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An Adventure in Harris - Sron Uladail & the Oireabhal Ridge

An Adventure in Harris - Sron Uladail & the Oireabhal Ridge


Postby Sabbathstevie » Wed Sep 18, 2013 5:04 pm

Route description: Muladal, Ulabhal, Oireabhal and Cleiseabhal

Grahams included on this walk: Oireabhal

Date walked: 08/09/2013

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 18.2 km

Ascent: 1248m

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The arrival of September and the gradual slide towards autumn has traditionally seen me looking to escape Edinburgh after the August throngs of the festival have dissipated, in order to get some much needed fresh air. As with last year, we were due another trip to the Outer Hebrides to visit Becca’s family in Lewis and, more importantly, put in some hard working hours on their croft in Leumrabhagh – the perfect antidote to the preceding month in the Capital! :lol:

Given the social consequences of working the croft on the Sabbath :shock: , the mandatory day off afforded by the Sunday offered me the best chance of a decent walk into the hills. Fortuitously for me, it also proved to be one of the better weather days with a little cloud but none of the lashing rain and skin lacerating winds consistent with my other visits to the islands. Despite the northern portion of the island resembling a single rolling moor, Lewis does have some interesting looking hills of its own – the craggy Harris-like Uig range on the west of the Island and, much closer to where I was staying, the ubiquitously named Beinn Mhor deep within the remotest reaches of the Pairc estate, both looking particularly deserving of an exploration. :)

These will have to keep for a future visit however, for I still had much of Lewis’s rockier and perhaps more beautiful conjoined twin, Harris, to explore. Having ascended An Cliseam on a previous visit ( http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=19934 ) and also the fine horseshoe of rugged, little visited hills east of the A859 just above Tarbert ( http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=25793 ), I was keen to venture somewhere new, so we set off south towards Harris much later in the day than we would for a walk on the mainland – the more compact nature of the islands and significantly lower numbers of fellow walkers (I generally walk early to avoid the crowds!) allowed Becca and I a fairly relaxed start to the day. As we wound our way along the twisting, turning single track road to Huisinis, the mighty Uisgneabhal Mor ridge glowered down at us from on high. Though this walk has always looked attractive, on this particularly pleasant day, the car park at Miabhaig was already occupied with 4 cars – heaving! We continued driving - having read other reports of the area, I was very keen instead to catch a glimpse of Sron Uladail and decided that we could wander up the long glen as far as the famous cliffs and then throw in a walk along either the Oireabhal ridge or Tiorga Mor if we felt up to it. We parked up by the foreboding gates to Abhainn Suidhe just before 13:00, and set off up the track to the power station & dam in glorious sunshine. 8)


Harris Adventures.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



Gleann Leosaid.JPG
Gleann Leosaid


Tiorga Mor & Loch Chliostair.JPG
Tiorga Mor & Loch Chliostair



We made good time up the landrover track as far as the dam at the head of loch Cliostair, enjoying the fine views over the striking peak of Tiorga Mor, and decided that, particularly owing to the especially fine looking ascent route of the its narrower south eastern ridge, it would be a hill best enjoyed on a standalone walk, meaning instead we would tackle the ridge high above us to the east for our return. From here and as far as Gleann Uladail, the views up to that ridge by which we would return were limited, perhaps owing to the more rounded western faces of the Oireabhal hills, however the views across to Tiorga Mor and its surrounding lochs, along with the stunning vistas south to the islands of Sodhaigh Beag and Sodhaigh Mor, more than made up for it. :D


Gleann Chliostair.JPG
Gleann Chliostair



We stopped for a short break at the high point of Gleann Chliostair enjoying the views, and were passed by the only other people we saw all day – a group of six American walkers and their guide, who were just descending from the ridge we were thinking of returning along. As usual, Maggie – our slightly mad mountain loving Jack Russell – stole the show and attracted much interest! The brilliant sunshine had typically given way by now to brooding, wonderful high clouds and the wind reintroduced itself, spurring us quickly ever onward, around loch Aisebhat and up to the the very head of Gleann Uladail. And what a wonderful spot this is - the view is simply spectacular, the terminating ridges of Tiorga Mor on the left and Sron Uladail on right eventually giving way into the wild emptiness surrounding loch Reasort and, finally, backed by the Uig hills. :clap:


Gleann Uladail Part 1.JPG
Gleann Uladail 1


Gleann Uladail Part 2.JPG
Gleann Uladail 2



We continued along the track as the great rocky nose of Sron Uladail finally came into view – the sentinel-like overhang looking more impressive the further north you walk, until its full imposing majesty is revealed. We clambered over the rocks to the base of the Sron and found a beautifully attractive spot, beneath the great cliffs and gazing out over loch Uladail, where we could stop for a scone.


Sron Uladail Appears.JPG
Sron Uladail Appears


The Mighty Sron.JPG
the Mighty Sron


Heather and Rock.JPG
Heather and Rock



We lasted all of two minutes – the lack of wind in this sheltered pocket of rock triggered one of the most vicious midge assaults I’ve been unfortunate enough to experience and within seconds the pair of us were being eaten alive! We quickly backtracked a little higher up the glen where the wind was welcomed, allowing us to have a fruity scone in a midge free zone! With one last look down this enchanting glen, we set of back towards loch Aisebhat before beginning the climb. :roll:

Though it would have been nice to hav stood atop Sron Uladail, I can’t help but feel like it one of those features which is better viewed from below, than climbed. Addiitonally, thanks to our late start, the day was beginning to edge away from us and we still had a long ridge walk to complete. With this in mind, we omitted the optional journey to the summit of the Sron, and also Muladal which looked like a rather uninspiring lump on the ridge. Instead, we set off up the gentle slopes beside one of the streams that flowed down from the bealach between Muladal and Ulabhal. While ascending we noticed two large herds of red deer silently observing us from the ridge, some 10 – 20 beasts a herd, roaming happily in the emptiness of the high hills of Harris. Though the gradient may have been forgiving, the terrain was not – with thick heather, peaty bogs and voracious midges besetting almost every step until we reached the more technically demanding but infinitely more enjoyable boulderfield which guards all approaches to the summit of Ulabhal. The rock (Lewissian Gneiss?) has a remarkable traction – a mixed blessing which offers superb grip when climbing or scrambling but also shreds any clumsily placed cloth or skin! After what seemed like a much longer ascent than it looked from back down the glen, we finally reached the cairn atop Oireabhal.


Ridge to Sron Uladail.JPG
Ridge to Sron Uladail


Looking to Uisgneabhal Mor.JPG
Looking to Uisgneabhal Mor


Maggie at Ulabhal.JPG
Maggie Ulabhal



The views from here were outstanding in all directions – north down the long ridge of Muladal to Sron Uladail and the empty wilds of Harris beyond, west out to Tiorga Mor and the expanse of the Atlantic ocean beyond, south towards southern Harris and the hazy outlines of what appeared to be a stormy Isle of Skye, but most astoundingly east – over the precipitous drop to Gleann Mhiabhaig to the highest, shapeliest peaks in the Outer Hebrides of Uisgneabhal Mor and An Cliseam. Beyond, the exciting shapes of distant Torridonian giants could be seen towering above the Minch. We enjoyed a longer break around the strangely windless summit before the ever darkening sky pushed us along the easy going ridge and up to Oireabhal, admiring the bypassable craggy feature at Cathadail An Ear and the views over the equivalently rocky outcrop of Sron Scourst on the ridge opposite. It’s worth saying that from here, the ascent of Uisgneabhal Mor from Teileasbhal looks monstrous!


Sron Scourst.JPG
Sron Scourst & co.


Cathadail an Ear crag.JPG
Cathadail An Ear Crags


Maggie at Oireabhal.JPG
Maggie Oireabhal



We spent a shorter while atop Oireabhal’s higher summit, feeling the need to continue with haste now that it seemed that there was still a long way to go, with the sun retreating ever eastwards. And how spectacularly it was setting – as we ascended the intervening hump of Bridigidh en route to Cleiseabhal, we witness the most dramatic of views as the roiling, darkening clouds across the Atlantic had parted just enough to bathe the far off stacks and crags of St Kilda in singular rays of dying sunlight. Truly, another one of those life defining sights that only walking in our fine wild places seems to offer. I’m sorry that the excuse for a camera that lives in my iPhone 4 hasn’t captured this better however I cannot emphasize enough just how beautiful this was. :D


Distant St Kilda.JPG
Distant St Kilda


Sun rays on St Kilda.JPG
Sun Rays on St Kilda


Cleiseabhal.JPG
Cleiseabhal


South from Cleiseabhal.JPG
South from Cleiseabhal


Brooding Tiorga Mor.JPG
Brooding Tiorga Mor


Back to Oireabhal.JPG
Back to Oireabhal


Maggie Cleiseabhal.JPG
Maggie Cleiseabhal



Entranced by the ever changing sun set views out in the ocean, we made good progress up to the last peak of the day: Cleiseabhal. Perhaps the least interesting of the day’s peaks, the challenge before us was to make our way back to the car before darkness set in – something I’d never had to worry about before in my walking career! The broad southern slopes of Cleiseabhal offered the natural route back down to the road however the fading light and tough underfoot terrain of pathless long grass and intermittent rock and bogs made for a long and fairly unpleasant descent. We eventually made it back to the single track road just as the last light of day faded, happy to wander the last km or so back to the car with the security of tarmac beneath our feet, rounding off another excellent route in the Outer Hebrides, whose hills punch well above the weight their diminutive height would otherwise suggest. The final descent aside, I’d be happy to do this one again...if only there still weren’t so many more here to visit! :D
Last edited by Sabbathstevie on Mon Sep 23, 2013 9:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sabbathstevie
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Re: An Adventure in Harris - Sron Uladail & the Oireabhal Ri

Postby inca » Wed Sep 18, 2013 5:42 pm

Cracking report and some great pics. Haven't done these hills myself but trekked through Gleann Uladail in the past en route to Ceann Loch Reasort and Morsgail Lodge. It's a wonderful place. Hope to be there again later this year or early next. Will keep your account in mind for that visit. What a dignified looking little dog by the way. She looks quite at home there.
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Re: An Adventure in Harris - Sron Uladail & the Oireabhal Ri

Postby litljortindan » Wed Sep 18, 2013 7:44 pm

"Sun rays on St Kilda" is really good.
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Re: An Adventure in Harris - Sron Uladail & the Oireabhal Ri

Postby John Doh » Wed Sep 18, 2013 7:49 pm

Excellent report and the pictures are good!

And to have a cottage on Harris is great too. Hope you are making progress in restoring it! :thumbup:
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Re: An Adventure in Harris - Sron Uladail & the Oireabhal Ri

Postby Sabbathstevie » Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:02 pm

inca wrote:Cracking report and some great pics. Haven't done these hills myself but trekked through Gleann Uladail in the past en route to Ceann Loch Reasort and Morsgail Lodge. It's a wonderful place. Hope to be there again later this year or early next. Will keep your account in mind for that visit. What a dignified looking little dog by the way. She looks quite at home there.



Aye - the wilds beyond Loch Uladail and towards the Morsgail forest looked amazing and well worth returning to. As for Maggie, she's definately at home in the hills as long as it isn't too warm!
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Re: An Adventure in Harris - Sron Uladail & the Oireabhal Ri

Postby Sabbathstevie » Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:02 pm

litljortindan wrote:"Sun rays on St Kilda" is really good.


Too kind, thank you.
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Re: An Adventure in Harris - Sron Uladail & the Oireabhal Ri

Postby Sabbathstevie » Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:03 pm

John Doh wrote:Excellent report and the pictures are good!

And to have a cottage on Harris is great too. Hope you are making progress in restoring it! :thumbup:


thank you.

There's still a ;lot of work and many more trips to "the in-laws" on the islands to go...at least I've still got many more exploration of this wonderful landscape to look forward tpo as compensation! :lol:
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Re: An Adventure in Harris - Sron Uladail & the Oireabhal Ri

Postby John Doh » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:01 pm

Sabbathstevie wrote:
John Doh wrote:Excellent report and the pictures are good!

And to have a cottage on Harris is great too. Hope you are making progress in restoring it! :thumbup:


thank you.

There's still a ;lot of work and many more trips to "the in-laws" on the islands to go...at least I've still got many more exploration of this wonderful landscape to look forward tpo as compensation! :lol:


aye you do! Keep coming the reports of walks you do on the Sabbath ;)

Cheers
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