Not-so-lonely Glen Kingie: Sgurr Mor & Sgurr an Fhuarain
by bobble_hat_kenny » Sun Aug 13, 2017 1:46 pm
Munros included on this walk: Sgurr Mor (Loch Quoich)
Corbetts included on this walk: Sgurr an Fhuarain
Date walked: 05/08/2017
Time taken: 26.5 hours
Distance: 30 km
Ascent: 1600m8 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Needless to say, Sgurr Mor hadn't really been on my radar at all, although I did get an interesting view of it from Sgurr nan Coireachan when I did the Glendessary Munros at the end of June. However, I got an unexpected Email invite to join some old friends on a backpacking outing to try to get it ticked off, and miraculously enough it worked out for me in terms of on-call and family commitments .
The four of us met up for a Fort William lunch to come up with a battle plan. Pam & Gary had initially planned just to go for the standard approach from the Loch Arkaig road end near Srathan, from where it is possible to follow the track up to the vicinity of Glendessary Lodge and then cut up northwards on a rough path along the west bank of the Feith a' Chicheanais to the bealach between the Corbetts Fraoch Bheinn and Sgurr Cos na Breachd-Laoidh, then down into Glen Kingie where the River Kingie can (in theory) be forded to permit a direct assault northwards to the bealach between Sgurr Mor and Sgurr an Fhuarain. Martin, however, suggested the interesting alternative of starting from the Loch Quoich dam, heading down south on an ongoing path through the forestry into Glen Kingie, then cutting west on the continuing path up the Glen to eventually arrive at the eastern end of Sgurr an Fhuarain's east ridge, where we could camp to allow an approach to Sgurr Mor over the Corbett the next morning. After a bit of discussion, we all reckoned that Martin's route, although it was longer and would probably involve climbing Sgurr an Fhuarain twice, had the two big advantages of avoiding a tricky river crossing after it had been raining all July , plus also avoiding the 'interesting' drive to the end of the Loch Arkaig road and back.
We got to the car park at the Loch Quoich dam around 3 p.m. on the Saturday afternoon. The forecast was for dodgy weather initially to improve as the day went on, and at least it was dry when we set off.
The dam is pleasingly monumental, and it was an enjoyable stoat across it to get the weekend started.
The ongoing path, however, isn't nearly so much fun: it is horribly boggy, truly a snorkel-and-flippers job, and ere long I had fallen in a bog to about mid-thigh level ... all part of the fun I suppose! Gary, who is scarily fit, realised about now that he'd forgotten some vital bit of gear, and ran back to his van to retrieve it. It took him a ridiculously short time to catch up with us again, and he was even able to stop for some photography, getting a nice shot of the rest of us descending towards the forestry in Glen Kingie.
At the start of the forestry the Gairich path heads off right, but we continued on the boggier ongoing path into the trees. This crosses a forestry track after a bit, but the ongoing route is straight ahead over the track to pass the rather picturesque ruined cottage beside Lochan nan Sgud. This could potentially make rather a nice bothy, with the addition of an end wall and a roof ...
From here, the path turned westwards, not getting any less boggy, but gradually evolving into a better established ATV track as it neared the end of the forestry. As some distraction from the general bogginess underfoot, we finally now got a view of our first objective, the Corbett Sgurr an Fhuarain, which was visible dead ahead through the Christmas trees.
A bit further west, the views were opening up pleasingly, with Sgurr an Fhuarain still looking rather impressive dead ahead, and one of the more distant Corbetts - possibly Sgurr Cos na Breachd-Laoidh?? - glinting in a patch of sunshine way out west.
Glen Kingie is one desolate spot, however ... The hillwalking books (and the Walkhighlands website) seem to be virtually unanimous in calling it 'Lonely Glen Kingie', to the extent that I was a tad surprised not to find it marked as such on the OS Landranger map ! Apart from the Kinbreack bothy to the south of the River Kingie a bit further up the glen, plus the ruined Lochan nan Sgud cottage, it is pretty much devoid of human constructions. It is also officially one of the wettest places in Scotland : apparently Glen Dessary, Glen Kingie and Glen Quoich clock up a colossal annual rainfall averaging in excess of 4500 mm . Contrast that with an annual average rainfall for sunny Glasgow City of just 1100 mm, and annual averages as low as 550 mm for the Saharan plains of East Lothian ...
Plan A had been to find a reasonably dry, reasonably flat spot to camp for the night somewhere on the north side of the River Kingie towards the upper (western) end of the glen. The obvious issue with this plan, however, is that there aren't any reasonably dry, reasonably flat spots in Glen Kingie . Gary and Martin surveyed various potential spots on both sides of the track, while Pam and myself waited back on the track for the surveyors' reports, which were invariably unfavourable .
Eventually we decided just to lug the backpacks uphill to the bealach between Sgurr an Fhuarain and Gairich, hoping that the terrain might get a bit drier as we got higher up... Nae chance, mate ! At least there were some reasonable views for distraction, though. To the north, Gairich was looking surprisingly craggy from this angle:
And to the south, Kinbreack bothy was just visible in the distance at the bottom of the col between the Corbetts Sgurr Mhurlagain and Fraoch Bheinn:
Just as we had pretty much given up and decided just to camp on top of a bog, however, Gary did manage to find the one dry and flat spot in the whole of Glen Kingie. This turns out to be a section of riverbank on the upper Allt a' Choire Ghlas, just a bit west of where it is crossed by a recently renovated wooden bridge, where two tributary burns come together at around NN005983. Base Camp at last !
Camping stoves were duly gotten out, and we enjoyed a bit of FIne Dining, with a sushi selection followed by rare steak and a wee edamame bean salad, washed down by a rather fine Merlot from a wine bag that Gary had humphed all the way here .
This was the first outing for my brand-new lightweight one-man tent and inflatable sleeping mat, but I didn't need much rocking after the long walk in and a mug or two of Merlot, and I slept like a log.
Glen Kingie sunset:
...And Glen Kingie sunrise:
We all puzzled over the identity of the pointy hill away out east at the end of Glen Kingie. At least we could be fairly sure for once that it definitely wasn't Schiehallion ! Having consulted various maps after getting back home, I think it must be the conical Corbett, Ben Tee, that sits just to the north of the two Loch Lochy Munros, Sron a' Choire Ghairbh and Meall na Teanga. According to the SMC's 'North-West Highlands' guide, it's apparently known as 'the Schiehallion of the North', due to its Schiehallion-like habit of photo-bombing hill vistas in virtually all directions.
Unfortunately, although the midgies hadn't been too bad on the Saturday evening, they had well and truly sniffed us out by the Sunday morning, and our breakfast sausages had to be scoffed as quickly as possible in the midst of Midgemageddon !!
The weather forecast for the Sunday was not looking promising, with heavy rain forecast from midday onwards, so we set off early around 7 a.m. to try to get the two hills bagged before we got a soaking.
Sgurr an Fhuarain has a nice long and shapely (although largely pathless) east ridge, and we just followed that all the way up to the summit. There are several bands of crags about halfway up, but these can all be bypassed easily to the south (i.e. to the left if ascending; to the right if descending).
It felt like quite a long haul up to Sgurr an Fhuarain's summit cairn and trig point, and unfortunately we were now well and truly into the Clag.
From here on, however, there was an excellent path all the way between the Corbett and the Munro summits, being testament I suppose to the fact that these two hills are almost invariably done together. It was a surprisingly easy stoat down to the bealach at 718 metres, and then all the way back up to eventually reach Sgurr Mor's summit cairn. The final section got a bit rocky, but the path manages to avoid any real obstacles.
Gary managed to get this slightly hazy auto-timer shot of the whole group at the summit:
And yes, suspend your disbelief - me at Sgurr Mor summit cairn:
Unfortunately, I then did a complete diddy thing on descent, and failed to get the compass out to take a bearing ... yes, I know, it should be the first thing you do when leaving a summit in Clag . As a result, I failed to notice that the path forks just after leaving the summit cairn, and I ended up descending a short distance southwest on the excellent stalkers' path that crosses the southwestern Top, Sgurr Beag, and eventually goes right down into upper Glen Kingie. Luckily, I soon twigged that no-one had caught up with me yet (pretty much unheard-of), plus a break in the cloud showed the River Kingie to my left rather than to my right, so I belatedly got the map and compass out and realised what I'd done... Thankfully it didn't take me too long to get back to the summit cairn, where I picked up a voicemail on my phone from Pam to say 'We think you've gone the wrong way!'. I was soon reunited with the rest of the group a short distance down the east ridge.
As we made our way down the path to the bealach to start to climb Sgurr an Fhuarain for the second time, the Clag felt sorry for us and finally started to lift, revealing some wonderful views.
Looking back eastwards towards Sgurr an Fhuarain, with Gairich and Loch Quoich behind it:
Sgurr an Fhuarain again, but looking further south towards Lonely Glen Kingie, with the fascinating double ridge of the Corbett Sgurr Mhurlagain in the middle distance:
Looking back to Sgurr Mor itself, with the truly remote Corbetts of Sgurr a' Choire-Beithe and Ben Aden over its right shoulder ... and is that the Skye Cuillin a way out west in the distance??
A long pano shot from the now-Clag-free summit of Sgurr an Fhuarain, all the way from the pointy Munro summit of Sgurr na Ciche, visible just over Sgurr Mor's left shoulder, all the way round to Sgurr Mhurlagain on the right:
... And a fine vista back to Sgurr Mor and distant Sgurr na Ciche, inevitably ruined by some idiots in the foreground :
Finally, another pano shot (one of Gary's this time) right down Lonely Glen Kingie, with Sgurr Mhurlagain's big northern corrie and double ridge looking very dramatic from this angle:
Now all that remained was the minor matter of descending Sgurr an Fhuarain's pathless east ridge back to Base Camp, de-camping and lugging our backpacks away back east down Lonely Glen Kingie to the Loch Quoich dam . To add to the fun, I managed to avoid falling in the bit of deep bog I'd landed in on the way out, but then I relaxed a bit too soon in my relief, and promptly fell in an even more vicious bit of bog up to my oxters, just a few hundred metres further north up the path ... Ah well, at least I couldn't get any wetter after this, so when the forecast heavy rain did eventually arrive (much later than the forecast, actually, around 4 p.m. or thereabouts), it wasn't really any great inconvenience! I was a good half an hour behind the others by the time we got back to the car park, and I think I gave them a bit of a turn when I knocked on the window of Pam & Gary's van looking like Swamp Thing ... Fortunately a change of clothes followed by a cup of tea and a Tunnock's Caramel Log soon got me feeling more human again !
A truly memorable outing, and I've just about managed to get dried out by now!
by dogplodder » Tue Aug 15, 2017 2:38 pm
by bobble_hat_kenny » Wed Aug 16, 2017 10:57 am
dogplodder wrote:Despite everything (bogs, midges, clag) that sounded brilliant!
Thanks - I'd have to say that it absolutely was ! It is an amazing (although very wet) bit of Scotland.
by rockhopper » Wed Aug 16, 2017 1:22 pm
by bobble_hat_kenny » Wed Aug 16, 2017 5:27 pm
rockhopper wrote:Sounded challenging and more than a little boggy at times - good trip nonetheless. Am just a bit curious - as you had your camping packs, was wondering if you'd considered going in over Gairich (as it shows as red on your map) then back along Glen Kingie instead of the latter both ways ? - cheers
A very good question, and one that we actually debated on the way in !
The other three had already done Gairich, but I hadn't. No-one else had much enthusiasm for re-doing it with a backpack on, so I'd either have been doing it on my own with the backpack (and then having to locate where in Lonely Glen Kingie the rest of the team had chosent to camp once I got back down Gairich's west ridge), or doing it from the west side sans backpack but rather late in the day, after we had camped and had dinner. I can't say Gairich wasn't looking a bit tempting in the evening sunshine, but in the end common sense prevailed and I left it for another day.
...So I suspect I'm now one of a small minority of people who bag Sgurr Mor before they've done Gairich !
by gammy leg walker » Wed Aug 16, 2017 7:09 pm