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Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Aug 02, 2018 7:58 pm

Route description: Sgùrr na Cìche: 3 Munros from Loch Arkaig

Munros included on this walk: Garbh Chioch Mhòr, Sgùrr na Cìche, Sgùrr nan Coireachan (Glen Dessary)

Date walked: 09/07/2018

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 26.5 km

Ascent: 1510m

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I heard stories about this traverse. All kind of stories. But one doesn't really need to listen to hillwalking gossip, to know that the ridge of Sgurr na Ciche is a tough round. Maybe not a drasticly long distance to cover, but 1500m of ascent speak for themselves. Adding the fact that it's mostly on rough terrain in one of the remotest corners of Scotland might put many walkers off. As we are on our quest to finish the Munro list and in general, we love a challenge from time to time, no amount of bad publicity could stop us from laying siege to the rough bounds of Knoydart! :lol:
To make things a bit easier, we agreed we'd only tackle this route if weather is perfect. Which meant: 1. Dry, preferably after a prolonged spell of dry conditions 2. No cloud, so we could see the views properly (what's the point if you can't see anything???) 3. Low winds, so we don't get blown off the rocky ridge 4. Warm but no scorchio, so we don't need to carry gallons of water with us. 5. On a long enough day, so we don't end up walking back in the dark.
When looking at the above wish list, you'll probably say: what's the probability of having such a day in Scotland??? :lol: But we were in luck this summer. Monday, the 9 of July was exactly the right day. Warm, sunny but not overly hot, dry, low winds, etc. So the decision was taken: we're going up the Silent Ridge!
Why Silent Ridge? Let me explain. The word CICHE (pronounced cee-hee) means QUIET in Polish, so no wonder I nicknamed Sgurr na Ciche "The Quiet Mountain" and that evolved into "The Silent Ridge" in reference to the three Munros: Sgurr na Ciche, Sgurr nan Coireachan and Garbh Chioch Mhor.
We opted for the usual approach to the trio, from Glen Dessarry. The walk-in (and out) is on a decent track to Upper Glendessarry, then on a reasonable path. The paths in the upper glen are said to be soggy, but we encountered very little bog even higher up, that's what summer of 2018 did to Scotland!

Track_SGURR NA CICHE 09-07-18.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Starting from the car park at the upper end of Loch Arkaig, we calculated we had roughly 13.5 hours of daylight which should be more than enough. The initial stage was walked quickly, on a good track to the Upper Glendessarry cottage:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 003.JPG

You might have noticed the overcast cloud in the sky. Forecast was for the cloud to become patchy later on, but we were glad to have a cloudier day to start with. It meant we were not boiling hot from the very first miles and didn't use as much water. Also I didn't have to stop every 30 minutes to re-apply the sticky sunscreen to my UV allergic skin.
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 008.JPG

The path past the buildings in Upper Glendessarry was lumpy-bumpy in places, but overall good going. Dry as well which was a blessing. As every trip comes with some kind of problem, Kevin complained a bit about his boots, it was his turn to suffer from rubbing heels :roll: It took him a few stops and sock/inner soles swaps to get the right combination.
After a couple of hours of brisk walking, we reached the crossing of Allt Coire nan Uth which marks the beginning of the long, stiff climb to Sgurr nan Coireachan:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 015 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Having crossed the stream, we located a small cairn marking the start of a well-worn path up the first Munro. The angle is steep most of the way and there is no way to sugarcoat the fact that it's a relentless, laborious ascent of 700m. The path can be followed easily and it avoids all rocky sections, but it is a tiring experience.
The acute angle never changes:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 024.JPG

...but the views back down to Glen Dessary are a sweet addition to the bitter pill:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 027.JPG

Might look very difficult but honestly, the only issue is the steepness. If your muscles can stand the long march up the steep slope, you'll manage.
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 032.JPG

As we gained height, weather was improving (more sunny spells) and so did the views. Very quickly, we entered the world of sharp rocks, criss-crossed with patches of grass. The world of green-grey mosaic, crafted by the hand of nature. So rough yet so beautiful.
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 033.JPG

About 100m below the summit there is a short section where the angle of ascent eases off. We stopped here for some photos and a good slurp of water.
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 043.JPG

View south across Glen Dessary to Glenfinnian hills:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 036.JPG

Loch Nevis, Rum and Eigg:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 038.JPG

Vistas were already mind boggling and the best was yet to come. We were only at the very beginning of a wonderful journey, an experience full of breathtaking moments. How many times that day I stopped and simply gazed at the landscape with my mouth agape, simply struggling to believe that I was really there and saw all that rough beauty with my own eyes?
On the way to the summit of the first Munro:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 056 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
From near the summit, looking down the way we came up:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 061.JPG

On the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan we met two gentlemen, who came up the same way earlier. They said they preferred to divide the walk in two and decided to retrace steps back to Glen Dessarry. Soon they left, leaving us to celebrate the wonderful views around.
On the top of Sgurr nan Coireachan, the easternmost of Silent Ridge Munros. My M no. 240, Lucy's no. 84:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 071.JPG

As you have probably guesses by now, Kevin spent most time on the summit wandering around with his camera, taking all sorts of photos. Weather was perfect and we knew we were so lucky to get good conditions up there, it would be a sin NOT to record what we saw.
Mr Cameraman:
ImageDSCF1082 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
A few chosen snaps from the summit. I had to restrict myself to less than 10 otherwise this TR would have no end :lol:
Knoydart Corbetts and Sgurr na Ciche (left):
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 063.JPG

What was yet to come - The Silent Ridge in full glory.
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 064.JPG

Sgurr Mor and Sgurr an Fhuarain:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 050.JPG

Panorama to the north and east:
ImageDSCF1075 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The south-eastern pano:
ImageDSCF1076 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The western pano:
ImageDSCF1074 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
As we sat on the summit chewing sandwiches, we studied the 1-25k map and the WH description (sometimes it's handy to have a printout of that). Looking down to Bealach Coire nan Gall, we thought it was going to be even tougher going from now on, especially when traversing the long ridge to Garbh Chioch Mhor. The WH description of this particular section sounded very scary:
"The going is exceptionally rough with many steep ascents and descents and twists and turns to avoid rocky obstacles. It will probably take longer than expected to reach the cairn on this second Munro."
:shock: :shock: :shock:
As we studied the view in front of us, we saw two walkers near the top of Garbh Chioch Bheag, moving steadily up the ridge. Well, whoever they were, they could do it, so why shouldn't we?
Scary-looking next stage of walking:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 078.JPG

I had a moment of doubt at some point, mentioning to Kevin that maybe we should divide the Silent Ridge in two, but he was adamant that I should stop moaning, believe in myself and move my a*** down the mountain!
Ahhh men and their lack of understanding for female emotions :lol: :lol:
Or maybe I needed a good telling-off, because he was right. I could do it easily. Later, when looking back at the Silent Ridge, I agreed there had been no need to worry. There is still life in the old cat!
We were walking into the wind now (it wasn't too strong but felt a bit chilly), so I pulled up my hoodie, grabbed my walking pole and gave the Silent Ridge one last look, before starting the descent into Bealach Coire nan Gall.
Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 080 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The descent is steep initially but an obvious, eroded path can be followed all the way down to the bealach. From here, it's about 230m of ascent to the lower top, Garbh Chioch Bheag, and another 50m to the summit of the second Munro. So much for the statistics. According to Walkhighlands walk description, we should expect a lot of additional up and down, so I braced myself for a very tough ascent and waited for the pain to come.
Sgurr nan Coireachan from Bealach Coire nan Gall - panorama:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 083.JPG

The first stage of the ascent up the second Munro is steep but again, a reasonable path follows an old stone dyke. With good visibility, we had no navigating problems. It actually went much smoother than expected and soon we were nearing Garbh Chioch Bheag:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 087.JPG

A little pano of what was yet to come:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 086 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
As we traversed The Silent Ridge, I wondered where was all that additional ascend and descent? The only significant descent I registered was about 100m up the initial stage, where there is a short drop on the ridge. Later on, it's all steady uphill.
Looking back to Sgurr nan Coireachan and the lower reaches of the ridge:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 099.JPG

Near the lower top, the path becomes more sketchy and in places we had to scramble. Well, we didn't exactly HAVE TO (you could find alternative bypasses if you were very stubborn not to touch the rocks) but we wanted to and we enjoyed the easy scrambling sections:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 096 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Anybody for more fun and games?
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 100.JPG

From the top of Garbh Chioch Bheag, it's almost flat walking to the top of the Munro. Well, "almost flat" by my standards :lol: :lol: :lol:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 114.JPG

Ben Nevis on the horizon:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 121.JPG

Strange maneuvers on the path:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 124.JPG

OK, it's not exactly flat, there are a few short, steep ascents with at least two places of easy scrambling (if you stick to the old stone dyke) but I was in my element and couldn't stop meowing!
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 127 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Just before the final push to the second Munro of the day, we stopped to admire the northern cliffs of Garbh Chioch Mhor. So impressive...
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 133.JPG

Weather has improved even more, sunshine everywhere and the high cloud was reduced to patches here and there. But the cool breeze meant it didn't feel hot at all.
View back east to Loch Quoich:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 130.JPG

With Lucy (M no. 85) on my 241st Munro. Behind us, the most interesting part of Silent Ridge, between Garbh Chioch Mhor and Garbh Chioch Bheag:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 147.JPG

Panoramic version of the view:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 159 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
As we sat down to have something to eat, I asked Kevin:
"What's the fuss all about??? Where was that horrific amount of ascent and descent en route???"
He just laughed.
"You're probably applying advanced settings to the game and expect the worst!"
He Who Always Knows Best posing with the summit cairn of Garbh Chioch Mhor:

Regardless of our feelings about the middle section of Silent Ridge, the day was not over yet. We still had another Munro to climb, and the most famous one of the three:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 152.JPG

After a short resting break, we started the descent to the next bealach, Feadan na Ciche. Views were amazing in all directions and we kept stopping for photos. Initially, we still followed the stone wall:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 161.JPG

Lower down, the slope becomes steeper and we encountered a few large steps where we had to stretch our legs down vertical rocks to reach the path below, but you can hardly call it scrambling:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 168.JPG

About half way down, we stopped to study the final ascent to Sgurr na Ciche. We spied a path down the lower section. Later we discovered that this path, in one or another form, can be followed all the way to the summit. In the snap below, the line of the path is marked with red dots:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 167.jpg

From Feadan na Ciche, it all looks plain sailing:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 179.JPG

...but higher up, it's very steep and rocky. Care should be taken here, especially in bad weather, as it's very easy to step onto a loose stone:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 189.JPG

Garbh Chioch Mhor from somewhere up Sgurr na Ciche:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 185 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Panther on the eroded path:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 191 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
After roughly 200m of ascent, most of it steep and eroded, we emerged on the summit, to be welcomed by fantastic views. Sgurr na Ciche is like the icing on the cake for this route. The Silent Ridge, from Sgurr nan Coireachan to this point, is like a long and winding road, leading to the final peak, and on a sunny day there could be no better reward for the long day of climbing than arriving on Sgurr na Ciche to face the undisturbed view down to Loch Nevis:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 200.JPG

On the summit of my 242nd Munro with our wee companion:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 221.JPG

She is seriously addicted to hillwalking now! The Silent Ridge in the background:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 223.JPG

Kevin just as gobsmacked as I was, posing with the cairn, and distant Loch Quoich:

Loch Quoich zoomed:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 214.JPG

A few snaps from the summit - enjoy.
The wild wild west:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 210 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
North and east:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 209 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Beinn Sgritheall and Loch Hourn:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 213.JPG

Mighty Ladhar Bheinn:
2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 215.JPG

The rough bounds:
ImageDSCF1092 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
ImageDSCF1094 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
I find it hard to describe the feeling of elation and total bliss we had, sitting on the summit and sinking in the views. But there was still one issue before we could say: veni, vidi, vici (and in my case meow). We still had to walk back to the starting point :lol:
Luckily, the recent dry weather meant, even the steep descents were doable if with care:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 227 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We returned to Feadan na Ciche, carefully picking our way down the eroded slopes. From here, the route descends into a narrow, rocky gully. From above, it looks easy:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 232 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
...but about half way down there is a steeper section and if we didn't know that this is the easiest route down the ridge, we might have second thoughts about following that gully!
Ehmmm, Kevin, are you sure this is the way down?...
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 235 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
It just looks bad from above. We encountered hardly any scrambling and there is a vague path all the way. The gully would be a different story in wet weather though, if the tiny stream dripping down the middle turns into a rushing river!
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 237 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
I must say that the gully makes for a good place to pose for scary photos, one to show later to your non-hillwalking friends, just to say "Look where I've been, look what I climbed". And then, you smile with pride when they look at you, gasping "WOW!".
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 242 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Once out of the gully, the rest of the descent is said to be very squelchy, but we encountered hardly any bog. There is a well worn path to follow:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 248 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Saying good bye to Sgurr na Ciche. I'd love to return one day. What a mountain.
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 250 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Glen Dessarry from above, our return route:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 255 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Lower down, we joined an eroded ATV track, which descends into the forest of Glen Dessarry. Above us, the mountains we just climbed, basked in the evening sunshine:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 260 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The glen was steaming with wildlife, like this emperor moth caterpillar:
Image2018-07-09 sgurr na ciche 262 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
There are two options on the return walk. One is to stay on the track through the forest, the other is to follow the upper path above the tree line. We chose the latter as we wanted to keep the views for longer. A few clegs came out for their evening meal, not as many as in previous weeks though, I think their hatching season is mostly over and thank God for small favours. They had been unbelievably annoying this year :?
It was half past nine when we returned to the car but we didn't push it on the way back as we knew that we had more than enough time before sunset. So 11 hours it took but I don't regret a single second spend in the wild, wild west of Scotland. Days like that happen once in a lifetime. This is one adventure I'll never forget.
After flying so high, in the following days it was more down-to-earth experience on Isle of Skye, when weather turned sour. We still managed to climb a few smaller hills and visited the cliffs, then had fantastic time during the WH Meet. So I have more TR's to write, mostly shorter ones. So in the next story, we'll be off to the Misty Isle :D
Last edited by BlackPanther on Mon Nov 04, 2019 1:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Postby martin.h » Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:11 am

Great report and photo's BP, many thanks for describing this route in such detail, it's very helpful, we're hoping to do this route in September if the good weather gods allow it, as with yourselves, we like to see the views after we've worked hard to get to the summits, Sgurr na Ciche would be a good 'un for my 200th if it works out and the "Silent Ridge" would be a great way to get there:D
Thanks again,
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Re: Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Postby BoyVertiginous » Fri Aug 03, 2018 12:30 pm

Thanks for sharing the words and pics, BP. Have several similar photos, having followed in some of your footsteps just 4 days later, in similar conditions. We camped on the beach at Strathan and went into Glen Kingie to take on Gairich, Sgurr an Fhuarain & Sgurr Mor before continuing to these ones, such a brilliant day and great memories flooding back seeing this. The summits around there are hard won, tackled 3 Corbetts the next day and there was another 2600m ascent in them.
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Re: Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Postby malky_c » Fri Aug 03, 2018 5:08 pm

Looked like a brilliant day out 8) . The pair of you have been pretty busy this year!
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Re: Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Postby BlackPanther » Sat Aug 04, 2018 4:44 pm

Many thanks, guys :D It's been a superb year so far and the Ciche traverse was definitely one of the highlights! I wanted to share our experience in detail and I'm glad my TR was useful... Though I think that this particular ridge does not need any advertising!

Sadly, our mountain madness must be put on hold for a few weeks, Kevin has a painful injury (torn muscle) so we must wait till that heals, hopefully it mends without surgical intervention.
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Re: Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Postby dogplodder » Sat Aug 04, 2018 6:21 pm

It was good to read this report as it's an area I've not so far ventured into. Will come in very useful if and when I eventually get round to it! :thumbup:
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Re: Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Sun Aug 05, 2018 7:05 pm

A truly inspirational report BP, even by your high standards. Many thanks for the detail about the walk itself, for the stunning photos and the wonderful sense of awe you both so obviously felt. :lol: :lol: We have a painting of Sgurr na Ciche on the dining room wall and this route was high on the list for this year but sadly accidents and illness have shredded this year's hill plans. Sorry to hear that Kevin is suffering form the same sort of affliction - sincerely hope he recovers soon :D
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Re: Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Postby Mal Grey » Sun Aug 05, 2018 8:54 pm

Looks absolutely superb!

I've only managed the first summit, in horrible wet clag, at which point we said "bugger this" and turned the other direction to quickly tick the Corbett with the long name and get the heck down to A' Chuil bothy instead.
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Re: Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:40 pm

Great stuff - some really fine pics there! I walked these in May in similar weather, and it's most enjoyable to look at other folks' pics of this wonderful wonderful place! (Indeed you have a pic that almost shows where I camped near the summit of Garbh Chioch Beag!). Like you, I didn't encounter anything especially difficult on the ridge in scrambling terms, or up-and-downs on the ascents - not sure where that comes from...

I too spent a lot of time savouring the views, but I think this was partly because I was so exhausted (heat, dehydration, old age!). It really is the kind of place you want to spend hours in, isn't it??
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Re: Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Postby BlackPanther » Tue Aug 07, 2018 6:46 pm

Many thanks again, everyone :D I've been busy recently but I will post the rest of stuff we walked in July soon. Nothing as epic as the one above, but some nice shorter routes.

I hope we will walk the Silent Ridge again one day. It is indeed a very special place. The whole area is marvelous, amazing views and not as scary as one might think!

Kevin is recovering slowly. It will take some time before he takes to the hills again, he needs to give his torn muscle time to heal. Thankfully it doesn't hinder his work. Last weekend we went to Highland Wildlife Park - there are still other things to do apart from mountains :D
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Re: Sgurr na Ciche, here we come!

Postby petenelliewalking » Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:11 pm

Truly sensational. Arguably the most impressive set of photos I've seen from a walk. Well done!
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