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Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Postby AnnieMacD » Mon Nov 03, 2014 4:51 pm

Munros included on this walk: Sgurr na Sgine

Date walked: 01/11/2014

Time taken: 8.75 hours

Distance: 12.3 km

Ascent: 1260m

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Track_2014-11-01 Sgurr na Sgine.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Well, this was certainly a walk of extremes. The weather forecast looked most promising for Glenshiel and with the reduced daylight hours and my inability to guestimate walking times I decided to go for Sgurr na Sgine. It's usually combined with The Saddle and Forcan Ridge but I'm leaving those for a good, long, clear day (in the spring, maybe). I had read a couple of reports and knew there were different possible descents to make it a circular walk - just up my street!

Set off early (the public toilets in Lochcarron are closed for the winter, aaaargh!) and got to the Stromeferry bypass just after it opened and was parked and ready below the Faochag by 8am. The first part of the walk is across flattish ground to the Allt Mhalagain - it was an absolute bog. After all the rain of the past month, none of which seems to have disappeared, the whole walk was pretty wet and every stone and rock was a hazard of slipperiness! I had to go up to the slippery bridge to cross the river - which was in spate. I crossed the bridge very carefully as it has no sides or anything to hold on to - one slip and you're over the side into the torrent below. Fortunately it's quite wide and stable.

Faochaig from the lay-by. Sgurr na Sgine is behind it so out of view.
ImageSgurr na Sgine by anniesmountains, on Flickr

The climb up Faochag was a pleasure. It's steep but not too steep and there's a decent path all the way. I imagine in a good day the views must be fantastic. As it was, the day never really brightened up and there was a lot of haze in the distance. Much of the path was a stream and the rocks were very slippery but with care it didn't prove a problem. As I approached the summit I noticed the gusts of wind were picking up and every time the path zig-zagged to my left (south) I was having to brace myself. However, once at the summit it was relatively quiet and I had a wee rest here. The views are amazing but, again, it was a dark day and the light never improved.

Looking back to the road with Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe behind.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-2 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Looking east to Creag nan Damh and its complicated descent options! Have yet to figure out how to get up this one.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-3 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Sgurr a'Chuillinn and the Brothers Ridge.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-4 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

West to Bod an Fhithich and Glenshiel towards Shiel Bridge.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-5 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

The Forcan Ridge starts to take shape. Initially you approach it head-on and it's only when you start seeing the profile that it becomes interesting.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-6 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

The Sisters. My car is still the only one in the lay-by.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-7 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Much higher up I get a first sighting of Sgurr na Sgine - my target. Little did I know how complicated my ascent would be!
ImageSgurr na Sgine-8 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

West and now looking down on Meallan Odhar and Biod an Fhithich.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-9 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Summit of Faochaig.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-10 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

The only sunshine I saw all day.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-11 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

The Forcan Ridge and The Saddle from Faochag.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-12 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Sgurr na Sgine from Faochag - a lovely-looking ridge walk.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-26 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

I then set off across the ridge towards Sgurr na Sgine. The top of Faochag is a small pointy perch so it's a steepish climb down to the main ridge which is not a narrow ridge but it's not too wide either. Once I descended to the lowest point it hit me with a vengeance - the wind that is. It was phenomenally strong and I couldn't stand far less walk. The gusts lasted maybe 30 seconds and I could almost see them funnelling up the south slope as the grasses were being blown about and coming my way. It must have been some kind of phenomenon as I instinctively dropped down (at least I don't remember making the decision to descend) the grassy hillside and after a few minutes it wasn't bad at all but I could still hear it above me. I was safe and very lucky that it was a grassy slope with no crags, but also extremely disappointed. I continued easily down the steep grassy slope into the corrie where there was hardly a whisper of wind. It was unbelievable. I was back in the bog though and plenty of running water around so topped up my supply and considered my options. The summit of Sgurr na Sgine looked tantalisingly close :roll:. There is an upper corrie below the summit and I could see a sort of track going up avoiding the crags. Why not go for it? So I went.

It was a fantastic climb. Very steep, but I followed a deer track all the way into a lovely and quiet upper corrie. A hare ran away in fright as I nearly stepped on it. Off it went up a grassy ramp and I knew that was my ascent too. However, I was still worried that there would be a raging wind on the summit ridge. Again the climb was steep but didn't take me long but it was with great caution that I put my head above the parapet - to be met with a stunning, beautiful silence. No wind. There was the traverse path in front of me and I was only approx. 100m (horizontally) from the summit.

View back to the Faochag ridge from the upper corrie. I dropped down from the lowest point where the pale grass is then down to the left (in photo) of the two parallel streams. This was a drop of more than 200m vertical from Faochag!
ImageSgurr na Sgine-13 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Forcan ridge from the upper corrie. In the mid distance is the Faochaig ridge which I bypassed - along with all the false summits!
ImageSgurr na Sgine-14 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Wider view of the hanging corrie with no wind. Coire Toiteil is below on the right.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-25 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Way up to the bealach just below the summit. It was steeper than it appears here.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-24 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Sgurr na Sgine summit. Wet but just a nice breeze blowing.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-15 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

There was a bit of a breeze on the summit and the rain started (about 4 hours earlier than forecast) so I found a wee depression just east of the cairn and had lunch. I had a good view of the Faochag ridge so pondered as to how I should descend. I saw a mini gully which looked quite doable and avoided most to the ridge (I wasn't about to venture there again!) so after a wet lunch I headed off over the subsidiary summits.

I decided to try the smally gully on the mid-right of the photo running down diagonally to the right edge.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-27 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

There were a few scrambly bits of rock to negotiate (mostly because of the slipperiness I had to use hands) down to the first bealach at the three lochans below the 942 top. I then got a decent view of the descent from The Saddle and noticed three people coming down the path.

There are three figures coming down the path at the bottom right of the photo. One is wearing a blue jacket.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-16 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Anyway, off I went down the gully which was obviously frequented by deer so it was safe but steep. Once the steepness eased off I started my long trudge parallel(ish) to the Allt Coire Toteil heading for the main path back down to the Malagan Bridge. I did indeed join the path just after it crossed the burn but really made slower progress from then on. It's the most awful path ever - especially in the rain and with all the water coming off the hills making it into a small burn. The worst part of it though is all the rocks - in fact it's being far too generous calling it a path - it's more like an obstacle course. I made much better progress free-ranging on the hillside but I was starting to think about it getting dark so stuck with it. Meanwhile I kept looking back to see if I could see the three people anywhere on the ridge but didn't see them again.

My descent mini-gully.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-17 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Sgurr na Sgine from half way down. You can see my path of ascent left of centre.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-18 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Descent route - backward S shape in the centre of the photo.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-19 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Back where I started the second ascent - in the bog!
ImageSgurr na Sgine-20 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

On a decent stretch of the horrible path. Dusk was falling.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-22 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Back towards Creag nan Damh. The burns were lovely and it would be nice to come up here in winter to photograph the waterfalls.
ImageSgurr na Sgine-23 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

By the time I negotiated the slippery bridge and low-level bogs again it was almost dark. There was still no sign of the three people I had seen earlier but I guessed that maybe they had gone back down Coire Mhalagan so was not concerned. I was just getting into the car when I saw a bright light on the very top of Faochaig - then another. OMG it was dark and they hadn't even started the descent on that steep and slippery path. I noticed one solitary car in the lay-by further up the road which I presumed belonged to them.

After getting home it kept eating away at me that the three people might still be on the hill, so after much debating (they could have been up there to photograph the sunset for all I knew) I called 101 and asked the police if they would ask Kintail MR to check that the car was no longer there. I think in retrospect it was the correct call (I would have gone down there myself if it was closer) as I would never have forgiven myself if there I had been an incident and I had known they were there all along.

The reason for my title is that when I got out of the maelstrom I suddenly thought of the line from John Masefield's Sea Fever - "... where the wind's like a whetted knife, ...". How appropriate!
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Re: Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Mon Nov 03, 2014 5:21 pm

Wonderful report Annie - I think you definitely made the right call to contact mountain rescue. :clap:

Reading your experiences on a trip similar to one I did a few weeks ago the massive difference the weather makes to our passion is really stark - we had wind certainly, but it was dry and therefore the walking was easier and safer. The wet makes walking a very different proposition.

I love the muted autumn colours in the photos - even on a dark day Kintail is beautiful :D :D
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Re: Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Postby dogplodder » Mon Nov 03, 2014 5:41 pm

I take my hat off to you going out in all that wetness and if concerned about someone's safety it's always right to make the call. :clap:
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Re: Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Nov 04, 2014 1:17 am

The usual wonderful pics - I really wish I could get mine to be half as good (fluorescent green smiley!!!)
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Re: Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Postby Silverhill » Tue Nov 04, 2014 9:27 pm

Well done Annie for heading out in those conditions now the days are getting shorter. :clap: Funny how the wind sometimes behaves! :crazy:
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Re: Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Postby clivegrif » Wed Nov 12, 2014 6:18 pm

Nice report Annie, and I'm sure this has opened up some extra options for folk who haven't climbed it yet.

It is a hill that tends to be an after-thought when joined up with the wonderful Forcan Ridge and the Saddle, but it really is better than that.

Also think the call was a good one - so many accidents happen on steep wet grass, and when its dark as well...

Best wishes
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Re: Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Postby rockhopper » Wed Nov 12, 2014 10:52 pm

An interesting route even if it did turn out to be rather complicated - different form the norm again. As others have said, also think you were right to call - cheers :)
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Re: Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Postby simon-b » Wed Nov 12, 2014 11:07 pm

A better hill than just a post-script to The Saddle, as Clive says. That must have been a good ascent route via Faochag - some of us land on our bottoms when descending that way! I hope the other three people got down OK.

And some nice photos there, Annie.
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Re: Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Postby Emmanuelle » Fri Nov 14, 2014 5:05 pm

Superb! Great story and beautiful pics. As it happens, I'm heading up there tomorrow. I did the Forcan ridge 10 years ago so your route description suits me fine, although I wondered if I would come back down the route of ascent. I'll have to leave very very early to start walking before 9am. I thought I might go up Sunday but the forecast is better for tomorrow! I'll take all your advice into account! :D

And yes you were right to call 101. I'm sure the walkers would be pleased to know that someone was looking out for them, even if they were safe.
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Re: Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Nov 14, 2014 5:46 pm

Missed this one initially, I had too many reports to read after two weeks away from WalkHighlands :D You made a miserable day sound exciting in your story!

We descended from Faochag after climbing the two Munros and I twisted my ankle painfully on that steep path. Hard to even imagine how difficult it would be to descend it in total darkness and in wet conditions :shock:

I'll second all others, you made the right decision calling 101. Better to be oversensitive sometimes...
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Re: Knives out on Sgurr na Sgine

Postby scottishkennyg » Sat Nov 15, 2014 1:49 pm

Good outing there Annie in testing conditions. Some great images capturing the mood of the weather.
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