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Scree and steeper above Arnisdale

Scree and steeper above Arnisdale

Postby Driftwood » Wed Jul 27, 2016 10:31 pm

Route description: Beinn na h-Eaglaise and Beinn nan Caorach

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Sgritheall

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn na h-Eaglaise, Beinn nan Caorach

Date walked: 09/06/2016

Time taken: 8.66 hours

Distance: 16 km

Ascent: 1600m

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This was during several days' stay at the excellent Kintail Lodge Hotel bunkhouse, following a multi-day trip behind Glen Tilt. After walking the Saddle on Wednesday, my feet and legs felt fine but perhaps it was time for a slightly shorter route. The weather was good, with a promising forecast especially for the coastal hills and I'd already walked a lot of the Kintail ridges, but didn't want too much driving (especially since I'd be returning at the end of the walk).

All of this made Beinn Sgritheall look the perfect choice, with WH recommending saving it for a good day to get the views (then again, there aren't many hills where you'd want them covered by cloud!) I'd also investigated adding other hills to the route; there are various options, including the Graham to the north and one or two Corbetts to the east. So I took a leisurely drive along the narrow but enjoyable roads over Mam Ratagan, around Glenelg and all the way around to Arnisdale beside Loch Hourn.
Loch Hourn from Arnisdale

I found plenty of space to park beside the Loch, a minute or so from the signed ascent route. The morning was feeling rather warm, making me wish that I'd been more prompt in preparing and setting off, but everything looked beautiful bathed in summer sunshine.
Bell heather

Admittedly much of the lush green ahead was fern and other vegetation around the path, so I kept my legs covered and frequently paused to check for and brush away any ticks with plans to make me their lunch.
Spotted Orchid among the ferns

Doubly warm with the ascent and sunshine, I took plenty of breaks to admire the wildflowers and unfolding views. The path heads slightly east behind some of the village as it climbs, then crosses a burn to head up towards a lofty bealach.
Bog Asphodel

Another view back towards the Loch.
Knoydart beyond Loch Hourn

I met several others coming back down the path during my ascent, and paused partway where a small corrie offered some shade above the level of the ferns. Refreshed by a drink and roll, I carried on past a small cascade towards Bealach Arnasdail
Waterfall beside the path

There were a lot of dragonflies (four-spotted chasers) active at the tiny lochan between Beinn Sgritheall and Beinn na h-Eaglaise, where I took another pause and looked at the ascents on either side. I also zipped off my trouser legs to convert them to shorts, though was negligent about applying sun-screen, meaning that I ended the day with pink (though luckily not roasted) legs. There were plenty of ticks clinging to the trouser-legs, so I brushed those off thoroughly and made sure there were no unwanted passengers for the ascent.

Sgritheall is a longer climb, but from this angle merely looks rather steep, especially since the lower slopes are more gradual. The slopes opposite, leading up to Beinn na h-Eaglaise, looked positively precipitous, so I tried to keep an eye out for an alternative route. I didn't like the look of the west face above Allt a' Mhuillin, with a lot of very steep craggy slopes. There is a line of iron fence-posts leading up from the bealach, showing just how hardy and determined some fence-builders must have been.
Beinn na h-Eaglaise across the bealach

I started west up Beinn Sgritheall and made fair going at first, feeling refreshed and helped by less still conditions. The upper section from Bealach Arnasdail turns into a very steep scree path, taking some effort to climb and making me determined not to descend that way if I could find a sensible alternative. But eventually the slope eased off and brought me out close by the eastern top, marked as 906 metres.

I continued across the broader, gentler slopes with stunning views to every side. A woman approached from Sgritheall itself and we chatted briefly about the beautiful weather and scenery, as well as possible descents into Coire Min, which I was considering as a route to bypass returning on the steep screen path.
Ridge along to Ben Sgritheall

Then I headed west-northwest across an unnamed bealach and mostly grassy slopes before the stony top itself. I took another break by the cairn and broken cylindrical trig point, basking in the sunshine and relishing the viewpoint. This could be a stunning summit camp in good conditions, with particularly glorious prospects across and along Loch Hourn, as well as Skye over the water.
Skye and the Sound of Sleat

From the summit I descended a little way then contoured northwards to the north Munro Top.
Beinn a'Chapuill from Beinn Sgritheall north Top

That is almost as good a viewpoint (though set further back from Loch Hourn) and not far out of the way; it even looks possible to descend westwards through the corrie inbetween and join the usual descend route along the west ridge. I spotted a curious creature investigating my walking-pole wriststrap at this point. My bets are on it being an alien life-form.
Bright green bug

I headed back east and south to join a longer ridge running northeast from Beinn Sgritheall. This has some stony ground, but was infinitely preferable to the loose scree path earlier. It could be used to reach Bealach na h-Oidhche and perhaps the Graham Beinn a'Chapuill, though that wasn't my intention.
Ben Sgritheall north ridge and descent

Instead, I followed the ridge to where it levelled out to broad, grassy ground. Then turned right (east) and started picking my way downhill, using ramps of grass between the slopes of boulders and scree. That helped me down about 100 metres of steep slope, then over a flatter stretch and more gradual descent.
Slopes descended

I followed a small burn leading towards Loch a' Choire Mhin, encountering several frogs and taking the chance to replenish my water supplies. I could have followed either shore of the Loch, but chose the shorter and rougher southern bank.
Route around the northern side

The Loch is overlooked by substantial crags, but I saw it was a suitable level to begin a traverse back to Bealach Arnasdail. This did require covering about a kilometre of stone-covered slopes, but these are at a moderate angle and far more stable underfoot than the scree path. This route might be a bit long to suggest for ascents, but I'd recommend it as a varied and more pleasant way to get from Sgritheall back to the bealach.

By now it was nearing 4pm, but I still wanted to add a hill or two rather than head straight down to Arnisdale. A red deer doe had picked her way east around the slopes before me, where some grassy ramps were available further around.
Doe on the slopes of Beinn na h-Eaglaise

But I decided to use the fence-line instead, heading up a steep shoulder of the hill on the north side of a rugged cleft. Steep quickly turns into ridiculously-steep, making the ascent of Beinn Sgritheall before it look like level ground.
Beinn na h-Eaglaise

However I found that the combination of dry grass, my boots and walking poles coped surprisingly well. I'd be reluctant to descend this ground - and even more cautious in wet conditions - but at least grass, or heather, are trying to grip hold of the ground (and so provide some footing), unlike scree which isn't attached to anything, just piled on even more loose scattered stone.
The slope eased off and rusting iron posts guided me to the summit of Beinn na h-Eaglaise. This is another good viewpoint, thanks in part to how it drops away in almost every direction, but my attention was focussed northeast and west to a further Corbett, Beinn nan Caorach. That's an easy addition to the route (certainly compared to the previous sections), with a gradual grassy ridge around the northern sides of Coire Dhruim nam Bo.
Beinn nan Caorach

I continued northeast along the fenceline, then that meets another fence coming up from the corrie. My route lay ahead, where I chose to make a rising traverse of Druim nam Bo, some of it on faint traces of path.
Gentle grassy route to Beinn nan Caorach

There is some peaty ground after this, but everything was dry pleasant walking in the conditions of the time. I rejoined the fenceline for a while, then left it again to make a slightly more direct ascent up the slopes with scattered stone ahead. These brought me to the summit of Beinn nan Caorach at around 5:30pm. This is another good viewpoint, but the late-afternoon sun to my west reminded me of the need to head back and down for an evening meal.

After the ground covered so far, I could have made an easy descent of the east ridge, or maybe south-southwest. Instead, I went more directly south and ended up needing to half-scramble my way between some craggy ground until that gave way to stones and heather.
Beinn nan Caorach south face

The terrain didn't stop me from looking for wildflowers underfoot or at the ridge of Beinn Clachach stretching out from east to west ahead of me. With an earlier start, or quicker progress, I'd probably have added it to the walk.
View to Beinn Clachach

I joined the track through Coire Chorsalain in time to ford the burn, then past a wooded area around Eas na Cuingid. The dry conditions meant that was reduced to a sparse flow of water over bare rock, but it should be more impressive at other times.
Beinn nan Caorach from descending track

Then zig-zags and steep sections led me down towards open meadows and several buildings. There is a lot of fern growing by and even amid the track, reviving my vigilance against ticks. I crossed Allt Utha on a rusting iron footbridge, then headed through a wide meadow towards the River Arnisdale.
Looking back from Glen Arnisdale

A sign at the bridge (I've since forgotten what it said) and glance at my map dissuaded me from crossing the river, so I kept with the track along the north bank, though a path was visible on the southern side. There's another sign at Glenfield guiding walkers to keep left along the track rather than taking a footpath right towards Arnisdale Lodge.

I went as directed, joining the road for about a mile more to reach my car. This was about 7:15pm, so I resisted the tempation to hang around despite the magnificent views and lovely weather. Instead, I changed out of boots (with some relief), drank a bottle of (now rather warm) water and prepared for the drive back. This went smoothly and got me back in good time to do some refuelling and re-hydrating, ready for another day. Though tomorrow was to be quite different in many ways.
Druim Fada and Loch Hourn

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Mountain Walker
Posts: 298
Munros:200   Corbetts:40
Grahams:16   Donalds:21
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