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Fun in the back of beyond: Stack of Glencoul

Fun in the back of beyond: Stack of Glencoul


Postby malky_c » Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:02 am

Route description: Eas a' Chual Aluinn - Britain's highest waterfall

Date walked: 03/06/2018

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 16 km

Ascent: 1390m

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Hills of no particular designation: Stack of Glencoul, Cnoc na Creige.
Date: 03/06/2018.
Distance: 16 km.
Ascent: 1390 m.
Time: 6 hours, 30 minutes.
Weather: Clammy and cloudy turning to warm sunshine.

Another weekend of good weather, and again the temptation was to head NW somewhere. The forecast seemed to be suggesting that thunderstorms would be less likely the further north I went, so I set off for Assynt, thinking Quinaig would be a good shout, albeit with a slightly different starting point to the north. However the cloying clag over the Moray Firth hadn't lifted as I hit the west coast, and by the time I reached Assynt, therw were only small bits of the higher hills on show. I had planned to cap off my walk with a quick visit to the beach at Achmelvich, but I decided to do this first instead, as it wasn't unpleasant, and still quite warm. I could relax and plan some alternative walks there.

Rather than drive to the YHA and campsite at Achmelvich as I usually do, I headed slightly further along the twisty Stoer road and parked up at the point that the coastal path meets the road. I followed this for 15 minutes or so as it wound up and down, and emerged at a small sandy cove just around the corner from the main Achmelvich beach. This one is a bit more secluded, and just as stunning with white sands and turquoise water. Much as I have enjoyed some of the pleasant beaches of NE England recently, they don't come close to this!

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The path to Achmelvich

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Achmelvich Bay

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Lovely...

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Not as warm as it looks...

I took a quick paddle in the water but didn't fancy stripping off for a proper swim (so no inappropriate photos this time :shock: ), then found a nice rock to sit on and plan the rest of my day. Quinaig could still be fun in this weather, but I could see the perfect opportunity to finally visit Eas a' Chual Aluinn and the Stack of Glencoul. I can't remember how many times I have intended to take a wander into this area. Could I really have been so shallow as to ignore it for its lack of hills on lists :roll: ? Surely not! Then again, the Stack of Glencoul does make an appearance in one of my earliest WH posts - a list of what I wanted to do in 2010, so it is on a list after all :lol: :

What are you 'must do' hills for 2010?
-Baosbeinn and Beinn an Eoin
-Beinn Lair
-Quinaig
-Ben More Coigach
-Some Harris and South Uist hills possibly
-A traverse from Achnasheen to the Dundonnell road taking in the hills I haven't done in that area (mainly Grahams)
-Stack of Glencoul
-Circuit of Loch Mullardoch taking in Toll a Creagaich to Beinn Fionnlaidh, then over to An Sochach and Sgurr na Lapaich (plus all the other hills in between, obviously!)
-More hills in Ardgour


Got there in the end then, even if it's the last thing on there by a long way (barring a couple of the link-ups mentioned).

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One of the sandy coves at Achmelvich Bay

Back to the car and over to the start point on the Kylesku road. If I had been more inclined to stop, Quinaig presented a couple of interesting aspects on the drive along Loch Assynt, sticking out through a partial inversion, but the overall weather still wasn't inspiring me up there. Instead I set off across the mouth of Loch na Gainmhich and onto the faint path climbing towards Cnoc na Creige. This improved as I joined the path from the other side of the loch, but with the clag swirling about, there wasn't much to photograph initially.


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Quinaig trying to clear itself

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One of these isn’t a person

Soon I was dropping down the other side of the hill. Despite the greyness, the ascent had been quite clammy and I was sweating buckets. Even with the swirling cloud, the surroundings were pleasant, and on approaching the top of the falls, the drop down into the glen was undoubtedly impressive! Across the glen, the Stack was trying to shake its cloud cap free.

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Stream down to the falls

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Across to the Stack of Glencoul from the top of the falls

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Big drop!

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Eas a’ Chual Aluinn

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Top of Eas a’ Chual Aluinn

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Eas a' Chual Aluinn and Loch Beag

I had planned to climb back up to the higher path to reach the head of Glen Beag, but there was a worn route that took me across the stream above the falls to a better viewpoint. This also offered an easy route to the floor of the glen, so I carried on this way.

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Down Glen Beag

I had a quick stop, then traversed the side of the glen, ascending a bit again and picking up a short section of path before abandoning it and dropping down to the river on the floor. The sun was beginning to come out now, and the rocky area at the head of the glen looked particularly interesting. I opted to cross the river and walk / scramble up a rib on the far side, before more steep walking took me to the edge of the plateau on the far side. With all of the lovely gneiss slabs about, it felt like walking on Harris.

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Leathad Riabach of Beinn Uidhe

Before heading for the Stack, I took in a high point at the eastern end of the plateau, which had spectacular views across the ground to the rear of Ben More Assynt. This looked like a mini Rannoch Moor with lochans sparkling all over it - another walk required to explore this sometime I think :) .

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Gorm Loch Mor and the Assynt hinterland

On the plateau with the sun out, the day was just getting better and better. There was short turf and slabs to walk over, a high lochan to one side and the big drop to Glen Beag on the other. The knobble of the Stack of Glencoul was ahead with Loch Glencoul spread out behind. There were endless high-camp opportunities up here which made me wish I was out overnight - what a spot 8) .

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Loch nan Caorach

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Across Loch nan Caorach to Beinn Leoid

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Stack of Glencoul from the south

Some good long-distance views across to the Eas a' Chual Aluinn were soon followed by the last steep clamber to the summit of the Stack of Glencoul, which didn't disappoint, perched as it is at the end of Loch Glencoul. I could see down the craggy line of Glen Coul itself to the bothy by the loch, and beyond to Kylesku and the sea. This was worth a decent break to admire.

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Eas a’ Chual Aluinn

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Eas a’ Chual Aluinn

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Down Loch Beag and Loch Glencoul

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Loch nan Caorach

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Eagle? More likely a buzzard

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Deer on the summit

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East to Ben More Assynt from the Stack of Glencoul

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Summit of Stack of Glencoul

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West from the Stack of Glencoul

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Beinn Leoid

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Crags in Glen Coul

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Down Loch Glencoul from the summit

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Summit of the Stack of Glencoul

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Ben More Assynt and Loch nan Caorach

Ideally I would have liked to drop down Glen Coul to the bothy, but I had already taken way longer than I expected to get here, so I decided to go for plan B - a direct descent into Glen Beag to stand right beneath Eas a' Chual Aluinn, before heading back up over the summit of Cnoc na Creige.

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Back to the summit

The descent was steep, but with some weaving around, it was easy to avoid any crags. The floor of the glen was pretty rough, and really I was here at the wrong time of the day to get a decent shot of the falls, but again, what a place. With a tent, it would be so easy to forget the idea of a structured walk and just explore the various outcrops, lochans and shorelines round here for ever.

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Descending the Stack of Glencoul

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Head of Glen Beag

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Eas a’ Chual Aluinn

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Loch Beag

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The Stack from Glen Beag

I hadn't really been able to get a good look at the southern slopes of Glen Beag to choose the best way up, but I was sure it would be possible somehow. I was right, although it was a hard, sweaty pull though slimy outcrops, loose stream beds and waist-deep heather. I might moan about this sort of terrain in the Pennines or other less interesting places, but somewhere like this, it is a small price to pay for the places you can get to :lol: .

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Across Loch Glencoul

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Across Loch Glencoul

Some time (and half-a-dozen buckets of sweat) later, I had managed to clear myself of the heather, and was back in lovely short turf and easy terrain. While the summit of Cnoc na Creige sits back a bit from Loch Glencoul, I could spot a cairn to the north, which I guesses marked a pretty decent viewpoint. It did indeed 8) .

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Beinn Leoid from Cnoc na Creige

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Loch Glen Coul from Cnoc na Creige

It might just have been the weather and seductive mix of short dry turf and slabs of rock, but this spot reminded me very much of Druim a' Chuirn on the south side of Loch Morar - a pretty remote Marilyn and definitely sneaking into the top 20 viewpoints in the Highlands. Cnoc na Creige wasn't quite as good, but it was as deserving of a visit as any of the other coastal Marilyns in the NW.

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Glencoul Bothy and Loch Glencoul

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East to Beinn Uidhe

I moved onto the main summit, from where you would normally get a first class view of Quinaig. It didn't look too bad today, but with the sun behind it and too much haze, it wasn't at its most spectacular.

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Glas Bheinn from Cnoc na Creige

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Loch a’ Chairn Bhain from Cnoc na Creige

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Quinaig across Loch na Gainmhich

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Suilven in the distance

It was an easy task to descend towards Loch na Gainmhich and rejoin my outward route close to the start point, where Glas-bheinn was doing a good job of catching the evening light.

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Glas Bheinn

Perhaps down to me spending too much time down south, but this was easily my favourite walk of the year so far...and not a ticklist in site! The weather was doing all sorts of strange things on the drive home, with patches of drifting cloud dissipating back into sunshine again, but by the time I reached home, the Moray Firth and Inverness were back in the haar.
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malky_c
 
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Re: Fun in the back of beyond: Stack of Glencoul

Postby litljortindan » Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:34 pm

Grand scenery.
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Re: Fun in the back of beyond: Stack of Glencoul

Postby Mal Grey » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:19 am

Fabulous report, with great images of this wonderful part of the world. Rather an adventurous route, too!
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Re: Fun in the back of beyond: Stack of Glencoul

Postby Alteknacker » Sat Jun 09, 2018 2:41 pm

What a wonderful place - and the weather did play ball in the end! I keep saying it: I must get up there (mind you, just had 3 days on Arran, which, midgies notwithstanding, was pretty fine!)

I love the pic of Quinaig part-shrouded in diaphanous cloud - very artistic!!

I tried to send you a PM again, without success I suppose - it's gone from my box, but obviously not reached you. Could you try pinging me a PM with your email....?
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