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Sgurr a'Gharaidh - how to find Hinterstoisser traverse ;)

Sgurr a'Gharaidh - how to find Hinterstoisser traverse ;)


Postby BlackPanther » Wed Oct 26, 2016 11:47 am

Grahams included on this walk: Sgùrr a'Gharaidh

Date walked: 23/10/2016

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 14.2 km

Ascent: 904m

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Well well well, here we go again. Nothing can beat Torridon in autumn colours. We had another lovely October weekend and with forecast best on the western coast, we visited another Torridon Graham. Sgurr a'Gharaidh it is called and I bet most folks overlook it when studying maps - it is situated on the very edge of Torridon, just across the road from Applecross. It can't be conveniently combined with anything else and also it sits in the middle of pure stalking country, therefore the access to this hill is very restricted in autumn.
After some research I found out that Kinlochdamph Estate don't stalk on Sundays (like most estates these days) so we could visit Sgurr a'Gharaidh on Sunday the 23th without any danger of being shot at/chased off by angry stalkers :lol:

Some may say, all right, what's the point, it's just a wee Graham on the outskirts of Torridon, why bother?...

I must say, Sgurr a'Gharaidh was ONE OF MY BEST DAYS ON THE HILLS!!! Only 2 weeks ago, I wrote about its neighbour, Beinn na h-Eaglaise:
"on a good, sunny day this little mountain just keeps on giving. I must say, this Graham is hard to beat "
It didn't take long to find another absolute winner :D

There are a few different routes up Sgurr a'Gharaidh, depends how easy (or how hard) you want to make your day. The approach from the west (Glasnock) is the most popular but it is also possible to climb straight from the south, from Tullich. We wanted to do some kind of traverse of this mountain, that's why we decided to use the Coille Dhubh track to walk below the mountain first, admire its steep northern and eastern flanks, then find our way up the cliffs and return along the ridge via the main summit. We had a rough idea, having read all existing reports and SMC guide, that there were a few good breaks in the cliffs of Sgurr a'Gharaidh, just a matter of careful navigation to find one. And because conditions were excellent, we had confidence that we would find the way :D
Our route:

Track_SGURR A GHARAIDH 23-10-16.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Early in the morning we drove west through Glen Carron towards Applecross, then up north for a short distance along A896. The starting point was from Loch an Loin, where we parked on the grass at the start of the access track to Glasnock. We were immediately gobsmacked by the outstanding views around, especially the cliffs of Beinn Bhan reflected in the loch:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 016.JPG

We liked the view across the loch to the north as well, with Beinn Damph seen from an unusual angle, Ben Shieldaig and Beinn Alligin popping out from behind:
ImageDSCF7826 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We walked past the first house and towards the second one, soon we turned right, through an obvious gate with a sign "walkers welcome". This gate gives access to the track into Coille Dhubh. To begin with, it was a nice landrover track through the birch forest, but after crossing Allt Beag on a footbridge, it became some kind of muddy nightmare :shock:
A track in the muck:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 027.JPG

The pain was soon forgotten when the views became obvious. Here, even from lower ground, one simply can't run away from the Torridon magic :D
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 026.JPG

The track was getting worse and we spent more time walking on the heather alongside it than on the track itself :roll: As we approached another small birch woodland, it became obvious we should have packed canoes... or at least two pairs of green wellies :lol:
Let's go mud swimming!
Image2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 050 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We crossed another stream (Allt a'Ghiubhais) and now the track improved slightly, still wet and slippery but less muddy at least. We were traversing under the majestic NE cliffs of our hill now, and my jaw dropped each time I looked up...
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 062.JPG

I'm sure that on a good day a keen scrambler would find many exciting routes up these cliffs, but we felt it wasn't the time of the year to play heroes. It must have rained the previous night, because the ground was soaked and the rocks looked pretty wet and slippery. Not scrambling conditions for me.
The track climbed to the top of Bealach a'Ghlas-chnoic and at last we walked out of the shadow and onto the sunny landscape with much wider views...
Looking south towards the hills of Glencarron, cloud still rolling over the tops:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 071.JPG

We stopped at the top of the bealach and studied the map again. SMC guide suggests climbing to a small lochan at 897447 and then following a scree shoot directly above. Gazing up the cliffs, we located the scree shoot and to be honest, we didn't like it at all. The map showed another breach in the cliffs further east which looked more friendly, at least from the 1-25k perspective. This screenshot marks the two possible routes of ascent: the SMC suggestion in green, our way up in yellow:
gharaidh.JPG

We decided to continue below the cliffs for another 500m and have a look at the alternative ascent route. The track became vague, but further down we spotted a path, most likely the walk-in from Tullich side, so we cut towards it across the grass and heather.
On the final part of the track before it disappeared, with Fuar Thol on the horizon:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 072.JPG

Closer to the cliff itself, we walked into the shadows again and I stopped, looking at the big wall looming above me. Suddenly, I felt uncertain about it. Where was the supposed grassy gully all the way to the top? It all looked like vertical rock to me!
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 082.JPG

Here, a panoramic photo of the wall from below, which might give you the idea of how I felt gazing right up:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 081.JPG

Kevin was studying the cliffs with a solemn expression...
"Hmmm... I think I can work out the way up" he said "To the left and then the ramp must be running across the cliffs higher up. We can't see it from here, but we should be able to find the traverse"
"That looks like the North face of the Eiger!" I snapped "Who do you think I am, Andy Hinter-bl**dy-stoisser???"
He glanced at me and began to laugh. Funny coincidence, we are both currently reading books about the Eiger. Kevin is into Heinrich Harrer's classic "The white spider", I'm eating my way through "The beckoning silence" by Joe Simpson. Two absolute must-reads for hill lovers. Of course, there's no comparison between the N face of the Eiger and our little cliff of Sgurr a'Gharaidh, but on a smaller scale, the feelings must be similar...
Me taking a photo of the "Mini-Eigerface":
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 077.JPG

I have often asked myself, why do I haul myself up countless hills? I think Joe Simpson gave a good answer to the question what climbing is about...
"...the outcome uncertain, the spirit subdued, the challenge open - a free choice to take or to walk away from. More than anything it is about taking part - not success or failure, simply being there and making the choice."
Kevin didn't waste time on philosophical deliberations, he simply charged the slope. :lol: We moved to the left hand side, where the ground was mostly overgrown with heather. We found a vague deer track (maybe a few walkers used it as well) and for about 50m we climbed very carefully up the steep slope, balancing on the vegetation and grabbing the heather to keep steady. But soon we arrived at flatter ground and here it was, the ramp, our door to Sgurr a'Gharaidh:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 088.JPG

Kevin laughed again. "See, I told you it was there. Come on, Hinterstoisser!" :lol: :lol:
I glanced behind me and saw the graceful shape of An Ruadh Stac on the horizon, basking in sunshine. From the summit, the views will be spectacular, I thought.
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 105.JPG

The grassy ramp looks very easy from the distance, but on closer inspection we found it filled with wobbly rock and wet, slippery grass...
Image2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 118 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
...but of course, there was no simple alternative!
Image2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 117 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We charged up and soon we were half way up the gully, making quite fast progress. I had to move to the left hand side, as Kevin was knocking bits of rock and grass on me as he climbed. Some of these rocks were small and black and strangely round-shaped, only then I realized it wasn't rock at all, it was animal poo! :shock: :lol: :lol:
Avoiding the poo shower:
Image2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 120 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
About 2/3 way up the gully, the angle eases off a bit and the ground is more grassy:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 124.JPG

...before steepening again just for the final meters. We emerged on the edge of the vast plateau, huffing, puffing and giggling :lol:
"Well done, Hinterstoisser, how did you like your traverse?"
Joking aside, we were gobsmacked by the beauty of the landscape here. Out of the shadow of the giant and in the sunshine, the world was smiling again.
The summit of the Graham was still some distance away to the west, but the ridge looked delightful:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 141.JPG

The sky was blue, especially in the west and the Cuillin ridge was clearly visible:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 143.JPG

The top of Creag na h-Iolaire and the wee lochan just below - one of many on this plateau:
ImageDSCF7846 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
It was cold now, with wind quite strong, so we didn't linger, just marched on to the 706m top of Creag na h-Iolaire. In warmer conditions, we would have added Glas Bheinn as well, but in the chilly wind we gave this top a miss.
Looking south from the top of Creag na h-Iolaire to Glas Bheinn:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 166.JPG

The most prominent view was towards An Ruadh Stac and Maol Chean-Dearg:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 157.JPG

The summit of Sgurr a'Gharaidh with the multitude of little lochans and Beinn Bhan behind:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 169.JPG

Panorama:
ImageDSCF7848 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We spent far too much time photographing and filming. I can't really show all photos, it would make this TR far too long. Basically, as soon as we reached the ridge, we kept stopping every 5 minutes for photo sessions. OK, it was cold and a tad windy, but the light conditions were excellent :D
Below the top of Creag na h-Iolaire, another snap-break:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 188.JPG

We descended to the area of small lochans and found a sheltered spot here to sit and have something to eat, before we pushed on to the summit. Kevin grabbed the flask first:
"As Mister Harrer said: hot tea, the best drink in the world!"
The lochan area is lovely, with so many different perspectives to take pictures. it would be a perfect spot for a wild camp on warmer days, and watching the sun setting behind the Cuillin ridge... Wow, maybe at some point in the future we will return here for an overnighter.
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 196.JPG

Back to the distant views, they are just as good as on any Torridon hill. Liathach and parts of Beinn Eighe ridge form a long wall (Beinn na h-Eaglaise in the foreground)
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 199.JPG

The Cuilin hills on the north-eastern horizon:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 219.JPG

Looking back to the lumps and bumps in the plateau from the final ascent to the summit:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 208.JPG

When we reached the summit, it was still a bit blowy but we spent enough time there to fill the memory cards :lol: :lol: Couldn't miss such opportunity!
By the summit cairn, Graham no. 57, Lucy's 24th:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 265.JPG

There are two cairns on the small summit area, the smaller one is fractionally higher, at least according to Kevin's Garmin. Both are good viewpoints :D
Kevin by the smaller cairn:
ImageDSCF7854 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Panoramic view SE:
DSCF7852.JPG

The northern pano:
DSCF7850.JPG

The summit cairn, the Skye Cuillin and Beinn Bhan:
DSCF7849.JPG

Kevin was intrigued by Ben Shieldaig, a wee hill to the north. It landed right up on the to-do-in-winter list!
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 227.JPG

An Ruadh Stac and Sgorr Ruadh:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 235.JPG

Beinn Eighe:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 258.JPG

Liathach:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 259.JPG

More distant Strathcarron hills:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 279.JPG

Skye and Loch Carron:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 268.JPG

It was an amazing viewpoint and we lingered for as long as we could stand the chill...
To descend, we simply headed down the western slopes back to Glasnock. The descent route is steep in places but no vertical cliffs anywhere - this way can be used in winter for a quick up-and-down version:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 282.JPG

We still kept stopping every few minutes...
Panther speechless:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 288.JPG

Looking back to Sgurr a'Gharaidh the Graham of a lumpy-bumpy nature: :wink:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 310.JPG

Panoramic view on the way down:
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 330.JPG

The slopes just above Glasnock were full of sheep, looking at us with mild surprise :lol: We spotted a gate in the fence and headed for it, eventually reaching the track just by the first house in Glasnock. We spent 6.5 hours walking, including 2 hours of stops (for photos!). Of course, this hill COULD be rushed in 4-5 hours but IMHO it SHOULDN'T. The Eiger it ain't but on Scottish scale it's a s good as it gets. Defo a wee mountain to savour in good conditions.
........
We will return to Torridon again for more lower hill explorations - Ben Shieldaig and An Ruadh Mheallan on the list for shorter November days, hopefully weather stays favourable.
See you soon, Torridon! :D
2016-10-23 sgurr a gharaidh 333.JPG
Last edited by BlackPanther on Thu Dec 05, 2019 5:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sgurr a'Gharaidh - how to find Hinterstoisser traverse ;

Postby dogplodder » Wed Oct 26, 2016 12:01 pm

What a beautiful area that is. :D
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Re: Sgurr a'Gharaidh - how to find Hinterstoisser traverse ;

Postby malky_c » Wed Oct 26, 2016 11:12 pm

I really liked this one too :D . Planning to go back and do a circuit of it and An Ruadh-Stac sometime.

We had planned to go down your ascent route in the snow. Took one look down and decided not to bother!
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Re: Sgurr a'Gharaidh - how to find Hinterstoisser traverse ;

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Thu Oct 27, 2016 5:18 pm

Another great looking route :thumbup: and so beautiful. We will have to try it but I will remember to go first on poo gully :lol:
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Re: Sgurr a'Gharaidh - how to find Hinterstoisser traverse ;

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Oct 27, 2016 6:29 pm

dogplodder wrote:What a beautiful area that is. :D


Not many places can match Torridon on a sunny day! Every time I come back to climb the next hill, it turns out to be another cracker, regardless of its height and status :D

malky_c wrote:I really liked this one too :D . Planning to go back and do a circuit of it and An Ruadh-Stac sometime.

We had planned to go down your ascent route in the snow. Took one look down and decided not to bother!


We had your version of the route printed, in case we couldn't find any parking space in Glasnock.

Combining with An Ruadh Stac sounds interesting, would be a big day by my standards. There is actually a VT track that branches off the main one somewhere around 884 454 and goes up Cnoc Glas, could be used on the way down if you're descending from Stac to Glasnock.

And I wouldn't try this gully in winter, either, especially with large amounts of slippery snow :?

Cairngorm creeper wrote:Another great looking route :thumbup: and so beautiful. We will have to try it but I will remember to go first on poo gully :lol:


It is great indeed, highly recommended! The poo gully is not as bad as it looks :lol: The amount of droppings did not surprise me, we saw deer everywhere, some were even grazing half way up the cliffs :shock: I guess it's the beauty of the wild landscape, sometimes we get the stinky end of it :wink:
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Re: Sgurr a'Gharaidh - how to find Hinterstoisser traverse ;

Postby BobMcBob » Fri Oct 28, 2016 7:53 am

You've given me Torridon fever now :) Sounds like a great day, just goes to show the little hills can be just as good as the big ones.

Two great choices of book too.
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Re: Sgurr a'Gharaidh - how to find Hinterstoisser traverse ;

Postby timmunro86 » Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:39 pm

Great report! I was drawn in by the Eiger reference in the title I must say.

Visiting this area in a month's time to do some walking and this route is close to where we are staying so we may well give it a go!

Looks like you had a cracking day for it, I particularly like your photos of the sunlit ridge ahead, it fills me with mountain joy seeing them :)

Thanks for your report
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Re: Sgurr a'Gharaidh - how to find Hinterstoisser traverse ;

Postby BlackPanther » Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:45 pm

timmunro86 wrote:Great report! I was drawn in by the Eiger reference in the title I must say.

Visiting this area in a month's time to do some walking and this route is close to where we are staying so we may well give it a go!

Looks like you had a cracking day for it, I particularly like your photos of the sunlit ridge ahead, it fills me with mountain joy seeing them :)

Thanks for your report


Thank you :D and fingers crossed, weather is kind to you in September!
I remember this hill scared me s**less, the north face looked nearly vertical, but it's so misleading. Once on the ridge, it's such a pleasant walk. We'll repeat it for sure at some point.

Just for info, for everybody thinking about climbing Sgurr a'Gharaidh in late summer/autumn:
The route we took lies within the grounds of Kinlochdamph Estate, they stalk from 1 July to 20 October, main red deer stalking season from mid August to October, but no stalking on Sundays. The estate webpage is here:
http://www.kinlochdamph.com/index.html
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