walkhighlands

Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter


Postby Mal Grey » Thu Dec 01, 2011 5:29 pm

Munros included on this walk: Aonach Meadhoin, Carn Ghluasaid, Ciste Dhubh, Saileag, Sgurr a'Bhealaich Dheirg, Sgurr na Sgine, Sgurr nan Conbhairean

Date walked: 01/12/2011

6 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).

[I have posted this on other forums before, but it may be of interest]

In 1986, British Rail ran a scheme for students in which you could travel anywhere in the UK during the month of February, for the princely sum of £10. So, being students in Portsmouth, a quick glance at the rail map told us one thing –we had to go to Mallaig on the West Highland Line, almost as long a journey as we could have found. An epic long weekend was had, involving an all night party on the overnight express, camping behind the Ben Nevis distillery, & a proper white out on the summit of Ben Nevis.

Since then, 3 of us have continued to go to the Highlands each winter, missing only a couple of years, walking on the mountains & grabbing a fair few Munros along the way. So we think this year may have been our 20th trip. Many of those trips have involved Gerry’s Hostel in Strathcarron, &/or a bothy or two, but this year we were doing it a bit differently & 3 of us, Nigel, Steve & myself, would be staying in a cottage above Inverinate, near Dornie in Kintail. This gave us the mountains of Glen Shiel on our doorstep, & the hope of a little snow to enjoy on the summits.

Nigel & I travelled up from Surrey/Oxon on the Friday, with a car full of walking gear, bikes & a nice 36 pint polypin of Good Old Boy ale from the West Berkshire Brewery. A good journey had us at Steve & Andrea’s place in Fife, where it soon became apparent that Steve was missing the real ales of England a little bit too much as he hoovered back more than a few bevies before bed. However it wasn’t this that meant he was unable to join us the next morning, family illness meant a few days looking after young son were to keep him off the hills at the beginning of the week.

In the morning Nige & I set off for Kintail, planning to take in one of the hills above the A9 on the way. Soon enough we were walking up the same track we had waded up last year, [link], when we failed to even get to the slopes of Beinn Udlamain. This year, though, we enjoyed a brighter day & little snow & 40 minutes took us to our lunch spot from last time, which had taken us 2 hours or more to get to through snow drifts.


Image



Soon we were climbing steep grassy slopes with the odd patch of snow, with great vistas across the bleak hills of the Grampian mountains.


Image


Image


With a further journey ahead of us, we didn’t waste much time on the summit, & slipped quickly down a snow slope & back to the ascent route.


Image


We arrived at our cottage at half-time during the England-France rugby, to find our cottage’s TV wasn’t working. Not a problem, we only wanted it for the rugby, not the rest of the week! The radio sufficed for the second half.


The next morning we rose early, & were quickly on the way to the hill after just 3 or 4 cups of tea, cereal, bacon sandwiches & an hour in front of the fire.

Our target was Sgurr na Sgine, via the steep north ridge of Faochag. This rises directly from the road to just under 3000 feet, before continuing on along a nice ridge to the main peak.


Image


A leap of faith across the river led to a narrow path zig-zagging up the flanks of the hill. Towering above us to the right, the famous Forcan ridge rose up the flanks of The Saddle. We’d done this many years ago in summer conditions, i.e. persistent horizontal rain, & it is a fabulous scramble up steep, slabby ridges above big drops. Today it looked ominous & difficult.


Image


A few brief snow flurries attacked us as we climbed steadily upwards, but overall the weather was clearing & Glen Shiel opened up beneath us.


Image

As we reached the snow line, the sun broke through briefly, & ahead of us the summit looked Himalayan with its own plume of wind-swept spindrift.


Image


By now, the Forcan ridge looked like a major Alpine climb, a magnificent knife edge ridge catching the sun on its glistening blade, as it climbed into the sky.


Image


Image


Finally we reached the forepeak of Faochag, to see a beautiful, untouched ridge of fresh powder snow ahead of us.


Image


Image



Beyond, the peak of Sgurr na Sgine rose at the end of a lovely curving ridge, along which 2 small specks proved to be our only other fellow hill goers of the day.



Image



Image



Views of distant mountains surrounded us, previously climbed in less wintery clothes. Ben Sgreathall rose on the horizon above the sea.


Image


The South Cluanie ridge marched onwards to the east.


Image


An easy snow scramble brought us to the summit of Sgurr na Sgine, but behind us were ominous skies so we quickly descended to the Bealach beneath the Forcan ridge.


Image


Here a final lightening gave us a last look at our peak before we descended to the Glen below.


Image


That night the fire burned brightly, the beer went down smoothly, & the Laphroaig Quarter Cask brought the day to a perfect end.


Image



Sun shone the next morning, so a longer day was planned; 2 Munros & 2 “tops”, or lesser peaks, sitting in the sky above Loch Cluanie.

Parking by the main road, we climbed until we could gaze at the mountains opposite reflected in the mirror surfaces of the Loch.



Image


Image


Image


Climbing higher, we entered rougher ground where the bones of the earth poked through the heather beneath our first peak, Carn Ghlusaid.


Image



The views opened up around us, as we climbed a perfect stalker’s path that took us effortlessly on to the higher ridges.


Image


Image



As we reached the summit, the true nature of the mountains was revealed, as the precipices of their northern corries were revealed in all their winter glory.


Image


Image


Cornices fringed the drops as we climbed on across a top toward the high point of the day, Sgurr nan Conbhairean.



Image


The final slopes were windswept & barren, but the views were simply stunning.


Image


Image



Mullach Fraoch-choire showed off its rocky ridges, whilst behind the twin peaks of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan reminded us of a magnificent day exactly 10 years ago when we were the only folks on the peaks, by special permission, during the first days of the Foot & Mouth outbreak.


Image



That had been our best day on the hills in winter, an epic under blue skies with an icy bike ride approach, hours of trackless walking through fresh snow onto a magnificent white rooftop that felt like the top of the world, & a dark return down the glen under the stars. Today wasn’t quite in that league, but boy it wasn’t far behind.

We descended onward to our last top, along a ridge of fresh snow broken only by the seemingly random tracks of a mad March Mountain Hare.


Image


Our final top gave us great views of A’Chralaig, before we descended gently angled slopes back to the loch.


Image


Image


Image


Once again, the fire beer & whisky revived us that night.


Image



Steve arrived the next morning, but the weather was a lot greyer, a lot milder, a bit drizzly & a bit windy. In other words, our legs needed a rest, so a day on Skye was decided upon. Portree’s fish & chips revived us further, before a visit to the weird cliffs & pinnacles of The Storr. The frost-shattered remains of a simply massive landslip, these tottering piles reach perfection with the Old Man himself, a 150ft natural obelisk.


Image


Image


Image


Image



Naturally we obeyed this doctored sign.


Image



Beneath the Storr, in the centre of this picture, lie the waters of Loch Leathan, which may or may not translate as Quercus’ Lake judging by the odd blog from these parts…


Image

Continued...
Last edited by Mal Grey on Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
Mal Grey
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2846
Munros:110   Corbetts:20
Grahams:8   
Sub 2000:3   Hewitts:113
Wainwrights:71   Islands:5
Joined: Dec 1, 2011
Location: Surrey, probably in a canoe! www.wildernessisastateofmind.co.uk

Part II

Postby Mal Grey » Thu Dec 01, 2011 5:30 pm

Continued...

The next day, hilltop winds of up to 80 mph were forecast, so it was time to put the bikes into use with a ride up Glen Lichd behind the Five Sisters of Glen Shiel. Despite our “day off” on Skye, it took just 200 yards for Nigel & I to discover that our legs were not keen on cycling far today. Luckily the Glen is fairly flat, & after a few miles approach on the road we were once more amongst the mountains.


Image


We quickly reached the Edinburgh Uni hut, where we dumped the bikes & went for a short wander to a bridge over a small gorge for lunch & to compare sartorially elegant biking outfits.


Image


Image


Image


Image


Returning to our bikes….disaster. Somehow my rear tyre had exploded slightly! A large split in the outer was matched by a disintegrated inner tube. Hasty repairs were done, and a new inner tube fitted, but the outer was not in good condition, held together by 2 patches. Hopefully it would last for the return trip….at a slightly slower speed than hoped for! A tentative few yards were followed by a “what the heck” attitude & I carried on down the rough track at nearly normal speeds. Luckily it held, but by the time we were back on the road I was expecting the growing bulge to burst at any moment. So were my legs! No more biking for me then.



Steve was keen for some hills, so the next day we planned to pick off Ciste Dubh, a lone Munro hidden behind other hills. The clouds were lower, but the wind was gone, & the loch still.


Image


Much of the fresh snow had gone with milder temperatures, leaving patches of older, harder snow on the higher tops. A slightly boggy plod had us up the approach Glen & beneath the steep, pathless climb onto the ridge. Once there, a fabulous roller coaster ridge carried us to the summit & back.


Image


Image


On the way down, one of the rocks moved. Spot the mountain hare.


Image


Another night in front of the fire followed. By now we were hitting maximum mellow mood within seconds of sitting down in front of it.


Now for the big day. Years ago we’d done the famous Five Sisters, but today it was to be their Munro Brothers just to the east; Saileag, Sgurr a’ Bealaich Dheirg & Aonach Mheadhoin, plus a fair few subsidiary tops.

The climb to the Bealach na Lapain is often described as steep & unrelenting. To that I would add damp & soul destroying, but in reality we were on the ridge in an hour & a half.


Image


Saileag loomed above us through the clouds.


Image


Summits passed rapidly, numerous smaller tops raising & lowering hopes of a rest from the climbing. The highest point of the day, Sgurr a’ Bealaich Dheirg, has a highest point on a narrow arête heading north from the bulk of the mountain. This proved a little interesting, as the slim ridge line was snow plastered & large drops loomed beneath our feet. A small wall or dyke added to the difficulty as its rocks couldn’t be relied upon to stay in place just when a reassuring hand-hold was desired.


Image


Back on the main ridge line, there was now enough snow for ice axes to be required, as at times the fall potential was noticeable.


Image


The final Munro summit was passed & as we dropped down to the last smaller top we left the clouds & glimpses of sun appeared.


Image


A last night in the cottage followed, each of us now comfortable on our chosen sofas.


Image


During the evening the conversation fell to how many Munros we’d done, & a quick tally & checking of books led to the discovery that today had been my 100th….not that I’m counting! Most of these in winter, too.

Our final day on the hills was to be further south, as that night we were due in Callendar. Sgurr Dhoinill, the western top of Beinn a Bheithir, seemed to fit the bill & is one of the few hills round Glencoe not already climbed by us in previous years.

A long but easy climb through the forest led us towards a steep corrie.


Image


Here the well made path disappeared into steep scree & chossy slopes, topped by a mere scrap of a snow patch that still had us resorting to the ice axes one final time to safely attain the ridge. A plod around to the summit on gentle but confusing slopes was cheered only by the sight of Steve chasing Ptarmigan around with his I-phone, trying to get a photo to send home to Andrea.


Image


Once again, the summit was cloudy. In fact, it was pretty rainy too, so was soon left behind via some steep scrambles onto easier ground. Not a day for photos.

The descent was, err, enlightened by the infamous “path” through the trees. Basically a vertical bog bypassing waterfalls in impenetrable forest that grabs at rucksacks, trekking poles & ice axes.


Image


Image


And that was that. All that was left was a memorable night in the Lade Inn, Kilmahog, with a great folk band & a somewhat staggering return to our B&B…but that’s another story in its own right!


Here's a link to a map with most of the walks marked: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?sourc...e13d4378c478ba
User avatar
Mal Grey
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2846
Munros:110   Corbetts:20
Grahams:8   
Sub 2000:3   Hewitts:113
Wainwrights:71   Islands:5
Joined: Dec 1, 2011
Location: Surrey, probably in a canoe! www.wildernessisastateofmind.co.uk

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby mrssanta » Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:23 pm

Great Stuff
User avatar
mrssanta
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2944
Munros:240   Corbetts:10
Grahams:3   
Sub 2000:9   Hewitts:44
Wainwrights:40   Islands:8
Joined: Jul 18, 2011
Location: north yorkshire moors

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby brpro26 » Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:33 pm

Cracking pics of Kintail at it's finest. Like the variety with Skye thrown in for good measures...Quality reporting!
Don't think the Max Wall look will catch on though BTW. :lol:
User avatar
brpro26
 
Posts: 418
Munros:205   Corbetts:5
Grahams:4   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:9   
Joined: Jun 13, 2009
Location: Glenrothes

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby Baloo » Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:34 pm

For all the others who try to open the map:
Map Link

Great report, thanks.
Baloo
Wanderer
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Feb 1, 2011

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby JohnJoe » Thu Dec 01, 2011 10:00 pm

Mal Grey wrote:
In 1986, British Rail ran a scheme for students in which you could travel anywhere in the UK during the month of February, for the princely sum of £10. So, being students in Portsmouth, a quick glance at the rail map told us one thing –we had to go to Mallaig on the West Highland Line, almost as long a journey as we could have found. An epic long weekend was had, involving an all night party on the overnight express, camping behind the Ben Nevis distillery, & a proper white out on the summit of Ben Nevis.




Sounds great - wish I'd been born in the 60s :D
User avatar
JohnJoe
Walker
 
Posts: 153
Munros:30   Corbetts:3
Grahams:4   
Sub 2000:3   Hewitts:21
Wainwrights:14   
Joined: Aug 2, 2011
Location: The Continent

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby daveh » Thu Dec 01, 2011 11:42 pm

Fantastic report and great pics and the reason why walking in Scotland in winter has to be the finest adventure :)
daveh
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 95
Munros:72   Corbetts:29
Grahams:13   Donalds:16
Joined: Nov 12, 2011
Location: Arrochar Alps

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby jonny616 » Thu Dec 01, 2011 11:58 pm

Great stuff.

I spent 2 days in Kintail last feb, loved it. Much snow :lol:

Regards

Jonny
User avatar
jonny616
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1551
Munros:272   Corbetts:12
Grahams:2   Donalds:1
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:17
Wainwrights:8   Islands:7
Joined: Aug 19, 2009

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby SMRussell » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:55 am

Great report and some stunning shots :D ... did I see a distinct lack of crampons and spikes?
User avatar
SMRussell
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 484
Munros:157   Corbetts:9
Grahams:5   Donalds:10
Sub 2000:16   Hewitts:95
Wainwrights:74   
Joined: Aug 8, 2011
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby Caberfeidh » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:04 am

SMRussell wrote: did I see a distinct lack of crampons and spikes?


You're showing your ignorance there ~ no situation required crampons which I can see ; crampons are not for soft deep snow, they're for frozen, slippy stuff. Those guys are well equipped. Excellent pics of some great hill-days to remember.
User avatar
Caberfeidh
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 6870
Joined: Feb 5, 2009

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby Mal Grey » Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:33 am

Thanks for your comments folks.

SMRussell wrote:Great report and some stunning shots :D ... did I see a distinct lack of crampons and spikes?


The axes did get used quite a few times but, as said by Caberfeidh, in general the snow was in soft to good nick & crampons weren't required. Think they went on for the first day on Sgurr na Sgine for the ridge, and very briefly on the least snowy last day on a rock hard snow slope just before lip of the corrie.

The shot of Steve in red standing on the narrow arete to the cairn on Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg is one occasion when I swapped pole for axe whilst he kept the pole out. Actually, hands and crampons might have been best! Scrambling over rock between snow patches, with no chance of an ice axe brake if you did slip, my axe spent most of the traverse dangling from its leash as I hung onto a rock whilst carefully stamping my boots into the snow.
User avatar
Mal Grey
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2846
Munros:110   Corbetts:20
Grahams:8   
Sub 2000:3   Hewitts:113
Wainwrights:71   Islands:5
Joined: Dec 1, 2011
Location: Surrey, probably in a canoe! www.wildernessisastateofmind.co.uk

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby Mal Grey » Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:40 am

Baloo wrote:For all the others who try to open the map:
Map Link

Great report, thanks.


Thanks for sorting the link.
User avatar
Mal Grey
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2846
Munros:110   Corbetts:20
Grahams:8   
Sub 2000:3   Hewitts:113
Wainwrights:71   Islands:5
Joined: Dec 1, 2011
Location: Surrey, probably in a canoe! www.wildernessisastateofmind.co.uk

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby Steve B » Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:26 pm

Great report and pictures, captures your week really well.
Hoping to get the same in February when I have my usual week in the winter hills.
Steve B
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 270
Munros:236   Corbetts:7
Hewitts:53
Wainwrights:26   Islands:9
Joined: Oct 25, 2010
Location: Glasgow

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby Phil the Hill » Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:41 pm

Great stuff - brought back some memories as I too did most of the Kintail hills with my mates on winter trips (with diversions to The Storr when the weather was too bad / our legs seized up).
User avatar
Phil the Hill
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 329
Munros:261   Corbetts:26
Grahams:5   Donalds:6
Sub 2000:9   Hewitts:137
Wainwrights:58   Islands:8
Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Location: Wallington, Surrey

Re: Walking the hills of Kintail in Winter

Postby SMRussell » Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:45 pm

Caberfeidh wrote:
SMRussell wrote: did I see a distinct lack of crampons and spikes?


You're showing your ignorance there ~ no situation required crampons which I can see ; crampons are not for soft deep snow, they're for frozen, slippy stuff. Those guys are well equipped. Excellent pics of some great hill-days to remember.


I will freely admit my ignorance and I am not at all shamed by it - we all have to learn at some point. In fact I wrote the comment because I am just about to undertake my first winter in the hills. I've done a little bit of bagging on snowy tops, where the snow was soft and there was no ice and therefore we were happy to go up without crampons etc. At the moment I'm just gathering peoples opinions - which I'll add seem to be highly varied when comes to winter walking.
User avatar
SMRussell
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 484
Munros:157   Corbetts:9
Grahams:5   Donalds:10
Sub 2000:16   Hewitts:95
Wainwrights:74   
Joined: Aug 8, 2011
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

6 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).
Next



Walkhighlands community forum is now advert free

We need help to keep the site online.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by setting up a monthly donation by direct debit?



Return to Walk reports - Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Catherine1002, PeteR, weregettingthere and 28 guests