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The Royal Arkle

The Royal Arkle


Postby BlackPanther » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:08 pm

Route description: Arkle

Corbetts included on this walk: Arkle

Date walked: 31/08/2014

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 18 km

Ascent: 1010m

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The rocky adventure in Grey Corries was not enough for me and the following Sunday I dragged my husband onto another steep, bouldery mountain. A Corbett this time, and a bit less tiring than last week, but just as enjoyable and with views to kill for. I have already reached my annual target for Corbetts (set for 74) but didn't mind adding one more :D
In our classification for C's the hills from far north were always high on the list. Quinag, the two Culs, Canisp, Braebag, Glass Bheinn, Ben Loyal, Ben Hee... They all have great character and we really enjoyed each one of them. But the biggest challenge was still untouched and that's Arkle and Foinaven group.
We are lucky to live within a reasonable driving distance from the hills of Sutherland so no need to climb them all in one go - we could pick them one by one like raisins from cake :D . We chose Arkle as the Foinaven route is much longer and is best left for the longest days of summer. So Foinaven has to wait for next year... the mountain ain't exactly going anywhere :lol: :lol:
There's only one easy way up this hill and that's from the south, up the only slope of Arkle not guarded by vertical rocks. I studied the map in hope for a circular route, but it seemed nearly impossible, so we settled for the classic up-and-down the southern side.
Our route:

Track_ARKLE 31-08-14.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


The forecast said - sunny weather from midday to about 6pm, then cloud and rain coming from the west. So we needed to be down by 6 o'clock which looked easily doable for the classic Arkle route :D
Starting point: small parking area at the start of a track leaving A838, just north of Achfary.
We arrived to see heavy cloud over our target hill - but as we had already travelled that far, we decided to give it a go anyway. We believed the forecast and this time it was right... Patience pays off :D But at the moment, Arkle didn't look inviting:
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Of course, we were immediately attacked by midges, thank heavens I remembered to pack a bottle of repellent :?
The walk starts by following the track along Loch Stack to Lone farm and then past the buildings and over two bridges. The cloud was still hanging low and we couldn't even see the summit of Ben Stack:
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But as we kept walking, I had the impression that the grey stuff was slowly lifting off the top of the ridge:
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After the second bridge, the track gets a bit wet. It had rained the previous day and the grass was still holding onto big drops of water... My trousers were getting soaked so I mentioned - we should put gaiters on... But first - the gate to Arkle was open!
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Just past the two big boulders forming the "gate" we walked through a small pine plantation. And here, out of nowhere, came rushing a gang of flat flies :shock: :shock: They landed on our clothes, skin, even tried to wriggle into Kevin's hair. I was glad to have my hat on!
I caught one and had a good look at it. I'm a toxicologist, not an entomologist, but this was definitely the deer ked (Lipoptena cervi). Luckily, they are not very keen to bite humans, as their only host are deer. As quoted from Wikipedia: "The main annoyance in humans is the inconvenience and unpleasantness of removing keds from hair and clothes." :shock:
We run out of the forest as quickly as we could and then spent some time picking keds out of each other. They seemed to like Kevin more than me. We didn't notice any bites and even if, luckily, keds don't spread Lymes disease. But the whole encounter was very unpleasant :?
The ked forest:
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The track went uphill now and we were at last gaining height:
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The track follows the gorge of Allt Horn:
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We followed the track until crossing a small stream. Here, just past the crossing, we noticed a small cairn, marking the start of the ascent path. We stopped, put gaiters on (the vegetation looked very wet) and got ready for some steep climbing!
The path very soon becomes sketchy and after about 200m of ascent it disappears, but the slopes, apart from being wet and soggy, present no problem:
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The higher we climbed, the better the views behind us. The cloud was lifting, that's for sure, and our hopes for a sunny ridge walk were growing!
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The first panorama of the day - zoom to Assynt hills: Quinag (the main bulk), to the left Suilven, Cul Mor and a bit of Canisp:
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It has to be said that Arkle makes you sweat. It's a relentless, steep ascent all the way to the main ridge, no breaks or easier stages. Good fitness tester. We aimed for a low top, Meall Aonghais (581m), but traversed just below it, to gain a high col:
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I considered adding Meall Aonghais to the traverse but dropped the idea as it is not a classified top of any kind, so we just climbed to the col and took a few pictures there. The sky was brightening and we knew we were going to have a good day!
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Soon we stated the final push to the main ridge and for the first time, a rocky shape showed up :wink: At the moment, still a bit cloudy, but so mighty that Kevin stopped and murmured: What the f... is that???
We exchanged smiles and spoke together - Foinaven! (from now on known as "What the F... is that" Corbett :lol: :lol: :lol: )
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...but the conditions were improving quickly. McDugalls Hill behind us was already cloud free:
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...and so was Meall Horn, the least recognisable from the trio. I'm so tempted to try this one in winter conditions:
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We continued climbing, now on very stony ground. I loved the experience though and didn't mind sweat and tears. So far, the views have been good but I didn't realise the best was yet to come... We arrived at the southern top of Arkle (758m) just as the rest of the cloud burned off and the blue sky gave a superb background to the rocky ridges... I was gobsmacked - time for a break, snack and photo session!
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Of course, Foinaven is the main wow factor here. The long, steep ridge looks so inviting:
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Our route follows this ridge though, much shorter but also looking great fun - I couldn't wait to test the strength of Panther's paws on these quartzite rocks!
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Loch an Easain Uaine and the vertical cliffs of Foinaven behind:
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So much quartz... so much like the Grey Corries!
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Posing with the mighty mountain behind:
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The southern view is less imposing but I still liked the panorama of Assynt hills:
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After a short snack break on the southern top, I was eager to tackle the ridge - let the fun begin!
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The first stage, descending to the 680m col, is not that much of a fun, as the path is very eroded and it's easy to lose balance on tumbling rocks. But the panos make up for the hard work. Believe me or not, Kevin managed to snap over 400 photos again!!! We didn't exactly hurry, we had plenty of time to finish this walk and who would run up and down the mountain without looking around, if you have such views?
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From the col, the final climb is on an obvious path, a bit tumbly again but nothing scary:
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Ben Hope peeking out from behind the slopes of Arkle. We'll see more of it later :D
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Zoom:
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It didn't take us long to gain the main ridge. The true summit is at the opposite end of it and the traverse looked mouth-watering :lol:
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A glimpse down, into Am Bathaich, the post-glacial corrie, with Foinaven behind:
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To the west, the water world:
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The southern panorama again, with Ben Stack in the foreground. We climbed this modest hill a few years ago. It was supposed to be a winter climb, but felt more like spring as there was no snow on this hill. It is a Graham and well worth doing - views are great, as from any Assynt or Sutherland hill :D
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On close inspection the scrambling route doesn't seem difficult at all:
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One more for the album "Me on a rock" this time it's called: "me on a rock with huuuge drop below - do not show to your parents".
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Now, the time has come to enjoy the scrambling. actually, it turned out to be hardly any scrambling on that ridge. As a matter of fact, I did half of the traverse with my video camera in my hand :lol: :lol:
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View back to the lower top:
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My favourite photo from our Arkle trip - ain't this corrie view down simply amazing?
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The ridge is narrow but I wouldn't call it a scramble, just some rock-hopping. Right up my street:
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There is no real bypass though as the slopes are real steep:
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Hands (paws in my case :lol: ) are needed in a couple of places, but as long as the rocks are dry, no problem whatsoever. In icy or very wet conditions, this would be much trickier though, as the quartzite stones can be very slippery when wet:
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Next there's a short area of flat pavement like slabs, easy to hop over. In winter, with snow covering the gaps between them, you could end up in trouble though - the gaps between the slabs are 2-3metres deep!
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A short detour to a small group of rocks sticking out in the air... and another photo session :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Eventually we reached the true summit of Arkle - marked with a large cairn. Here we dropped rucksacks and had a short rest, before embarking on more exploration, walking around the summit area, snapping photos, gazing at the views and simply enjoying the moment...
Kevin bewildered:
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Looking north-west, I spotted a large beach. Sandwood Bay? It was indeed:
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The water world again:
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Panorama of Arkle ridge, with Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill behind:
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Ben Hope face-on. We have climbed this one, but only from the distance it's northern face can be truly appreciated:
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Corbett No. 75 ticked! Another nice, round number, but this one is definitely NOT about hill ticking. It's an F-Corbett, where F stands for Fantastic...
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We walked further along the ridge to the steep edge, to get better views to Foinaven. Here are a few "porn" photos - enjoy :D
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Zoomed part of the ridge:
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Views like from a plane:
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Loch an Easain Uaine and Meall Horn behind:
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We had lunch, took some more photos, Kevin fiddled with the camera and found self-timer. Getting the camera in the right position was a bit of a challenge, but we managed something :lol:
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Altogether we sat on the summit for almost an hour :roll: Why not?? Arkle well deserves the time! It's an F-Corbett, the royalty of the lower hills :D
On the way back we had more fun over the scramble-ish ridge. Weather was still good and as we were descending from the southern top, we could now appreciate the eastern panoramas, too:
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Zoom to MacDugalls Hill - another target for the near future:
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We were watched by a small herd of deer - I counted eight individuals, mostly young males:
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We didn't bother looking for the sketchy path, just worked our way down the steep slopes, aiming for the point where the track crosses the stream. Soon we were down and... waving away the keds again :evil:
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But only now, in good light, we could admire the steep cliffs of Arkle:
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On the way down and getting ready for the final ked fight, with Ben Stack and Loch Stack behind me:
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We basically RUN through the small forest and didn't stop until on the bridge over Eas Allt Horn. Here, we studied the Arkle profile one more time:
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On the way back we kept glancing over our shoulders, back to this mighty hill, not the highest of Corbetts, but a with true royal quality :D
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It took us 7.5 hours to finish this route, of course it can be done in two hours less but we were happy to stretch the time just for the sake of enjoying the views for longer!
Highly recommended mountain, Arkle entered my list of top 10 Corbetts. I'm sure Foinaven is even better and I can't wait to lay my paws on THAT ridge! For now - we had our share of Sutherland madness this year. Meow!

Sadly, our car didn't appreciate Sutherland roads and it's now booked for a garage visit, so the following weekend we will spend away from the mountains... Ah, the joys of life :lol: Maybe we will go mushroom picking on Beauly hills.
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby AnnieMacD » Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:48 pm

Wow, BP, you really do choose fantastic walks! The photos are gorgeous - I agree with you that the one down to a loch is the best of a great bunch. The weather co-operated too so looked like the best of conditions. I guess I have to add this to my list too - it's quite a bit longer drive for me though.

Too bad about your car :( I don't think the weather is going to be great anywhere in the Highlands Saturday or Sunday - could change before the day, of course. I can't decide where to go next now that I've got the Cuillin ridge bug! There are so many hills the choice gets harder and harder rather than easier!

Great report and agree Foinaven looks amazing too!
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby weaselmaster » Thu Sep 04, 2014 5:45 pm

Glad the weather was kind to you, some super pics of your day. Have got Arkle pegged for next year summer hols, along with the others up there I haven't climbed yet. I hugely enjoyed foinaven and am sure you will too when you get round to it
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby SAVAGEALICE » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:02 pm

Great hill ..managed to do this one at the start of the Summer. Thanks for posting. Brought back the memories! :D :D
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby Silverhill » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:14 pm

Great pictures! 8) Ever since I walked past Arkle on the Cape Wrath Trail I have wanted to return. This hill and Foinaven look fantastic. I can´t wait until I´m finally that far north to have a look at both from the top. :D
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby Fife Flyer » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:44 pm

Great report BP & some of the photo's are fantastic :clap: :clap:

Planning both F & A next spring, driven past them quite a few times & they looking amazing :wink:

Thanks for posting 8)
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby Walk cycle » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:31 pm

This is a great report. The photos are excellent and it is very helpful as there are very few Arkle walk reports on WH - hope to climb this and Foinaven next year. Arkle has captured my imagination ever since I cycled past it about 8 years ago. Well done. :)
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby tweedledog » Fri Sep 05, 2014 11:13 am

Wonderful pictures. Thanks for those. Haven't been up there for many years; what an extraordinary landscape it is.
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby Johnny Corbett » Fri Sep 05, 2014 11:21 am

This makes me want to jump in my car and drive up there right now. Superb photos of a stunning area :D
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby litljortindan » Fri Sep 05, 2014 11:46 am

Great report. Nothing much better than walking in conditions that go from dull to brilliant.

Went to Arkle in spring 2001 I think as it was then one of the few places you could walk because of the foot and mouth outbreak.
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby grumpy old bagger » Fri Sep 05, 2014 1:38 pm

Absolutely stunning photos!

I initially misread the report as The Royal Ankle :lol: and wasn't sure what to expect.... great looking hill, though. Fabulous views!
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Fri Sep 05, 2014 6:40 pm

Another brilliant report BP with stunning pics to match. :clap: :clap: You really encourage people to get out into the hills!

After doing the northern part of the Cape Wrath Trail earlier this year Arkle, Foinaven and the other northern Cs have risen up our hit list pretty fast too. It was great seeing your views of where we had walked only a few months ago ... somewhere I might even have a photo of Arkle from Sandwood Bay :lol: :lol:
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Sep 05, 2014 7:29 pm

Many thanks for all kind words :D :D This was a superb hill and one that doesn't really need advertising. We are lucky to live close to this magnificent landscape... I'm sure we will enjoy Foinaven - when we get around to doing it. And it is now very high on my to-do list.

AnnieMacD wrote:Wow, BP, you really do choose fantastic walks! The photos are gorgeous - I agree with you that the one down to a loch is the best of a great bunch. The weather co-operated too so looked like the best of conditions. I guess I have to add this to my list too - it's quite a bit longer drive for me though.
Too bad about your car :( I don't think the weather is going to be great anywhere in the Highlands Saturday or Sunday - could change before the day, of course. I can't decide where to go next now that I've got the Cuillin ridge bug! There are so many hills the choice gets harder and harder rather than easier!


Annie, I think Arkle is just up your street :wink: If you've got Cuillin bug, try Sgurr nan Eag. It's one of the easier Munros and the scramble to the corrie is great fun. I did it when I was still suffering from vertigo, had tears in my eyes, but didn't turn back!

Huff_n_Puff wrote:Another brilliant report BP with stunning pics to match. :clap: :clap: You really encourage people to get out into the hills!
After doing the northern part of the Cape Wrath Trail earlier this year Arkle, Foinaven and the other northern Cs have risen up our hit list pretty fast too. It was great seeing your views of where we had walked only a few months ago ... somewhere I might even have a photo of Arkle from Sandwood Bay :lol: :lol:

I think I have such photo as well - we visited Sandwood Bay last year.
First time I thought about climbing Arkle was when I had a good look at it from the summit of Ben Stack.
I'm just trying to share the joy of hillwalking and if I encourage other folks to follow me - well, I've got my prize :D

weaselmaster wrote:Glad the weather was kind to you, some super pics of your day. Have got Arkle pegged for next year summer hols, along with the others up there I haven't climbed yet. I hugely enjoyed foinaven and am sure you will too when you get round to it


I bet you guys do all three in this group in one go :lol: :lol: There are so many Corbetts in the far north and not many people climbing them... We didn't met a single soul all day!
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby Shug » Mon Sep 08, 2014 10:58 am

Fantastic photos there. Was up Arkle and Foinaven last month, (and ben stack too. that's a marshy hummocky haggy nightmare!)
Been pondering going back for another visit, and those photos clinched it! :D
(if you find yourself in Strath Dionard the estate workers are a friendly sort. got a lift back to road from one in the pouring rain :lol: )
Theres a great camping spot in the bealach between arkle and foinaven, looking out over Loch an Easain Uaine.
Image
(yes I didn't take enough tent pegs, hence the rock :lol: )
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Re: The Royal Arkle

Postby BoyVertiginous » Mon Sep 08, 2014 12:42 pm

Excellent photos, BP, of a cracking hike. Still have Arkle to do but have admired its' charms up close, when walking around it to get to Foinaven :roll:

They're too good to be rushed though. Next year, maybe.
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