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Avoiding the Bank Holiday crowds on The Saddle
by malky_c » Tue Aug 30, 2016 10:42 am
Munros included on this walk: The Saddle
Corbetts included on this walk: Sgurr Mhic Bharraich
Date walked: 28/08/2016
Time taken: 8 hours
Distance: 17.5 km
Ascent: 1725m1 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Corbetts: Sgurr Mhic Bharraich.
Weather: Warm, calm, mostly sunny. Some clinging cloud on higher summits.
No car this weekend, and with the Sunday weather looking the best, my options for public transport were limited a bit. Fortunately the timetable for the bus to Skye is the same every day of the week, and the weather was looking reasonable around the Kintail area... looked like a plan .
I had actually booked a ticket as far as Dornie as a late weather forecast had been less positive, and I had some lower level options there. True enough, it was raining in Inverness in the morning, and grey all the way up to the Cluanie Dam. It was only in the last few miles down Glen Shiel that things began to brighten up, and I decided to get off the bus at Shiel Bridge as originally intended.
Forcan Ridge from the bus window:
Lovely warm sunshine at this point. Originally I had been looking at a full circuit of Coire Chaoil and Coire Uaine via Biod an Fithich and the Forcan Ridge. However I had managed to injure my back the previous week (still not sure how) and it was still a bit tender. On the awkward descent of the Forcan Ridge was probably not the place to put it out again! Happily, this led me to look at the ridge of Sgurr na Creige, which was a slightly shorter (and probably easier) way onto the Saddle. It also looked relatively unused - I had never heard of anyone going up or down it - so would be an interesting bit of exploration.
Sgurr Mhic Bharraich from Shiel Bridge:
I walked up the Allt Undalain on a well-made path for a bit before leaving it and ascending into Coire Chaoil. I met a guy doing the Cape Wrath Trail here - he must have started early as he had come from Kinloch Hourn. Apparently the midges had been unbearable down there - can't say I was surprised.
There is a bit of a path on the east side of the corrie but I stuck to the west, as I wanted to go upwards as soon as I had outflanked the grassy crags on the nose of the hill. The going wasn't especially hard, and there were some nice pools and small waterfalls in the glen.
Sgurr na Creige - my ascent route:
Sgurr na Creige was an unsurprisingly steep and long ascent from here, but at least the ground was good - mostly shortish grass. After the deep heather and grass bashing of my last few outings, this was a pleasant antidote.
Looking back to Loch Duich:
Once past the steep bit, there was more climbing on a fairly broad ridge, after which it narrowed down to a bit of an arête. The cloud was frustratingly clingy here, and when it broke up a bit I stopped for lunch.
Over Sgurr an t-Searraich to Bidein a' Coire Sheasgaich:
On the Sgurr na Creige ridge:
Loch a' Coire Uaine, Spidean Dhomhuill Bric and Sgurr Leac nan Each:
Five Sisters hanging onto the cloud for now:
This ridge is a fair bit easier than the Forcan Ridge - in fact barely more than a walk, but there are a couple of places where you need to take your hands out of your pockets, and it is satisfyingly narrow. There was the barest scraping of a path in a few places, but it was clearly not used often. Certainly one to come back to again - a good winter alternative to the Forcan Ridge actually.
Looking back along the Sgurr na Creige ridge:
Back down to Sgurr na Creige:
There was a final pull past a small lochan onto the summit. I feel like the Saddle is one of the more familiar hills to me, having been up it a couple of times before by the Forcan Ridge, but when I looked in my diary at home, I discovered my last visit was a full 15 years earlier .
Summit ridge of the Saddle:
Back to the Forcan Ridge:
There was a mixture of sun and mist on the top, with the views being interesting but frustratingly bitty. Shortly after the trig point, I bumped into Rory, and we ended up leapfrogging each other and walking a fair amount of the rest of the route together.
Back to the Saddle from the traverse round to Spidean Dhomhuill Bhric:
I had awarded myself both of the western Munro tops back in 1998 after a misty there-and-back wander from the summit of the Saddle. I had since realised that there is no way that I got as far as Sgurr Leac nan Each, and after today, I'm doubting I even got to Spidean Dhomhuill Bhric. This was a nice ridge walk - again fairly narrow with the occasional use of hands - and could only have been improved with less cloud.
Not quite the views I was hoping for towards Knoydart and Druim Fada:
We dropped down to the multi-topped Sgurr a' Gharg Gharaidh and finally cleared the cloud. Rory was unfamiliar with the area and had a 1:25,00 map that cut off this end of the ridge, so was quite glad of my presence. Being a speaker of Irish gaelic, I was interested in his take on Scottish gaelic names and pronunciation. He didn't think it helped that much, as the Scottish variation had quite a different emphasis on some of the sounds to Irish. Not that I could really help much with the 'proper' Scottish names - just my mangled version of them!
Back to Coire Uaine:
The many summits of Sgurr a' Gharg Gharaidh:
Saddle in the background:
We skipped out some of the summits on Sgurr a' Gharg Gharaidh, then had a break on the penultimate one. By now the weather was clearing up (in fact Sgurr Mhic Bharraich had been relatively clear for most of the day), and thoughts of a pint in the Kintail Lodge were now turning to a quick dash up Sgurr Mhic Bharraich instead.
Five Sisters from Loch Coire nan Crogachan:
Rory was taking the direct way back to Shiel Bridge, so I was on my own for Sgurr Mhic Bharraich. Although I've been up it a couple of times before, either thick haze or miserable rain and clag had obscured the views. This time it was perfect, with a great view down Loch Duich. It had only taken a fairly straightforward 30 minutes up from Loch Coire nan Crogachan.
South Glen Shiel skyline:
Loch Duich from Sgurr Mhic Bharraich:
Applecross with Dornie and the Eilean Donan castle in the foreground:
Ratagain and Inverinate:
Sgurr an Airgid and Strath Croe:
Sgurr an Lochain/Sgurr an Doire Leathain with Biod an Fhithich in front:
While I had intended to descend the east ridge, I remembered that the NE ridge would have a much better birds eye view right down on the end of Loch Duich.
Loch Duich and Kintail Lodge:
The ridge was pretty nice going higher up, but deteriorated into heathery ground and bog lower down. Nothing too difficult though. As I dropped back down to the Allt Undalain path, I spotted Rory a short way off, and we walked the last bit together.
Looking back to Sgurr na Creige:
I didn't seem to have done my back any further harm, but I had been going a fair bit slower than normal. Some of this was just down to dawdling on a nice day. While I'd hoped to be able to do the whole walk and still squeeze a pint in, I arrived at the bus stop with about 5 minutes to spare. Good timing due to the occasional lurking midges.
Sgurr an t-Searraich:
By the time we were passing through Glen Moriston, the rain was lashing down. It appeared to have been a bit less pleasant further east. A top day out with less of an agenda than usual .
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