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SGS Ridge - facing the fear of Killer Lorries

SGS Ridge - facing the fear of Killer Lorries


Postby BlackPanther » Thu Jul 02, 2015 1:00 pm

Route description: South Glen Shiel Ridge: 7 Munros

Munros included on this walk: Creag nan Damh, Maol chinn-dearg, Sgurr an Doire Leathain, Sgurr an Lochain

Date walked: 14/06/2015

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 26 km

Ascent: 1505m

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I still have a bad lorry phobia when it comes to cycling along busy roads. No amount of exercise up and down Beauly hills can change it. I've been spoiled with separate paths for bikers (there is even a new cycling line across Lovat Bridge to Kirkhill now) and low level traffic. The Glen Shiel A 87 is a completely different story!
In October 2013 I invented a new route for half of South Glen Shiel ridge, taking in 3 Munros and avoiding any road walking/cycling whatsoever. So with The eastern trio sorted, I was only left with half the ridge (in practice, it's two thirds as the distance/ascent is much bigger). Sadly, for the western four, there is no escape from the A 87 and the distance between the starting and finishing point still reads 8km. Therefore we decided to take bikes to shorten our journey.

It was a lovely, sunny Sunday, the beginning of our 2 weeks off :D We had great expectations for some fantastic walking later on and the SGS was supposed to be a good warm-up. The last four hills in this area I haven't done (Kevin has) and it felt like closing a certain chapter in my hillwalking career.

Most descriptions for SGS suggest walking east to west, but the bikes determined our direction, starting from Malagan car park, bagging the 4 Munros walking east and then biking back DOWNHILL to the starting point. Ah, did I mention before that I'm a totally rubbish cyclist? :lol: I hate uphill struggles on 2 wheels, I'm so much better on foot. Cycling is fun as long as it is on flat ground or downhill :oops:

Finally, our route took the four M's I needed, descending via Druim Coire nan Eirecheanach (excellent path):

Track_SOUTH GLENSHIEL 14-06-15.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



We got up early (TOO early, Kevin said), only to face a technical problem with the bike carrier. It worked well on our two previous cars, but somehow, it doesn't fit that well on Black Arrow. I don't know why, as the shape of Vauxhall is very similar to Toyota, so the frame should work... We lost about an hour, trying to figure out how to do quick modifications to the carrier, so we could actually set off!
Eventually, we managed to fix the bloody thing, but we knew it was only a temporary solution and we would need a new frame for permanent use.
The carrier battle meant we were late at the starting point, but because we were not doing the whole ridge, we had more than enough time :D We chained bikes to the fence in a large layby at 051115 and drove to Malagan car park, where great views were already waiting:
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We have been up this path before, last year, when we climbed Buidhe Bheinn (and its lovely ridge - a superb expedition!) so we knew more or less what to expect:
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The path is good all the way up, maybe a bit less obvious higher up, but it would be difficult to get lost here :lol: The glen of Allt Mhalagain is superb, too!
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During our previous visit here, the day was so hot we crawled up the slopes at snail's pace. This time conditions were much better, warm but not boiling. Actually, high on the ridge it was quite cold and woolly hats came out! At the moment, we enjoyed familiar views. What a satisfying feeling it is, when you see a mountain on the horizon, looking particularly scary and steep, and you can say - I've been there, I've done it! :lol: Especially when the mountain is Sgurr na Sgine:
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I was surprised how quickly we gained height this time and the painful struggle of the previous visit was now only a dim memory...
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We gained the ridge in less than 2 hours (about 700m of steady uphill). We were actually bang on time with Naismith and that should be underlined - usually we're much slower, taking breaks for photos, videos, watching wildlife, exploring rocky outcrops and generally, faffing about. But we wanted to be on the ridge as quickly as possible, so we could now slow down and enjoy the walk!
The ridge waiting for us:
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Five minutes break on Bealach Duibh Leac and we turned left for the big traverse. You might think that after the steep haul up it's now all the hard work done, but it's not :lol: There is plenty of uphill left to do!
The only way is up... With Sgurr na Sgine, Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais and The Saddle peeking out from behind Faochag as a background:
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The north ridge (Sister and Brothers) looks neverending from this perspective!
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Lower Glen Shiel and Loch Duich, Apllecross cliffs on the horizon. A magnificent day shaping up!
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Ladhar Bheinn zoomed, with the Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais - Buidhe Bheinn ridge in front. What is this with stone dykes on mountain ridges here?
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The first top of Creag nan Damh is not the true summit, as the second one is higher. Funny it just about reaches Munro height at 918m...
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View back west:
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Last remnants of winter on the lower top of Creag nan Damh:
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View north to the Sisters:
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Between the two tops of the first Munro, we encountered the only real scrambling section of this ridge. There are a few lines to descend this wall, the easiest one to the right hand side as you face east, but we of course took the more difficult, straight down approach :lol: It wasn't that hard at all.
Looking back up the wee scramble:
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Loch Quoich Twins framed in snow and Ben Nevis to the right:
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Cairn nan Damh summit. Bagging now begins!
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Lucy's first ever Munro!!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:
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There are two cairns on this summits, the true one (where Lucy is sitting) on a small rock, the lower one is a better place for picnic!
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What still awaits us:
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Zoomed Ben Nevis:
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The Cuillin Ridge on the western horizon:
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With Sgurr a'Mhaoraich in the background:
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After some faffing about and leg stretching on the first Munro, we carried on. We didn't bother with Sgurr Beag and took a well-trodden bypass path to the next col (Bealach a'Choire Reidhe). From here, only 200m of steep ascent stood between us and Munro number two!
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Looking back to Sgurr Beag:
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The climb to Sgurr an Lochain made us sweat, it's quite steep! About half way up my knees started sending me signals of protest - no more uphill! But there was no way I could stop now...
Resting my knees just below the top of the second Munro:
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A fantastic view opened up to the south: Glen Quoich (with some new tracks made up for hydro schemes), Gairich behind, Nevis range to the left and the Moidart hills in the far distance...
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Reaching the summit of Sgurr an Lochain was a relief, Kevin remembered that from now on, ascending wouldn't be as steep and knee-punishing. So we sat down and enjoyed the sunshine.
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This summit is, I think, the best viewpoint among the western four. In all directions, vistas are stunning and on a good day, like we had, lucky us, it was easy to forget all the hard work just for the price of this...
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...and this:
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Skye ridge again, and Beinn Sgritheall:
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Mullach Fraoch-choire with the notorious pinnacles:
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Distant Torridon peaks:
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Kevin "in action" with his biiig camera! :lol: :lol:
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Getting ready to go!
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On the way down, we encountered some interesting rocky shapes:
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...but thankfully, there was no need to climb any of them. The ridge linking Munros no. 2 and 3 drops only about 100m to a wide bealach, and the re-ascent is nowhere near as steep as the previous bit:
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Sgurr an Lochain from the east:
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The third Munro, Sgurr an Doire Leathan, is in my opinion the least interesting on this ridge, as it lacks the steep character of the previous two. We only stopped for a quick photo session here.
The long ridge to Munro no. 4:
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View back west:
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Gleouriach and Spidean Mialach with Nevis in the background. We admired the long ridge of Quoich Twins. We didn't see much when we climbed them last year (a cloudy day):
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The southern panorama once more:
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The next top on the way is called Sgurr na Coire Feinne but the true Munro is the next one behind it:
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The final ascent is not too steep, on a pleasant grassy slope, with superb views back to the bulky shape of Sgurr an Doire Leathan:
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Maol Chinn-dearg, the fourth (and our final) Munro of the day has a relatively small cairn, good views and... nowhere to hide from the wind, which woke up suddenly and made us feel cold :?
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Knoydart and Arkaig hills, still so many mountains to climb, so many places to discover...
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The fifth Munro of the traverse, Aonach air Chrith, with a lovely ridge connecting it to Maol Chinn-dearg. I will come back here one day to explore it, but for the time being, Maol was as far as we were going. I felt a bit disappointed that our ridge walking journey was about to end, but with my knees not happy at all, I doubt I would last the whole ridge anyway.
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The descent can be made by taking one of the two nice northern ridges, Druim Coire nan Eirecheanach or Druim Thollaidh. We knew the former had a good path all the way down, so that's what we opted for.
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It's a magnificent descent route and we really enjoyed it (well, my knees didn't :( ) Now I was relly glad that we split SGS ridge in two - it allowed us to explore some parts of these mighty mountains, which anybody doing them in one long push would never see.
Really worth the hassle:
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The good stalkers path took us back to the road, where we had to walk half a kilometre up the road to retrieve our bikes. Once in the saddles, the really scary part of this circuit began! :shock: :shock:
I was afraid of killer lorries, but we were lucky. All the way down, only ONE lorry overtook us, and even this one kept a safe distance. Because all cycling was downhill, we arrived back by the car in twenty minutes! Aaah, if every biking expedition was that easy :lol: :lol:
Sorting the mess:
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I know most of you don't bother dividing SGS in two, but we don't regret doing it this way. It gave us more time to enjoy the mountains, and to be honest, we can always return to re-do them in one go. Living so far north has its advantages :D

My next story will take us up north, to the land of forgotten Corbetts :D
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BlackPanther
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Posts: 3171
Munros:260   Corbetts:163
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Sub 2000:40   
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Re: SGS Ridge - facing the fear of Killer Lorries

Postby dogplodder » Thu Jul 02, 2015 2:40 pm

Beautiful day you got for it BP! When we did 4 of the SGR we had two cars - wouldn't fancy that road by bike. :o
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Re: SGS Ridge - facing the fear of Killer Lorries

Postby AnnieMacD » Thu Jul 02, 2015 4:00 pm

Great report as usual, BP. I did the western two earlier this year but started (and ended) at the Glenshiel battle site. I now have the easternmost two to do (did the three middle ones last year) and will avoid the road completely. I am going to wait for the perfect day though as I didn't get the views again.

(I'm walking quite a bit but my work commitments this year mean that I'm not keeping up with my walk reports.)

See you have a new wee companion on your hill trips!
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AnnieMacD
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Re: SGS Ridge - facing the fear of Killer Lorries

Postby Sgurr » Thu Jul 02, 2015 4:19 pm

BP, we used to struggle with bike racks. One particular one said it had to be at least 10 degrees from horizontal tilting up from the back....well, it might start off that way, but with the weight of the bikes would rapidly approach horizontal, and we would have to start all over again. No more!!! We saw a guy easily lift his bike onto the back of his car, and noticed that the whole caboodle was secured to a tow bar. They are not cheap, but worth every penny in time gained.


Nice TR.
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Re: SGS Ridge - facing the fear of Killer Lorries

Postby dav2930 » Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:55 pm

I think your "phobia" of waggons is entirely justified! I walked all the way back up this road having done the full ridge back in 1999: that was a scary enough experience. It's obviously even more dangerous on a bike (though quicker of course). What a wonderful ridge walk though - you certainly had the weather for it! Enjoyed your report and your photos. :D
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Re: SGS Ridge - facing the fear of Killer Lorries

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Jul 03, 2015 5:04 pm

Many thanks, everyone :D I'm only at the beginning of my long list of TR's, if I find time to do them quickly... We want to go up again this weekend, but weather looks iffy so don't know.

Annie, I hope you will post some of your stories soon!
For the eastern two M's on SGS you could use our route, up the track to do the Munros, and then descend from Druim Shionnach to Loch a Mhaoil Dhisnich. There's a good stalkers path from the loch down to the track.

We did some research on bike carriers and Kevin is leaning towards a roof rack. We did two more cycling-walking expeditions after SGS and sadly, we discovered that the one we have is denting the back bumper :( so no more cycle trips until the rack issue is sorted.

In a way, I'm glad we finished Glen Shiel Munros on both sides. No more walking/cycling along A 87! At least for a time being, until I fancy repeating something :lol:
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BlackPanther
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