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Back on the Saddle with a trek over the South Shiel ridge

Back on the Saddle with a trek over the South Shiel ridge


Postby scottishkennyg » Mon Aug 24, 2015 10:14 pm

Munros included on this walk: Aonach Air Chrith, Creag a'Mhaim, Creag nan Damh, Druim Shionnach, Maol chinn-dearg, Sgurr an Doire Leathain, Sgurr an Lochain, Sgurr na Sgine, The Saddle

Date walked: 19/08/2015

Time taken: 15 hours

Distance: 46 km

Ascent: 3319m

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It has been a while since I posted a walk as I’ve been trying in vain to get the handicap down balanced with some forays into the hills. I have enjoyed reading some cracking reports and compleations by other members so felt I should take time out to post one from the latest outing.
This day started well and finished much later in poor conditions. The plan was to scramble up the Forcan ridge and the saddle, across to Sgurr na Sgine and over the former corbett then along the south Shiel ridge until the legs gave in. I had bail out options, one at the Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais, then Creag nan Damh, then Maol Chinn Dearg, then the end of the ridge.
It all started in glorious weather just after 0700. I carried a heavy pack and immediately regretted not ejecting more than the emergency shelter to reduce weight. The lack of a decent sleep was having an immediate effect and I had not even started the scrambling.
Like hoards before me I ambled along the main road from the wee car park and took the first well signposted route. Then once again quickly realised it was the wrong one. I did this on the last visit too, I wondered if anyone else had done this. Once again necessitating a quick river crossing, a short thrash through the tick infested wet ferns, and an acute climb to converge with the tourist path to the Bealach na Craoibhe at 490m. Some great views were evident and the clear blue sky and warm temperatures promised more of the same.
ImageSouthSheilRidgeAug2015 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

I was sweating profusely as I plodded up the trail. I noticed that the streams seemed dry despite the recent rain. I began to get anxious about personal fluid needs and replenishing the 3 x 500ml containers. I found a wee stream higher up and took on board as much as I could drink for now. Onwards from the Bealach the glen was shrouded in a wee cloud inversion as the sun warmed up.
ImageSouthSheilRidgeAug2015 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

ImageSouthSheilRidgeAug2015 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

At the start of the ridge I put the poles away to get hands on. The osprey rucksack has an innovative design addition allowing quick storage of the poles.. I’ve yet to master.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

The rocks were dry and easy to grip. The route was obvious and appeared to be well worn since the last visit. You quickly gain height and encounter some nice exposure on the wee open sections. Easy when dry with very little wind, different story with some freezing water and a chilling wind.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

The last time I reached the section with the steep descent it was too hazardous so I opted for the bypass path. This time it was perfect so there was no excuse. I faced into the rocks and picked a route safely down. I reckon I must have saved at least 2 minutes…video at end shows this section better.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

View across to downclimb section taken later on..
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Onwards and upwards led to the summit cairn and over to the main trig point.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

The views were superb. The route ahead looked pretty distant.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

I took plenty of photos and soaked up some of the sun and before heading off down to the wee lochan at the bealach. The initial descent is loose stones and reminded me of last week’s experience over in Skye. I passed a young couple who were heading up the stones to the summit.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

I then sourced a very wee trickle of water and loaded up again. The RAF suddenly appeared with some modern jets and flashed across the azure blue sky shattering the serenity. My camera skills were poor so obviously I managed to miss the best bits.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
A view SW
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

A steep climb led onto the ridge of Sgurr na Sgine. I had one eye on a down climb to reach the bealach an toiteil as I knew the north face was very steep. I chose a grass section at 921m and dumped the rucksack then headed along to the summit cairn. I enjoyed the cracking views, took some more snaps then headed back to the rucksack.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
Route ahead from summit
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
Picked up the pack and then realised that my poles were missing. I had left them back at the cairn. A swift return and a few profanities later they were relocated. They have become an essential bit of kit, especially during descents. So long as you remember them, and do not put your hands into the loops during descents. It is difficult to free your hand/wrist if you slip as your hand gets stuck as you struggle to break away from the pole. Three snapped poles later have reinforced this lesson to me.
Descending the steep grassy slope led to a small boulder field which was easily contoured to the bealach. Then it was a case of follow the old fence line up the steep slopes to reach the summit cairn of Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais.
Back toward Skye
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
former Corbett Cairn and view ahead
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Back over route travelled so far..
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

I looked around and took note of the boundary walls. One seemed to lead right up to the main ridge which would provide a useful guide. At this time there was no sign of any adverse weather.
I pushed on and decided to have some lunch behind the wall at the bealach duibh leac which was another potential bail out site.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
The wall provided some shelter from the wind that was blowing in from the SW. A look in that direction confirmed some cloud cover moving in. I carried on up the ridge with a plan to reassess at the summit. I was in two minds about bailing out and if any adverse weather arrived the decision would be made for me.
I reached the summit cairn of Creag nan Damh and looked around. The cerulean coloured sky had gone and clouds were gathering. I could see back down to Glen Sheil and recalled the last time I descended from here. It was a cold November afternoon and I slipped on hidden ice so many times. Not good memories.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

I checked the watch and then decided to push on and head for the first section of the ridge. This would still provide options to bail out down the North ridges of the many tops. I headed off with the notion to reassess along the ridge.
Route ahead before nasty weather came in
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

The going was fine and although the cloud was moving in with the strong wind the rain had not arrived by the time I stood on the small summit of Sgurr an Lochain.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
Back over route just travelled..
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
I could easily see ahead so it was onwards. I noticed a large boulder that had been split. Not sure if one would have any chance if that came down while you were on it or beneath it.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
I continued along to the cairn of Sgurr an Doire Leathain and then the cloud just dropped like a wet blanket.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
Visibility deteriorated and the temperature dropped rapidly. The decision to leave the shorts and carry the heavy pack with full clothing was well justified.
The next section was full of plenty ups and downs with limited visibility and a driving wet wind.
I reached Maol Chinn-dearg and considered heading down the Druim Coire nam Eirecheanach to reach the road and thumb a lift back. I had ascended this route previously in winter and knew it was sound.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
I checked the watch and considered the obvious poor visibility, the incessant rain and the evident wind chill factor. I chose to push on and consented voluntarily to a longer exposure period.
Unfortunately the next section did not offer many ideal photograph opportunities so it was really only summit cairn shots. The conditions did not improve and I learned that the goretex waterproof trousers leaked a lot. Especially in the mid region which added some extra unpleasant feelings.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

I touched many wet cairns that I encountered and mentally ticked them off,
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
at the Druim Shionnach cairn I discovered that I had miscounted all previous cairns and tops and wrongly assumed it was Craig a Mhaim. A drookit looking numpty pretending it is all grand..
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
I sussed the miscalculation soon after leaving the summit and was glad that I had not deposited my rucksack back at the top of the corrie where I had planned to descend.
I rechecked my navigation then continued to locate the last cairn of CaG just over 12 hours after setting off in glorious sunshine.
ImageSouth Sheil by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
I opted to follow the main path down the SW flank to descend to the wee road. Previously I had used the Coirean an Eich Bhric to ascend CaG and had intended to descend from the 868m point and head down to the bridge Drochaid an Uillt Ghiubhais and exit via the style.
Daylight was dwindling and I needed to get down before darkness fell so I yomped on and got back to the Cluanie inn two hours later. The track out was long and eerie as the swirling cloud enveloped the surroundings. A bit like a scene from the hounds of Baskerville.. Ironically the wind dropped and the wee midges had a blood fest as I squelched along the road.
At the Cluanie Inn I picked up the trusty steed and set off for the final cycle down the glen to the car. I arrived back at the car safely 15 hours after setting out, slightly wet on the outside and well spent on the inside. This longish walk is now off the bucket list.
This outing worked out at 46km with 3319 ascent and 3315 descent. It might possibly be shorter and easier starting from the Cluanie side and tackling CaG from the bridge at the style and using the bypass at the Forcan ridge at the end. Although, I would not fancy cycling up the Glen to the Cluanie Inn at the end of a long day…

I put together a short video of the first section which contains some nice views and better weather.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLsCWTXwmwI

Thanks for reading.
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scottishkennyg
 
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Re: Back on the Saddle with a trek over the South Shiel ridg

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:37 pm

Brilliant read, and some great pix at the start. :clap: :clap: :clap: Pity the last 2 thirds was in rain - but hats off for persevering! I have to say, I'm not at all sure I would have possessed the mental fortitude.... :shifty:

For me it was really a rerun of the exact same route I did on May 25th last year,
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=42804&p=240998&hilit=signe#p240998
which was absolutely wonderful, and it's always great to live those experiences. :D

I had my mist - it would not be fair to call it clag - at the start; and fortunately no rain! But I hope you feel it was worth it given the fabulous views you had at the beginning.

Glad to see that someone else uses the bike strategy for linear ridges - it's a great way of doing them when you're solo, isn't it?
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Alteknacker
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Re: Back on the Saddle with a trek over the South Shiel ridg

Postby scottishkennyg » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:43 pm

Alteknacker wrote:Brilliant read, and some great pix at the start. :clap: :clap: :clap: Pity the last 2 thirds was in rain - but hats off for persevering! I have to say, I'm not at all sure I would have possessed the mental fortitude.... :shifty:

For me it was really a rerun of the exact same route I did on May 25th last year,
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=42804&p=240998&hilit=signe#p240998
which was absolutely wonderful, and it's always great to live those experiences. :D

I had my mist - it would not be fair to call it clag - at the start; and fortunately no rain! But I hope you feel it was worth it given the fabulous views you had at the beginning.

Glad to see that someone else uses the bike strategy for linear ridges - it's a great way of doing them when you're solo, isn't it?


Thanks Alteknacker, absolutely it's nice to know that you have a form of transport that can get you back to the start in case you are not able to thumb a lift..Enjoyed your TR on the ridge too with the added bonus of snow to improve contrast. Cheers Kenny
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Re: Back on the Saddle with a trek over the South Shiel ridg

Postby Mountainlove » Wed Aug 26, 2015 2:18 pm

Wow that is what I call a loooong trip! Well done the effort! I was driving back to work during the same morning and felt like crying until the rain started and ended up being glad back in the office :lol:
Regarding:
The osprey rucksack has an innovative design addition allowing quick storage of the poles.. I’ve yet to master.
I own one as well and the function is great for short periods of time. Leeking waterproof trousers? Ekkk my personal nightmare.
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Mountainlove
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Re: Back on the Saddle with a trek over the South Shiel ridg

Postby scottishkennyg » Thu Aug 27, 2015 1:29 pm

Mountainlove wrote:Wow that is what I call a loooong trip! Well done the effort! I was driving back to work during the same morning and felt like crying until the rain started and ended up being glad back in the office :lol:
Regarding:
The osprey rucksack has an innovative design addition allowing quick storage of the poles.. I’ve yet to master.
I own one as well and the function is great for short periods of time. Leeking waterproof trousers? Ekkk my personal nightmare.

Cheers ML...glad your wet suit was not leaking the other week :wink: Kenny
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Re: Back on the Saddle with a trek over the South Shiel ridg

Postby Beaner001 » Thu Aug 27, 2015 8:08 pm

Now that's an epic trip Kenny, well done on managing the Saddle and Partner too, I know how I felt after just the 7 Munros :shock:
Well done and nice report :clap:
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Re: Back on the Saddle with a trek over the South Shiel ridg

Postby scottishkennyg » Sun Aug 30, 2015 4:35 pm

Thanks Beaner..It looked your dogs thoroughly enjoyed the outing on the magnificent 7 too..Cheers Kenny
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