Seven on a Glen Shiel Sibling Sweep
by old danensian » Mon Aug 01, 2011 9:52 pm
Munros included on this walk: Aonach Meadhoin, Ciste Dhubh, Saileag, Sgurr a'Bhealaich Dheirg, Sgurr Fhuaran, Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe
Date walked: 29/07/2011
Time taken: 13.5 hours
Distance: 24 km
Ascent: 2318m3 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).
However, the lure of classic ridges and the promise of good weather over at least two days meant that a drive up the M6, M74, M8, A82 corridor in the rain last Thursday would be worthwhile.
As the Cluanie Inn came into sight in late afternoon, the forecast improvement in the weather seemed to be materialising on cue, so the target of traversing all seven Munros of the Brothers and Sisters on the northern side of the valley was confirmed. But, as is always the case, some heavy clouds were hanging around to cause that inevitable lingering doubt.
In madness, or exuberance borne of naivety, I imagined the prospect of a sunrise on the first Munro (Ciste Dhubh), culminating in the sun setting down Loch Duich as I descended the last of the Sisters; that would properly constitute “enjoying the day to the full.”
So by 8.00pm, with the car left at the Inn, and after a couple of hours strolling up the glen fuelled by one of their baked potatoes and a pint of Plockton, I was ensconced at the bog-fest of the Bealach a Choinich below Ciste Dhubh. Within half an hour the midges had started to gather and the drive was beginning to take its toll so, I was more than happy to zip them out and turn in.
In the middle of the night I knew the sky had cleared; the temperature had suddenly dropped and chilly knees woke me up, but I was soon back asleep accompanied by the coughs and barks of nearby deer. They soon sprang off across the hillside when I unzipped the tent at 4.30am and emerged into a still, clear morning.
Spurred by the prospect of a sunrise, I headed straight up the slope of Ciste Dhubh, to be greeted by its arrival over Affric just as I came onto the final ridge at 5.15am. It was the first time I’d been high in this neck of the woods, so quite a time was spent simply taking in the complex, stunning immensity of everything from The Ben, Knoydart, Skye and Affric and beyond. But, as the tops each caught the light I could see my day ahead stretching out to the west. It was time to head back to the little green hotel for breakfast.
Sadly, the full English was off; you just can’t get the staff nowadays. Then, the tell-tale tickle behind the ears announced the arrival of the midges looking for their own breakfasts, so the muesli was gobbled and a brew gulped down as the tent got packed. The first, and hopefully worst, slog of the day was a decidedly better alternative to hanging around until it had dried off in the sun.
The lack of a clear path up the north east shoulder of Sgurr an Fhuarail meant some lengthy zig-zags aiming for one skyline then the other, but the top was reached within the hour, and the traverse over to Aonach Meadhoin saw the second Munro of the day reached just before 9.00am. Sod’s Law then determined that a thin skin of cloud veiled the top couple of hundred feet of the hill, with a view upwards into the perfect blue sky. The early morning skein of mist persisted and also covered the top of the next summit on the ridge, Sgurr a Bhealaich Dheirg, giving an ethereal feel to the appearance of the sturdy cairn on the end of the short final ridge.
However, all was forgiven when I realised that my progress along the ridge was being followed. The conditions were just perfect for a brocken spectre to be displayed on the mists hanging above the corries to my right. Yes, I waved, and it waved back. Yes, we both did star jumps. And yes, I ran and it ran too. So I thought I’d better take a photo to prove it.
With that excitement passed, the path rolled on over a few more humps to the final Munro of the Brothers, Saileag, where the cloud finally left for the day. By 11.00am I was down at the Bealach an Lapain and in the company of other walkers for the first time.
As solitude was swapped for company, the large bulky, blokely undulations of the Brothers were swapped for the sharper and more aggressive Sisters, and the contrast in effort required to tackle them was marked. Mind you, I might find myself on thin ice if I pursue this metaphor any further.
I can’t say that the Spaniards (Sgurr nan Spainteach) were despatched with the momentum I’d built up. I was starting to feel the weight of water in my pack and my pace was slowing at the steeper inclines each top presented. Sgurr na Ciste Duibh and Sgurr na Carnach successively wrung more energy out of me before Sgurr Fhuaran reared up as the brute of the day. A steady plod was in order: short, small and steady. If I can endure a spin class at the gym for 45 minutes, I can cope with it. God, I’d love to get that trainer doing this; I’d teach him to be so b****y enthusiastic and chipper.
Anyway, enough grudges got me to the top, to be reinvigorated by the sight of the next Sister (Sgurr nan Saighead), equally impressive, but down below. Don’t worry about the path apparently skirting the summit. When you get to the bealach beyond at Pt. 832 you can enjoy a five-minute pack-free ascent up the west ridge before tackling the final scramble up Beinn Bhuide.
Then came the dilemma; the supposed final Sister of Sgurr na Moraich. Why? It’s totally out of character with the preceding tops on the ridge. It’s more rounded and less precipitous, in fact it’s more like an ugly sister. There are other tops along the ridge that appear more prominent yet don’t qualify for the sisterhood. What did they do wrong? Did they marry a Sassenach or support the wrong side in the Rebellion? So, with this flimsy rationale, and the fact that I’d run out of water by now, I decided to head down the path beside the Allt a Chruinn and end the ridge on what I thought was a more impressive high.
At just after 6.00pm, nearly fourteen hours after starting the day, I arrived at the A87 and strolled (ambled or shambled may have been more accurate descriptions) round to Shiel Bridge where my pre-prepared sign of “CLUANIE” successfully got me a lift back up the road within a few minutes. Many thanks to the walker from Perth who had been on A Ghlas Bheinn and Beinn Fhada.
So, was it worth it? A 460 mile drive for a fourteen hour day – and I couldn’t even time it for the symmetrically romantic ending of the sunset on the way down. Writing this back down in Warwickshire I still have the sense of achievement in completing what I set out to do. I always enjoy the solitude of the early morning hills and the way they come alive as the light touches them in those first few hours of the day. I enjoyed the rolling undulations of the Brothers, and was grateful for individual instances on the way across the sharper, more pointed Sisters: like simply managing to get to the top of each. That had something to do with the flagging energy levels arising from my self-inflicted decision to start with a sunrise. But hey: no regrets.
And of course it was worth it: I was going to do the Forcan the next day. But with hindsight, maybe I got the warm-up act and main feature the wrong way round.
by late starter » Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:27 pm
by davetherave » Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:40 pm
We did a similar route on Easter week past, in fantastic weather minus the midgies haha.
Brought back many memories Super report and pics.
by dooterbang » Tue Aug 02, 2011 12:08 pm
Did these both in Winter, along with corbett Am Bathach.
You should try Ciste Dubh in the snow....awesome.
Kintail is a fab area.
by andrewdoggett » Tue Aug 02, 2011 12:30 pm
I've these left to two having done the southern side, but thoughts are starting to move to my last munro and what it should be... It can't be Ben More, too boring; can't be too hard as there's a few people that need an invitation; not least of all my two littleuns; but I do like the beer at the Cluanie Inn, and I love pubs that welcome dogs!!
by old danensian » Thu Aug 04, 2011 6:15 pm
by iainwatson » Mon Apr 02, 2012 10:21 am
Having walked the brothers and sisters on saturday i now know how big a walk this was for you,the sense of achievement must have been huge after this and made the journey well worthwhile
by Graeme D » Mon Apr 02, 2012 1:21 pm
14 hours from Warwickshire on some of the most hellish roads this fine country has to offer! Was it worth it he asks????? Do bears do their business in the woods I ask in reply!
Young man, that was brilliant! I apologise that I never got a chance to speak to you over the weekend - I caught sight of you on Saturday night but then got simultaneously distracted by a combination of beer, dinner and some geezer from Wales going on about a scheme to build a wind farm atop Ben Attow!!! Before I knew it I was back at the centre slumped over a table, vaguely aware of ScotJamie making a snoring noise from one of the couches! Next time!
by IreneM » Mon Apr 02, 2012 5:55 pm