A Week to Remember in Kintail
by jupe1407 » Fri May 09, 2014 4:11 pm
Munros included on this walk: A' Chralaig, A' Ghlas-bheinn, Aonach Meadhoin, Beinn Fhada, Carn Ghluasaid, Ciste Dhubh, Mullach Fraoch-choire, Sail Chaorainn, Saileag, Sgurr a'Bhealaich Dheirg, Sgurr Fhuaran, Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, Sgurr nan Conbhairean
Date walked: 02/05/2014
Time taken: 43.5 hours
Distance: 87.8 km
Ascent: 8147m8 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).
With a few days to go, the forecast was looking grim for the weekend coming, however Friday did look good, so i took the extra Friday off and as per usual when heading North-West, left Forfar at around 4am to minimise the nightmare of A9 traffic. The plan worked and the A9 was very quiet. I cut off at Dalwhinnie to head for Spean Bridge and caught a lovely sunrise a few miles along the road.
Once at Spean Bridge, I headed off past the Commando Memorial to beautiful Loch Lochy and eventually the road took my high above Loch Loyne. Although a long drive from Forfar, this journey is a favourite, having made it a few times now. Anyway, onto the hills
Day 1 (Friday 2nd May)
Carn Ghlusaid, Sgurr nan Conbhairean, Sail Chaorainn
This was a lovely walk to kick off a memorable week. The views and weather were terrific the whole day. The walk starts from Lundie, by Loch Cluanie and takes in the three munros beyond the eastern end of Glen Shiel.
I headed up from the large, rough parking area towards the mobile phone mast, then followed the decent stalkers path up towards Carn Ghluasaid.
There are no difficulties here at all, and this was a gentle ascent by Kintail standards. It was a cracker of a morning and the views were tremendous.
I continued up towards the first summit, getting a good view of the plateau on the way. The path is easy to follow, and mostly pleasantly dry. It winds it's way towards the bulk of Carn Ghluasaid before finally gaining height. Before long I reached the summit cairn which sits right on the edge of the cliffs into it's northern corrie. There are a couple of other cairns dotted about the plateau, but the true summit is on the cliff edge.
A quick bite to eat here, then off to the next summit, Sgurr nan Conbhairean, a much larger mountain.
I was feeling a bit knackered, having slept for 3 hours and driven for 3, and wasn't looking forward to the steep-looking scree ascent. However once there, it wasn't too bad at all, and it wasn't long before I was at the summit, enjoying more cheese and chocolate.
I headed off down towards the final munro, Sail Chaorainn. It's a nice walk out, but the summit itself is a bit "meh". I spent about 15 minutes checking and re-checking that the non-descript bump i was on, was actually the summit.
Annoyingly, the return route requires re-ascending most of Sgurr nan Conbhairean before cutting off to eventually join the ridge down to Meall Breac. There was a bit of wildlife on the way up, with a Ptarmigan sitting nicely on a rock outcrop, and a golden eagle circling briefly around (couldn't get a decent focus on it in time).
Finally I reached the exit ridge back towards the main road via Meall Breac. It's quite a pleasant wee ridge, with good views all around, unfortunately the latter half of the descent isn't quite as pleasant, as a boggy, sodden trudge down wet grassy slopes ensued, including going knee deep in mud twice
Rather than opt for the WH route of re-joining the old military road back past the phone mast, I wanted to walk on decent ground so took the marginally longer, but flatter option of walking along the main road back to the car.
A fine start to what would prove to be a terrific week.
I drove wearily down magnificent Glen Shiel to pitch my tent at Shielbridge, which would be home for a couple of nights, until we got into the Wee Bunkhouse at Kintail Lodge. After finally pitching the Banshee in what seemed like a boulderfield, I wandered down to the shop to pay through the nose for supplies (89p for a Twix!!), and awaited the arrival of the others through the rest of the night.
Day Two (Saturday 3rd May)
A'Chralaig & Mullach Fraoch-coire
After a traditionally dismal sleep in the tent, I got up and met up with Graham, Matt, Joseph and the others. The original plan had been to tackle the northern three Cuillin, Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Basteir and Bruach na Frithe. However the weather looked dicey for the afternoon so we settled on A'Chralaig and it's neighbour, Mullach Fraoch-coire. A fleet of cars headed up to the start point, a long layby east of the Cluanie Inn.
A'Chralaig is the first of these mountains to be climbed, and consists of an brutally steep climb up it's steep, grassy (and wet) western slopes to gain it's main ridge, then a much gentler climb to the summit. The thigh-bursting climb to the main ridge is not fun, but the views back to Loch Cluanie and Glen Shiel are absolutely brilliant.
It's not long before the summit is gained. The weather was staying clear as we longingly looked over to the main ridge on Skye thinking what might have been However, these two hills are superb in their own right. Before long we reached the massive summit cairn of A'Chralaig.
Annoyingly for me, camera disaster struck. After a quick bite to eat, I picked up it up, but the strap snagged on the corner of a rock which whipped it back into another rock, damaging the autofocus on my lens Therefore, the majority of the rest of the pictures in this report are phone photos, save for a few where i could be bothered mucking around with manual focus.
Anyway, off we went, following the spine of the ridge to Mullach Fraoch-coire, the second munro. One the way we spotted a lot of avalanches and avalanche debris. It's been a strange winter with massive quantities of snow high up, and hardly any down below.
The ridge to the second munro is a thing of beauty, with some rock pinnacles to keep scramblers amused near the summit.
After some entertainment on the pinnacles, we arrived at the summit cairn. The views from here are tremendous, with my favourite being that into Glen Affric.
We ate a bit more lunch then headed back, some over the pinnacles, some (me ) by the path. The usual descent from here is marked by a cairn halfway between the intervening top and the second munro. However, after a chat with a couple who'd done this walk before, we decided to return to the munro top and descend it's SW shoulder into An Caorann Mor. This was a very steep and wet grassy descent, but it did the job and seemed to cut a good chunk off the usual descent route. We followed the mostly fine track back out to the road, having experienced little breeze and no rain. We mildly cursed not going for the Skye option, but gambling with a weather forecast up there wasn't sensible and everyone had a cracker of a day on these two fine hills.
There was definitely going to be rain overnight though, which made the knowledge that this was my last night camping somewhat joyous
Day Three (Sunday 4th May)
I awoke on Sunday morning to discover that MWIS had actually been correct in today's forecast. It was indeed p***ing down, and would do for the majority of the day. A short day was therefore in the offing and Ciste Dhubh was the lucky munro, giving an option to climb it's neighbouring Corbett, Am Bathac.
We started from the same point as the day before, the long layby east of the Cluanie Inn and backtracked slightly to gain the entry point to An Caorann Beag, our bogtrot for the day.
After this long section of bogtrot through the glen, we reached it's head and gained height to Bealach a'Choinich, which was the next section of bogtrot. It rained fairly steadily throughout. After the bealach, we climbed up to the right of the crags on the south face of Ciste Dhubh (boggy), before the gradient relented somewhat. I bypassed An Cnapach - there seemed little point in needless ascent to get a view of absolutely nothing - and made for the summit.
Luckily, the weather cleared for a few minutes to allow my one and only picture of the day
After that it was basically a retrace of steps out to the road, through an unending bogfest. Four of us decided to miss out Am Bathac, with the remainder of the group heading up to it. We only beat them back to the car by about 5 minutes
Despite the awful weather, it was a nice walk and a lovely peak. Certainly one to do again on a better day.
It was with great delight that we arrived at the Kintail Lodge Hotel's Wee Bunkhouse - home for the next 4 nights which meant no camping in the rain. If you've not been here before, I'd highly recommend it. It's a tremendous wee bunkhouse for up to 6 people, with kitchen, mini drying room and wet/shower room. It was heaven compared to the previous two nights. Handily, nipping into the hotel for a pint was much more convenient, a tidy added bonus.
Day Four (Monday 5th May)
Beinn Fhada & A'Chralaig
The comfort and warm of the Wee bunkhouse was an absolute godsend, but I was beginning to feel the effects of continual walking a bit. After three days, it's fair to say I wasn't looking 100% forward to these two hills, a brute of a walk with a lot of descent/reascent (or traversing in our case ). I felt i might just do Fhada then return.
Anyway, a slightly reduced group of 6 set off from Morvich up through the lovely Gleann Choinnichean towards Beinn Fhada. It's a lengthy walk-in, but a pleasant one, on a good path through woods and by the Allt. After a while it comes to a wee waterfall where the Allt needs to be crossed. Following this, the path zig-zags uphill then comes to a fork, left for A'Chralaig, right for Fhada. We headed right and the path eventually took us up into Coire an Sgairne. Fabulous views of the Fhada's ridges open up, with plenty of tasty-looking scrambling options.
After what seemed an eternity, i dragged my worn legs up to the summit plateau and was rewarded with a fabulous view, back down the plateau towards Fhads's wonderful ridges. It's an absolutely massive mountain.
After the pleasant descent down Fhada back to the bealach, we headed over to our second target, A'Chralaig. However we had to drop down much lower than expected and after a fun-filled traverse of Meall a'Bhealaich, we dropped well down and eventually reached the path at the foot of our second munro. I was absolutely shattered by this point, but decided that the couple of hours of pain involved in climbing this hill would be worth it when weighed against having to come back and do it again sometime.
I made it up, and although extremely windy, conditions had again exceeded MWIS expectations and there was a nice view from the summit area.
Sitting in a strong wind at the top was becoming decidedly cold, so we soon set off down towards Dorusduain Wood via yet another soggy, steep and grassy descent (becoming a bit of a habit this ).
After a thigh-crushing eternity I reached level ground and we began the walk out, again on excellent paths.
These two hills are a pretty big day, and I'd already decided I would have a day off walking on Tuesday. My legs were pretty knackered and I generally felt as if i'd been in a car crash.
Day Five (Tuesday 6th May)
I'd decided yesterday to take today off. The rest of the guys were doing the South Glen Shiel Ridge, the forecast was pretty iffy, and I'd already done it in clag in June last year. My legs needed a day off so I spent the day pottering about the area with (what was left working on) my camera.
It poured down all day in Skye so I visited Inside-Out and bought some Rab trousers and various other bits and pieces I thought I needed (but probably didn't). After a while i drove back via Plockton, which is a pretty wee place. Again taking some photos before eventually heading back to the Bunkhouse. I nipped up the Glen to pick up Graham, Mat and Joseph from the end of the South Ridge and went for a couple of beers to round the day off nicely.
Day Six (Wednesday 7th May)
The Brothers Ridge
Saileag, Sgurr a'Bhealaich Dheirg. Aonach Meadhoin
After a welcome rest day, it was time to get back into the hills. After the weather forecasts had scuppered earlier plans to do the Brothers and Sisters ridges together, we decided to split them into Wednesday and Thursday before seeing what Friday's forecast would bring.
After telling us that he'd sworn last time he'd been up these ridges that he'd never climb Bealach an Lapain ever again, Graham had to do it in consecutive days
I don't blame him to be honest. It's a brutal 550m pull up a very steep, wet and grassy hillside. On the plus side, it gets the hardest work out of the way early. We played an amusing game on "waterproofs on/waterproofs off" as the rain trolled us almost the entire way up the slopes.
The reward at the top however was substantial.
However, the weather closed in quickly, and we were soon back in the waterproofs. The brother's ridge is a lovely wee walk, perhaps suffering in comparison the the sister's ridge. Nevertheless, it's thoroughly enjoyable and once up the initially horrible climb, the route to Saileag isn't particularly strenuous. Saileag itself isn't a particularly stunning summit, and the views from it were non-existent, and wet.
We didn't hang about and set off quickly for Sgurr a'Bhealaich Dheirg. This was a nice walking section and again a nice section of ridge. We were hit by a mini-snowstorm for around 40 minutes, so again, after a careful negotiation of the mini-arete out to the summit cairn, we got moving pretty quickly to Aonach Meadhoin. Views continued to be fleeting/negligible and we reached the summit fairly quickly.
The final part of the walk was to follow the grassy (and yes, wet) shoulder down to the Cluanie Inn where i'd left my car.
Another comfortable night in the Wee Bunkhouse, another couple of beers and another look at the massive haddock and chips other diners were enjoying.
Day Seven (8th May)
The Sisters of Kintail
Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr Fhuaran
What a way to finish. one of the finest ridgewalks in the country. I'd decided that I'd make this my last day. I'd had a brilliant week of walking, and barring disaster, would have bagged 14 munros. I also couldn't be bothered camping again (although the guys did eventually secure another bunkhouse). Additionally Friday's forecast was also woeful. So the Sisters it was.
This meant however that we'd have a second day's spirit-crushing ascent up 550 soaking wet, steep metres to Bealach na Lapain. Surprisingly we made this in reasonable time, though i found it a bit more painful than the previous day.
After a short break we made our way along the ridge. The weather had improved, although rain was replaced by thick clag, for almost the entire route. After a series of bumps and "are we there yet?"s, we arrived at the munro top of Sgurr na Spainteach, so-named in honour of Spanish soldiers who fought on the Glen Shiel battle site below the mountain around 300 years ago.
From here, it's a thankfully short-ish ridge traverse over rocky flakes to the first munro, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe. With no views it was a bit difficult to find motivation, bit I plodded on and made the summit in reasonable time. We decided there wasn't much point in hanging around and made the short descent to the bealach and to the next munro, Sgurr na Carnach. The lack of any sort of views continued, and again there was little hanging about on the summit. Just long enough for the lactic acid to leave my leg muscles
The final munro is the highest and steepest of the sisters, and an absolute brute. Although I could hardly see it, the mountain loomed menacingly in the mist from the bealach and I knew i was going to suffer. Once at it's foot, I got a view of what lay ahead.
After an utter slog interspersed with numerous breaks, drinks and swear words, I reached the last of the three munros, my 14th in a week and 70th overall. The relief was palpable. We also did get some brief, limited views, hinting at how wonderful this ridge would be on a clear day.
Things did clear a bit on the walk out (as is tradition with scottish weather). The weather couldn't detract from what had been a fabulous ridge walk. I can only imagine how good this is on a completely clear day.
Even the walk out is pleasant, meeting a well-made path down in Gleann Lichd which exited about 10 feet from Graham's car.
After probably the best shower I've had, I filled up the car for the long, long journey home and met up with Graham, Mat and Joseph for one last meal before going home.
It was worth waiting for
So ended an absolutely brilliant week in Kintail. Special mentions to Graham Slater for organising this and the Kintail Lodge Hotel for fabulous accommodation and great food.
I'll be back.
by scoob999 » Fri May 09, 2014 11:53 pm
Was great walking with you and the other nutters
by jupe1407 » Sat May 10, 2014 12:13 am
scoob999 wrote:Nice one JP
Was great walking with you and the other nutters
Cheers Scoob. What a week. And you were there for the saner stuff
It got worse.
by munroman283 » Sat May 10, 2014 7:19 am
by munroman283 » Sat May 10, 2014 7:32 am
munroman283 wrote:Good one JP. It was a great week in a great area, I can't wait to go back and especially look forward to climbing up Bealach na Lapin again . I have to say it's nice to be back home and in a normal world again, it all got a bit mad hey (it usually does when myself and chomper get together on the hill). I hope your legs recover soon and that the therapy goes well!!!!!
by munroman283 » Sat May 10, 2014 7:46 am
by PeteR » Sat May 10, 2014 8:59 am
by jupe1407 » Sat May 10, 2014 9:27 am
munroman283 wrote:We weren't alone in the madness though
No definitely not.
Brilliant week though, cheers again for having me along. Whens the next bout of insanity?
by jupe1407 » Sat May 10, 2014 9:28 am
PeteR wrote:Excellent report JP, and some great photos despite the camera disaster. North Glen Shiel certainly has some fine hills to climb But you're right about one thing.........some of them are thigh busters
You're not wrong there Pete. I think i'll have nightmares about Sgurr Fhuaran for years to come.
by munroman283 » Sat May 10, 2014 10:48 am
by jupe1407 » Sat May 10, 2014 11:22 am
munroman283 wrote:Hopefully June mate up for it???
Aye, if it's late June. I'm doing my challenge on either of the first two weekends, weather permitting. Where are you thinking of going? Think Mat fancies the Grey Corries.
by munroman283 » Sat May 10, 2014 1:38 pm
by jupe1407 » Sat May 10, 2014 2:10 pm
munroman283 wrote:I'm happy to go anywhere mate as long as I've got ma hat and my jacket with its amazing hood!!!
Mind and wash that sleeve
by munroman283 » Sat May 10, 2014 2:43 pm