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Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)


Postby Graeme D » Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:40 pm

Route description: Sgurr nan Conbhairean, Carn Ghluasaid and Sail Chaorainn

Munros included on this walk: Carn Ghluasaid, Sail Chaorainn, Sgurr nan Conbhairean

Date walked: 04/08/2010

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 17 km

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It had been disturbing me for some time - every time I looked at my Munro map, it stood out like a sore thumb. It didn't look right, and it was gnawing away at me, causing no end of angst. Something was going to have to be done about it. Some sort of balance and peace of mind was going to have to be achieved. That large, dense cluster of red symbols between Fort William and Skye could not be allowed to remain exclusively red any more - I had to get up there and start spreading some blues.

I am of course alluding to the Munro Mecca that is Kintail, which I had previously passed through on a number of occasions en route to and/or returning from either Skye or Torridon, but as of yet, I had not ventured onto the multitude of fantastic mountains dotted around Loch Cluanie and Glen Shiel. Time to get out on the piste in Kintail!

I also hadn't been out walking with my mate Robin since last September, other than on Duke of Edinburgh gigs through school or on our WGL award training days back in March, all of which was pretty cool but none of which really counts. So, as I was saying, we hadn't truly walked together since September. Make that almost a year. It was high time that sorry situation was addressed as well.

Robin has done well over 200 Munros but in the last 2 years has added only two new additions to his list - Beinn Dearg near Blair Atholl and Meall Buidhe in Glen Lyon, both done with yours truly for company. Of his Munros still showing up as red on the map, eight were on the north side of Loch Cluanie. So, plans for an assault on Kintail were duly hatched.

Robin fancied B&B accommodation. I preferred the idea of a high camp. We decided to split the difference and camp from the car. So, a very disorganised yours truly (with stuff thrown willy-nilly into the car) met an equally disorganised Robin (with stuff spewing out of plastic crates in the back of his car) at the Beatrix Potter place in Birnam at 7am as arranged (actually, it was more like 7.30.... I think I already mentioned some organisational issues were encountered). I hastily heaved my gear into the back of his considerably more spacious, more reliable and less wet dog stench ridden motor and dumped my Astra in the dodgiest looking location I could find in the hope that some local neds would avail themselves of it to joy-ride around the mean streets of the Greater Birnam/Dunkeld conurbation before torching it or dumping it in the River Tay. Alas, Birnam must be some kind of ned-free, crime-free utopia in the heart of Scotland. Not even the old computer on the back seat (which I have been carting about there for weeks in the hope of finally remembering to swing by the municipal recycling facility) proved to be adequate bait.

Anyway, enough inane rambling. This is not about Birnam, it's about Kintail.

We tootled up the A9 to Dalwhinnie and then along the A86 to Spean Bridge, past the Commando Memorial, along the side of Lochs Laggan and Oich, through Invergarry and then along the A something else to park up at the large parking area at Lundie on the shores of Loch Cluanie. We wandered down to the shore to scope out a possible campsite, but it didn't look too promising, so we headed back along to the track which leads down to the back of the dam and looked there, not wanting to be bothered trying to locate a spot after coming down after 7 or 8 hours on the hill. It wasn't exactly the wild camping spot I had had in mind, but it would do nicely, and it meant we could nip along to the Cluanie Inn for a pint afterwards.

We headed back along to Lundie and parked up, got quickly packed and booted and headed over the road and onto the track leading up towards the transmitter mast. The going is excellent on the well constructed stalkers path which meanders up onto the broad ridge of Carn Ghluasaid with the views back across the South Glen Shiel Ridge opening up with every twist and turn. It is a very enjoyable climb in the sun with a nice light breeze to keep any midges away and prevent overheating.

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Creag Lundie and Loch Cluanie from stalkers path on ascent of Ghluasaid

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Robin leading the way towards the ridge onto the Ghluasaid plateau

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Sunshine on Loch Cluanie with Ceann Druim na Garth-leitr beyond

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Back down the ridge to the eastern end of the South Glen Shiel Ridge across the water

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Robin about to plateau out

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Creag a' Chaorainn shrouded in mist

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At Carn Ghluasaid summit

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Very precarious summit cairn


The summit cairn is perched precariously at the far side of the plateau, hanging above the abyss. It's a bit chilly now to be parading about in shorts and a thin lightweight top, so it's on with long trousers and a wind-cheater for the next leg north-west along the broad stony ridge and over Creag a' Chaorainn and the Glas Bhealach to climb to the high point of the day, the 1109 metre summit of the majestic Sgurr nan Conbhairean.

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Back over the chasm to Carn Ghluasaid

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Mist rolling in across the Glas Bhealach

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East down to the Allt Coire Sgreumh


There's a fantastic little 3 sided stone shelter just by the summit cairn which we both easily managed to hunker down into out of the wind and light drizzle which was now falling to have our lunch. Over sandwiches, yoghurt covered banana chips and a shared can of cooking lager, we discuss the merits of this little shelter with a tarpaulin thrown over the top and weighted down as an emergency shelter or even as overnight accommodation.

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Second summit of the day

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Robin in the summit shelter

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View to Sail Chaorainn from summit of Sgurr nan Coinbhairean


As we are finishing off the last dregs of the lager, a couple who had been behind us on the ascent up from the car park arrive at the summit. They are staying at the Shiel Bridge campsite where they are being eaten alive by midges and spending several days knocking off Munro peaks in the glen. They said that the previous day they had endured truly foul conditions on The Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine. At least they are having better luck today, even if it's not quite top notch weather. We leave the shelter to them and head off north down towards the connecting ridge over to Sail Chaorainn.

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Robin coming off Conbhairean with A' Chioch and Mullach Fraoch-choire ahead

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Across the two little lochans towards Sail Chaorainn

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A' Chralaig across the Bealach Choire a' Chait

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East into Coire Mheadhoin between Beinn an Iomaire and An Reithe


This third Munro of the day looks like a bit of a come down from here, in all senses of the term. Still, the views are excellent and the weather picks up a bit again. We arrive at a tiny little cairn on a rocky outcrop but to be honest, the more significant looking cairn about 500 metres ahead of us catches our attention and we rather blithely assume that this second cairn is the Munro summit. We had taken a quick look at the map back at the summit of Sgurr nan Conbhairean and I had then packed it away for the next leg as it was all pretty straightforward looking. However, as we approached the last cairn and saw the ridge dropping away beyond, we knew from memory of the map that we had overshot the mark and continued out to the 1001 metre Top of Carn na Coire Mheadhoin. At least it was well worth the additional effort. This was a far more elegant summit and better viewpoint than the 1002 metre Munro back along the ridge.

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Summit cairn on the 1001 metre Top looking north towards Glen Affric

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Looking back over Sail Chaorainn to Sgurr nan Coinbhairean


After a few shots, we retraced our steps back along to Sail Chaorainn ........

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Glen na Ciche from Sail Chaorainn

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Sgurr nan Conbhairean towering over Sail Chaorainn

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Sgurr nan Conbhairean from the north

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SnC zoomed


....... and then contoured around the scree littered western slopes of Sgurr nan Conbhairean before curving around the ridge above the Gorm Lochan and down off Meall Breac in ever heavier rain on an absolute swamp of a path back to the road, before crossing the Allt Coire Lair and taking the Old Military Road back to the transmitter mast and back down to the car.

All that remained then was to pay a visit to the Cluanie Inn for some quick liquid refreshment before returning to the Cluanie Dam to set up camp for the night and polish off the rest of the cooking lager.


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Graeme D
 
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby jonny616 » Tue Aug 10, 2010 2:05 pm

Nice report & pics Greame

I too had the blues this weekend. Camped friday & saturday at shiel bridge. The midges were bad. My friends & I did the south glen shiel ridge on saturday (report to follow). Its a fantastic area but i am never going back thier in August midgy hell!

Regards

Jonny
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby Graeme D » Tue Aug 10, 2010 2:28 pm

Hi Jonny,

Yeah, the little buggers were bad down at our campsite below the dam - just about tolerable at night (although we sat in the car with our beers) but a living nightmare the next morning! :(
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Graeme D
 
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby kevsbald » Tue Aug 10, 2010 3:59 pm

Loving the shot of SnC and the cloud - actually better unzoomed. The big 90! Here's hoping you'll be ticking another twa on Saturday.
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby Scotjamie » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:00 pm

great report on hills that I really enjoyed several years back, must do report one day. Fun commentary, and organisation as good as anything that we put together
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby kinley » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:19 pm

You really do need to balance up that Munro Map! :lol:

Heading this way in September - these would be good to repeat - cheers for the report 8)
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby HighlandSC » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:35 pm

Great report. I do like a bit of Kintail! Hoping to get up the Forcan Ridge fairly soon. Or maybe over the other side for A'Chralaig.

kevsbald wrote:The big 90! Here's hoping you'll be ticking another twa on Saturday.

Then bash 1 more somewhere before hitting the big 100 at the end of the South Glen Shiel Ridge. That's what I'd do anyway!
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby munrowalker » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:44 pm

jonny616 wrote:a but i am never going back thier in August midgy hell!



Agree 100%, never seen midgies like it, reckon the rain plus warmth had hatched millions of the little blighters in Glen Shiel, we parked at the Cluanie on Friday night and it was like a flood of water when we opened the car door as they poured it. Oot with the skin so soft in seconds!
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby LeithySuburbs » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:28 pm

Hi Greame

Another enjoyable report - you have got about this summer. Not long til school is back though, you lucky barsteward ;).

My Munro map is similar to yours - a bit lop-sided. 3 days of walking next week though and planning a 2 night backpacking trip. Hope to have 3 routes to choose from and one will be in this area and will be first choice if the weather forecast is good...
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby Alan S » Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:34 pm

Great report again Graeme 8)
Start Spreading the Blues

I reckon you should go up and do Ben hope next, just to balance out the map :lol:
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby Graeme D » Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:06 pm

alan s wrote:Great report again Graeme 8)
Start Spreading the Blues

I reckon you should go up and do Ben hope next, just to balance out the map :lol:


Chance would be a fine thing Alan. Sadly I can't see it happening before next summer now. :(
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby Stretch » Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:50 pm

Nice report Graeme, based on what I've read here I'm going to push these out a bit on my calendar, maybe to mid to late Sept as I don't want the massive midge attack :lol: Would probably consider doing this as a warm up to the South Glen Shiel Ridge, provided I can find a suitable place to wild camp down below as you did.
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Re: Start Spreading the Blues - Kintail, Kintail (Day 1)

Postby monty » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:55 pm

Hi Graeme,
Great title. Nice to see where I am going next weekend with Danrun. Looks like there was a fair bit of mist around. :D Mind you these three are low on our list of priorities but with a bit of luck and good weather we might be able to include them in our plan. Its a bugger to hear that the place is alive with midges. :shock: I am hopeing that we get some strong sunshine and a little bit of wind to help keep the little buggers down. :D cheers
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