Sorry, this TR is a wee bit old because it's a report of my yearly Scotland hiking tour from May 2019. In the last years I usually wrote the english version for this forum first and afterwards translated the whole report into german (my mother tongue). This time I did it the other way round. First I wrote the german version, completely forgot about hte english version and only when user "AlteKnacker" reminded me of the missing english version I used Google translate to compile the english version which I re-read and corrected where the translation was nonsense or incomprehensible. It might still sound a bit odd in places. But Google translate has made a lot of progress in recent years and the translation results are quite good. So enjoy this report and feel free to comment or ask questions...
The annual "May Scotland Tour" took place last year (7th - 12th May 2019) as well and those who have followed my reports of the past 9 years can already imagine what kind of tour we wanted to do this year.
Planning the trip was easier than the years before. Once again I used the GMail search to find the email with the tour suggestions from last year, deleted the last years tour and came up with a new idea and finally had a list with the following options:
- Glen Etive
- Cairngorms (as a general area, of course not all munros)
- Cuillins on Skye
- South Glen Shiel Ridge from Cluanie to Knoydart
- Fannichs near Ullapool
- Glen Lyon
- other scottish regions that have a number of munros
The decision fell on Glen Shiel quite quickly, even though the two friends who started the yearly Scotland tours in 2004 had already walked parts of the ridge. That could be an advantage for me, because on the one hand the area is really beautiful and a bit more rugged and rough than Ben Alder where we were in 2018, and on the other hand I was able to reduce the munro number difference to my friends.
Anyone who has read the older tour reports knows that we do a mix of hiking and mountaineering. That means we drive a rental car from the airport to the Highlands (quick shopping on the way) and hike to a region with numerous Munros, which we then climb in round trips from the tent during the following days. Usually the location of the camp is changed once or twice in between so that we can reach as many Munros as possible.
We had already hiked along the "5 Sisters" Ridge north of Glen Shiel in 2013 and, despite the rain and cold, we really liked the area. This time it was to be the ridge south of the Glen Shiel, also known as the South Glen Shiel Ridge or South Cluanie Ridge. In addition we wanted to complete the 3 Munros north of Loch Quoich as well as The Saddle and its neighbour Sgurr na Sgine. Beinn Sgitheall near Arnisdale was optional on the route list, but its location away from the other peaks made it difficult to find a route that included this mountain without huge detours.
And so the usual preparation followed. The flights were booked in January. The rental car followed in April and at the beginning of May we were ready to start. As always, we followed the weather forecast to the end, which forecasted the typical April weather. Cloudy, 2 to 12 ° C, chance of rain between 15 and 45% for the 5 days.
Day 0 - Crossing 3 countries to get to the Cluanie Inn
We started the trip together at 5.45 a.m. and the meeting point was right at my door. As Bilbo Baggins said: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
Now we knew exactly where fate should take us in the next few hours. First on the A17 to the Czech Republic, where we bought a 10 day tax disc.
We drove down the czech D8 motorway towards Prague and followed the less than ideal Google Maps route to the airport. Not ideal, because the route leads over 20km of through Bohemian villages between the motorway and the airport. Having arrived at the airport, we parked in the pre-booked parking garage directly at the airport (990CZK = approx. 38 € for 6 days) and walked into the terminal. Baggage handling and security gate we passed through quickly, so there was even time for a delicious Kozel beer. A little later we sat in the EasyJet Jet and flew to Edinburgh, where we landed around 11.30.
Scotland - Here we come!
This time we had not booked the rental car with any of the major chains (Sixt, Europcar, etc.), but with GreenMotion, which is located somewhat outside the airport area. There had the cheapest offer as we did not want to pay €400 for a station wagon and 6 days. The shuttle bus was found quickly and the journey to GreenMotion took less than 5 minutes. GreenMotion can also be reached on foot. After a while we received our "station wagon" ... an SUV Renault Kadjar. The car is nice and big, at least from the outside. But to confirm the prejudices against SUVs, we had a lot of trouble getting all 4 backpacks in the humble trunk. With the 10-year-old Audi A4 with which we drove to Prague, on the other hand, this was not a problem.
The new Queensferry Crossing bridge over the Firth of Forth
After backpacks and travelers were squeezed into the car, we finally started towards Perth. Over the new Queensferry Crossing Bridge we followed the M90 north to Perth where we stopped at the local Tiso like the last few years and purchased a map (British Mountain Map 1:40k - Knoydart, Kintail & Glen Affric) and two gas cartridges. The we drove further north on the A9, which for us is something like the “stairway to heaven”. Well, that's an exaggeration, but the A9 with the constant change from farmland near Perth through the valleys of River Tay, Tummel and Garry up to the Drumochter pass. There, as so often, the rain started with small, later with large drops that pattered on the window. But this time we had hope that things would get better.
Pass of Drumochter - Thats were the Highlands start ... as well as the rain
a nice base for Munro walks - a B&B at the A9
In Dalwhinnie we left the A9 and rolled past the pretty Dalwhinnie distillery northwards and then through the Loch Laggan valley to Spean Bridge. We had to drive behind two heavy-duty transporters that transported small houses (transformer houses, mini offices?). It looked interesting, but it cost us valuable minutes.
a lorry with a house on top - not a snail but equally slow
In Spean Bridge we turned to Fort William and went shopping at the Morrisons right at the train station. While shopping it was important to exercise extreme caution, because nothing is more dangerous than shopping very hungry after a long flight and a long journey. There is simply a great risk of buying too much. But in retrospect, we purchased the right amount of food. Perhaps this is also due to the fact that we had carried out a before / after comparison in recent years, so that we now know quite well how much bread, pasta, couscous etc. we need.
Shopping in Fort William - £ 100 is enough for 5 days or for just 2 hours at the end of the tour at Kintail Lodge
Out of the Morrisons, we headed straight for the McD directly opposite and treated ourselves to a large meal with too many calories and bad ingredients.
Along the way to Kintail we stopped at the Commando Memorial, which is very nicely located.
Past the Lochs Lochy, Garry, Loyne and Cluanie we arrived at the Cluanie Inn a little later, where expansion work was taking place. Fortunately, the narrow driveway east of the Cluanie Inn was free, so we could park here. Now the most difficult task was: changing into hiking clothes, packing the groceries in the backpacks and, since it was raining, getting into rain gear. After a few beers in the warm car it was almost even more difficult to motivate ourselves to go out into the wet and cold evening. By the way, it was now around 19:30, so we had to hurry up if we still wanted to reach our planned camp.
Let's go - At the Cluanie Inn
After a last sip of beer, we started on the road towards Cluanie Lodge and turned west after about 6km. Here I finally had my Scotland hiking feeling under my feet again. Wet grass and moss that released the water with every step and soaked it up like a sponge. It was slowly getting darker and when we finally reached the River Loyne after a little more than 2 hours, there was just enough light to find a dry spot for the tents on a river bend without a head lamp.
Evening at Loch Cluanie
The tents are ready
The tent set-up was a little unusual again after almost a year and took place in the light of the head lamp before we went straight into the sleeping bags. Tomorrow, after all, a big day was planned.
Day 1 - The big round or 6 in one go
In total there are 7 Munros on the Cluanie Ridge which run parallel to the road like a string of pearls. If you include the two Munros (Saddle, Sgurr na Sgine) in the northwest, there are even 9. However, of course we didn't want to walk the entire ridge that day, we just wanted to tick off the 4 eastern Munros as well as the Spidean Mialach and the Gleouraich. Early in the morning, however, the rain dripped onto the tent and we heard this quiet rustling, the perfect mix of rain and some wind. Unfortunately it didn't improve until 9:30, so we had breakfast in the rain and then emptied our backpacks to take only the bare essentials (rain gear, food & drink, valuables). The rest remained in the tents. Since we were already on the south side of the River Loyne, the river crossing was not necessary and we were able to head straight for the slope of Spidean Mialiach, which was hidden in the clouds at the time.
Right after waking up
River bend near our tents
Trees grow in the most impossible places in Scotland, just not on the plain where the deer nibble off the shoots ...
The climb was moderate at first and became even flatter halfway up, even a few small Lochans were present on the slope. However, finding the way became more difficult at about 650m altitude. On the one hand there was fresh snow, on the other hand it was steeper and the visibility was less than 100m in the clouds. That reminded me of last year when we had to cross a very steep snow field in the clouds. It was not that difficult or dangerous today, but it was still very steep over the last hundred meters and very slippery due to the snow cover and therefore not entirely safe.
Who can spot the tents?
The ascent of the first Munro of the year
Overall, it was a little greener than the years before
In the Coire an Spidein
Only a few hundred meters
Shortly before the summit the ground became less steep and we crossed a scree field before we saw the cairn emerging from the fog. The hope of having a nice view from up here was gone. But the least we had the first sip of well-deserved whisky. Not bad either, but we were a little disappointed. After not seeing anything on almost any of the peaks in the past year, this beginning wasn't that much better. Like the years before, we translated the uncomprehensible Gaelic names into something we could remember. Spidean Mialach became “Speedy Mouse”.
The cairn on "Speedy Mouse"
Without stopping for a long time we left the speedy mouse and we followed the ridge west to Gleouraich aka the beautiful Gloria. The saddle between the two Munros was 250m lower, but I did not find the climb to be annoying or even steep. From the saddle we could even see Loch Quoich. The loch is a reservoir, recognizable by the gray banks due to the regulated water level.
a nice ridgewalk
The saddle between Speedy Mouse and Gloria
Gloria was soon reached, but there was significantly less snow here despite the 25m more height. In the meantime, the fresh snow had probably thawed away. We had no view too, so that we did not hang around for long and followed the ridge towards the north-west and descended there via a vaguely recognizable old path. We came out of the clouds 100m below the summit and caught a glimpse of Loch Quoich and the small lodge of Allbeithe. However, there has recently been a series of construction measures in this otherwise quiet and lovely valley, for example the installation of 3 hydropower turbines and a series of driveways. The "highlight", however, was a strange looking cross made up of two perpendicular path sections, the meaning of which remained hidden to us.
Despite the view, it was of course quite gray and cloudy, the sun was hidden behind thick clouds.
Our descent route
The Lodge Alltbeithe (near the small forest in the middle) and the "cross"
Having arrived down in the valley there we ate some cereal bars as a late lunch, unfortunately we couldn't cook because we had left the cooking gear in the tent. Already from far above we had discovered a narrow zigzag path on the south slope of South Cluanie Ridge between Maol Chinn Dearg and Aonach air Chrith, which ran from the valley to the saddle between the two peaks. We started the ascent after we said goodbye to our eldest mate. He wanted to go back to the tents and rest a little.
Short rest before the counter climb
The remaining 3 of us followed the completely grassy path zigzagging up to the ridge. We were puzzled over the purpose of the path, which was too steep and impassable for vehicles. Later, when we discovered more of these trails after 2 days, we came to the conclusion that they had been created many years or maybe even centuries ago to build a fence on the top of the ridge so that the grazing cattle would not enter the neighboring valley.
First descent, now counter ascent again. Can nobody build a bridge here?
The zigzag path up to the saddle. A relic of the past
It was noticeably colder on the ridge than in the Glen, and thanks to the sweaty climb and cold wind, we were frozen pretty quickly. And of course there was snow up here again.
I was wondering why were we up here again, without a view, in snow, cold and wind? Oh yes. Munro bagging. The next Munro was the Maol Chinn Dearg about 1km to our left, which we reached after a short climb. Nothing up here kept us apart from the mental check mark that we could put on the Munro list and so we trotted further east to Aonach air Chrith, then to Druim Shionnach and finally to the last Munro of the day, Creag a'Mhaim.
Cold, but at least we were there. On the Druim Shionnach
Thats how it looked all 6km of the bloody ridge
There was nothing special on the 6km along the ridge. The wind pulled heavily on the rain cover of the backpack, it was snowing now and then. Nevertheless, the path was mostly clearly visible, so that we had no problems finding our way. But the visibility was always poor, the colours (or lack thereof) white and gray alternated. The ridgewalk was very reminiscent of last year when we also had zero visibility on almost all mountains. However, there was more snow back then, which made the tour a bit more dangerous. There was little snow this time, so that even small stones were still clearly visible.
Navigating with GPS. Sure, the technology is cool, but a compass and a map in the sun it would have been slightly better
The last kilometers before we could say "Basta! Now pasta!"
After 3 hours on the ridge we had left Creag a Mhaim behind and after some time we reached the path we had walked from the Cluanie Inn to the first camp yesterday. And so we were familiar with the rest of the way and shortly before nine we reached the tents after a long and tiring day. We quickly cooked pasta in the tent before we drifted into sleep to the gently scraping of the drizzle and dreamed of sun in the Highlands and a panroramic view of the all peaks.
Day 2 - And we move camp spots
Feeling tired. A look at the clock. Too early to get up. Noise check: rain? Nothing. Very good. Nevertheless, I turn around again and we get up around 9. After the usual little breakfast, we move on around 11 a.m. It just takes a little while until everything is packed again.
Drying the gear, Sorting everything and packing ...
A look back...
The weather is indecisive ... clouds, sun within a few minutes
On the roadside...
Today, the move from one camp to the next is the main priority. Overall, we camped 5 nights on this tour. twice at the same spot and once at the Morvich campground.
So we walked up the valley of the River Loyne westwards. A clear path makes walking easy and takes us in 90 minutes directly to the Alltbeithe Lodge / House / Building on the northern tip of Loch Quoich. We had already seen the house yesterday from the slope of the Gleouriach, together with all the construction activities in this valley. Shortly before the big cross we turn right and follow the River Quoich further west.
Don't trust a digital photograph ... Two pictures, each with and without an (aggressive) filter.
Construction activities on Loch Quoich ... Less beautiful
Wester Glen Quoich
While it was still cloudy in the morning, the sun was blazing and it was warm. The ideal time for a break just to dry the wet things from the previous day. But that wouldn't have been smart, because we wanted to hike up the valley for another 3 km and camp there on a gravel bank right by the river. But the 3 km stretched quite a bit and so we were really happy when we reached the place. An ideal place for the tent. Dry, flat terrain. A stream right next to it with a deep place where we could see us taking a bath. Later, of course, after an exhausting Munro day. In the sunshine we set up the tents and since it was just so warm and idyllic, we decided to shorten todays Munro tour that was still to come and to boil water for tea and a soup.
I noticed a strange red sand in the water directly behind larger stones. The grains of sand were larger than normal and colored deep red. I suspect (without being a geologist) that the small river passes through a layer of rock with rock garnished with garnet, which is then deposited here and further downstream. Later I was able to discover two pebbles in which the red garnets could be seen.
Arriving at the camp
Typical instagram picture ... the only thing missing is a young lady who longs for the mountain (or me)
... maybe the lady appears if I kiss this little guy? ?
For me it was the opportunity to start my tiny drone, which I had carried with me, and take some aerial photos. Although the drone weighs just under 100gr, the whole setup comes up to 400 - 500gr and I wondered (and also ask myself for the coming year) whether it is really worth carrying the drone with me. At this moment it was fun to fly the little Ryze Tello over the tents. A coffee, soup and 2 empty batteries later, it was time to climb some Munros.
Up the valley, drone photo from 30m
Down the valley
In the meantime, it was just before 3, there was a dense blanket of clouds and it was noticeably colder. The goal were the 3 remaining Munros of the South Glen Shiel Ridge, which were located just north of our camp. We followed the River Quoich further west, which was nothing more than a stream here. In the OS map, a path up the ridge was shown, which in reality could only be recognized by close inspection. Like the day before, it was a zigzag path that led up to the Ridge. Although completely overgrown and partly washed away, it was easy to follow and so we reached the ridge after 500 meters ascent and about 45 minutes.
Not a drone photo, but one from the slope with a view of the first two Munros of the previous day
Creag nan Damh with a view of Glen Shiel
Apple juice? No, the view is deceptive ... it is The Famous Grouse - smoky black
Our paths separated up here. We 3 Munrobagger heaeded further west to the summit of Creag nan Damh, 800m away, while our senior headed east to follow the ridge. He preferred a quiet ridgewalk. After all, we had a view today and were able to enjoy the mountains. On the Creag there was the obligatory sip whisky before we turned back and followed the ridge to the east. We were able to avoid Sgurr Beag, the next top east of the Creag, on a bypass so that we saved ourselves the almost 100 vertical meters. Nevertheless, it was exhausting afterwards, because Sgurr an Lochain was another 200 meters higher. On the way we met 3 hikers who were in a hurry and apart from a short “Heya!” said nothing else.
On the way to the Sgurr an Lochain
On Sgurr an Lochain
Let's take a dangerous but incredibly cool looking picture!
On top of Sgurr an Lochain there was a nice panorama. The eponymous little lake deep below the summit was a special eye-catcher, but also Loch Cluanie in the east, Loch Duich in the west and many peaks all around were worth seeing. However, we continued to the Sgurr an Doire Leathain, the last Munro for today. This was about 1km east and was quickly reached. We had expected to pick up our mate on the way, but he had apparently followed the ridge even further east. Strange.
As on the previous day, the remains of pasture fences ran along the ridge
View from Sgurr to Sgurr
And so we parted again. Two of my friends followed the ridge to the next Bealach while I followed a little later. After I had also lost sight of them I decided not to walk to the saddle and descend into the valley there, but to descend directly from the summit to the south. That had looked quite feasible from the summit, so I wasn't expecting any problems. Oh well. It was doable, but I wouldn't recommended any part of it. The southern slope was very steep in places and overgrown with grass everywhere, so I would have skidded for a while in case I slipped or fell. At the same time, the slope in the middle section became even steeper and I had to walk in zigzag lines. From time to time, small streams ran through the slope and there the ground was mushy and slippery. At such a point I then sank knee-deep and had the pleasure of walking the rest of the day with a muddy foot and a wet foot. To be honest my feet have been wet since day one. I had given my Hanwag Banks walking boots to the repair shop before the tour, as a seam on the side had broken up. The shoemaker said that although he can sew the shoes, he has to sew through the Goretex membrane. After that it would be possible that the shoes were not waterthight anymore. Well, I didn't think much of it, but he should be right. The feet were already slightly wet on the first evening and after yesterday's snow tour it had gotten worse.
I reached the valley shortly after I had seen my two friends walking about 150 meters below my position on the path west heading for the tents. I could certainly have run after them, but I had already seen a picturesque ruin a hundred meters off the path in the morning, which I really wanted to explore.
These ancient roots can be seen in some parts of the peat and are probably omnipresent as the last remnant of the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest
The small group of ruins was scattered over a larger area and was named Doireleathan on the map. In the largest former building, which was probably abandoned during the Highland Clearances, a large tree grew now, the walls or remains thereof were overgrown with moss and an old window opening even had the lintel. Somehow these old walls made me sad. It wasn't scary here, but the idea that a family was here hundreds of years ago and managed to live in this valley that was now empty left me with a feeling of melancholy.
Doireleathan - an old croft / homestead (?) - How long has it been abandoned?
Maybe someone called the children in through this window because the haggis was ready?
So I tried to take a few pictures, but the light was already low and so I followed a path towards the tents, where I arrived after 15min. Now it was time for a quick bath in the stream. Well, at least if you are very tough and have no problem with the freezing cold water. Faced with the ice-cold reality, my idea of a quick bath quickly collapsed and it remained a catlick (translation for washing like a cat?) and some deodorant. At least we did not expect visitors tonight. Since it was still cloudy but not raining, we were able to cook couscous outside before going into the sleeping bag shortly before ten.
Day 3 - Winter Munroland
The same procedure as the days before ... Wake up, listen: Mhhhh, rain. Damn! So I turn around again .. wake up later ... still rain ... reading my book. Then I wait, wait until the sleeping bag next to me moves or that noises come from the neighboring tent. But this time my bladder wins the race. I have to get out in the drizzle that doesn't feel as strong as it sounds in the tent.
The view from the tent. It had snowed higher up overnight.
After a while everyone is awake and we decide to have breakfast in the tent while planning the day. The bad weather and my veto against the initial plan of walking very, very long tour over the Sgurr Mhaorhaich to the Beinn Sgritheall and back convice the others that this plan is utter rubbish. The ascent to Sgurr Mhaoraich, which is about 3km south, remains on the todays route. 3km and a Munro, that doesn't sound much, so we stay with a sip of coffee in the tent and want wait until the rain recedes. Five rounds of Skat (an old german card game) later there is still rain.
Please no comments on these cards
Around 12 o'clock we are tired of waiting and we get up and start. The tents are left behind and only some food and rain gear go into the backpacks. Then the ascent to Sgurr Thionail, a northern summit of the Munro starts. It had stopped drizzling in the meantime and although it was very cloudy and damp and cold, it was fun to walk. Again we found one of these zigzag paths, which this time squeezed up between rock bands and accordingly we often lost the path, only to find it again a couple of meters away.
The snow line and the cloud layer have a clear relation
a local from around here
Not really the Trolltunga in Norway
View of the upper Glen Quoich and behind the saddle Loch Duich
After roughly 400 meters of ascent we had completely lost the path, but we had reached the snow line as well, which I realised when my wet shoes got cold too. Around 1h30m after the start we stood on the first top (not the Munro summit), which occasionally allowed a nice view of the surrounding valleys through the clouds. The sun even briefly could be seen up here, but immediately disappeared again. And yet it was a fascinating atmosphere up here. The Munro was towering in the south, the clouds clinging to its slopes, the sun above us but dark rain clouds were also not far away.
Glacial polish from the last ice age
View of the Munro summit ... later it disappeared in the clouds
We continued south towards the munro, but turned east heading for the Am Bathaich top. Once there we took a little break for a sip from the “Highland Spring” bottle (you know, no apple juice), for a few photos and to test the drone on the mountain today. However, the wind worried me. Nevertheless, I started the Tello drone and snapped a few dronies. The small drone struggled somewhat against the gusty wind, so I packed it up again after a short flight.
Mini drone battling the wind
A dronie (drone+selfie) ... doesn't really make sense in the Highlands
Sgurr a' Mhaoraich
a real Highland Spring
We then headed towards SW to complete the last kilometer to Sgurr Mhaoraich. But that turned out to be more exhausting than initially thought. Almost 250 vertical meters had to be overcome and the flank of the Munro was quite steep. Combined with the snow, it wasn't dangerous, but it was exhausting. Shortly before 1600hrs we finally reached the summit, which was quite wide. Here we had zero visibility, but snow, ice and wind.
The last meters were through fog and clouds
As soon as we got to the top, we left again ... Descent in the snow
The fresh snow was sometimes quite slippery
On the way down, there was suddenly quite some traffic. An older hiker approached us and not far ahead of us we saw two hikers whom we caught up a little later. After a few nice words we walked east to descend north into the valley just before the eastern side summit Sgurr Coire nan Eiricheallach. As annoying as the snowfall on the ridge was, ti was still better than the rain we had a few hundred meters below. The rain clothes protected us from the wet from above, but nothing protected from the slippery moss and grass and so we slipped and slided a few times and almost stumbled over a bird's nest. No idea of which bird, maybe it was a Ptarmigan, but there was no adult to be seen.
Hikers in front of us ... at the saddle we descended left down into the valley
Even before hatching on social media
Caution, slippery when wet!
In the valley we were again confronted with the construction work that we had already seen the day before. The small stream was dammed up by a newly installed dam and the water drained into a buried pipe. We crossed below the damand followed the track further down the valley. After a few hundred meters we heard a hum and discovered a house in which the turbine and generator were hidden. Behind it the stream appeared again and continued to hurry to Loch Quoich.
The pond is used to generate energy
50 or more shades of grey
What will happen if I turn the wheel?
Another dam further down...
From here it was only about 1.5 km to the tents upstream, but we were on the wrong, southern side of the River Quoich. We now had two options. Either we follow the road east to the bridge over the river or we walk directly towards the tents and try to cross the river on the way. We decided to follow the river upstream. But crossing the river was more difficult than expected.
Orographically on the right we head back to the tents
Who dares to jump across?
The river was either shallow and wide or narrow and deep. The only crossing options we found were where the river fell over a rock step. But the wet stones and rocks looked slippery. However, one of us took all his courage and jumped across (and made it). The remaining three of us arrived after a little eternity and many ups and downs at the tents, only on the opposite side of the river. The river had less water here, but we couldn't get across with dry feet. So we quickly took off our shoes and then waded through the approx. 30cm deep but fast flowing ice-cold water. A Kneipp cure at the end of a hiking day is something nice (well, if you like it) and germans loooove it apparently.
Drying the rain-soaked clothes, shoes, towels, just everything ...
Gleouraich ... we were there 2 days before
The rest of the day is quickly told and even had a surprise for us. The rain had stopped meanwhile and so we could change into some dry clothes and cook a soup and couscous outdoors. A little later the sun went down at the western end of the glen and illuminated the valley through a cloud hole in a warm light. A truly magical moment. With these impressions we went to bed after a day with a shorter tour but still many impressions.
The chef recommends: curry couscous with sweet chili sauce and mushroom soup
Evening mood at Glen Quoich
a magical moment
The last rays bathe Gleouraich in golden light
Day 4 - The last but also the best day
Ascent: 1400 meters
The alarm clock went off at 7 in the morning. Today there was no hanging around in the sleeping bag or waiting for the rain to stop. No, we were highly motivated, because today we wanted to go to the Saddle and from there to Shiel Bridge where we wanted to end the tour. We wanted to separate, so that our oldest mate walked through the glen (without any Munros, of course) back to the Cluanie Inn and drive to Shiel Bridge while the three of us went to Shiel Bridge via the Saddle. We wanted to meet there.
The last day starts with confidence ...
Butterwort (?), a carnivorous plant
The other half was nowhere to be seen ...
After a short breakfast with sunshine and pleasant temperatures, we started westwards about 2 hours after the alarm clock rang. The three of us followed the Western Glen Quoich Burn while our friend was walking down the valley and was soon out of sight. The valley rose gently and was therefore an easy start for todays walk with full luggage, which was quite exhausting. Shortly before the end of the valley we met a hiker. A large and quite massive bloke with a rather small backpack. He was on the C2C tour and was planning to walk to the east coast in the coming days and weeks. Shortly before meeting us, he had gotten rid of some things and hidden them under a stone somewhere on the slope. He said if we needed any of that we could take it with us so I doubt he would ever return to pick it up again. But we didn't look for his belongings nor did we find anything.
Ascent to Bealach, with luggage this was a little less relaxed than on the previous days
Ascent to Sgurr Whatever ...
This was followed by a long and rather tough ascent to Bealach Duibh Leac, a saddle at the western end of the Cluanie Ridge. Up here we found again the remains of the old fence, consisting of a flat wall and steel bars used for a wire fence. The next peak along the ridge was Sgurr a 'Bhac Chaolais. Too flat for a Munro, too little prominence for a Corbett, actually a hill that is completely uninteresting for list fetishists, but it was still nice place. From the summit we had a beautiful view of the surrounding peaks and the glen from which we came. There was a thin blanket of snow up here. It had taken us about 2 hours to get here and thus a little more time than expected. So we headed further west and for our next destination, Sgurr na Sgine, with its rugged east flank, which we had to avoid either to the north or south. Before that, however, we had to descend from Sgurr a 'Bhac Chaolais 200m to Bealach on Toiteil, which was more difficult than expected. A nasty rock band stretched across the slope and only after a few searches did we find a route where we could descend. With the heavy backpack it was not an easy descend either, so we climbed backwards on all fours. After 20 meters the difficult passage was over and we were able to head towards Sgurr na Sgine.
Rock band and scree below the Sgurr
Sgurr na Sgine. The direct ascend would be a bit of a challenge
You cannot pass!
Follow the wall!
We discovered another wall, which ran south from the saddle below the eastern slope and slowly pulled up the slope. We followed this wall and soon reached the summit plateau from where it was not far to the actual summit. It was now 1300 hrs and although we were doing well, it slowly dawned on us that this was going to be a very long day.
Sgurr na Sgine summit photo
between Sgine and Saddle
The descent from Sgurr na Sgine was easy. We followed the path in the direction of Faochag and turned to northwest and soon reached the small lakes on the saddle between Sgine and Saddle. It was such a nice spot that we took a little break. We also had a wonderful view of the Saddle and the Forcan Ridge, which stretched east from the summit. Looking at the map much later, I can see which detour we took to get to the Forcan Ridge. From the lakes to the eastern end of the ridge it is only 500m as the crow flies on an almost even level. The ascend to the Saddle and further over the Ridge, however, meant almost 400 meters in altitude and 2 km as the crow flies in difficult terrain. Oh well. At this point we didn't know how much time and energy these 2km should cost and maybe it was better that way.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Just flowers ...
Ascent to Saddle, Forcan Ridge is already lurking on the left
Almost there ...
The climb to the Saddle was technically easy but quite exhausting. First over a meadow, later over scree and finally in a narrow gravel trough we went up to the summit, which we reached after 45 minutes. Here we met an older couple who had apparently climbed along the Forcan Ridge.
View from the Saddle to the Forcan Ridge ...
... and the view back
It was fantastic up here on the summit of the Saddle, the last Munro of the 2019 tour. The all-round view in the best weather was awesome. Ben Nevis, the Black Cuillins, the islands and lochs, everything was in front of us. Only in the east was something lurking that worried us a bit, or more precisely, me. It was the Forcan Ridge. Only the first hundred meters were clearly visible from the summit, after which the ridge disappeared behind the first top. My friend agreed to walk up to the top and explore whether the route would be feasible. And of course it was feasible for him. The fact that the older English couple had also climbed the Forcan Ridge gave us confidence that the route should not be a major problem. If I had read the Munro Guide to Forcan Ridge beforehand, I would probably have turned back at this point. It said that the Forcan Ridge is one of the most beautiful ridgewalks in Scotland, but requires a head for heights in some places and has some easy climbing sections. You should only walk the ridge from east to west, i.e. on the ascent, if possible with light luggage and only in good weather and dry conditions. Well, we now walked from west to east, i.e. in the descent, with heavy backpacks and with a thin blanket of fresh snow. Not really ideal if you would ask me.
The first part of the Forcan Ridge was still ok,steep but without any particular challenge
We had to cross these tops
Light and shadow
So the following 1h 50m, which we needed for the climb, became on the one hand a hair-raising affair, on the other hand the most exciting, adventurous and best ridgewalk I have ever done in Scotland. Due to the snow the path was in most places not recognisable. Again and again there were obstacles, such as the 3 m high wall, which had to be avoided by a 10m descent and 15m ascent on a steep slope. Here and there we had to climb or scramble.
Ascent on a bypass, where the direct path on the ridge was blocked by a rock wall.
The large backpacks were a bit out of place.
The view back along the ridge
In the end, the conclusion I can draw from the Ridge is that it was manageable. The snow was particularly difficult because it covered the path on the one hand, so that we could not find the route a few times and on the other hand made steep passages very slippery. The heavy backpacks were also not ideal, especially since we got stuck with the backpack at two climbing spots. Well, the information about ascent is better than descent ... Yes, I can understand. On the descent you can sometimes see the very steep passages in front of you, which look more creepy from above than from below. But in the end we had made it and the ridge was completed.
Done. The Forcan Ridge is completed and clearly visible in the middle. Not a very intimidating view.
From now on it was only downhill towards Shiel Bridge. Over the Meallan Odhar to the Bealach na Craoibhe and from there we had a nice view back to Saddle and Ridge. From here we wanted to take the path into Coire Chaoil, but we couldn't find it. Well, we then walked down the cire and since the weather continued to be stable, we had great golden light from the evening sun on the surrounding mountains. Nevertheless, we did not stay too long and quickly followed the path we had found in the meantime. At Gob na Roinne we crossed the river Allt Undalain and there a number of hikers had already put up their tents.
Late afternoon but unfortunately no time for a rest
Just before Shiel Bridge with Sgurr na Creige.
In Shiel Bridge
For the remaining 2.5 km to Glen Shiel we followed a track and that was easier to walk, so we were in Glen Shiel after almost 30 minutes or 19:06 and hoped that or friend who fetched the car did not have to wait too long. After all, we had separated 9 hours earlier. To our surprise, however, there was no car to be seen. Neither at the campsite nor at the petrol station directly at the A87. We looked around, very puzzled, worried a little and wondered what to do next. Hitchhiking to Cluanie Inn? But what then? We had given the car keys to our friend but he didn't have a phone with him. While we were pondering a white Renault kadjar turned in and all of a sudden our worries were gone. Our friend was a little late since he had spent some time in the Glen Quoich, rested a little, and finally missed the turnoff to the Cluanie Inn. A mistake that he only noticed at Loch Loyne and therefore walked a detour of approx. 4km.
Happily united we headed for the campsite in Morvich because the camp site in Glen Shiel had some problem (maybe it was full or the warm water was empty or there was no warm water at all, I don't know anymore). Morvich was of course full as well, but the nice lady at the reception still let us in and gave us a pitch if we only followed the Fire Regulations (minimum distance between the tents). We quickly set up the tents and changed our clothes, showering had to follow later, because right now we wanted go to the Kintail Lodge. We were starving for beer and some decent food. Once there, there was a small setback. The lodge or the associated pub and restaurant was completely full.
At Loch Duich
The next table was available in an hour (around 9 p.m.) and then we had 30 minutes until the kitchen was closed. We spent the next hour on the pier and watched the sunset over Loch Duich. Wonderful. We had already downed a first pint, two more were to follow. The food in the lodge was good and tasted even better after 4 days of porridge and toast. What did we order? Haggis, neeps and tatties as a starter and then fish & chips. And it was simply delicious. After a final round of ale, we drove back to the campground, enjoyed a long shower and went to bed but the night was far too short.
Loch Garry the next morning
Dalwhinnie - lunch break
The return trip was not very exciting, just very long. We got up quietly around 6 and were gone after almost 40 minutes. In the most beautiful sunshine we drove the same route as we did 5 days ago. We only made 3 stops. At the viewpoint above Loch Garry, where the trees have grown so high that you can hardly see anything of the loch and glen. Then in Dalwhinnie at the petrol station for coffee and sandwiches and finally in Edinburgh at a Tesco Superstore to buy the usual UK souvenirs. Then we returned the car and took the shuttle to the airport. The return flight to Prague was quite exciting because we had to wait and fly several loops over Prague because the runway was closed. Landing, luggage, picking up the car was easy and fast and and soon we rolled home on the D8 to NW past the Central Bohemian Uplands with its striking mountains Milesovka and Lovos.
Prague with Vltava and old town
Milesova and Lovos - beautiful hiking mountains in the Bohemian Uplands (unfortunately without Munro status)
Here is the route:
A small conclusion at the end. 2019 was a nice tour. The route had enough highlights, only the weather could have been better. But well, that's Scotland isn't it? Then see you next year.