Munro-bagging is a fascinating journey in many ways. I only started bagging in a semi-serious way about five years ago, and like many folk I suspect, I kind of drifted into it ... at first I thought that, like Muriel Gray back in the eighties, it would be nice to get the First Fifty done, and maybe I'd leave it at that. But then of course, once you get to fifty, the Ton immediately starts to seem more of an achievable goal than it did a couple of years earlier . And by the time the One Hundred Mark arrives, you're thoroughly addicted and couldn't dream of stopping . Again like many people I suspect, I've been able to build my confidence and physical fitness from a pretty low starting level, to a point where - although still not exactly what you'd call fast - I've been able to tackle big rounds like the South Shiel Ridge and the Ring of Steall. As I've worked my way in concentric circles ever further northwards from Glasgow, I've had a very definite sense of leaving behind the friendlier hills of the Southern Highlands, and having to raise my game to tackle the tougher, pointier and/or more remote peaks in the Cairngorms and beyond the Great Glen. All of which preamble brings me to the dodgy pun of my title: it's genuinely true that I couldn't have contemplated day-tripping the Glenfinnan Munros from Glasgow two or three years ago - but where better to go about 'raising the standard' than at Glenfinnan ? (Sorry, I know, the titles don't get any better...)
Anyway, Tom had been keen to do these two for some time, and he persuaded me easily enough that they should just about be do-able as a long day trip. With the weather forecast dodgy for the Central and Southern Highlands but better in the North-West, it looked as though Saturday 25th June would be the day . (Just as well: after Thursday night's sad burlesque, we were both keen to escape for a hill day. Worst night's telly of my life, and there've been a few .)
We set off early from Bearsden at 6:15 a.m. and got a good run up the road. By just before nine, we were up and parked at Glenfinnan, where of course 'Bonny' Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, raised his standard before embarking on his ultimately disastrous 1745 campaign. I won't attempt to draw any dodgy historical parallels, other than to observe that Interesting Times are nae fun to live in .
We had given some discussion to cycling in as far as Corryhully Bothy, to save a bit of time, but I got back late from work on the Friday night and my bike would have needed a bit of work to be road-worthy, so in the end we just walked it all the way from the car park.
Although it's a long walk in, it's a very scenic one, up the west bank of the tumbling River Finnan, with the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct as a big bonus - the private road goes right through it. No sign of Harry Potter or Ron Weasley today, though.
The walk-in was quicker than we'd expected, and soon enough we had left the tarmacked private road at the decidedly impressive Glenfinnan Lodge, and trotted on up the rougher track past Corryhully Bothy. There was a nice wee waterfall with a big pool at its base where the track crosses the Allt a'Choire Charnaig on stepping stones:
Not far from here, the signed path to Sgurr Thuilm left the track on the left-hand side. The sun had even come out at this point, amazingly enough. We slapped some sun cream on in a hopeful manner, which was of course the signal for the Clag to descend for the next couple of hours or so !
This pair of Munros definitely has the reputation of being a Tough Round, and I was pleasantly surprised that the ascent up Druim Coire a'Bheithe, Sgurr Thuilm's south ridge, was an easier stoat than I'd anticipated. In fact, Sgurr Thuilm tackled on its own would really be a fairly straightforward Munro: it's adding on its more rugged pal Sgurr nan Coireachan that makes this a challenging round .
On the way up, we debated what 'Sgurr Thuilm' actually means. I looked it up once we got back: it is a bit of an oxymoron, translating as something like 'the Pointy Peak of the Rounded Hillock' . This doesn't make much sense until you actually see the thing: however, it really is a well-defined peak at the apex of three fairly sharp ridges, but with the immediate summit environs taking the form of a gently rounded hillock, so maybe it isn't such a daft name after all.
There was a grand view back down Glen Finnan on ascent, with all those fantastic Ardgour and Morvern Corbetts lining up to be named - I'm afraid I wasn't up to naming them though! They really look like terrific hills when viewed from here; they would put a lot of Munros to shame, in fact.
A bit higher up, the lumpy and interesting connecting ridge between the two Munros came into view, giving us pause for thought!
Another vista back south down Glen Finnan, with distant Corbetts:
A bit higher again, and we could just glimpse the end of Loch Shiel away to the south.
We arrived at Sgurr Thuilm's summit cairn rather suddenly, and quite a bit sooner than we'd expected. Unfortunately it had its head firmly in the Clag at this stage...
In fact, we both had to check our GPS to make sure that this was indeed the summit, but thankfully the GPS confirmed that we were on the right hill!
We set off back down south, then cut westwards at a line of old fenceposts to join the connecting ridge to Sgurr nan Coireachan. Very quickly, the terrain started to get more challenging, although there was a clear path all the way across which helped a lot. All the same, there was a lot of bare rock and wee bits of easy scrambling here and there. There are also four distinct craggy Humps on the ridge between the two Munro summits, making for a fair bit of descent and re-ascent. It was all rather good fun, but it definitely took longer than I'd expected. There were at least grand views throughout to offer a bit of distraction. This was us leaving Hump Number One, with Sgurr nan Coireachan visible in the distance, and wee glimpses of the Rough Bounds of Knoydart through the Clag:
And leaving Hump Number Two:
Hump Number Three is the biggest of the four, and it even has a name, Beinn Gharbh - the 'Rough Hill'. I won't argue with that ! There are a couple of nice wee lochans on the ridge immediately to its east.
Beinn Gharbh was pleasingly rocky, but the challenging terrain made for rather slow going. Well, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, but personally I tend to stop for lunch ... so we took a quick lunch break at the top, There was a pleasant vista eastwards towards the head of Loch Arkaig to enjoy while we munched our sandwiches.
We then set off reinvigorated towards Hump Number Four, which also has a name: Meall an Tarmachain.
Back east, Sgurr Thuilm just about had its head out of the clouds by now:
It wasn't much further now to Sgurr nan Coireachan's airy summit trig point, with a marvellous cloudscape over Knoydart to the north. This is actually the lower of the two Munros by a few metres, but as others have written, it is significantly pointier and craggier than Sgurr Thuilm and it feels the more appreciable hill of the two.
Back eastwards, its decidedly less extrovert sibling Sgurr Thuilm had plunged its head straight back into the Clag, but there was still a nice view of the end of Loch Arkaig:
The return route goes down Sgurr nan Coireachan's rough and undulating SSE ridge, over an intervening Top (a CtM, or 'Corbett Top of a Munro', I think ), Sgurr a'Choire Rhiabhaich. Thankfully the clear path continued, but the terrain remained pretty rough and made for fairly slow going. There were some grand crags on the east side of the ridge:
There was an interesting view from Sgurr a'Choire Rhiabhaich along Sgurr nan Coireachan's little-trodden west ridge to another outlying Corbett Top, the craggy Beinn Gharbh (Beinn Gharbh West that is, not to be confused with Beinn Gharbh East on the connecting ridge !). Knoydart was now clearly visible in the distance, too.
Beyond here, at least it was downhill all the way, but there were a couple of very steep sections of path, particularly the initial descent from Sgurr a 'Choire Rhiabhaich.
Lower down, there was another grand view down Glen Finnan, with those marvellous Moidart Corbetts really showing off in the sunshine:
Lower down again, the steep path rather suddenly drops down the east side of the ridge to become a much better-maintained stalkers' path. Unfortunately, this takes a depressingly gentle line down the last wee section into Glen Finnan. We had both exhausted our water supply by now, and it had turned into a very warm afternoon. The sight of the tumbling River Finnan just a hundred metres or so below us was just torture! At last, however, we got down to the track and we were able to top up our water bottles at that grand wee waterfall on the Allt a'Choire Charnaig.
It definitely seemed a much longer walk back down the tarmac track than it had seemed on the way up: funny, that ! All the same, when we finally reached the viaduct, it was even more impressive in the late afternoon sunshine.
I did find this a relatively tough round, and it took us a full nine hours, making it a longish day trip from Glasgow. A fantastic day's walking all the same, though !
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