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Grin and bearing it for some Ciche

Grin and bearing it for some Ciche

Postby Borderhugh » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:44 pm

Route description: Sgurr na Ciche: 3 Munros from Loch Arkaig

Munros included on this walk: Garbh Chioch Mhor, Sgurr na Ciche, Sgurr nan Coireachan (Glen Dessary)

Date walked: 16/07/2017

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 30 km

Ascent: 1800m

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Ever since I watched a Cameron McNeish Coast to Coast programme back a good few Christmases ago (2012), I have been greatly looking forward to tackling the hills up Glen Dessary and in particular, Sgurr na Ciche. I recall that programme introduced me to the wider lure and wonders of Knoydart and spurred me on to doing a testing trip in May 2013 to Barisdale and Ladhar Bheinn in very mixed conditions.

My original plan for last weekend had been another trip to my nemesis, the Mullardoch, but
the dire forecast and the comfort of my bed put paid to that and Saturday became a day for domestic duties. I was itching to get out though and noted on Saturday evening that there were some areas out west showing improvement; Dessary was calling!

After slithering out of bed at 4am and a quick breakfast, I was away by 4.30 in two minds about which route to take. I opted for the longer route via the A9 and the A86 and made good progress up to Spean Bridge, where I stopped for a break to marvel at The Ben and the Grey Corries, which were looking clear and resplendent.

I had not been to Arkaig before and was thinking if I do a report I won’t mention that 'road', which is pretty hard to ignore. I had envisaged some airborne driving a la Dukes of Hazzard but decided to go for the self-preservation option. It took me the best part of an hour to reach the car park at the end, where on arrival it was bucketing down and the skies were looking decidedly 60’s tower block grey. The thought of staying in the car was very tempting but after that longish drive in and with the prospect of a big day ahead of me, I decided to take the plunge (literally) and to crack on. After a quick change into waterproofs and a few expletives, I was on my way. Thankfully once I got going the rain eased.

The route into Glendessary

Image20170716_074644 by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

For todays walk, I had decided to go clockwise and give the forest a miss (not great views) as I had plans for A’Chuil bothy for another day and it looked further on the map.


Image20170716_081635 by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

The trudge along the track got a little tedious after a while and I was sort of glad to get off it once past the last Glendessary House. That gladness quickly wore off as that was where the uber-longish bog trot began.

Looking back
Image20170716_083529 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

North Side of Forest with Bidein a Chabair
Image20170716_085507 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

Whilst the time went by quickly skirting the north side of the forest, the boggy ground made for slow progress. My feet were sodden pretty quickly. I completely missed the bridge over the Allt coire nan Uth; its easily done. The burn was in full spate and getting across wasn’t easy. I think this has to be the boggiest track I have done to date.

Once past the forest, the weather improved and I was able to enjoy blue sky for a few minutes. The Corbett, Bidein a Chabair, which had dominated most of the walk-in was looking fab. I had stuffed the route instructions and my map down my jacket in case I needed to get it out quickly and had my GPS to hand. Sadly the conventional OS Map wasn’t loading/working and I was staring at a screen with a less detailed map that was wholly inadequate but showed me that I was ‘close’ to Sgurr na Ciche and I was sort of heading in the right direction.

My way up

Image20170716_093419 by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

Image20170716_094441 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

Looking down to the Lochans
Image20170716_101636 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

It was at this point I made a very lazy and super-sized navigational boo-boo and struck off the path too early. I had convinced myself that I didn’t need to climb up to the Druim and was too eager and went a for direct route up thinking I was going to find that gully below Feadan na Ciche. It was a slow, wet and tiring climb up and in places it was very steep, pathless and slippy. The local deer population weren't impressed with my manoeuvres and disappeared before I got anywhere close to them for a photo. I was having to hold onto clumps of soggy grass for dear-life and managed to lose my footing a number of times as I had to re-route around slippy rock which I found too difficult to scramble up.

My chosen route
Image20170716_101641 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

I don’t know how long the climb up took me, but it consumed an inordinate amount of time and the aforementioned Feadan na Ciche never materialised. By the time I did reach the ridge and the wall it was bloody windy and viz was down to about 10m. I decided to hunker down and get out of the wind behind a boulder, add clothing and take a quick feed. It was at that point, that a guy called Mark from Sheffield, who was passing called. He had been camping on the ridge and was carrying a big pack. He had assumed because of where I had topped out at, he was at Feadan na Ciche. How wrong we both were!

After some initial ascent, we came to a cairn which came far too quickly and bamboozled both of us. We decided to plod on further expecting more ascent, but as we continued drifting away from the wall and sensing that we were losing height, it occurred to us that we may have missed something further back up. We headed back up the way we came looking on both sides for a magical path but didn’t find anything and decided to regroup back at the cairn, where we were struggled to stand upright. As we grappled with our flapping maps and tried to take GPS readings, we came to the slow realisation that we were on the wrong hill still - Garbh Chioch Mhor and nowhere near Ciche!

Feeling relieved that we knew where we were, we pushed on and after about 15 mins found ourselves down at the bealach Feadan na Ciche. At this point, we could make out the steep sides of Ciche and decided to drop our packs for the climb up

Image20170716_124449 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

Image20170716_124452 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

Having a breather on the way up
Image20170716_124456 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

As we ascended the clag thankfully started to shift in small intervals and once we topped out on the summit, we temporarily got the amazing views down Loch Nevis, out to Knoydart/Loch Hourn, Ben Aden and back to Sgurr Mor but sadly not the ridge. What was memorable and amazing to see was the speed of the clag moving in, up and over us. It was blowing a hoolie and I probably resembled a mix of MC Hammer and a Michelin man.

The Summit
Image20170716_125912 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

Loch Nevis and Inverie
Image20170716_130120 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

Once we had our fill, we went back down to the bealach for a well-deserved sarnie and pork pie. As this was Mark’s last hill, we bid farewell.

The wind-assisted climb back up Garbh Chioch Mhor was swift and the navigation onwards to Garbh Chioch Bheag was straight-forward thanks to the wall. The folk that built it must have been hardy souls.

Wannabe Gandalf on GCB
Image20170716_140444 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

The descent off GCB down to the Bealach Coire nan Gall brought me temporarily out of the clag at around 1430. I couldn’t believe it had taken me 7 hours to this point. Down below I could see Mark making his way down the boggy track in the glen as I was feeling slightly tonked; I was somewhat envious.

The route up SnC
Image20170716_150853 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

I sort of lost the path going up to the final peak, Sgurr nan Coireachan, which always makes it hard-going, but thankfully found it half way up. The combination of the clag and the strong winds on top dictated a quick photie and exit.

SnC Summit Cairn
Image20170716_154224 (1) by Hugh Summerton, on Flickr

Using my compass, I started walking in a southerly direction on an intermittent path but soon lost it as I hit an undulating boulder field. Visibility was awful. I could see from the map that there were several burns running off SnC and decided logically to descend and follow one of those. The descent was steep, boggy and slow-going. I ended up following the narrowing gorge of Allt coire nan Uth back down to the boggy path that I had walked up. It took me approx. 3.5 hours to get from SnC back to the car. It was a welcome sight and I was glad to get dry clothing on for the journey home.

I was fully aware that this wasn’t going to be an easy day out but it was a lot harder than expected given the conditions and my route-finding. The Met Office forecast was way-off but nevertheless it was still an enjoyable day with a sense of achievement. I most definitely want to return to these hills but almost definitely via different routes!
Last edited by Borderhugh on Sun Oct 25, 2020 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grin and bearing it for some Ciche

Postby Fife Flyer » Sat Jul 22, 2017 7:05 pm

Fantastic stuff Hugh :clap: I would love to do those hills again in decent weather :wink:
I take it you glanced at my WR, that is one day that I will never ever forget for lots of reasons, you think it was wet you did it you ain't seen nothing :lol: :lol:
Mentioning the road in has to be done, in a way it also makes the hills more of a challenge.
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Re: Grin and bearing it for some Ciche

Postby Alteknacker » Sun Jul 23, 2017 12:01 am

At least it wasn't a complete wipe out: some decent weather in the early stages... :roll:

The area looks fine, but I will need good weather to tackle it - I admire your commitment ... :)
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Re: Grin and bearing it for some Ciche

Postby rockhopper » Sun Jul 23, 2017 10:30 am

Good to see it brightened up for some of the time. It's a good area with several mix 'n match options for the hills - have been along to the end twice now and have been lucky enough to have good weather both times. Hope it improves for you next time. Unlike many, I actually like driving the road..... - cheers :)
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