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Sgurr na Sgine and the subject of Bottle

Sgurr na Sgine and the subject of Bottle


Postby BobMcBob » Sun Apr 09, 2017 4:58 pm

Munros included on this walk: Sgurr na Sgine

Date walked: 08/04/2017

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 12 km

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A few years ago I climbed The Saddle via the Forcan Ridge with the full intention of, upon reaching the Bealach Mhalagan, continuing upwards onto Sgurr na Sgine as the WalkHighlands route suggests. But on that day, once I got there I felt like I'd had enough and descended instead. The Forcan Ridge is enough to satisfy one for a day :)

As it turned out in the scheme of things, that was a good plan because quite recently I read a report on here of a much more exciting way to climb Sgurr na Sgine - the scrambly route up the North-East ridge and an approach via the mighty Faochag. I don't understand why Faochag isn't on any of the lists of peaks, or in any of the guidebooks of 'best peaks in Scotland'. I've felt drawn to it ever since I first saw it. It's a mighty pyramid from some angles, a seemingly impenetrable slope from others. And, as I found out, it's a fantastic viewpoint too.

DSC_2924.jpg
Faochag from the road


And so I parked up at the foot of Faochag and followed the path, signposted 'Kinloch Hourn 7m'. I almost went there instead, I really am getting the hots for Knoydart, but I girded myself and headed for my target, crossing the burn in as elegant a fashion as anyone could wish (wobbling from rock to rock like a drunken weeble) and starting upwards on what I was expecting would be a bone-crushing, muscle-busting slog.

As it turned out, it was fine. Nothing like as bad as I was expecting. For a peak that isn't on any lists and doesn't feature prominently in any guidebook I'm aware of, there was a really good path and a steady plod at a comfortable pace brought me to the summit in a little over 2 hours. And blimey, what a summit it is.

DSC_2965.jpg
Faochag from the ridge towards Sgurr na Sgine

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The Forcan Ridge and The Saddle


The maps don't really do it justice. It's the head of a huge snaking dragon-neck of a ridge that leads onwards towards the impressive summit of Sgurr na Sgine which from here bears more than a passing resemblance to Buachaille Etive Mor. If Sgurr na Sgine was visible from the road and wasn't surrounded by The Saddle and the Five Sisters of Kintail it would surely be regarded as one of the jewels of The Highlands. I guess it's testament to just how great Kintail is that this mountain is one of the also-rans. That status also meant I had the place to myself, which was both a wonderful thing and a source of some apprehension.

DSC_2951-Pano.jpg
Sgurr na Sgine from Faochag


I'd come here to climb Sgurr na Sgine by its North East ridge. I'm a scrambler, that's what it says on my Walk Highlands profile, so I have a confession to make. Over the last 12 months I have lost my bottle. It started almost exactly a year ago - a simple mistake, a slip on a wet rock when descending from Sgurr Dubh in Torridon that resulted in nothing more physical than bruised ribs but that could have been so much worse. Had the rock I bruised my ribs on not been there........ It cost me a week off work but the psychological effects have been much longer lasting. I've been scrambling since but have found myself avoiding the difficult lines I would previously have gone directly for, I have a (probably healthy) fear of wet rock, and I'm not enjoying it like I used to. And here I was, in a 30 mile an hour wind, about to climb a north-facing knife-edge ridge on a deserted mountain after several days of rain. That thought would not even have occurred to me 12 months ago.

I didn't just have second thoughts. I had seventh thoughts. But I've always had a 'get back on the bike' philosophy, and a bit of an adrenaline addiction, and I persuaded myself to head over to the base of the ridge and have a really good look. And so I wandered past tiny semi-frozen lochans bursting with frogs and balanced my way across the boulder field in the coire all the time telling myself "If it's wet I'll come back".

DSC_2989.jpg
Faochag and a frog-filled lochan


It was wet. Really wet. I had a sandwich. It was still wet. I had some chocolate. It was still wet. I took off my warm coat and waterproof. I put my waterproof back on. I had some more chocolate. It was still wet. But I was completely shielded from the wind, and I *really* wanted to do this. I found a safe way around the wet start, avoided a couple of tricky-looking wet gullies lower down and then I was on the crest of a perfect knife-edge ridge. I didn't stop for photos I'm afraid, my concentration was on the rock. I was in gloves, which I don't like, and everything was damp and at one point when a move got serious and committing I did look over to my right to see if there was a way down into the coire but I committed to the moves and by god I was scared, and it was bloody great :lol:

It was all over too quickly and not soon enough, depending on which part of my brain I listened to, but I found a path right near the top and I felt like kissing it. And then I was on the summit of Sgurr na Sgine, my 60th Munro (not that I'm counting) and a golden moment. I have never, ever, in all honesty, been that scared on a mountain before, and I've done more difficult, more exposed routes than that. It's all in the mind. It wasn't difficult at all, there was nothing to compare with "that" downclimb on the Forcan ridge, nothing that remotely approached the exposure of Corrag Buidhe on An Teallach and yet neither of those had set my nerves on edge the way this had. I felt completely alive and punched the air as I walked up to the cairn, then settled down for a celebratory cereal bar and a few photos.
DSC_2995.jpg
Back down the way I came up, which you can't see as it's too steep

DSC_3028-Pano.jpg
Forcan Ridge again

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Not entirely sure where this is (north of Loch Hourn) but I've decided I need to go there

DSC_3044.jpg
Loch Hourn

I could have stayed up there all day were it not for the freezing wind, so I started back down via the normal route.
DSC_3049.jpg
Back towards the summit. The north-east ridge is the obvious ridge heading bottom left to top right

DSC_3064.jpg
Forcan Ridge again....

DSC_3075-Pano.jpg
... and again

I went down via the Bealach Mhalagan again, and once again I got the strong feeling that I'd had enough when I got there. The walk down from there does feel like a very long way.
DSC_3089.jpg
Up Glen Shiel. You can just see my van as a tiny white dot bottom left.

Finally, back at the campsite, I found my bottle. It had been in a cupboard all along :lol:
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BobMcBob
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Re: Sgurr na Sgine and the subject of Bottle

Postby mrssanta » Sun Apr 09, 2017 9:14 pm

That was fab! what a day! and your pictures are fabulous
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Re: Sgurr na Sgine and the subject of Bottle

Postby malky_c » Sun Apr 09, 2017 10:07 pm

I used to do lot of scrambling and a bit of low-grade climbing, but gradually lost the bottle to the point where I hardly do it at all now. That used to bother me, but I tend to get my kicks in other ways now - summit camping, long days out, obscure places.

Mind you, I still do a little bit, and this route had caught my eye. Looks like a nice day out :)
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Re: Sgurr na Sgine and the subject of Bottle

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Sun Apr 09, 2017 10:25 pm

Stunning photos and a great report. I agree Faochag is a great Peak really think there should be a Faochag fan club. You have a lot more bottle than me, no way would I have done that route in the wet :crazy:
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Re: Sgurr na Sgine and the subject of Bottle

Postby Coop » Mon Apr 10, 2017 7:03 am

Fantastic report and I'll take a wee nip out of that
bottle for this wekend coming .

Cheers
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Re: Sgurr na Sgine and the subject of Bottle

Postby litljortindan » Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:03 pm

Bottle restored! Or three quarters of it at least, by the looks of things.
I am also quite apprehensive of the wet, but just for ordinary walking never mind scrambling.
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Re: Sgurr na Sgine and the subject of Bottle

Postby basscadet » Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:28 pm

I can sympathise - I haven't lost my bottle, but certainly my sense of balance and some dexterity since I broke my ankle, which has gradually been eroding confidence :?
Wish I had known about the SnS scramble when I did it too, although got a horrible day, so who knows. The rock is so slippery when wet in kintail.. Dougie was up there in the snow last winter though, and the pics looked fab - looks like a cracking winter route :)
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Re: Sgurr na Sgine and the subject of Bottle

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Apr 10, 2017 10:56 pm

This was quite a revalation: I've only done Faochag via Bealach Mhalagan, after descending from the Saddle. It fascinating how the impression of the character of a hill depends on the approach route. What does surprise me is that I'd never noticed the volcano-like profile from the road - your first pic certainly presents it at its most spectacular. As you say, this area is so full of brilliant views that I have a reasonable excuse for missing it...

The pics are wonderful. It's hard to pick out any in particular; but the view of SnS from Faochag is superb, as are the multiple views of the Saddle and Forcan Ridge. I like the former especially because I still have vivid memories of the steepness of the descent from SnS, and this pic proves that it wasn't just me being a wuss...

Your reflections on bottle are very interesting. We all have our own boundaries for acceptable/unacceptable risk, I guess. In my very initial scambling days, I remember arriving at the Idwal Slabs at 7.30am, noone else around, looking up at the 180m ascent, seeing clearly the consequences of any slip.... I had to eat my breakfast facing in the opposite direction. But then... ... then it was - as you say "...bloody great."! I never manage to take many pics on these routes because I'm chiefly focused on not dying. Again, as you say, one "...feels completely alive."

What a mystery is life!?

Anyway, most enjoyable report: thanks for posting.

AK

PS I used your "boots overlooks big drop" avatar in a pic in my last report. I hope there's no copyright... :-)
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Re: Sgurr na Sgine and the subject of Bottle

Postby BobMcBob » Tue Apr 11, 2017 9:00 pm

Thanks all, there's some decent moral support in those replies, much appreciated.

malky_c wrote:I used to do lot of scrambling and a bit of low-grade climbing, but gradually lost the bottle to the point where I hardly do it at all now. That used to bother me, but I tend to get my kicks in other ways now - summit camping, long days out, obscure places.


You're right, I've recently discovered the delights of random wandering and off-path routes myself.

basscadet wrote:I can sympathise - I haven't lost my bottle, but certainly my sense of balance and some dexterity since I broke my ankle, which has gradually been eroding confidence :?
Wish I had known about the SnS scramble when I did it too, although got a horrible day, so who knows. The rock is so slippery when wet in kintail.. Dougie was up there in the snow last winter though, and the pics looked fab - looks like a cracking winter route :)


Yes my balance - or rather my *ability* to balance - has been affected by a back injury I sustained about 4 months before my slip and I'm sure it has contributed, I tend to be a lot more cautious about where I'm placing my feet these days.

Alteknacker wrote:PS I used your "boots overlooks big drop" avatar in a pic in my last report. I hope there's no copyright... :-)


The invoice is in the mail :lol:
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