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A different take on South Glen Shiel ridge

A different take on South Glen Shiel ridge


Postby BlackPanther » Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:39 pm

Munros included on this walk: Aonach Air Chrith, Creag a'Mhaim, Druim Shionnach

Date walked: 12/10/2013

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 21 km

Ascent: 1320m

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The classic traverse of the seven Munros in South Glen Shiel is so well known and described in so many reports... Allow me to add my own take on it, well, only the first half of it :lol:
One could ask, why didn't you do the whole ridge?
Not that I couldn't physically. I'm fit enough and determined enough, but there is one issue that I'm still struggling with: walking long distances along busy roads...
Call it a phobia of some sort, but it all started a few years ago when I was knocked off my bike by an irresponsible lorry driver. I was lucky, got away with bruises and scratches, but since then something blocked inside my head and I'm always spooked when walking/cycling along a busy road. If I hear the noise of a vehicle coming from behind me, immediately I think about it hitting me. I know it is illogical and my inner Mr Spock keeps telling me I'm silly. Nevertheless, if I can avoid busy road experience, I will take the quieter route, even if it's longer, or, in this case, it cuts a long traverse in two.
The Glen Shiel A 87 is one of the worst to walk along. Mostly, there is no pavement, no separate path for pedestrians, and with so many twists and turns, car drivers behaving badly (there will always be a few speeding idiots) I simply dread this particular road. When we climbed The Sisters and The Brothers, both times we returned along the ridge, which added a few hundred metres of ascent, but saved me from heart attack :lol: :lol:

Sadly, it is not possible to repeat such tactics for the south side, so we sat down with maps and guide books, looking for options, and worked out that the three easternmost peaks can be done in a nice circuit, which starts and ends by the bridge near Cluanie Inn.
So here is the route as we planned (and walked):

Track_GLEN SHIEL 12-10-13.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


The traverse of the remaining four tops will require some road walking, but I'll worry about it when the time comes :lol: :lol: :lol:

We drove to Glen Shiel on Saturday morning, weather was great, blue sky, a real autumn cracker of a day. I bet plenty of folks did the full traverse that day.
The small car park by the bridge was already full, so we parked next to Cluanie Inn:
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Looking back towards the road, the inn, Am Bathach and A'Chralaig wearing a hat :lol: :
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Morning sunshine over Loch Cluanie. We started our circuit clockwise, walking up the road from Cluanie to Tomdoun.
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Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan peaking from behind Ciste Dubh:
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We had walked up this track once before, last year in November, when we climbed Beinn Loinne. Though only a Corbett, this was also a lovely walk, though we didn't see any views due to thick cloud. But we had lots of fun pulling our legs out of fresh, knee deep snow :D
No such thing this time. The only snow we encountered were a few small patches on the northern, shadowed slopes of the ridge. But winter is coming... coming soon.
Creag a'Mhaim from the first bridge on the road. It is possible to cross a stile here and climb straight up the steep slopes, but as we were only doing half the ridge, we decided there was no need to hurry and continued the longer, but less steep route up the track.
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A'Chralaig drew my attention again. It was "cuddled" by the cloud:
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The easy part ended soon, when we turned off the track and up the narrow, zig-zagging path to the summit of Creag a'Mhaim. It is a long steep push up the first Munro...
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...but views behind us were now getting better:
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Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach. They had been an option for today, but we were not sure about stalking in that area. No regrets, we will get to them soon.
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Stunned and bewildered already, and the day has just begun!
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Beinn Loinne and Loch Loyne:
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A quick break about 200m below the summit, for hydration and snacking... and admiring the landscape :D
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And there was plenty to admire!
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A small cloud lingered just around the summit of the first Munro, but just before we lost the views for a short time, I noticed Mr Nevis winking at me :wink:
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The summit of Creag a'Mhaim. We didn't stay here for long as the cloud spoiled the views...
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...but quickly continued to the first col. On the way down we were overtaken by a few mountain-runners, wearing only thin tops and shorts. I forgot to mention, that the wind picked up and it was pretty cold. Brrrr...
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"This looks a bit too extreme to me" said Kevin, as we stopped to put on additional layers. The wind was blowing much stronger now and my fleece behaved like a sail. Kev had to zip me up :lol: :lol: ...
...but on the positive side, the wind blew clouds away, so we could now taste the true beauty of Glen Shiel. Loch Coire nan Leac below to the left:
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...and Loch a' Mhaoil Dhisnich to the right, with Am Bathach, Ciste Dubh and the Brothers Ridge beyond:
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Zoom to the Black Chest and the cloudy giants behind:
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We counted about 10 Brocken Spectres as we walked through the clouds, but this is the only one we managed to capture on the camera:
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A'Chralaig still in the embrace of the cloud:
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Panorama to the south, with the characteristic shape of Ben Nevis in the centre:
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Back to Creag a'Mhaim:
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There's not much drop between the first two Munros and soon we were nearing the summit of Druim Shionnach:
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One more photo of Loch Coire nan Leac, Spidean Mialach behind and the distant Nevis Range:
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Looking east from just below the summit of the second Munro:
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Zoom to Gairich and South Knoydart hills:
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The ridge to Druim Shionnach narrows higher up...
shiel1.jpg

...and becomes quite rocky...
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There is a short, easy scrambling section just below the top. it can be avoided on a path traversing to the right hand side, but come on, we were not in a mood for taking "chicken's bypass" :lol: :lol:
Sadly, the scramble was too easy and it was over too soon, as we emerged on the summit of Druim Shionnach, where the full panorama of Shiel hills was at last visible. We dropped our rucksacks by the cairn, dug up sandwiches and spent some time enjoying the glorious autumn day.
View west from the summit:
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Me by the cairn with the Sisters ridge in the distance:
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View east to Loch Cluanie below:
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My new PC background picture:
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South-west from the top:
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I wished we could've lazed about for longer... I always feel disappointed when we have to leave a mountain top on a great day like that :(
We intended to add one more Munro to our list, and that was Aonach Air Chrith. As our route map shows, we planned to return from the latter back to Druim Shionnach and descend its northern ridge back to the bridge. But for now, we absolutely loved the traverse.
The ridge between the 2nd and the 3rd Munro is longer and it has some more interesting features, like sheer, rocky drops down to the northern side, to Corie an t-Slugain:
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Aonach Air Chrith from the ridge:
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The final climb up to the summit is again steep-ish but it doesn't last long - and looking back east, what a perspective :D
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NOT a view for those with bad head for heights:
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Munro No. 117 ticked. Kevin was angry - he is re-doing the South Glen Shiel hills, so his statistics did not change :eh:
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Panoramas from the summit - Aonach Air Chrith is another good viewpoint:
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Across Loch Quosh:
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Beinn Sgritheall and the distant Skye Cuillin:
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Applecross cliffs:
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Zoom to Ben Nevis:
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I was fascinated by the narrow, rocky ridge of Druim na Ciche, definitely not an easy way off the ridge :lol:
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Enchanted...
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The traverse continues along this rocky arete to the next Munro, Maol Chinn-dearg. And honestly, the day was so good that I felt tempted to continue the ridgewalk...
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...until Kevin reminded me, that if we were to include the fourth Munro, we would have to change our planned route and descend to A 87 some 4km west from where our car was parked, then walk back along the road. :shock: :shock: And that was exactly what I was trying to avoid. So though the temptation was still there, I put my hands up and agreed that it was time to retrace our steps back to Druim Shionnach.
HE The Man Who Knows What He Is Doing :wink:
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We took our time on the way back, stopping many times to take photos of the steep cliffs as the light was changing:
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We returned to the second Munro and skirted just below the summit to descend about 100m steeply towards Corie an t-Slugain. There was no path and the terrain was a bit wet, but apart from that - no obstacles. We walked around just below the rocky outcrop of the northern side of Druim Shionnach, where we found a grassy "ramp" with a sketchy path. Soon we were standing above Loch a' Mhaoil Dhisnich, looking east to the great panorama of Loch Cluanie:
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The Black Chest and Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan behind:
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The glen and the Brothers & Sisters - just before we started our final descent:
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We descended along the grassy shoulder all the way to the loch. The ground was again wet in places and no proper path, but it was easy enough - this option is a good way to return down to the glen if one prefers a shorter outing on these hills. Lower down, we crossed Allt a' Mhaoil Dhisnich and picked a stalker's path going all the way down to the track just east of the bridge. Higher up, the path was a bogfeast, so we found it more convenient to walk on the grass alongside it :lol: but soon it improved and it offered a quick way off the mountain. Not that we needed to hurry - it was only about 5pm, plenty of daylight left. As we returned to the car, I still felt like we could have done more... :lol: Meow!
Summing up: another superb day! I hope that this take on SGS ridge will encourage those, who don't feel up to the full traverse, to enjoy the eastern trio. The descent route may be pathless higher up, but on a good day it presents no problems. And I guess we are all used to bog on Scottish hills :wink:
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BlackPanther
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Re: A different take on South Glen Shiel ridge

Postby jmarkb » Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:58 pm

Great photos (as per usual!): I will excuse you the one of The Man Who Knows in the dodgy headgear. :wink:

BlackPanther wrote:The traverse of the remaining four tops will require some road walking, but I'll worry about it when the time comes


You should definitely consider starting from the bridge over the arm of Loch Quoich for the remaining four. There are stalkers paths leading to the col east of Creag nan Damh and the col west of Aonach Air Chrith from the south side.
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Re: A different take on South Glen Shiel ridge

Postby kev_russ » Tue Oct 15, 2013 5:27 pm

Stunning :)
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Re: A different take on South Glen Shiel ridge

Postby The Rodmiester » Tue Oct 15, 2013 5:36 pm

Well well BP. what's this! different take in Glen Shiel and a different slant on Ben Nevis! :lol: :lol: Joking apart, great report and photographs as per usual, I particulary like the layering of the hills in the distance, if that's what you would call it, fabulous. I agree re the walking of the road, not nice experience especially in the middle of July with additional holiday traffic, there are not many places to jump to and there are always the drainage ditches waiting to catch you out :crazy: :crazy: :(
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Re: A different take on South Glen Shiel ridge

Postby gman » Tue Oct 15, 2013 5:54 pm

Great photos, I like the one across Loch Quoich cos I was plodding from Gairich to Sgurr na Ciche on Saturday :D . I cycled down from the Cluanie Inn to the other end of the ridge, have to brace yourself after a lorry overtakes you as there's a tail of impatient cars behind.
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Re: A different take on South Glen Shiel ridge

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:44 pm

Many thanks, everybody :D A different take, but just as much pleasure on SGS :lol:

jmarkb wrote:You should definitely consider starting from the bridge over the arm of Loch Quoich for the remaining four. There are stalkers paths leading to the col east of Creag nan Damh and the col west of Aonach Air Chrith from the south side.


Yes, I've been thinking about that approach. It will have to wait till next year, though - days are getting a wee bit too short now.

The Rodmiester wrote:there are always the drainage ditches waiting to catch you out


Thanks for reminding me of the ditches :lol: :lol: One more reason why I hate road-walking and road-cycling.

gman wrote:Great photos, I like the one across Loch Quoich cos I was plodding from Gairich to Sgurr na Ciche on Saturday :D . I cycled down from the Cluanie Inn to the other end of the ridge, have to brace yourself after a lorry overtakes you as there's a tail of impatient cars behind.


I read your story - you are SOME tough hillwalker 8)
I know many people cycle downhill from Cluanie Inn after walking the ridge W-E. I'm still too afraid of Killer Lorries :lol: :lol:
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