagged and a junction point of the South and Northwest ridge; the latter an arched wall with an even ascent and descent.

Spidean Dhomhuill Brich and Sgurr Leac nan Each on the Northwest ridge

Closer, note fence posts which give a good indication of the route over the tops

The 950 point, not a separate Top apparently

Looking back at the Trig point in the far distance

Sgurr Mich Bharraich from the Saddle

Spidean Dhomhuill Brich

Sgurr Leac nan Each

Looking back at Spidean Dhomhuill Brich and The Saddle

Spidean Dhomhuill Brich

The bealach between the two tops at 853m

Beyond Sgurr Leac nan Each the Northwest ridge drops gradually away over numerous lumps and bumps (I’m reliably informed that there are 4 ‘Graham Tops’ on this ridge – but I ostentatiously ignored them – maybe I should return to tick these off – maybe not!). I was aiming for the Corbett of Sgurr Mich Bharraich beyond a fairly deep bealach (462m) about 3 Km away so I kept to the East slopes of the ridge aiming for a long shallow descent. For those who consider that a Munro and it’s tops is enough for the day (i.e. those with more sense than me) there appears to be a good exit from this ridge at NG920150 from the base of a spur East of Sgurr a Gharg Gharaidh either down to the path alongside the stream or contouring over to a path shown on the 1:25000 maps – this is visible from the 462 bealach.

The Arnisdale hills

Loch a Coire Uaine sitting below The Saddle

The weather improves

Biod a Fhithich looking a little small amongst the neighbours

Loch Coire nan Crogachan and the 462 bealach

Small cairn on Sgurr Mich Bharraich, Beinn Sgrithall in background

The lumpy top of Sgurr Mich Bharraich

The main cairn

Not for me the straightforward exit; I continued along the side of the ridge. In the conditions which were clearing it was a good if energy sapping walk. I aimed for the East of the Loch Coire nan Crogachan to pick up the ascent path on Sgurr Mich Bharraich shown on the WH route. A fairly straightforward climb over pathless ground onto shallower rocky ground. The light kept changing with great views back towards The Saddle, Kintail ridges and Beinn Sgrithall with it’s attendant Corbetts. The crown of the hill itself is fairly nondescript but a great viewpoint. By the time I reached the large summit cairn at 6;20 I’d been walking 10.5 hours and given that I was due in Glen Nevis before the hostel shut at 10;00 I though I’s better get a move on.

The Arnisdale hills where I walked the previous day looking at route onto Beinn Sgrithall from the NE

The Saddle and the termination of the Northwest ridge (with 4 Fiona Tops) My suggested descent route starts at the further of the two shallow spurs (slightly highlighted)in the centre of the picture.

Biod a Fhithich with it's bumpy, lumpy ridge from Sgurr Mich Bharraich, at the top of the descent slope.

Coire Caol from the exit slope of Sgurr Mich Bharraich,, the two alternate paths either side of the burn are visible. The one on the right terminates quickly.

Gleann Undalain .View from the last drop before the campsite

My second most rapid descent of the week was down the (derided as tedious by WH but thankfully quick) East slope towards the river. In the dry clear conditions this was a godsend and I made it down and out to the car by 7;35. By this time the light was fantastic and I didn’t want to leave. I had a paddle in the river to ease my aching calves after the rapid descent and set off for Glen Nevis eating a cobbled together evening meal whilst driving. The drive up Glen Sheil and Glen Clunie was spectacular in the light and I made a mental note to add the Kintail ridges to the to do list.

I loved this walk and would recommend it to anyone who is happy to go the distance. The Saddle is definitely in my Top 100 Hills, even without the Forcan Ridge; with it well, I’ll let you be the judge when you do the climb..
Mountain Walker
Posts: 216
Munros:41   Corbetts:18
Sub 2000:1   
Joined: Oct 14, 2020
Location: East Anglia (South Norfolk)

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