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Amazing Assynt & Torrential Torridon
by jupe1407 » Sun Oct 08, 2017 7:35 pm
Route description: Quinag: three Corbetts
Corbetts included on this walk: Quinag - Sail Gharbh, Quinag - Sail Gorm, Quinag - Spidean Coinich
Grahams included on this walk: Beinn a'Chearcaill, Ben Mor Coigach, Sgurr an Fhidhleir
Date walked: 23/09/2017
Time taken: 20 hours
Distance: 38 km
Ascent: 2902m7 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).
Finally, Saturday 23rd September came around, and we set off on the long drive to Inverness and onto Ullapool and finally, nearly five hours later, the lovely wee settlement of Inverkirkaig, three miles shy of Lochinver. After settling in, we had a wee wander along the beach. Sunday's forecast was poor so we just spent the day pottering about, and had a drive about researching potential photo locations. As it happened, things started to brighten up once we'd got back to the chalet, so we headed across again to the beach where we were treated a spectacular sunset.
Monday looked slightly better, so a short walk to the Falls of Kirkaig seemed in order. The start was was quite literally round the corner from our chalet. We'd done this walk back in 2014 and it was nice to go back. The path seemed much worse, unsurprisingly considering the amount of rain this summer. The last section of path down to the falls is a steepish drop with a couple of wee scrambly bits, but nothing complex. We made out way down and took a few photos. The heavy recent rainfall meant the falls had a fair bit of force behind them and were quite a spectacular sight.
Falls of Kirkaig
Initial plans to carry on to Fionn Loch for a view of Suilven were canned due to the rain coming in earlier than expected, and also a lot of cloud meaning we couldn't actually see Suilven Still, it was a nice leg stretcher, and good to get a walk done, despite the weather.
After tea the skies remained pretty clear so I nipped out once it was pitch dark, in the futile hope of catching the northern lights. They were a no show but I managed to get a shot of the milky way which was a wee reward.
Milky Way above Enard Bay
Finally, a good forecast would materialise on Tuesday, so we chose those this to do the Quinag route, a fascinating walk taking in (unusually) three Corbetts in a single outing.
Tuesday 26th Sept
We parked up at the sizable car park on the right (if heading to Kylesku), crossed the road, and started up the excellent path. Already the views were tremendous and we were both looking forward to this exciting-looking traverse. Arriving at the large cairn, it's time to head left, pretty much following the rim of large corrie, mostly on easy walking slabbed terrain.
The going on these giant slabs is excellent, and together with a gentle gradient, progress is pretty straightforward and it wasn't long before the top of Spidean Coinich came into view.
Summit of Spidean Coinich
The huge slabs continue for the most part all the way to the final ascent of the spectacular summit cone. We had quite a few stops to taken in the views though.
Shortly before the summit itself, there's a cracking wee outcrop above a huge drop which Anne couldn't wait to stand on
After a brief faff around here it was a brief final few metres to the summit, marked by two cairns. The views from here are excellent, and we could now get an idea of what the rest of the walk looked like.
Spidean Coinich summit
The fun to come!
A brief food and photostop here and it was time to move off. This was probably my favourite part of the walk and the ridge narrows before heading up a grassy top, then it really narrows to a soul-crushingly low bealach It barely seemed possible after the previous summit, but the views just kept getting better as we went on. What a fantastic mountain this was proving to be!
Looking back to Spidean Coinich
The narrowing grassy ridge
After the aforementioned soul-crushing height loss, there's a fairly significant ascent to gain the un-named middle top, which almost acts as the "hub" of the connecting ridges. Obviously Anne was absolutely delighted when I told her this was just a top and the actual summit of the 2nd Corbett was still about 2K away However this was easily sorted with the production of crisps and chocolate.
Views to the NW
A rather distant Sail Ghorm, Corbett No2
Nicely fuelled we headed down to the next bealach. This is the one with the really narrow outcrop that everyone gets photographed on. However as we were now being hit by very strong wind gusts, we decided not to bother with this as falling to one's doom four days into a fortnight's holiday would be a bit annoying.
The walk to the second Corbett seemed almost unending with a few wee tops, a nice scramble and gale force winds to contend with. We did however, eventually arrive at the summit and took shelter from the ferocious gusts.
Sail Ghorm summit
We decided not to hang around too long here. It was fast getting colder and we still had to retrace to near the central point then summit the final Corbett. Progress back was quite swift as we just wanted to get out of the wind for a wee while. We got to the bealach below the final summit rather ahead of schedule and decided to quickly push on up to it.
Almost at the final bealach, looking back to Sail Ghorm
The ascent to the final summit is both quick extremely straightforward. The shelter cairn here provided good protection from the wind so we stayed, enjoying a bite to eat and soaked up the still-superb views.
Anne on the last summit
Sail Garbh summit and Glas Bheinn in the distance
My least favourite part of any walk is the return to the start point. All the fun stuff is usually done, there's invariably loads of height to lose and it usually seems like some unseen force is moving your car further away, when you've been walking towards it for half an hour and it isn't getting any bigger However, on this occasion the walk out was pretty enjoyable. Leaving the summit gave glorious, if slightly hazy views of the awesome Assynt landscape.
Starting the long walk back
As we descended the mostly excellent path back into the corrie we were faced with the enormous bulk of Spidean Coinich and it's sub-tops. It looked spectacular and was a brilliant way to (almost) end the walk.
A last look at Quinag
The walk out once in the Corrie is fairly straightforward with a few boggy sections, before finally joining the outward route and returning to the car park. We headed down to Ardvreck Castle's ruin for an abortive attempt at sunset, however the light was flat, and we were absolutely starving so headed back to the chalet.
Whether you're a munro-bagger or not, I can't recommend Quinag highly enough. It's absorbing, stunning pretty much in every direction and has a little bit of everything. Well worth a visit
Wednesday's forecast was again poor, and as we were both a bit tired after Quinag, a rest day was most welcome. One crucial task however was to visit Lochinver Larder and get the world-famous pies in. After a long decision making process, we bought four of them and decided they'd be a treat for our last night in the Chalet and our first night in Torridon. I'm genuinely amazed we managed to hold out from Wednesday until Friday
Ben Mor Coigach & Sgurr an Fhidhleir
Thursday's forecast looked good early on, and with Anne having been struck down with a cold, I decided to head off to Culnacraig for the highly recommended Ben More Coigach and Sgurr an Fhidhleir. The drive there is a spectacular one as you pass the side-on view of Stac Pollaidh, continuing round Loch Osgaig and on past the hamlet of Achiltibuie, finally arriving at the small car park before Culnacraig. Early signs didn't look promising. Conditions were dull and the ridge of Garbh Choireachan was totally clagged in. However things would improve and this would go onto become one of my favourite ever hill days. The WH route is pretty easy to follow past the cottages on a fairly (initially) boggy path, which gradually gains height before crossing the Allt nan Coisiche. The hardish work then begins with a very steep ascent to a flatter area before the even steeper push up onto the ridge.
Views to the Summer Isles opening up on the initial ascent
As I was starting the steeper ascent onto the ridge, I spotted a stag which looked like it was right on the cliff edge in the distance.
A lone stag looking out to sea
As i gained height up the ridge the clag started to break and I got occasional views. Was my luck to be in?
Towards Loch Broom
I was stopping to take a photo what felt like every couple of minutes and this was fast becoming a superb outing! As the clag really started to break, I got a great view of the rest of the ascent. It looked brilliant
My luck was indeed truly in. I crested the ridge just as the clag started to billow down into the Coire. I stopped for ages to take photos and enjoy it. The crest of the ridge looked like great fun. Nice and narrow without being horrendously exposed and the views were just glorious.
The ridge ahead, with a distance walker
...and looking back. Superb!
This is a brilliant ridgewalk. The scrambling is optional, but completely straightforward, with the exposure limited to the right side of the ridge. The rock is pleasingly grippy. I had great fun messing around on rocks, picking routes along the ridge, and generally loving every minute of it. All the while the views were terrific, although the clag billowing off the left of the ridge was obscuring the views of the Fiddler and beyond.
Some rather dramatic looking clag
As if this wasn't already enjoyable enough, I managed to get a pretty good brocken spectre and a fogbow at one point.
Before long I was on the final easy slopes to the Ben Mor Coigach's summit. The views to Sgurr an Fhidhleir, and pretty much the NW of Scotland had now opened up and were absolutely jaw-dropping. I muttered something along the lines of "clucking bell" to myself and tried to take it all in. It's easy to understand why so many people fall in love with this area of Scotland. It's truly spectacular, remote, not all that busy (despite the NC500) and still fairly unspoiled. I felt quite privileged to be there, on a day as good as this one had turned out to be.
Ben Mor Coigach summit views. OMG.
I'd read almost every report for these hills and in each one the views from Sgurr an Fhidhleir are even more spectacular. I decided to head for it quickly in case the clag came in early and ruined things The descent is pretty pathless (it's a Graham, let's face it) but over quite quickly. The bealach just before the Fiddler provides some pretty epic views. Stac Pollaidh looks stunning as it appears between the Fiddler's sheer cliffs and Beinn an Eoin.
It seems almost inconceivable that the views could improve, but they do! However I still had about 150m of ascent to deal with. The ground though is pretty easy, with an intermittent path and nice big slabs/boulders making for a quick ascent.
The final ascent to the Fiddler
The summit views from here are quite simply the best I've had from any hill. I spent an eternity up here, savouring the views, taking photos, and demolishing lunch. I also had the summit to myself for nearly an hour. The cairn itself is perched around 10 metres from the edge of a narrow prow which plunges vertically to the lochans below. It really is something else. Anyway, those views:
Dragging myself away from this summit was pretty difficult, but I had to leave eventually. The descent is pretty uneventful with a path starting a few minutes down from the summit and largely in decent nick all the way back to the roadside. The walk had taken 5 hours including stops, but I'd had so much fun, it felt far longer. A simply brilliant walk and another I can't recommend highly enough.
What this morning's views should have looked like
With Friday being our last full day and Anne not feeling 100% we decided to take in some low level easy walks. Firstly the Culag Woods trail which is very pleasant, then heading on to the Leitir Easaidh trail on the other side of Lochinver. Both are short but very enjoyable walks, with the Leitir Easaidh trail being an excellent all-abilities/suitable for wheelchair users trail which takes in a pleasant lochan and has great views of Quinag.
Culag Woods White Shore Path
Quinag from Leitir Easaidh route
It had been a very enjoyable day. We decided to head to Achmelvich Bay as sunset looked quite promising and staying a week in this area and not visiting it would be bordering on criminal. Once there we decided to follow a clifftop path round to a secluded wee beach to the north of the main Achmelvich Beach which was ideal for sunset.
Perfect end to a fabulous week
Back at the chalet, it was time for the culinary highlight of the week, possibly the year:
So that was the end of our week in Assynt. It's an absolutely sensational place and we're definitely going back next year. We still had a week's holiday to go. You may have noticed the title was "Torrential Torridon".... well I think the last two years of luck and amazing weather caught us up somewhat. Out of seven days, we had gale force winds and driving rain for about five and a half of them It started so promisingly with a sunny drive back out through Ullapool. We took the coast road past Dundonnell etc, which was lovely, before stopping in at the superb Whistle Stop Cafe in Kinlochewe for some soup. Coming to Kinlochewe is starting to feel like a second home as we absolutely love it here, and still do despite the atrocious weather. Anyway, Saturday was decent.
After ditching all our gear, I went back to my regular wee spot to get a few photos of Slioch as the sun set on it Torridon.
Slioch at Sunset
Faffing about with long exposures
The next couple of days featured non-stop diabolical weather. Every check of the various forecasting apps was an exercise in spirit-crushing misery. The highlight of the first half of the week was removing a tick that had somehow managed to find it's way into my upper arm
The rain finally relented a little on Wednesday and I met up with our Torridon buddies Allison and Craig for a quick walk round the Loch Clair/Loch Coulin circuit, somehow staying fairly dry. Not much in the way of photo highlights, save for a group of bored looking highland coos, and plenty of cloud.
How Torridon looked most of the week
The weather continued to be awful, but cabin fever got the better of me on Thursday afternoon, and i headed along Glen Torridon hoping to get a few photos of Liathach (between rain storms). I also had a wee explore around Torridon village itself before the rains hit with an absolute deluge
A fairly promising forecast for Friday morning meant a hill day. With Anne now feeling a bit better, we decided upon nearby Beinn a'Chearcaill. A graham which was one of our few target hills that was doable in a shortish timescale and didn't need a likely dodgy river crossing. The light wasn't really ideal for photos, but it was good to not get soaked
The walk itself is pretty straightforward for the most part, with a decent path taking us out of the corrie and onto the gradual summit slopes. From here it's pathless boulder hopping up to a totally bizarre summit plateau which consisted of giant slabs, and glorious views to all the major nearby hills.
As a side note, the hydro scheme below appears complete and seems like it will soon look reasonably tidy.
A few photos:
Slioch from the ascent route
Ruadh Stac Beag and the Beinn Eighe ridges
A small lochan just after exiting the glen below
Looking back to Slioch and towards Fisherfield
The strange summit plateau - it looks like one enormous slab
Out to Beinn Dearg and beyond
After getting back to our cottage, fed and changed we headed off to the Kinlochewe Hotel with Allison and Craig for a farewell pint. The second week didn't quite match our hopes in terms of walks and weather, but still highly enjoyable. We'll be back!
by PeteR » Sun Oct 08, 2017 8:23 pm
Some absolutely fantastic imaged there JP
by Mal Grey » Sun Oct 08, 2017 8:30 pm
by Owen b » Sun Oct 08, 2017 9:07 pm
I think that's me . I think you parked next to me in the Culnacraig parking area and set off a few minutes behind me. I said hello briefly as I was putting my boots on and I was aware of you not far behind me. It was brilliant how the cloud lifted as I got higher with first the south side clearing and then the whole lot clearing. Somehow or other I missed the stag and the brocken spectre. The couple in the camper van also reported the brocken spectre when I got back to the car. I added on the Graham of Beinn an Eoin which made for a tough day. Was probably the best day of a fantastic week in the area, I managed to get Corbetts or Grahams done every day. Was clagged on all three Corbetts of Quinag the day before you were there though . Thanks for sharing the great photos.
by Alteknacker » Sun Oct 08, 2017 9:16 pm
by jupe1407 » Mon Oct 09, 2017 12:21 am
Some absolutely fantastic imaged there JP
Thanks Pete. I was pretty jammy the first week, not so much the second
Alteknacker wrote:Notwithstanding the rain, you seem to have had some really decent weather, and hence some really fabulous pics of what is clearly a wonderful place - that I still have to get to! And no excuses, now that I'm retired .
Retired? Excellent! ... get yourself to Assynt, it's genuinely unforgettable. As is the Pie Shop in Lochinver
Owen b wrote:I think that's me . I think you parked next to me in the Culnacraig parking area and set off a few minutes behind me. I said hello briefly as I was putting my boots on and I was aware of you not far behind me. It was brilliant how the cloud lifted as I got higher with first the south side clearing and then the whole lot clearing. Somehow or other I missed the stag and the brocken spectre. The couple in the camper van also reported the brocken spectre when I got back to the car. I added on the Graham of Beinn an Eoin which made for a tough day. Was probably the best day of a fantastic week in the area, I managed to get Corbetts or Grahams done every day. Was clagged on all three Corbetts of Quinag the day before you were there though . Thanks for sharing the great photos.
Hi Owen, yes that will be you. I wasn't far behind you on the ridge, until I started faffing around taking photos and scrambling about on the rocks Beinn an Eoin looked a fair distance away, I thought you'd maybe gone onto Beinn nan Caorach when I got back and your car was still there. What a day though! I spoke to the other couple in the car park, they were up for quite a long trip around the north west.
by jmarkb » Mon Oct 09, 2017 10:56 am
by apollo0815 » Mon Oct 09, 2017 11:25 am
That is sooooooooooooooooooooo unfair
by jupe1407 » Mon Oct 09, 2017 5:45 pm
jmarkb wrote:Excellent photos, as usual! Looks like you did really win on the NW Highlands weather lottery this time, but you still got to do the two best walks in Assynt/Coigach (in my opinion anyway), and with good views. Hope you get a chance to play again soon!
Thanks Jmarkb Both Quinag and Coigach were fantastic. Probably two of my overall favourite walks, let alone the NW.
apollo0815 wrote:Thanks, I really hate you now:) For doing the stuff I want to do next year just now, meaning Falls of Kirkaig, the fiddler, the whole of Quinag and so on. And as if this wasn't enough, your photos are far better than anything I will catch:)
That is sooooooooooooooooooooo unfair
You might get even better weather for it You'll absolutely love it, The Fiddler is sensational though, if I had to pick one
by apollo0815 » Mon Oct 09, 2017 6:24 pm
jupe1407 wrote:You might get even better weather for it You'll absolutely love it, The Fiddler is sensational though, if I had to pick one
Ok, you might be right there, because it will be May:)
by EmmaKTunskeen » Mon Oct 09, 2017 6:29 pm
by BobMcBob » Mon Oct 09, 2017 10:30 pm
by Jaxter » Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:11 am
by jupe1407 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:35 am
EmmaKTunskeen wrote:Oh wow, wow, wow, what a beautiful report and what amazing photos. I love Ben Mor Coigach, so it's been a real treat to revisit it here through your lens and joy! I also had a Brocken Spectre there in August, but from Sgurr an Fhidhleir (instead of views...).
BobMcBob wrote:Some wonderful photos of Assynt there, an area I still have not spent enough time in. I was on the campsite in Kinlochewe the day you arrived. I went south to Glen Shiel the next day, and actually I think had worse weather than you did, I have literally no photos from that week at all
Thanks Bob, I think the whole of the NW was garbage last week weather-wise. Thank goodness I had a few books to read
Jaxter wrote:Wonderful stuff Jp, been looking forward to this The Coigach ridge is amazing isn't it, it's worth carrying onto another wee summit after the Fiddler for more awesome views (plus it makes the day last longer ) Your talk of pies is making me starving even tho its first thing in the morning and I've eaten.... those pies are drool worthy
The whole walk is excellent, even the walk out is quick and easy. I considered carrying on to Beinn nan Caorach (I think you mean that one?), but tbh I couldn't be bothered, I'd finished my food on SaF and my knee was yarking a bit. Will definitely do it again, likely with a wild camp as you suggested
Would a Lochinver Pie for breakfast be wrong?
by BlackPanther » Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:54 am
Glad you discovered Beinn a'Chearcaill. Such a lovely hill with spectacular views and the flat summit plateau is just weird... We were almost blown away from the summit on a windy winter day, then Kevin drowned in waist deep snow on the way down . Must go back and enjoy it in slightly less hampering conditions
The Coulin Coos are getting a lot of publicity on Walkhighlands, I photographed them a few weeks ago when we walked the circuit. They looked just as bored