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Sgurr and Sgurr and Sgurr again

Sgurr and Sgurr and Sgurr again


Postby rohan » Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:04 pm

Route description: Sgurr Mor and Sgurr an Fhuarain, Loch Arkaig

Munros included on this walk: Sgurr Mor (Loch Quoich)

Corbetts included on this walk: Sgurr an Fhuarain, Sgurr Mhurlagain

Date walked: 14/06/2012

Time taken: 20 hours

Distance: 20.1 km

Ascent: 1993m

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I suspect there will be a number of overnighters in this month's reports. It has been a while since I have had the freedom that such a night gives but with a surprise spare day available I seized the chance. This was my second trip to Glen Dessary in a week with work intervening. I had thought that I wouldn't manage back before the end of the flight season for chequered skipper butterflies, a species I want to capture..... ...by camera This year the weather has been poor whenever I have been in the area. I checked the weather forecast (MWIS and the local Fort William one) on Wednesday. The former wasn't as positive as the latter which forecast a sunny day,essential for butterflies. An idea started to take shape; butterflies, hills and a bivvy. I couldn't leave the bounds of Aberdeenshire before 9.00a.m. Thursday but this still gave me time to make the butterfly reserve for 1.00 p.m. an ideal time for seeing them, then on to Strathan, up Sgurrs Mor and an Fhuarain and a night on a bare mountain with the possibilty of a good sunset. Next day returning to my van over a Corbett and thence home in good order.
Thursday morning I sat listening to the Today prog, the weather forecast according to the Beeb was rain for everyone......and gales. The Aberdeenshire sky was overcast and grey but I ignored all this; I was convinced that the sun was shining in Glen Dessary. Sure enough despite delays caused by errant lambs, problems in the brand new Co-op store in Newtonmore and drivers with little sense of the single-track road etiquette, I was at the reserve for just after 1.00pm with the sun beating down and a slight breeze. This was enough to keep the midges at bay whilst not being too much for the skippers.
I spent far too long here, not only seeing a number of skippers (none in the mood for posing for photos) but golden ringed dragonflies, hawkers (azure and 4-spot), large red damselflies and clouded buff moths. Plus the only 2 people that I was to see for over 24hours.
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Golden-ring dragonfly

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red damselfly

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hawker

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Clouded buff

As a result of all these temptations I didn't get to the road end and the start of my walk until 4 p.m. By now there were a few ominous dark grey clouds building, less blue sky and the wind had got up a tad.
Still I had come for a night out and remained optimistic as I headed on up the track to Glendessary Lodge, then over the pass into Glen Kingie. The last time I had been this way was in September 2003 when, with 3 others I was headed for Sgurr Mor on the penultimate day before my compleation on Aonach Mor. The conditions then were very wet underfoot and Sgurr Mor was persitently in cloud until we actually summitted when the cloud cleared. For various reasons we were not able to go onto Sgurr an Fhurain but these 2 are a natural combination which is well worht doing together. One of my companions on that day and my main companion in the hills is no longer of this world so retracing our steps has bittersweet memories for me.
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Sgurr Mor and Sgurr an Fhurain


Today conditions were much better, a bit overcast with a cooling breeze and conditions underfoot being virtually dry. I also came across this handsome beast. A wasp beetle I think, about 1.5 inches long.
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wasp beetke


Crossing the river was a doddle (see how low it is in the photos below) and then I was left with a bit of a dilemma. I was a good hour behind my planned schedule and not going at a great pace; the asthetic route would be up the stalkers path and over Sgurr Beag but this would leave me short of time before sunset.
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Looking west up to Sgurr nan Coireachan

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Fraoch Bheinn

I elected instead to go for the direct route up to the coll between Sgurr Beag and Mor. On reflection given how I struggled with the gradient taking 90 plus minutes for the climb, I may have been better sticking to the path. Still it meant that I wasn't walking with the sun in my eyes and the wild flower collections were delightful with thrift, lousewort, tormentil, butterwort, milkwort, bog asphodel etc etc..... At one point I looked up and saw an eagle heading west, then another one.
Finally I made the coll and spent a good few minutes taking photos and mountain spotting. Knoydart was stunning as ever, Rum visible in the distance. I more commonly see Sgurr na Ciche from Inverie, today I also picked out Ben Aden, Lhuinne Bheinn Ladhar Bheinn, Sgritheal, Sgurr nan Eugalt and more.
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Knoydart!


However the hills to the east were clouding up, the easterly wind had picked up considerably and it had turned decidedly chilly. I set off to the summit, delaying to take more photos. In March the NE Scotland members group of the John Muir Trust had hosted a talk by Peter Wright on his "Ribbon of Wildness" in which he researches and walks the watershed of Scotland. It is amazing how close the watershed comes to the West Coast and looking down on Loch Quoich I am reminded of this now. The watershed does a westward leg above Loch Arkaig, Glen Dessary over Sgurr na Ciche around the end of Loch Quoich reaching the most westerly point on Sgurr a Choire-beithe, something I would not have credited earlier. http://www.watershedepic.org.uk/journal04.php

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Looking down to Loch Quoich


I didn't tarry too long on the summit having taken over 4 1/2 hrs to get here.
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Black clouds coming

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Still reasonable to the west

It is an easy walk on to Fhurain but I was now really tiring, it had been a long day after only few hours sleep the night before. At times I had to do battle with the wind and I stopped far too frequently to capture slight changes in the light or more truthfully to have a rest.

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On the final ascent to Sgurr an Fhurain I realised that I was going to have to speed up as the sun was dropping rapidly. It was also now very cold. I had put on extra layers on Sgurr Mor but was concerned at how cool I would feel on the summit of Sgurr an Fhurain.
I did make the summit in time and was able to set up a reasonable bivvy just down from there on the western shoulder. Cuppa soup and risotto I kept me going as I sat back and enjoyed the sunset, hopefully employing my camera to good effect as the sun dipped behind Sgurr nan Eugalt.
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..

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going.......

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going

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almost gone

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the mountains get a fleecy blanket

Then I snuggled down to the call of a golden plover, mournfully sounding over the hill. Later a ptarmigan croaked away as it was clearly circling around my bed probably checking that I wasn't going to leap up and attack its chicks.
After a few, fitful hours sleep I missed the dawn and the sun wasn't visible for the rest of the day. I packed up my gear without making a brew, deciding that I would wait until the bothy,
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Early morning at the summit

I wanted to get moving ....and warm. Its a quick, steep descent off the shoulder straight to the bothy. The glen is full of old sheiling ruins but today was there anyone around? I was concerned that I was reaching the bothy at rather an unsocial hour for any occupants. There were no signs of life as I opened the bolt as quietly as I could until ........
my slow brain changed up a gear and realised if the bothy was bolted on the outside.........
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Straight down for breakfast

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Kinbreak Bothy

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A leisurely breakfast over and the bothy book read I could no longer avoid tackling the steep ascent (for first 400m) up Mhurlagain. The weather was deteriorating all the time with spots of rain as I reached the summit 2 hours later at 10.00 a.m. I thought it was going to clag in just before the summit but the cloud cleared and I had my first views down Loch Arkaig .
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Mist coming in; summit Sgurr Mhurlagain

This makes 2 clear summits out of the 5 corbetts that I have climbed from Strathan this year. I need to return to the others for the views I missed on them. The various descriptions that I have read describe some wonderful sights but I have had to rely on my imagination. Today the cloud base was above the hills but distant hills were obscured. I am not complaining, Thursday had been a brilliant day with a superb sunset and today it remained dry for most of the walk.
I could see my van (white) from the summit and I headed off down the south west shoulder for first 250 metres of descent. However I decided to drop off the ridge (which looked to be very up and down) heading for the road near my van . The ground was rough underfoot with tussocks of purple moor grass interspersed with bracken. Before leaving the shoulder I again I came across more golden plovers, possibly the Leonard Cohen of birds with their mournful but beautiful calls. I rarely see other people on the mountains I'm on but don't miss them. Seeing wheatears, pippets, plovers, ptarmigan and eagles as well as the rest of the flora and fauna make a hill for me. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind people but I see enough of them elsewhere!
The rain came in squally bursts which gradually merged to a prolonged downpour but I got back to the van a happy woman having acheived all the hills I had wanted to cover on this outing if not the photograph of the flitterby skipper. The pain of the uphill (and sometimes the down) is wiped out by acheiving the goal and at my age the lack of short term memory also helps.
A change into dry clothes and 40 winks set me up for the drive home. I will return next May/June for the skippers, if not before for the mountains.
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rohan
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Re: Sgurr and Sgurr and Sgurr again

Postby rocket-ron » Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:09 pm

excellent report :clap: :clap:
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Re: Sgurr and Sgurr and Sgurr again

Postby foggieclimber » Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:29 pm

What a wonderful first post. A very high standard to keep up :)
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Re: Sgurr and Sgurr and Sgurr again

Postby mrssanta » Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:39 pm

fantastic report and pictures, lovely and beautiful.
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Re: Sgurr and Sgurr and Sgurr again

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:29 pm

Nice report, I think the last beastie may well be a male Horntail or Wood Wasp.
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Re: Sgurr and Sgurr and Sgurr again

Postby rohan » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:02 pm

Thanks all for your postive comments,
foggieclimber wrote:What a wonderful first post. A very high standard to keep up

I don't think I will ever reached your standard. I really enjoyed your Rum report
johnkaysleftleg wrote: I think the last beastie may well be a male Horntail or Wood Wasp.

Yes I wondered about the horntail but there was no "horntail" visible. As there are over 150 species of wood wasp I think I'll send it off to ispot for id. R.
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Re: Sgurr and Sgurr and Sgurr again

Postby Johnny Corbett » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:09 pm

Brilliant stuff and great photos of a stunning area. I may follow this route when i get round to climbing this group. Cheers :D
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Re: Sgurr and Sgurr and Sgurr again

Postby rohan » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:42 pm

Johnny Corbett wrote:Brilliant stuff and great photos of a stunning area. I may follow this route when i get round to climbing this group. Cheers :D

I wish I had more time to include Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoigh on the way in.
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Re: Sgurr and Sgurr and Sgurr again

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:29 pm

rohan wrote:Yes I wondered about the horntail but there was no "horntail" visible. As there are over 150 species of wood wasp I think I'll send it off to ispot for id. R.


I could be wrong but as the "Horntail" is for laying eggs, Mr Horntail dosen't have one. I saw one in Glen Coe last year and it looked exactly like that but with the Horntail.
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Re: Sgurr and Sgurr and Sgurr again

Postby Graeme D » Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:49 pm

Yes, I thoroughly echo all the positive comments. Hopefully heading to this neck of the woods next month so this is a very timely taster of what I have to look forward to. 8)
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