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Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Three

Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Three


Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:23 pm

Route description: Sgurr na Ciche: 3 Munros from Loch Arkaig

Munros included on this walk: Garbh Chioch Mhor, Sgurr na Ciche, Sgurr nan Coireachan (Glen Dessary)

Date walked: 26/06/2017

Time taken: 23.5 hours

Distance: 26 km

Ascent: 1740m

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I had some Annual Leave to use up and took a full week off work at the end of June, hoping to get some walking in. Although the forecast for the week was a bit mixed, the Monday 26th June was looking promising, so I girded my loins, crossed my fingers and toes and went for that group of three Munros away out in the Wild West, at the head of Glen Dessary some distance west of the far end of Loch Arkaig. All the Munros books warn that this is a long and knackering route, and there was no way I reckoned that I'd be safe to drive back down the 'rollercoaster' single-track Loch Arkaig road after completing it, so I'd factored in an overnight stay at A'Chuil bothy, which is handily situated quite near the end of the route on return. All the same, it was an intimidatingly long and remote route for a chubby fifty-something bloke as myself, and I set off with some trepidation :shock: ...

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The drive down the minor road to Strathan at the end of Loch Arkaig was just as, um, 'exhilarating' as all the Munros books warn, and I was glad to find myself and my new car still in one piece at the brand new car park at the end of the public road :) . Despite a fairly early start, it was fully ten in the morning before I set off walking. There was a grand view back east along Loch Arkaig just around the corner from the car park:
WR1 - view back up Loch Arkaig just round corner from car park.jpg

I took the continuing track westwards, crossed the bridge over the Dearg Allt, and a wee bit further up the track took the right-hand fork signed for Glendessary Lodge.
WR2 - R-hand fork signed for Glendessary Lodge.jpg

A wee bit further up again, passing the imposing Glendessary Lodge (rebuilt after fire), and the scenery was starting to open up to the west, with the River Dessary meandering scenically to the left and a nice distant view on the right of a Corbett with a lovely long name, Sgurr Cos na Breachd-Laoidh ('Peak of the cave of the speckled calf').
WR3 - Upper Glendessary in distance with River Dessary and distant Sgurr Cos na Breachd-Laoidh.jpg

Soon afterwards, the farm building at Upper Glendessary came into view, and I got my first look at Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche away out west, looking decidedly rough and pointy :o ...
WR4 - Upper Glendessary with first view of Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche in distance.jpg

I was relieved to get a glimpse of A'Chuil bothy on the other side of the River Dessary - it did still exist, then! There is a bridge over the river hereabouts, and on setting out I'd briefly considered crossing over at this stage to leave my overnight stuff at the bothy, but ultimately decided against the detour and just lugged my overnight pack round two of the three Munros then all the way back (thankfully one does at least get to abandon one's pack at the Feadhan na Ciche bealach before tackling Sgurr na Ciche). On the whole I don't regret this in retrospect, since the so-called 'path' to the River Dessary bridge goes through some viciously boggy watermeadows, and I'd just have ended up soaked through early in the day, which wouldn't have been fun at all :roll: .
WR5 - A' Chuill bothy across River Dessary.jpg

After passing Upper Glendessary, the real 'fun' began, with a very squelchy ongoing path along the top of a lengthy section of forestry. As a number of other WRs have noted, squelchiness is pretty much the defining feature of the lower sections of this route, and I had prepared myself for wet feet at the outset!
WR6 - squelchy track along top of forestry.jpg

It felt like a long time (and probably was a long time) before I eventually reached the Allt Coire nan Uth, where a bagger's path branches off right up Sgurr nan Coireachan's south ridge. There is actually a perfectly serviceable bridge over the Allt (visible downstream in the photo below), but the main Glendessary path nowadays chooses to wilfully avoid this to take a shortcut over a river crossing slightly upstream (also visible in the photo). Thankfully the river crossing is quite straightforward using boulders as stepping stones, providing the Allt isn't in spate.
WR7 - Allt Coire nan Uth bridge completely avoided by main path.jpg

Just across the Allt Coire nan Uth, I found a cairn marking the point where the bagger's path to Sgurr nan Coireachan branches off right.
WR8 - Cairned path up Sgurr nan Coireachan.jpg

I found it quite a tough slog up Sgurr nan Coireachan's south ridge with my big overnight pack - I think 'relentless' is the word :roll: - although at least the path was in pretty good nick all the way up, and as I gained height, some fairly spectacular views started to develop out west to Eigg and Rhum by way of distraction.
WR9 - views of Rhum & Eigg emerging with height gain.jpg

After what again felt like quite a long time (and again probably was quite a long time), I eventually topped out at Sgurr nan Coireachan's summit ridge and the gradient eased off. This first Munro has a cairned minor south top (Top?) that could cause confusion in cloud. This is the view northwards from the first cairn towards the true summit:
WR10 - view northwards from Sgurr nan Coireachan cairned S top.jpg

It wasn't much further to the summit proper, where there was an interesting view back northeast to another very remote Munro, Sgurr Mor, with its adjacent Corbett Sgurr an Fhuarain, and the end of Loch Quoich visible to the left. These two hills actually form part of a very long ridgeline stretching all the way from Gairich in the east to Sgurr na Ciche in the west: my route today was actually only the western end of that ridgeline (plenty long enough for the likes of me!).
WR11 - Sgurr Mor & Loch Quoich from Sgurr nan Coireachan main summit.jpg

The view westwards from Sgurr nan Coireachan was even finer, with Loch Nevis now coming into view along with the Small Isles out west, and the increasingly improbable-looking Sgurr na Ciche in the distance.
WR12 - westwards view from Coireachan to Loch Nevis and Hebrides with improbable-looking Sgurr na Ciche.jpg

The ongoing route is fairly rough with a number of mildly scrambly sections, but there is an excellent path almost all the way round which helps considerably. To further aid navigation, there is another extraordinary feature, an old drystane dyke that goes almost all the way over Garbh Chioch Mhor and even - somewhat unbelievably - part of the way up Sgurr na Ciche. It seems to have gotten itself dubbed the Great Wall of Glendessary, and it's easy to see why. Although it is a remarkable feat of human ingenuity, it has its sad side too: you can't help wondering about the surely brutal serf-like lives of the poor guys who had to build the thing almost two centuries ago :( ...
WR13 - view to bealach with first look at Great Wall of Glendessary.jpg

It didn't take me too long to get down to the bealach, and soon I was making my way up the steep eastern flanks of Garbh Chioch Mhor, Walking the Great Wall :) !
WR14 - Walking the Great Wall.jpg

Garbh Chioch Mhor is definitely the toughest (although not the highest) of these three hills. Even its rather wonderful name ('Big Rough Breast'; shades of 'Prisoner Cell Block H' or maybe that's just me :lol: !!) sounds rather intimidating, and although its long undulating ridgeline is undoubtedly enjoyable, it is also a tough slog. I realise that it is a bit fanciful, but (I suspect like most hillgoers) I can't resist the feeling that individual hills have a character or personality, and in contrast to the other two hills, Garbh Chioch Mhor definitely felt unfriendly, perhaps bordering on the slightly malign :? . It does have absolutely fantastic views, however!
WR15 - still Walking the Wall with view along Loch Nevis and pointy-looking Garbh Chioch Mhor summit.jpg

I huffed and puffed my way over the minor eastern Top, logically enough called Garbh Chioch Bheag (the other breast, I suppose!), and eventually found myself on the final approach to Garbh Chioch Mhor summit, with a pleasingly precipitous drop to the right.
WR16 - approaching Garbh Chioch Mhor summit with a big drop to the right.jpg

It was a relief to reach the summit cairn at last, as it was getting late in the afternoon by now. There was a fine view back east down Loch Quoich:
WR17 - view back E down Loch Quoich from Garbh Chioch Mhor summit.jpg

The best views, of course, were however out west along Loch Nevis, with Canna, Eigg and Rhum all very clearly visible out to sea.
WR18 - W along L Nevis to Canna, Eigg & Rhum from Garbh Chioch Mhor summit.jpg

I eyed up my final challenge, Sgurr na Ciche, still looking rather intimidatingly pointy, with an interesting view of the distant Skye Cuillin just to its left.
WR19 - The final challenge - Sgurr na Ciche - with Skye Cuilinn just to its left.jpg

Thankfully it wasn't nearly as hard as it looked; and Sgurr na Ciche immediately felt a much 'friendlier' hill than Garbh Chioch Mhor. It didn't take long to get down to the Garbh Chioch Mhor/Sgurr na Ciche bealach, which is known as 'Feadhan na Ciche' - the 'whistle of the breast'(!), where I finally got to abandon my heavy backpack. The relief was palpable, and I felt as though I was practically running up the ongoing path that cuts left to pick a cunning way up through boulderfield to zigzag its way up to Sgurr na Ciche's summit (needless to say I wasn't actually running, though :lol: !).
Before too long, I found myself at the summit of Sgurr na Quiche. I couldn't quite believe that I'd done it! Sadly I hadn't brought any quiche to celebrate, however, and even my egg sandwiches were now back down at the Feadhan na Ciche, so all I could do was to drink in the fabulous Hebridean views.
WR20 - BHK on Sgurr na Ciche summit looking back E.jpg

This was the view northwest from the summit cairn, with the Knoydart hills in the foreground (easy to see why this area is known as the 'Rough Bounds of Knoydart' :shock: ), and another distant view of the Skye Cuillin.
WR21 - Knoydart hills and Skye Cuillinn from Sgurr na Ciche summit cairn.jpg

...And the classic vista along Loch Nevis to the distant Small Isles:
WR22 - the classic view down Loch Nevis.jpg

Now all that remained was to get myself back to the bothy: a piece of quiche :lol: ! Nae such luck, of course - as all route descriptions warn, the return route is almost as long and knackering as the route out...
It didn't take me too long back down to the Feadhan na Ciche, where I re-donned my backpack with a heavy heart, and started the tricky down-scramble down the steep gully of the stream that descends southwestwards from the bealach. This needed some care, particularly with my heavy backpack back on, and I took my time over it. An interesting feature of the gully was the presence of more frogs (and frogspawn!) than I have ever seen before in my life: it must have been mating season for them, or something.
WR23 - the gully down-scramble from Feadhan na Ciche.jpg

It was quite a relief to emerge from the bottom of the gully (without stepping on too many frogs!) and embark on the ongoing descent southeastwards across a level shoulder of Garbh Chioch Mhor. Luckily I picked up a faint path fairly quickly, which although a bit indistinct and intermittent, eventually took me down to join the main path between Upper Glendessary and the head of Loch Nevis. However, although this path looked nice and clear on the map, it was still rather indistinct at times, and always extremely squelchy, in real life :roll: . It was a real trudge, and ere long I stopped for those egg sandwiches at last :lol: !
The path went ever ever on, and then went on some more. Then some more. And then, after a bit more squelchy path, the patch of forestry came into view in the distance where the path (indistinctly) forks. The upper branch cuts back along the top of the forestry to Upper Glendessary, but there is a lower branch that descends through the forestry - to be honest I found that a bit of imagination was needed to find the start of it, but the point where it enters the trees is marked by a couple of now-defunct ladder stiles (presumably there used to be a deer fence or something here that has since Fell Doon). On entering the Sitka monoculture the path becomes much more distinct, gradually evolving into a forestry track to eventually cross the River Dessary by a bridge, and - after a long, long trudge through the Christmas trees - finally passes close to A'Chuil bothy.
It felt like a very long way back (as you may have picked up by now :lol: ), and despite a further sandwich break just across the River Dessary bridge, I was really knackered by the time I finally reached the bothy. Thankfully there was smoke coming from the lum - someone was obviously already in residence and they had a fire going!
WR24 - A'Chuil bothy.jpg
I went in and introduced myself to a friendly couple from Yorkshire and a couple of lassies from Edinburgh who were on what sounded a fairly adventurous kayaking trip. The Yorkshire couple shared some of their whisky, which did wonders to bring me round again, and we chewed the fat for a bit before I made myself comfy in a corner near the window.
I got an early start the next morning but unfortunately almost drowned (I exaggerate, naturally) while trying to cross the spectacularly boggy water-meadows NW of the bothy to reach the bridge back over the River Dessary to re-join the track at Upper Glendessary. In retrospect, it is probably a better option to stay on the ongoing track through the forestry east of the bothy all the way to Strathan, even although that does involve yet more trudging along forestry tracks, as well as a wee bit of back-tracking from Strathan to the car park :oops: ... Ah well, you live and learn (well, if you survive the bog, you do :lol: ).
Back at the car, I dumped my pack and had a a kip in the car for an hour or so before attempting the rollercoaster-ride back down the Loch Arkaig single-track road for a leisurely lunch at Fort Augustus, before heading on east through Inverness to stay with friends near Elgin for the night. An absolutely fantastic, though knackering, day's walking, and I still can't quite believe that I actually managed it :D !
Last edited by bobble_hat_kenny on Fri Jul 21, 2017 3:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby Fife Flyer » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:29 pm

Great entertaining report, nice to see what these hills actually look like :clap:

I did them last year and to say it was wet is an understatement :( At one point I was up to my thigh in a swamp :roll:
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby simon-b » Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:17 pm

Serious respect for dragging your overnight pack up two of these, Kenny. Those hills are rugged! With some superb views, of course. Looking at that view west to the isles, I think your Eigg sandwiches were just as appropriate as a quiche would have been, even though you had to get back to your pack for them. My passage over these was a little easier with a lighter pack - the price for that was a much longer drive, both before and after the walk!
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby Jaxter » Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:59 pm

These hills look excellent :clap: :clap: I love this whole area, but my goodness are they hard work :shock: Worth the effort though :D Good effort on lugging the pack too :shock: :clap:
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:47 pm

Superb report, really enjoyed reading that. Having abandoned these at S n C due to rubbish weather and returned to A'Chuil, I'm rather jealous, and impressed you did that with a heavy pack. :clap:

Just so you know, the forest track from A'Chuil through the woods is dead easy :lol:
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby prog99 » Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:19 pm

Been up a few times, yet to have a proper view!

Soon afterwards, the farm building at Upper Glendessary came into view, and I got my first look at Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche away out west, looking decidedly rough and pointy :o ...

A common error (been corrected myself before) thats actually Bidein a'Chabair.
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby litljortindan » Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:35 pm

Great report. A trip that must have banished those mid life doubts a bit.
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:56 pm

litljortindan wrote:Great report. A trip that must have banished those mid life doubts a bit.

Well put! Yes, very much so, I'd have to say :wink: !
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:57 pm

prog99 wrote:Been up a few times, yet to have a proper view!

Soon afterwards, the farm building at Upper Glendessary came into view, and I got my first look at Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche away out west, looking decidedly rough and pointy :o ...

A common error (been corrected myself before) thats actually Bidein a'Chabair.

Thanks - I must have another look at the map. It looks well pointy!
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:59 pm

simon-b wrote:Serious respect for dragging your overnight pack up two of these, Kenny. Those hills are rugged! With some superb views, of course. Looking at that view west to the isles, I think your Eigg sandwiches were just as appropriate as a quiche would have been, even though you had to get back to your pack for them. My passage over these was a little easier with a lighter pack - the price for that was a much longer drive, both before and after the walk!

Maybe Eigg sandwiches with a wee hip-flask of Rhum would be the ideal celebratory lunch?
(Sorry, the puns get no better :oops: !)
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby prog99 » Tue Jul 18, 2017 6:46 pm

bobble_hat_kenny wrote:
prog99 wrote:Been up a few times, yet to have a proper view!

Soon afterwards, the farm building at Upper Glendessary came into view, and I got my first look at Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche away out west, looking decidedly rough and pointy :o ...

A common error (been corrected myself before) thats actually Bidein a'Chabair.

Thanks - I must have another look at the map. It looks well pointy!

It is very pointy and a great wee summit. As I said, I've been corrected once, maybe twice.
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:01 pm

Great report of a brilliant area! Particularly useful for me, because I've been eyeing up this area for some while, with all its permutations of routes and 1-2-3 day expedition possibilities; and what your report has been particularly useful for is reminding me that I need to avoid bogs!!

In addition to the excellent pics of cracking hills, thanks for the detailed walk description.

AK
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby Borderhugh » Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:11 pm

Great report Kenny. Pleased it was clear for and you got the views. :clap:

I did these last sunday in the clag and **** rain. Met Office got it horribly wrong. Its one I will definitely want to repeat.
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby Coop » Wed Jul 26, 2017 8:22 pm

Great report and cheers kenny . Was just plotting a route for these 3 and knew I'd seen a report not so long back on them.
Fingers crossed for a good day in August now.
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Re: Sgurr na Quiche & pals: fat bloke manages Glendessary Th

Postby bigkeith » Thu May 02, 2019 3:16 pm

Great report and pics. :clap: :clap: I'm planning on trying these in May and your very clear route description will definitely help. :) :)
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