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H-Ulaidh dancing in Glen Coe
by BlackPanther » Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:54 pm
Route description: Sgor na h-Ulaidh and Meall Lighiche
Munros included on this walk: Sgor na h-Ulaidh
Corbetts included on this walk: Meall Lighiche
Date walked: 23/06/2015
Time taken: 8.5 hours
Distance: 16 km
Ascent: 1288m4 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).
We struggled with weather during our time off in June and when a short window of sunny conditions opened up on Tuesday, the 23rd, we decided to take the chance and bag the duo. It was a new Munro for Kevin as well, but judging by other people's descriptions, we expected a long, tiring walk with plenty of steep terrain to cover. And Glen Coe didn't disappoint us
It is possible to do Sgor na h-Ulaidh on its own, but when we had a good look at the map, adding the Corbett seemed logical and the day was long enough to tackle both.
So our route was the classic traverse of the two hills, up the Corbett first. We kept in mind the advice in WH route description that the traverse from Meall Lighiche to the Munro is very steep and craggy and it is not recommended in descent. As we came to find out later, it was bad enough when going up it but we managed all right. It took us over 8 hours to complete the walk, but we spent an awful amount of time taking photos and enjoying the views. The day was lovely, possibly the only good one we were going to get in the whole two weeks...
The walk begins from a small car park east of bridge over the Allt Gleann Leac na Muidhe. When we arrived, a couple of caravans were parked there, but no sign of anybody else intending to tackle "our" hills. As it turned up, again we had the two mountains to ourselves and I could meow as loud as I wanted without the risk of catching some surprised looks
From the car park, we could not see our target Munro, but the views were nice enough. Well, there are always nice views in Glen Coe, even from the low ground:
We crossed the road and followed the track up Gleann Leac na Muidhe. To avoid private gardens, a new path has been created. Soon we were back on the main track and heading for the big climb, so far it's been easy going, but the hard part was yet to come.
In the photo behind be, our first target, Meall Lighiche:
Behind us, the notorious Aonach Eagach:
Allt na Muidhe was low so crossing the river didn't present any problems. Now, in front of us, loomed the steep side of our target Corbett. I noticed that the slopes were very green - plenty of grass, but this also suggested that the ground was wet
Let's find the way up!
We followed a fence for some 50m of ascent, before turning left and tackling the steep mountain face on. But first, I stopped to have a good look at the nearest neighbour, the Graham called Meall Mor. Another one high on my to-do list and I'd love to bag it at some point.
The next stage was by no means easy. A good test for fitness! Some 500m of relentless, steep ascent on grassy, slippery ground. Lots of huffing and puffing, in the end also some stripping Little did I know that this was the easier of the two uphill slopes we were to encounter that day...
That's just the prelude!
If anything could soothe the muscle pain during the steep push, it could only be the panorama down the glen - with AE on the horizon:
About half way up the Corbett we took a short break for hydration, pictures and videos. Above us we could see a few rocky outcrops, but they can be easily avoided to the right on steep grass:
Beinn a'Bheithir was visible by now, with Sgorr a'Choise in the foreground. I remembered our visit to BB last year, when we encountered four seasons in one day, from sunshine and rainbows, to rain, snow, cloud and a mud slide on the way down
At least today weather was much better and no rain, snow or low cloud should spoil it. I imagined, there must have been people doing AE traverse just across the glen, but hard as I tried, I couldn't see anybody on the ridge:
Higher up, the ground is drier underfoot and less steep, so we picked up pace...
...and arrived on the summit of Meall Lighiche with big smiles! Corbett no. 94 for me, no. 5 for Lucy
The wind picked up when we reached the summit ridge and temperature dropped quite quickly... Kevin had no choice but to reattach his trouser legs Bidean in the background:
Meall Lighiche is a great viewpoint (is there a hill in Glen Coe that does not have excellent views???) and even though some high cloud was still hanging around, especially to the north, we managed some decent snaps. Like down to Ballachulish:
To the north, The Ben hid in the clag and we were glad we came that far south - the northern half of Scotiish Highlands did not enjoy the good weather window!
Beinn a'Bheithir again, in its full glory:
As we sat by the summit cairn, we studied the next slope we were going to tackle. The north-west end of Sgor na h-Ulaidh, the notorious one-way-only route. The photo doesn't really give it justice. The "Hula face" as I called it, when seen from the Corbett, looks virtually vertical and as we tried to work out the best line of attack, I suddenly felt my confidence shrink like a deflated balloon. Holy s***t, I thought, this is far beyond me! I have recently tackled some ultra-steep slopes and easy scrambling in winter conditions, so I should be more confident and to be honest, I knew deep down in my heart that this slope was not the worst in my career. But some irrational fear crawled out of its hiding hole in my head and it kept saying - you won't make it!!!
Kevin gave me a sandwich but my stomach was twisted and I lost all my appetite, when gazing at the demon!
Kevin was more confident when it came to route plotting. He worked it out in his head as he looked at the slope, and later he guided us between the crags of Hula face. We didn't escape a small mistake towards the end (went a bit too far to the right) but mostly, Kevin's strategy has worked in the end.
Here is the line of ascent as Kevin plotted it:
The descent from the Corbett to Bealach Easan was steep and quite wet, we took it steady to avoid going belly-up... Down on the col, I felt my confidence returning, as the Hula face didn't look so bad from below:
I let Kevin lead the way when we tackled the final test of the day To begin with, it was just steep and lovely views to upper Glen Creran opened up as we gained height:
The higher we climbed, the more steep and rocky was the ground:
The final 150m or so looked...hmmm...interesting even from below. I wondered if we were going to encounter any scrambling? According to walk description, all crags can be avoided if carefully picking the route, even if it doesn't seem possible:
I followed Kevin who took a generous swing to the right, to traverse below some large crags. We ended up on the edge of a wide gully with vertical drops below us and a suspiciously steep wall above
Of course, we could retrace our steps back below the crags and try another line of attack, but Kevin just said he couldn't be bothered, so he set off in a straight line, scrambling over rocks and boulders. I followed him and dared not look down - even after years of hillwalking, my vertigo is not entirely gone The most hairy moment was when we climbed up a wide chimney - Kevin called it training before Aonach Eagach. Training my a** Eventually the angle eased and suddenly, we emerged on the top of Corr na Beinne. I couldn't resist a triumphant pose and a loud meow We did it!
If Meall Lighiche was a good viewpoint, this was even better. The Corbett now seemed so tiny-tiny!
Speaking of AE ridge... Here it is, in afternoon sunshine:
We didn't waste time on the lower top. I was still pumped up with adrenaline to such an extent, that I couldn't sit down and simply admire the vistas. I had to let the steam out!
Corr na Beinne (and the western pano behind) from above:
We continued along the ridge to the first of the twin tops of the true summit:
Meall Lighiche and Beinn a'Bheithir on the horizon:
The distant shape of Isle of Mull:
Buachaille Etive Mor seen from unusual angle:
Upper Glen Etive:
On the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh, celebrating my 175th Munro I felt like Hula dancing! Bidean nam Bian behind me:
It's a great place to be, the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh. May be one of lower Munros in the area (below 1000m), but it sits bang in the middle of magnificent landscape, full of grey, sharp rocks, green glens and grassy slopes.
Beinn Fhionnlaidh, another Munro still on to-do list. Looks mouth-watering:
Photo madness Again, I couldn't blame him...
Having spent far too much time on the summit, we packed up and carried on to complete the circuit. Of course, returning the way we came up was out of question, so we simply followed the curving ridge over lower top, Stob an Fhuarain, and then carefully picked our way down the steep slope to upper Gleann Leac na Muidhe.
The path leading down from the summit is eroded (to say the least) and tumbly in places, much easier to tackle on ascent, I suppose:
Looking south from the col between the summit and Stob an Fhuarain:
Sgor na h-Ulaidh from Stob an Fhuarain (a Munro top at 968m):
We didn't bother detouring to the final top, Aonach Dubh a'Ghlinne. As soon as we left the main ridge, the path disappeared and we had to find our own way. Luckily, apart from being steep, these slopes don't present any real challenge. Even if my knees don't share that opinion!
We took another break once we descended to the river, mainly to make the adventure last Near the point where we stopped, I spotted the start of an obvious path, following the river down the glen. Yuppie! I found the way out of the valley!
The path is boggy in places, but it goes all the way down to join the track we used on the walk-in. A few late afternoon midges came out towards the end, but generally the day was insect-free. We arrived back in the car park after over 8 hours of rambling and scrambling and though the latter could have been avoided, I'm glad I enjoyed some AE training. Meow!
A fantastic day, to sum up. Of course these two can be tackled separately, but I think that only the full traverse gives the true justice to this lovely horseshoe. Highly recommended for everybody with some experience with steep slopes. Lots of fun. Definitely worth saving for a clag-free day!
I'm slowly chewing through the backlog... My next report will not be as spectacular as the story above, but will involve a great peat hag challenge on my local Graham.
by Beaner001 » Thu Jul 23, 2015 9:40 am
by dogplodder » Thu Jul 23, 2015 12:16 pm
by rockhopper » Thu Jul 23, 2015 10:35 pm
by Mal Grey » Fri Jul 24, 2015 11:43 am
You should do it again wearing hula skirts, both of you.
by BlackPanther » Fri Jul 24, 2015 6:10 pm
This duo is indeed very steep and I wouldn't recommend this route on a wet day or in clag. But in good conditions - pure delight.
by Fife Flyer » Sat Jul 25, 2015 7:43 pm
Funny you should mention Beinn Fhionnlaidh, I paid her a visit on Wednesday, got soaked and saw nothing. I daresay on a nice dry day it is a nice hill, but the underfoot conditions didn't make me want to return The path was intermittent and was more like a burn
by simon-b » Sun Jul 26, 2015 1:27 pm
I can empathise with your wariness about steep ground, even when you have scrambling experience. There is no harm in maintaining a healthy respect for tricky terrain. Cameron McNeish actually suggests your route the other way round, taking the awkward bit downhill. As I avoided it altogether, you'll know better which way was preferable.
It's nice to see you got some great views, BP.
by Guinessman » Sun Jul 26, 2015 1:59 pm