An Assynt triple: Breabeg, Quinag and Canisp
by malky_c » Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:24 am
Corbetts included on this walk: Breabag, Canisp, Quinag - Sail Gharbh, Quinag - Sail Gorm, Quinag - Spidean Coinich
Date walked: 24/09/2011
Time taken: 11.25 hours
Distance: 37 km
Ascent: 2810m6 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
It was a lovely autumnal drive over the Struie road and up Strath Oykel. One of my favourite bits of this route is just short of Ledmore Junction, when Suilven springs into view end on, looking completely ridiculous. While the sun had been shining in the east, most of the Inverpollaidh area looked dark and grim, apart from one shaft of sunlight on Suilven. I would've stopped for a photo, but it had gone before I found somewhere suitable.
Date walked: 24/09/2011
Distance: 10.5 km
Ascent: 775 m
Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Weather: Windy, showery, sunny, windy
I decided to start the day on Breabeg, as it appeared to be the least interesting of the summits I had in mind for today, and the weather forecast had mentioned the cloud lifting a little as the day went on. Although I had seen the summit on the drive over, it was back in the cloud as I started up the path to Creag nan Uamh at 10am. This was a good path, as it gave access to the bone caves and was obviously a popular easy stroll. I passed a couple on the way up. I decided to have a peek at the caves on the way past, which required crossing the river and climbing up to the foot of the cliffs. There were 3 or 4 separate caves, all with dark holes at the back that I couldn't see down. I wondered if any of them gave access to a cave network.
Bone caves, Allt nan Uamh:
Looking back to Suilven and Canisp:
Beyond the crag, the path swung round into a small side valley before doubling back and rejoining the outward route. I carried on up the valley and on to slightly squelchy moorland to start ascending the NW flank of Breabag. Higher up I could see a lot of loose scree and broken crag. I was heading for a large slab, which looked smooth and slippy from a way off, but turned out to be much more broken close up. This provided a great route to the summit plateau.
Slab near summit plateau:
The summit was still in the clag when I got there, and the wind was quite fresh higher up. Somehow I always knew Breabeg was going to be like this - a quick dash in less than perfect conditions.
However it had a few surprises in store. I made my way towards the eastern edge of the hill, as I'd always fancied a look into the corrie there, although I didn't have much hope of seeing anything. Going was quite difficult, with endless angular quartzy scree piled everywhere. However the cloud cleared and the sun came out, making the whole thing worthwhile.
Down the uppper Oykel:
Crags of Coirean Ban:
Ben More Assynt never completely emerged from the cloud, but the sun was shining on Dubh Loch Mor and I was able to pick out a route I'd taken from there up gullies and buttresses onto the eastern ridge some years earlier.
Ben More Assynt and Dubh Loch Mor:
I sampled a short stretch of Breabeg, dropping down into the Allt nan Uamh. the continuation north looked tempting (if rough going) though, definitely one for the future. My original plan for Breabeg had been a long circuit of the upper Oykel taking in Conival and Ben More Assynt, but the quick bag from the west had been too tempting in the end.
North along Breabag:
There were numerous lochans dotted about, including a particualry bluey green one with great views of Suilven and Canisp. The top of the glen was very rough going, before developing into a gorge lower down. Soon I was rejoining my outward path, having enjoyed Breabeg much more than I'd expected to.
Lochan on the summit ridge:
Suilven and Canisp again:
Creag nan Uamh:
Autumnal along the Allt nan Uamh:
Corbetts: Spidean Coinich, Sail Ghorm, Sail Gharbh
Date walked: 24/09/2011
Distance: 14.5 km
Ascent: 1290 m
Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Weather: As above, with extra wind, sun, cloud, showers and more sun
A 10 minute drive north took me to the start of my next target, Quinag. I'd been saving this for years for perfect weather, and I'd got to the point where I was fed up of waiting, and just wanted to get on with it. As if to remind me of my decision, a blast of rain hit me when I got out of the car. These are certainly some of the most popular Corbetts in the area. Hardly the Cobbler, but there were already 7 cars parked up in the car park.
Luckily the rain stopped and the sun came out within a minute of leaving the car, pulling me on towards the first summit. The JMT had done a lot of work on the first bit of this path, even linking up the wet bits of bog between the large bare slabs of rock.
Spidean Coinich from the road:
Looking to Foinaven and Beinn Leoid on the ascent of Spidean Coinich:
Summit of Spidean:
Further up, the ground was sodden, no doubt as a result of the endless heavy rain that the weat coast seems to have had recently. Still, the first summit gives an easy Corbett, reachable in an hour from the car, and looking steeper and more exciting the higher you get. The actual summit was a small flat plateau on top of a clif, and although the sun was out above, the cloud had just rolled in again, making finding the next section of ridge slightly tricky. It loomed out of the mist soon enough, and I was following an airy arete through the clouds before the views suddenly broke through.
East along Loch Assynt:
Suilven and Loch Assynt:
After another small summit, there was a very steep descent to the Bealach a Cornaidh. While reminiscent of An Teallach and Liathach in places, there was virtually no proper scrambling, although a couple of bits would probably need a little more attention in winter conditions. An equally steep ascent on the other side of the bealach led to the un-named point 745m, from where the cloud soon away from the rest of the ridge, revealing impressive cliffs and corries.
Back to Spidean Coinich from point 745m:
Along the ridge towards Sail Ghorm from point 745m:
Looking down to the foot of the next descent, I could see a guy perched out on the end of a precarious tower. I recognised this from photos I'd seen in other reports, but didn't fancy it myself in the wind! I stopped for a quick chat with the three guys, and bumped into them a couple of times more throughout the traverse.
Guy out on exposed ridge:
Along the coast to Point of Stoer:
Canisp, Cul Mor and Suilven:
After a couple of minor rocky tops, the walk out to Sail Ghorm was easy angled and grassy. The cloud was just skimming the summit, so I descended a short way northward to get out of the wind for a break and a better view.
Final ridge to Sail Ghorm:
Looking back to point 745m:
Loch Gleann Dubh, Loch Glencoul and Sail Gharbh:
South towards the Summer Isles:
The walk back to point 745m was easy enough, although the re-ascents were less welcome! I bypassed this summit and headed for the highest point in the group, Sail Gharbh.
N end of Sail Gharbh ridge from summit:
Loch a Chairn Bhain:
For some reason, I'd always fancied walking out to the northern end of the Sail Gharbh ridge, although now I was there, it looked further and with more descent than I wanted. I went for it anyway, strolling out across a rock pavement to look down the northern butresses. They were a bit steep to get a good look at from above, but the view straight down to Kylesku was worth it. The re-ascent to the summit of Sail Gharbh was a bit of a drag, and the wind had really picked up at this point.
Kylesku bridge and the northern buttresses of Sail Gharbh:
Back south to the summit of Sail Gharbh:
Soon enough I was dropping down to Lochan Bhealach Cornaidh and out of the wind. The walk-out to the road had great views north to Foinaven and Ben Hee, but the going was extremely muddy. Nevertheless, I still had dry feet at this point for a change.
Lochan Bhealach Cornaidh and Spidean Coinich:
Date walked: 24/09/2011
Distance: 12 km
Ascent: 755 m
Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
Weather: Breezy but clear
As usual, I had rather underestimated the time these walks would take, so after another 10 minute drive, I pulled up at the starting point for Canisp at 6:15 pm. Definitely much later than I'd planned! I knew I'd be doing some of this walk in the dark, but this didn't bother me too much so I decided to get on with it.
Canisp from the starting point:
First thing that happened (2 minutes after leaving the car) is I got to a very fast flowing stream. There were stepping stones of a sort, but they were well submerged. So having kept my feet dry up to now, I got them saturated in seconds! To be honest the path beyond wasn't much better, and when I got to a second stream I just waded through.
There isn't a great deal to say about the ascent of Canisp. I don't know if it is always this wet but this evening it was absolutely saturated. And when it wasn't, the walking was over awkward angular blocks. Luckily I caught a bit of evening sunlight to take my mind off it.
Conival and the north end of Breabag:
I lost the path and re-found it again at a point where it followed the slabs of a dry(ish) river bed. This made for nice walking, but soon enough it was back to the angular blocks.
Breabag and some of the nice easy-angled slabs I walked up:
As I approached the 600m contour, I could sense the light fading, and I still hadn't caught a glimpse of Suilven. Finally at about 650m, I hit a less broad ridge and it was suddenly there in front of me. Seeing it silhouetted against the last of the sunset like that was more than worth the pain of getting back down in the dark. I tried to get a few shots, but my camera wasn't really up to the task. It was really a job for a decent SLR, long exposure and a tripod.
Suilven from near the summit. Not the best photo, but the highlight of the day:
The final 10 minutes to the summit were much steeper than the rest of the ascent, across a blocky boulderfield, and by the time I reached the twin shelters (passing a rock sculpture on the way), the light was virtually none existent. However I could see that the north and west sides of the hill were infinitely more impressive than the side I had just come up. Ascent from Suileag in the future I think.
Cul Mor and Stac Pollaidh from the summit:
Summit sculpture (flash required):
The last of the light over the Coigach and Inverpollaidh area was unbelievable, with the endless lochans standing out from the black, and the lights of Lochinver just visible. It was 8pm and I had taken longer to get up than I had expected. My pace was definitely flagging a bit by this point.
Last of the sunser over Lochinver:
I decided to get moving after 5 minutes or so, knowing that the steep, bouldery top section would be awkward, and I preferred to do it using what natural light was available rather than resorting to the headtorch just yet. I took the more northerly of the southeastern spurs down, joining my route of ascent at the foot of the steep stuff. After 40 minutes or so, I gave in and switched on the torch, after tripping over one too many tussocks of heather. The odd time that I turned it off, I was amazed at the number of stars on show. There really is next to no light pollution out here, the lights of Elphin barely registering in the grand scheme of things.
The descent was as good as could be expected for most of the way, but the last 10 or 15 minutes across the boggy flats to the road seemed to go on forever. In fact it took me even longer to get down than it did to get up! I finally reached the car just before 10, and sped off, rather unhappy to discover that the chippy in Ullapool was shut by the time I got there. So I carried on and parked up on the Destitution road and made do with my tin of chicken curry instead.
The original plan had been to walk in to Lochivraon bothy, shortening the next day's walk, but I was so tired by now, and it was so late that I just slept in the car instead. (Link to next day's walk)
by kinley » Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:54 am
Conditions did look better than expected - that Assynt microclimate tends to be a law into itself.
Looks like you're getting back to previous fitness levels though
by ChrisW » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:09 am
by Alastair S » Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:55 pm
I've only done Canisp out of these three but it still took you 15 minutes less than I took when this was the only hill I did that day (& we both did 12km). Anyway some great shots of this fabulous area - particularly like the Crags of Coirean Ban one & the Suilven silhouette ones.
BTW where is that summit sculpture? I didn't see it in May last year - but it was thick clag by the time we got up to the summit.
by mamoset » Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:28 pm
by mountainstar » Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:19 am
Very well done, but disappointed you never got to the Bothy .
by HighlandSC » Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:31 pm
mountainstar wrote:Yes, this confirms it.....you are mad!
Good stuff Malky. I'd have to break through some tough psychological barriers to keep getting in and out of the car like that and up hill after hill!!! Well done.
by malky_c » Fri Sep 30, 2011 9:30 am
Sorry I didn't research this earlier - was in a hurry to get this report finished. There was a suggestion that the sculpture was by Andy Goldsworthy, but I don't think that is the case. There is/was also a spherical cairn up there, but I didn't see it. Could've been because it was dark or maybe because it isn't there any more. Photo from Geograph (by Peter Standing):
mountainstar wrote: disappointed you never got to the Bothy .
Me too, but have it earmarked for the future - maybe a more relaxing weekend. Looks good for lugging some decent food into. Were you staying at this one back in March?
by mountainstar » Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:00 am
Were you staying at this one back in March?
Yes, had a good night by a cracking fire (Coal carried in), with snow outside, as you said an easy level hours walk gets you there, so a good one for lugging more that the usual stuff in.
by Johnny Corbett » Fri Sep 30, 2011 1:49 pm
by Vick1 » Sat Oct 01, 2011 9:53 am
by Ian Johnston » Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:21 pm
Great effort and a super report.
Funny enough, both my ascents of Breabag have been in idetical weather to that...
Quinag has to be one of my top three hills; I've climbed it, walked around it, stayed below it and sea-kayaked most of the water around it. A magical, striking hill. Glad to see you got out above Kylesku for the one view that demonstrates not all modern architecture is dross - seen from that summit the bridge is a thing of beauty