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Once upon a time in Glenfinnian

Once upon a time in Glenfinnian

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Jun 30, 2017 1:47 pm

Route description: Sgùrr Thuilm and Sgùrr nan Coireachan

Munros included on this walk: Sgùrr nan Coireachan (Glenfinnan), Sgùrr Thuilm

Date walked: 14/06/2017

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 25 km

Ascent: 1448m

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Somewhere in the far west of Scotland there is a place called Glenfinnian. It used to be just one of many villages on the western coast, mostly recognized for the famous monument and the association with Bonnie Prince Charlie, but since the start of Harry Potter madness, many tourists head west along A830 "to see the entrance to Hogwart". Hands up, I never read any JK Rowling books or seen any of the movies. I guess I was too old for fairy tales when Hary Potter first came along. But I like the fantasy world, I grew up with Aslan the Lion and Shannara Chronicles, so I could easily switch on my imagination and pretend, just for a day, we were in the land of elves and magicians :D

This duo of Munros has been on the list for a long time but we were saving them for a sunny day, as it's a demanding route: the 25km circular might seem misleading on the map - just a straightforward ridge traverse over a few lumps, with a good access road to the bottom of the hills. But beware! Sgurr Thuilm and Sgurr nan Coireachan are as tough as it gets in Scotland. Hamish Brown in the book on his epic walk describes them as "bulky big brutes" and the ridge as "craggy and wild, with tumbling burns dodging down its flanks". He also suggests to keep to the crest of the ridge during the traverse ("Contours do not pay."). Adding up all the ups and downs on the ridge, our GPS calculated the total ascent: 1448m. We have done more in the past (Cairngorms, Mamores, Mullardoch Round) so the number didn't scare me, but we took a lot of time, much longer than expected. It was mostly Kevin's fault, 'cause he stopped on every lump, bump and rocky outcrop to take photos of this wild, primordial landscape.

Our route followed the usual line of attack, anticlockwise over Sgurr Thuilm first then to Sgurr nan Coireachan. Weather was reasonable: some patchy cloud and quite windy on the ridge, but it improved as we traversed to the west, rewarding us with superb panoramas from the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan. It is a magic world indeed and really, really worth visiting... Even if you don't bump into Harry Potter :lol: :lol:

Track_GLENFINNAN 14-06-17.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

The starting point is a small car park just west of the bridge over the River Finnan. It was already getting crowded when we arrived but we managed to squeeze in. Most people were probably "Potter tourists", because throughout the whole day we only met one chap on the ridge, doing the round in opposite direction. Apart from that, nobody in sight!
The entrance to Hogwart... Or Shannara Kingdom... Or Narnia... :wink:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 003.JPG

The car park was midgy, so we quickly prepared and headed through the gate, past a large sign saying "STRICTLY NO DRONE FLYING" which as we thought, applied to the area of Glenfinnian Viaduct. I can understand, drones could be annoying/dangerous to the passing trains. I joked, there should also be another sign: FLYING BROOMSTICKS NOT ALLOWED :lol: :lol: :lol:
The ban of course, does not apply to big, flying thingies, because soon we heard a buzzing noise and saw a helicopter flying past:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 012.JPG

From the bottom of the glen, the viaduct really makes a big impression:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 022.JPG

The walk-in is excellent on tarmac first, then a good track. Weather was not too bad, some cloud still lingered but the forecast for the afternoon was sunny so we were in positive moods. A lovely, humming river and high, steep slopes of the hills around... Welcome to the world of magic!
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 024.JPG

We walked past the bothy where a small group of people were getting ready to leave. They must have gone up on other hills or maybe just walked back to Glenfinnian, 'cause we never saw them again.
The easy part of the walk came abruptly to an end when we faced Sgurr Thuilm:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 038.JPG

This is the way up. Looks easy, very green and lush :D but don't be misled. This slope is very boggy for the first 200m of ascent, and soon it becomes steep! WH description says "there are traces of a path at first", but I guess after thousands of feet had marched up the slope in the long quest to compleat the Munros, things have changed. No wild magic here, I'm afraid. The path is well worn and obvious all the way to the summit.
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 046.JPG

The initial climb, as mentioned above, was quite boggy, but higher up the path improved. It's a long haul though, about 400m of steep pushing, then another 350m of slightly less steep climb to the summit.
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 052.JPG

I kept my eyes wide open just in case I caught a glimpse of a fairy flying past, or maybe Allanon the Druid would appear somewhere on the ridge, or perhaps Repicheep the Talking Mouse was hiding in the bracken?
The view behind us was splendid: Glen Finnian at its best:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 057.JPG

We climbed up to the point where the angle eases off - now we could see our first target - the summit of Sgurr Thuilm:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 063.JPG

To the right, we recognized the long ridge of Streap - a magnificent Corbett also on the list. one worth keeping for a good day, too!
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 073 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We found a suitable flat rock and sat down for a few minutes, to have a sandwich and gather strength before the final push to the summit. Kevin played with his camera again, far too many pictures :roll:
The climb to the top meant more hard work, wish I had wings like fairies or maybe a flying broomstick :lol:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 076.JPG

The cloud keep lifting and on the final col just below the summit, we were welcomed by fantastic views:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 084.JPG

Just a few more meters and we will be celebrating another new Munro in the bag!
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 099.JPG

A small but persistent cloud lingered around the summit of Sgurr Thuilm but it didn't discourage us from celebrating! M no. 206 for me, no. 45 for wee Lucy :D
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 104.JPG

We waited for a few minutes and the cloud did lift, just about to reveal the views. The top end of Loch Arkaig:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 117.JPG

The ridge awaiting us:
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 133 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Loch Morar and Isle of Rum:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 114.JPG

Having snapped enough photos, we began the descent to the first of many cols. We spotted a large herd of deer in the corrie below so I tried to get a good zoom on the vidcam... Not easy to keep it steady when the wind is pushing you around :lol:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 135.JPG

We climbed to the first top (unnamed, 858m) and from here we could now see the rest of the ridge - WOW, that's a long traverse!
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 151 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
I found this constant up-and-down experience quite entertaining, Kevin was lagging behind with his camera, snapping and snapping, that man is mad :roll:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 172.JPG

Some cloud re-appeared but it didn't look dangerous, just some grey, fluffy matter :lol: :
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 177.JPG

Up to another lumpy bump... This one a bit steeper, it's called Beinn Gharbh:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 176.JPG

View down to Glen Finnian:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 186.JPG

Looking back to Sgurr Thuilm from the tiny lochan near the summit of Meall Gharbh:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 188.JPG

The hills of Arkaig, still an area we haven't really explored. I'm dying to get a tasty bite of climbing here... Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 198.JPG

...but before we embark on any Arkaig explorations, we have to finish our magic Glenfinnian round! Don't tell me there is more to climb!
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 204.JPG

We clambered up to Meall Tarmachan, the last of many intermediate tops, quite tired already, and there was still one more push to do, looking steep:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 218.JPG

I was still looking around for any signs of magic, maybe a dragon flying past, maybe a few dwarfs marching across the path...
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 226.JPG

...but soon I understood, that here, in the forgotten world of western Scotland, the magic is in the landscape itself: the lochs, the islands, the sea, the mountains, the glens... It's all pure magic.
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 232.JPG

The forgotten world of western Scotland:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 241.JPG

Zoom to Sgurr na Ciche:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 234.JPG

The final climb was not difficult technically, just steep-ish, we took a bit longer than expected on tired legs, but we timed it just right. When we finally reached the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan, weather improved significantly, the sun came out and we were delighted to experience more of the western Scotland magic :D :D :D
On the summit (Munro 207) with Lucy (Munro 46):
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 258.JPG

The man who didn't believe in magic - now completely converted:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 282.JPG

So now to the magic itself - enjoy:..
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 243 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 244 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 261 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
West to Loch Morar:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 249.JPG

Ben Nevis on the horizon:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 265.JPG

Zoomed Isle of Rum:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 272.JPG

Sgurr na Ciche and Loony Bin:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 273.JPG

Panoramic view to the east, the length of the ridge and Sgurr Thuilm:
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 279 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Panorama north:
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 284 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Wish we could have spent more time in the land of magic, but we still had the long way back to Glenfinnian and the 2 hrs drive home...
The descent route traverses Sgurr a Choire Riabhaich, there is some rough ground to cover here and the path is not as obvious on rocky ground:
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 288 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The steeper sections were a bit annoying, with ground still wet from the previous days rain, good balancing skills required:
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 292 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We walked past some vertical drops:
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 303 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Looking back to Sgurr nan Coireachan from Sgurr a Choire Riabhaich:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 309.JPG

From the top of Sgurr a Choire Riabhaich, we suffered through 60m of a very steep descent down a horribly eroded
path :? Care should be taken here, especially in wet weather. Lower down, it was less steep if boggy in places, but the views were still amazing:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 313.JPG

Over a few small lumps and bumps, down steep, slippery grass and eroded slopes, we eventually found the upper end of a much better stalkers path:
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 321.JPG

Now it was all plain sailing, no more bog-drowning, no more slipping on eroded ground. I felt the touch of magic again as we walked down... We found an abandoned wheelbarrow, but I doubt if it was left there by dwarfs - far too big for that!
Image2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 329 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Once down in the glen, we could now relax and enjoy the stroll back to the car park :D
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 336.JPG

As we passed under the viaduct, we heard the chuffing sound of the train. We returned to the civilized world...
2017-06-14 glenfinnan munros 342.JPG

I was a bit sad that we had to leave all the magic behind... I firmly believe, that we brought a small chunk of it back home: the spell of mountains, glens, corries, lochs... The magic of moments up there, when you can feel your heart beating faster, when for a few minutes, all the pains and tears of everyday are forgotten. The charm of nature, the rough beauty of wilderness. There is no better magic than that - and I'm sure we will return to the area to be enchanted again.
My next story will continue the theme of supernatural, but in more serious and spooky sense. We visited a very haunted wild lochan near Shieldaig, where I wouldn't dare stay for the night :shock: TR to come soon.
Last edited by BlackPanther on Mon Dec 02, 2019 11:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Once upon a time in Glenfinnian

Postby Coop » Fri Jun 30, 2017 6:54 pm

Ah, I knew there were views from up there. I had to retreat after reaching the summit on sgurr thuilm due to the wind and rain last Saturday.
Gives me a great excuse to go back though.

Great report and glad you got some views.
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Re: Once upon a time in Glenfinnian

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Sat Jul 01, 2017 11:49 pm

A truly magical report and good choice of fantasy :D We nearly did this last year and then went up Streap instead ( which was well worth a good day) so have it too look forward too.
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Re: Once upon a time in Glenfinnian

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Sun Jul 02, 2017 3:13 pm

Just magic :lol: :lol: but then our mountains ARE magic :D

Thanks for the report and great photos - these 2 are priorities for us this year too - just need some decent weather when we are free, there's been plenty of the former this year but very little of the latter :roll:
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Re: Once upon a time in Glenfinnian

Postby Driftwood » Sun Jul 02, 2017 11:37 pm

I walked these hills only a week before you (and the wheelbarrow was there then. Maybe it'll find its way onto the WH route notes). Though it's part of my "backlog" of walk reports to catch up on.

You were slightly luckier with when the weather cleared, but Kevin's efforts with the camera are well justified by those pictures. And I felt the same about how rugged and stunning these hills are. Magical!

That descent on the western end of the route is very loose and steep, though it was soothed for me by meeting a Ptarmigan mum with her chicks. One occasion when I've not turned aside downhill to avoid disturbing them, because in this case downhill was almost a vertical drop!
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Re: Once upon a time in Glenfinnian

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Jul 03, 2017 11:33 am

Magic! Enjoyed your description, you are quite right that there is something magical about the landscape.

I'm glad I'm not the only one that thought these two were tougher than expected, and found the ridge between the two interminable. Partly thanks to another bit of magic; the views had done a disappearing act into a puff of cloud.
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Re: Once upon a time in Glenfinnian

Postby BlackPanther » Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:59 am

Many thanks for all comments :D I'm still catching up with a backlog of reports... another 7 TR's pending! :roll: :roll:

We felt privileged (and lucky, too) that we had good conditions up on the ridge and saw the views in their full glory. I understand how frustrating it would be to do this walk without seeing a thing! A duo well worth saving for a sunny day.

I'm eager to do Streap as well, such a great-looking ridge. Just bring on another nice day! :D
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Re: Once upon a time in Glenfinnian

Postby ere1 » Wed Jul 05, 2017 8:53 pm

Hi Panther! They were my second and third Munros after the Ben in October 2012. I followed the same path as you did and I’m still longing to go back! :D
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