Travel and Coronavirus
Please check current coronavirus restrictions before travelling within or to Scotland.
Click for details
Quoich a day out on the South Glen Shiel Ridge
by PeteR » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:22 pm
Route description: South Glen Shiel Ridge: 7 Munros
Munros included on this walk: Aonach Air Chrith, Creag a'Mhaim, Druim Shionnach, Maol chinn-dearg, Sgurr an Doire Leathain, Sgurr an Lochain
Date walked: 01/10/201125 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).
The South Glen Shiel Ridge! Seeing the reports from the WH meet had placed this ridge back on my radar. But I didn’t want to make it easy for myself. Oh no. I’d seen a route description starting from Loch Quoich!! If all went to plan it would be a glorious 21 miles with 6,000ft of ascent My route description suggested 12 hours, so with breaks along the way I had 13 in mind. And I was on track until about half way. Then it all started to go wrong. Just how wrong I let it get is an embarrassment
My preparation wasn’t ideal either. I’d been in London on Thursday and after a delayed flight back north had had only about 5 hours sleep that night. Drove up to Loch Quoich on Friday night and probably managed about 3 hours sleep on the way up!! So I was tired before I’d even started, but I was full of expectation too.
The forecast had looked pretty good and the early signs were promising. High cloud and the odd glimpse of blue sky
Early progress was good and I was soon passed the house at Alltbeithe and heading east along Easter Glen Quoich toward the saddle between Creag a Mhaim and Creag Liathais where I’d join the path up Creag a Mhaim from Cluanie. A good track, but as seems to be the way this year it was a bit boggy in places. I say a bit boggy What I mean is, it was very boggy – and the burns I had to ford seemed to have a lot more water than I was expecting. Nothing impassable, but my trousers were soon pretty wet below the knees.
Had some interested onlookers early on
They must have wondered what this loon ball was doing walking down their track. The rest of the herd was there too, and they were as interested in me as their two pals had been.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t playing ball, and the clag seemed to be descending all around. The South Glen Shiel ridge was attracting the cloud too. I was just hoping it wouldn’t last, as this would be one long walk if it was spent entirely in clag
The path up onto the saddle was nice and easy, but still boggy in places. Crossed a nice water feature on the way. I’m a sucker for water tumbling over the rocks. If I could have stayed a while I would, but I was on a tight timescale with little or no time for unnecessary delays, so it was a quick picture and on my way.
Meeting the Cluanie path the view down to Loch Loyne was spoilt by the mist that had rolled in
I can imagine this would be a cracking view on a good day, but hey-ho I was still hoping for a good walk despite the apparent change in weather fortunes.
The main path up the hill was excellent (still boggy though hahahaha) and initially I was making good progress. Some nice sections along the way too.
Ordinarily I might have been tempted onto the rocks, but it was a damp atmosphere and the rock was a bit slippery, so I kept to bypass paths for the most part.
The final section onto the summit of Creag a Mhaim seemed to take longer than I had expected, but eventually I was there, with wonderfully claggy views
I was happy with my timing so far, and was still confident of meeting the time frame I had in mind. So far, so good and after a quick text to MrsR I was soon on my way to Munro number two – Druim Shionnach.
The path along the way was excellent, but the clag showed no signs of lifting anytime soon I can only imagine what the views of the route might be like. I wasn’t getting much indication so far
But the weather was what the weather was and I just kept plodding along. And it wasn’t long before I was at summit number two - Druim Shionnach. Still no views
Time for a quick snack to keep the engine running a another text to MrsR to let her know how I was getting on. Then back into the clag Superb views all around......as you can see
Every now and then I was convinced the sun was trying to burn through the clag and I was convinced there were vague shadows as I was walking along. Or maybe it was some sort of clag blindness playing tricks on me
To tell you the truth, the clag was starting to do my head in. Having no views was disappointing, but something of an occupational hazard on Scottish hills hahaha Especially this summer hahahaha It just made it hard to motivate myself and get enthusiastic when I couldn’t see where I was heading or how far the tops were. Some people might like not being able to see what challenge awaits, but I was tiring of seeing one large shadow after another loom out of the gloom I could feel my pace slipping a bit.
But eventually I was on Munro number 3 – Aonach Air Chrith – apparently the high point of the day
A bit more food and another text to MrsR and the lack of views had ne on my way toward number 4 – Maol Chinn Dearg.
Some excitement at last
A nice scrambly section coming down off Aonach Air Chrith
The fun over, there was then a pretty long pull up onto Maol Chinn Dearg, but eventually I made it to the top
Still no views, so another quick text to MrsR and I was on my way to Munro number 5 – Sgurr an Doire Leathain.
Cue schoolboy error #1
See path and head down it. My route description said I should be having an easy descent bypassing a minor top, followed by a steep climb up onto Sgurr an Doire Leathain. I certainly had an easy initial drop down off the hill, but then things got a bit steeper, before easing off. But I was continuing to drop down. Alarm bells probably should have been ringing by now. But no......silence. Then light bulbs started to come on and I started concentrating on my surroundings.
Why was the traffic sounding louder now than it had before? I wasn’t heading toward the Glen Shiel road Bingo – off went thosee alarm bells. And as the clag lifted slightly there it was – the A87 in all its glory
I had been storming down Druim Coire nan Eirecheanach into Glen Shiel. The wrong direction and miles away from where my car was parked!!!!!!!
AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH! What a stupid, stupid fool. I was livid with myself. Suddenly I remembered that vital piece of kit I carry with me on every walk – my compass Maybe I should use it Maybe I should have used it earlier I was kicking myself. Feeling sick to the stomach!!!! Embarrassed How could I have been so stupid?
So it was back up to the summit as fast as I could and start all over again. In all over an hour wasted dicking about. Time I couldn’t afford as I was on a timescale. Numpty
And then, just as I arrived back at the summit of Maol Chinn Dearg the clag lifted and there were views
My first cloud inversion
Suddenly I could see the error of my ways and the route I should have taken in the first place toward Sgurr an Doire Leathain. So, before the clag descended again I was heading on my way. Apparently this should be a steep climb up to this summit, but I was in a hurry. I had time to make up
But the views were great, making up for the clag I had endured so far. Views back the way I had come
Views to Gleouraich
Views down into Glen Quoich
It’s amazing what a change in your fortunes can do for your enthusiasm. Suddenly I had a spring in my step. I was still kicking myself about earlier, but it seemed to be soon forgotten. Approaching Sgurr an Doire Leathain and the views of number 5 looked good, with some scrambly bits for those that wanted it.
By the time I hit the summit the clag was back though
So no summit views on this one. Another quick text to MrsR and a quick bite to eat and I was on my way – Sgurr an Lochan awaited. Got some nice views of a cracking looking hill.
I quite fancied the look of this hill one day I thought
Then the path disappeared as the clag descended yet again, but I decided to keep on going down the ridge I was on. But I was confused. Something didn’t feel right. Then the realisation...........
Cue schoolboy error #2 - well it was actually schoolboy error #1 take 2.
Had I not learnt my lesson from earlier? What were my compass and map for?
AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH! I could not believe it. I was heading down toward Glen Shiel.......again And that cracking hill I’d been picturing, thinking how much I’d like to climb it. It was Sgurr an Lochan – number 6 of the day.......if I could get my head screwed on and hit the right path. But before this realisation I had spent a load more time dicking about deciding what to do for the best.
Oh yeah, and that I phone in my pocket. That’s got an app to pinpoint my position. I could use that to locate the correct ridge Numpty Idiot I was so mad with myself. More time wasted. More time I couldn’t afford to waste. While I was busy beating myself up heading back up to the summit I also recalled that the summit of this hill was set away from the line of the ridge and so there must obviously be a path heading off west(ish) if I returned a short way the way I had come. And sure enough, there it was – marked by a small cairn.
But in all my anger and frustration, another miracle. My first broken spectre. Sadly the picture I took wasn’t that good, but I had never experienced one before.
The ascent up onto Sgurr an Lochan was described as “fitness testing”, but I was in no mood to take it easy. I was a man on a mission. Clearly I wasn’t going to make up the lost time anymore. It was damage limitation. I needed to get up and over number 6 to at least hit the descent route back into Wester Glen Quoich. Once over number 6 I could decide if there was a chance of Creag nan Damh.
Arrived at the summit of Sgurr an Lochan, but there was no joy or excitement for me on that one. A quick picture of the cairn for the record and another text to MrsR and I was off
A nice easy descent of the hill and I was hitting the path bypassing Sgurr Beag. And there was the last challenge of the day - Creag nan Damh
This was the last picture I took on this trip. Little did I know it could have easily been I took....ever. By now the light was fading. If all had gone to plan I would have been well on my way to my car by now. But they hadn’t, and I wasn’t
Approaching the bealach with Creag nan Damh you would have thought that with the failing light alarm bells would be ringing and my “sensible self” would be looking at the drop down to the stalkers track for a safe trip back to the car.
You’d have thought wouldn’t you.........by I seemed to have left my “sensible self” somewhere else today. The clag that was hanging onto Creag nan Damh when I took my photo had lifted and as I approached the bealach I looked at number 7 and thought “yeah, I can do that before it gets dark”. To be fair, it looked an easy, short climb up and I had it in my head I could get up to the top, touch the cairn (no kissing them for me!!!!), a quick picture and text to MrsR and then follow the path back down to the bealach and off the side of the hill in the dark (with head torch of course). It would get the 7 complete and mean I would never have to visit these hills again This was schoolboy error #3. I must have been insane
I started heading off for Creag nan Damh, following the path ok at the start. But here was the first problem – it wasn’t the clearest of paths (well what I was walking on wasn’t anyway) and the sun seemed to be falling out of the sky remarkably quickly! But I was making good progress and gaining height pretty rapidly. A little scramble up some rocks – that’ll be fun on the way down in the dark And then as I made it onto the levelling I assumed to be the summit I was confronted out of the increasingly gloomy gloom with a further short walk to a small rise followed by another short rise above that to the summit (I hoped). This final section was in the clag too.
And then.......at last......the sound I should have heard about 20 minutes earlier. Alarm bells!! What the HELL was I doing up here, in the near dark, chasing this Munro summit? Did it matter than much? (well, yes, but so did my mortality) What planet was I on? Had I taken leave of my senses?
So the (right) decision was made. A little late in the day perhaps, but surely it was the right one. I needed off this hill and back down into Wester Geln Quoich. It was going to be a slow descent as by now it was practically pitch black (I had my head torch on by the way. Insane I may be, but I’m not stupid!!) and the ground was wet and slippery.
A quick text to MrsR so she knew I was ok (I’d own up later to what I’d been up to). No signa B****r! I knew it would be a while until I would have one now, so knew she’d be panicking until she heard from me.
So I turned round, took a bearing with the compass (oh yes, I was using it now wasn’t I? Nothing like being wise after the event) against the bulk of Sgurr Beag looming out of the gloom.
“Where’s the path?”
Couldn’t see it anywhere. It was lost in the rock. More to the point, I was lost in the rocks. And I had a scrambly bit to negotiate on the way down I seemed to remember. Not so much fun now, eh?
The next few minutes of my life weren’t that great. Mild panic was setting in. “What the ***k had I done?” “How am I going to get off of this thing?”. I could have cried. Livid with myself, moderately scared and starting to panic. And what good would tears do? None, so why waste the effort. So the plan was to pick my way as safely as I could down steep, wet grass slopes, avoiding the rocks as best I could. There were a few bum slides too, but I’d rather soaking trousers than be stuck up there. Somehow managed that ok, so some good news at last. Then it was a boggy squelch in an easterly to south easterly direction to eventually drop down into Glen Quoich. More steep, wet grass. More bum slides too. Clag came and went, making visibility so difficult at times as the light from my torch was reflected back at me. Stags roaring all around me added to the atmosphere.
The trip down to the Glen floor seemed to take an age. I was so knackered. A lack of sleep for the two previous nights, a long walk made longer by my mistakes and on top of that the stress. I was tempted just to lie in the wet grass and sleep. But on I went and eventually stumbled on the land rover track I was after. I’d made it!!! Sure I still had a way to go, but this was simples compared to negotiating the side of a hill in the dark. I stumbled my way back along the track. Eventually I was back at Loch Quoich and there she was waiting for me........my old jalopy. A quick change of clothes later and a bite to eat and I was off. I honestly don’t know how I managed to drive back along the Kinlochhourn road and back to the main road. I was barely conscious.
Eventually though I found a lay-by to stop in. Time then for a couple texts to MrsR, to set her mind at ease and let her know I’d be kipping in the car and home in the morning.
Then it was a case of seat back........eyes closed........Night Night .......ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz
So, what did I learn on this trip. Well, I leant that I carry a compass for a good reason and perhaps I should use. And there’s a reason I don’t wear my pants over my trousers.....I’m not Superman. Push myself by all means. That’s how we grow as people, surely; by pushing our boundaries and taking ourselves out of our comfort zone. But this trip was just a bit too much. I’m still mad with myself and peeved I didn’t manage all 7. At the time I would gladly have never returned to these hills, but a couple of day’s reflection and things change. I’ll definitely be back to the South Glen Shiel Ridge again, and hopefully from the Loch Quoich approach. Next time though I think it will have to be a long summers day when I‘ll have the light on my side.
by Liathach » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:46 pm
Good report, by the way!
- Posts: 90
- Joined: Dec 24, 2008
by rockhopper » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:47 pm
Had me chuckling away to myself - have to admit to having been in not dissimilar situations in the past and suspect many others have too. It's the old story though - as long as we learn from it....
by davgil » Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:33 am
I think it's these tough ones we enjoy the most...in hindsight of course
Love the cloud inversion pics
by MarilynMunro » Wed Oct 05, 2011 7:20 am
I did try and do a count of smileys versus "not so smileys", but I'm sure the good guys won in the end.
Some of your photos are worth the trip alone, the inversions and ones where the cloud is just drifting over the hills.
Made my trip to Sgurr Eilde Mor look like a cakewalk
Glad you kept MrsR in the picture( and the little white lie), my wife freaks everytime she hears some bad news from the hills. And most importantly, your back in one piece. Well done.
by skuk007 » Wed Oct 05, 2011 8:52 am
The main thing is you realised it would be mad to continue and got down safely, albeit in the dark, wet, claggy weather Would agree about leaving it to a mid-summers day, it sounds like a bit of a long walk and with more daylight to play with you can take your time and hopefully enjoy it loads more.
by dogplodder » Wed Oct 05, 2011 10:35 am
I felt for you as I was in the same clag just across the way on Ciste Dubh that day. That was a great achievement in adverse conditions so well done for getting down in one piece!
by lomondwalkers » Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:03 am
by Graeme D » Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:13 pm
by pollyh33 » Wed Oct 05, 2011 7:26 pm
So pleased you got back safely. Got to say a lot of my sympathy goes to MrsR. You'll be on a short leash for a wee while methinks!!!
PS belated birthday wishes
by brpro26 » Wed Oct 05, 2011 9:11 pm
Think they call this a character building experience. Glad you made it off without incident, except your red face.
I found myself strangely laughing at your every error, not in a bad way. It's like a Darwin moment when we realise our error and can't believe we've been so stupid, the schoolboy errors that you've said you'll never make because you've read about them so often. Compass....who needs a compass unless your lost. Summit fever kicking in.
We've all done it at sometime, thanks for sharing yours so graphically. Got to be a contender for ROTM.
Good job...personally I would have kept walking down to the Clunie Inn, got hammered and crashed there for the night.
by pigeon » Wed Oct 05, 2011 9:28 pm
by ChrisW » Wed Oct 05, 2011 10:50 pm
A lack of sleep for the two previous nights, a long walk made longer by my mistakes and on top of that the stress.
Fantastic report Pete, a right riveting read I think your decision making may well have been affected by fatigue without you noticing which compounded your troubles. Stunning effort though, attempting to return again (after the first return) is the kind of fantastic bloody-mindedness that drove us on as a species.....unfortunately it does occasionally drive some of us over cliffs
Some great photo's for your effort mate, the real upside of this is you being home to write it and us being able to learn from it..... have a well earned rest mate and stop pushing so hard
by goth_angel » Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:59 pm
Not going to say anything like shame you didn't get the last summit though because what comes across from the report is - you got down in one piece despite a scary experience. You did the right thing not going to the last summit and getting yourself down OK rather than pressing on and getting benighted, stuck half way down or worse.
by dogplodder » Thu Nov 03, 2011 11:14 am
Got to use lots of smilies when it's you!