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On the Edge of Knoydart...

On the Edge of Knoydart...

Postby andrewdoggett » Mon Sep 05, 2011 10:16 am

Route description: Sgùrr na Cìche: 3 Munros from Loch Arkaig

Munros included on this walk: Garbh Chioch Mhòr, Sgùrr Mòr (Loch Quoich), Sgùrr na Cìche, Sgùrr nan Coireachan (Glen Dessary)

Date walked: 05/09/2011

Time taken: 10.1 hours

Distance: 31.7 km

Ascent: 2419m

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I had the kind of excitement you can only feel when you're exploring somewhere new... My plans were to head properly off into the wild today on the edge of Knoydart and take on the famed Sgurr na Ciche... A final check of mwis provided for a favourable forecast and that sealed the deal...

I woke at 04:30 to the sound of my alarm; and a spring in my step that belied the 23 km I'd walked just the day before in the Cairngorms. A quick coffee and juice and I was off; roof down under the stars, interspersed with mist; Alicia Keys being good enough to keep me company. Perfect.

It didn't take long to rip it up to Fort William; the day got off to a great start with an explosion of colour in the sky at sunrise as the sun rose over Loch Lochy...

Sunrise over Loch Lochy

A huge stag with what were truly magnificent antlers crossed the road in front of me having had a morning drink in the Loch. We looked each other square in the eye for a few moments before he gracefully made his way up through the forest.

The drive down Loch Arkaig which comes in for a bit of a stick on this forum starts with a stunning waterfall off to your right as you go over a stone bridge...

Waterfall before Loch Arkaig

It'll take you a while to get to the end of the road and there is nothing that prepares you for the walk ahead; the scenery isn't particularly spectacular by Scotlands standards, but we all know the best bits are off the beaten track... I started the walk briskly; the midges were out in full force. After 5 km or so along the track this Glendessary house the landrover track turns into a boggy path that follows the forest, and you start to feel like you're entering somewhere truly special as Bidein a'Chabhair dominates the view...

Bidein a'Chabhair

I'd decided to do the three Sgurr na Ciche munros in reverse t the order on Walkhighlands; in the main because I wanted to reserve the option of taking on Sgurr Mor as an added extra if the legs were up to it; and at this stage of proceedings it was a go…

The path continues; still boggy, but entering progressively and more wild territory...

Getting wilder and wilder...

By now with a mixture of golden morning light and cloud swirling around the hills, and with no trace of human presence in sight I'm starting to get more and more excited; this just keeps getting better and better I'm thinking to myself… An indication of things to come… Hopefully.

Swirls of mist in the mountains

After topping out on the first ridge I was rewarded with my first sight of Sgurr na Ciche though at the time it was shrouded in cloud. I was hoping this would clear up before I got there, and it still looked a decent hoof!

Sgurr na Ciche on the left, in cloud

The final ascent to the col is steep but there's nothing difficult, other than the rocks are slippery, so be careful if it's not bone dry...

The final ascent to the col

At the col I stopped for a drink and some snacks; the terrain is tough going, and I was knackard… At this stage, any thoughts of adding Sgurr Mor to the walk were off as I looked up at the imposing steep final slopes of Sgurr na Ciche; still around 200 metres of ascent of go…

And it is steep, but again nothing difficult, and as the views open out before you; you're rewarded with truly spectacular sights… Would it be clear at the top I wondered? How long can I stay without getting cold if it isn't?

On the steep final slopes of Sgurr na Ciche overlooking Loch Nevis

It wasn't too long before the summit was in sight; all of the hard work now done; and it looked like I was in for a clear summit... Onwards then with a spring in my step...

And it's fair to say the views from the summit worked...

Looking along Loch Nevis from the summit of Sgurr na Ciche

Me on the summit of Sgurr na Ciche

Panorama from the summit of Sgurr na Ciche

Time to get moving... All of the terrain makes for awkward progress, and particularly with wet rock you won't move quickly along this ridge, not that that matters, the scenery is breathtaking...

The Sgurr na Ciche Ridge...

As you near the summit of Garbh Chioch Mhor the view behind towards Sgurr na Ciche opens out and you can see what went before, or what lays ahead if you're tackling this route the other way...

Sgurr na Ciche

The cloud was intermittent, coming and leaving... Which added an air of mystery to the walk, yet didn't detract from the views...

The final approach to the summit of Garbh Chioch Mhor...

I'm not sure whether you 'grade' a mountain based upon it, or the mountains around it and the sights you get when climbing them. Does it matter? No. The view from the summit again was sensational in particular towards Sgurr nan Coireachan with the wall that is a constant companion on the walk leading you along the ridge line...

The view toward Sgurr nan Coireachan

The going is pretty rocky and still fairly slippery as the rocks remained wet so you won't make fast progress if that's what you're looking for these aren't the hills… It feels like a very high version of Hadrians Wall with much much more dramatic scenery the way the walk leads you along the ridge; you can't help but wonder why they built it all those years ago. Was it to keep things out, or in?

The ground on the ridge toward Sgurr nan Coireachan

And all the while the views over your shoulder mean you can't resist stopping and turning round every now and then...

The view back toward Garbh Chioch Mhor and sgurr na Ciche

The view forward reveals Sgurr Mor in the distance; still a healthy way away and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't feeling the legs. I wasn't sure... Never mind, we can make that decision later I thought...

Sgurr Mor and the Corbett Sgur and Fhuarain in the distance...

To the south west looking at Bidein a'Chabair the views are equally stunning; with some of the ascent route just in view at the bottom of the picture. I can't help but thinking this is one of the most stunning parts of Scotland I've been to; and something the casual tourist will never see, which somehow makes it more special...

The view southwest to Bidein a'Chabair

As Sgurr nan Coireachan gets closer you can see down Glen Dessary to the start of the walk. The views are sensational and it's all you can do to focus on your feet rather than the scenery...

Nearing Sgurr nan Coireachan

I still can't resist looking around; lots of stops today; half because I'm knackard, but half because I just want to take it all in...

Another view of Bidein a'Chabair

It's here I see my first folk of the day taking on the three Sgurr na Ciche Munros in the direction on the walkhighlands route. We have a short chat; we talk about how we've saved this one for a good day. Not the type of hills you need to be walking in the mist... And then it's back to business with the steep Sgurr nan Coireachan to ascend...

The steep west slopes of Sgurr nan Coireachan

I'd be lying if I said it didn't hurt!! The legs were feeling all of the ascent today, bearing in mind Satmap clocked me in at 1160 metres of ascent to get to the top of Sgurr na Criche alone, and there's been some errr undulations since ;)

No matter, I made the summit, and looked back on what is a stunning ridge walk, with Sgurr na Criche looking pointy, but stunning.

The view back with Sgurr na Ciche dominating...

And now it had arrived; decision time; would it be descend to Glen Dessary and head back to the car, or onward to Sgurr Mor which would mean two more peaks and another three ascents…

There was lots to weigh up. it was a good day, plus. I was knackard, minus. The scenery was still stunning, plus. I had a three hour drive home, minus. The ground looked easier, plus. I had work the next day, minus. I'd have to drive 'the road' again if I didn't, plus. I wasn't totally sure I could do it, minus. I don't like giving up; I mead the decision to do all four when I did Sgurr na Ciche first, plus.

So that's 5-4 then, I think, head down and get on with it!!

The view from Sgurr nan Coireachan to Sgurr Mor

And that's me done for photos, a maximum of 25 attachments allowed... And that for me serves as a final indicator of how much I loved this walk... And saves me from jibbering on about the remainder of the route...

Needless to say, the final three hills were done with a lot of focus and mental strength, before the punishing climb up through the glen that separates Sgur na Cos Breachd-laoidh from Fraoich Bheinn. The descent from there was boggy but quick, and then all that was left was 2 km along the track and back to the car...

Roof down, and a long drive home, with yes, you've guessed it, Alicia Keys soothing me!!

Save it for a good day, that's my advice on this stunner, and think carefully before adding in Sgurr Mor; it does hurt... But it's also worth it... Truly epic :lol:

See you in Kintail next weekend...

The route...

2011 - 09 - 04 - Sgur na Ciche.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Last edited by andrewdoggett on Mon Sep 05, 2011 11:39 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: On the Edge of Knoydart...

Postby skuk007 » Mon Sep 05, 2011 10:56 am

Well it's looking pretty good so far, eagerly awaiting the next installment. :)
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Re: On the Edge of Knoydart...

Postby victoriajarrett » Mon Sep 05, 2011 7:17 pm

stunning pics... sorry i missed this one... but after listening to you complain about how knackered you were one climb that i probably wouldn't have accomplished!!!

And i think you owe a big thank you to your 'good' woman for suppling you with another 'good' woman, Alicia Keys, it's a good job i'm not the jealous type ;)

Almost halfway :D xxx
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Re: On the Edge of Knoydart...

Postby Jabber » Mon Sep 05, 2011 8:54 pm

Top report and great pictures. :)
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Re: On the Edge of Knoydart...

Postby PeteR » Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:34 pm

Just an amazing part of Scotland :D It really is an area for good weather, as you don't want to be missing out on the magnificent scenery. I know what you mean about stopping to take in the views too. I was the same when I was there. Picking 25 photos to post was almost harder than the walk, as I had taken so many to choose from :lol: :lol: It's a long drive in, but well worth it I'm sure you agree. A great report and pictures :D
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Re: On the Edge of Knoydart...

Postby Bod » Tue Sep 06, 2011 7:10 pm

Yes an amazing part of the country. Enjoyed your report very much........always wanted to come in from the east like you, as I know the ground fairly well coming from the north and west. Wonderful stays in Inverie,Tarbet Bay and Barrisdale have seen to that over the years..... :D
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Re: On the Edge of Knoydart...

Postby andrewdoggett » Thu Sep 08, 2011 4:54 pm

victoriajarrett wrote:stunning pics... sorry i missed this one... but after listening to you complain about how knackered you were one climb that i probably wouldn't have accomplished!!!

And i think you owe a big thank you to your 'good' woman for suppling you with another 'good' woman, Alicia Keys, it's a good job i'm not the jealous type ;)

Almost halfway :D xxx

Don't suppose you know any other nice women?
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Re: On the Edge of Knoydart...

Postby octavenine » Tue Feb 19, 2019 12:50 am

Nice report, very useful as I have the exact same route planned for this friday. Due to daylight hours I'm planning on a high camp on the ridge probably just before Sgurr Mor, I know was back in 2011 but from your pics can you remember if there were decent spots for a tent?
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Re: On the Edge of Knoydart...

Postby haringit » Tue Feb 19, 2019 2:19 pm

Great report. Did the same walk but in reverse and like you had been walking the previous day. Wet feet from the onset, a sore knee from the descent of Sgurr Mor onwards, ran out of water and had brought mouth watering cheese pieces with me. It is indeed a challenging walk. :clap:
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