Arkaig Epic - Gairich to Sgurr na Ciche

Route: Sgùrr na Cìche: 3 Munros from Loch Arkaig

Munros: Gairich, Garbh Chioch Mhòr, Sgùrr Mòr (Loch Quoich), Sgùrr na Cìche, Sgùrr nan Coireachan (Glen Dessary)
Corbetts: Sgùrr an Fhuarain

Date walked: 13/07/2018

Time taken: 15 hours

Distance: 49km

Ascent: 3241m

The Arkaig Trio had been on our agenda for a couple of years but weather had caused two cancellations. Early July was looking good so our plan was to camp up on Thursday night and have a couple of days to climb all the hills, returning on the Sunday. However, with England playing in the WC semi Final on the Sunday, I decided that I should return on the Saturday to spend the day with the kids watching the footie. So, this would result in just the one hill day. Inspired by Rockhopper, we hatched a plan to climb all the hills from Gairich to Sgurr na Ciche in one go.

After doing some work in Liverpool on the Thursday Morning, I hit the Road to Arkaig around 11.00am and eventually arrived at the car park at the end of Arkaig around 7.00pm. It was a beautiful evening and I found the perfect camping spot, looking down Glen Dessary and pitched the tent whilst I awaited the arrival of Boy Vertiginous. We spent a very pleasant evening having a couple of beers as the sun went down, retiring around 11.00pm, ready for an early start.


Up at 4.00am and back up to the car park for some breakfast and to sort out kit. Forecast was good, so plan was to travel as light as possible with a small pack consisting mainly of food and water. By the time we were sorted it out, we must have set off around 5.00am. The morning was grey as we set off straight up the slope behind the car park, heading for the bealach between Fraoch Bheinn and Sgurr Mhurlagain

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

Once at the bealach we picked up the track that lead us down into Glen Kingie and past Kinbreak Bothy. Gairich Beag was clearing but the summit was still in the clouds. We were optimistic that this would clear by the time we reached the summit.

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

We zig zagged our way up the path to Gairich Beag and there were glimmers of sunlight breaking though the clouds ahead, but the cloud did not lift and we summitted Gairich in the clag.

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

We returned down the same route but ended up looking down on Loch Quoich when we dropped below the cloud and had to traverse back to pick up the path down. From here the plan was to take the track towards Quoich and pick up the path at the 355m point and head up Fhuarain. However, we could not find the start of the path and eventually just headed up the slope. Eventually we picked up the path which made for easy going.

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

Looking back, Gairich was now clear

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

Summit of Sgurr an Fhuarain, looking back down Glen Kingie

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

Having arrived at the summit first, I sat and ate some food whilst looking ahead to the majestic sweeping ridge leading up to Sgurr Mor. However, possibly due to the summit being obscured by cloud and, not for the first time that day, a feeling of apprehension descended on me. I felt very alone, isolated and vulnerable. BV soon arrived to snap me out of it and we continued along the ridge.

The ridge to Sgurr Mor was a delight and by the time we reached the summit all negative thoughts had gone. I had been fearful of ascending into the clag induced unknown, but the path was good and I experienced a feeling of euphoria as we stood on the summit, despite the fact that it was still in the clouds.

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

Ahead of us was the ridge that would eventually lead to Sgurr nan Coireachan with its many ups and downs over Sgurr Beag and An Eag. Having reached An Eag, the slabby ridge up to Coireachan looked pathless, but once we ascended, the path weaved its way up and around the slabs with a bit of scrambling. Here we met our first walkers, a couple of botanists who had ascended from Glendessary and were carrying out a plant survey.

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

And, finally, the summit ridge of Sgurr nan Coireachan was reached and at 953m was clear.

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

Looking ahead, Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche were still shrouded in cloud, but it was lifting, ever closer to revealing the summits.

The route off Coireachan was very steep and rocky, usually, search paths make me uneasy, but today, all was good. I felt we were on the home stretch, on a well worn path on a well waked route and the wall was ahead of us, to guide us to the summit of Garbh Chioch Mhor.

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

We reached the bealach between Coireachan and Garbh Chioch Mhor and started the steep ascent along the path that followed the wall. I strode ahead, initially enjoying the steep rocky ridge, but once I reached the 968m top, I could see a rocky outcrop that needed to be negotiated. This filled me with dread and, similar to what I had experienced on the ascent up Sgurr Mor, I began to feel dispirited and, almost scared. I just had the urge to get off the mountain and, once joined by BV, I made it clear that as soon as we descended to the Feadan na Ciche gully, I was heading out and Sgurr na Ciche could wait another day!!. The rocky outcrop was a challenge, with one small ledge that appeared to be exposed, but as soon as that was negotiated, we arrived at the summit. Happy, but still adamant that this was the my last summit of the day.

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

The views were incredible, looking back from where we had come from and over to Knoydart

ImageIMG_6896 by paul wilson, on Flickr

ImageIMG_6895 by paul wilson, on Flickr

And ahead, Loch Nevis and Sgurr na Ciche, with just a wisp of cloud at the summit, were looking incredible. However, my mind was made up, once at the bealach, I was getting off the mountain and heading down.

ImageIMG_6898 by paul wilson, on Flickr

ImageIMG_6897 by paul wilson, on Flickr

We arrived at the bealach, ate some food and contemplated our plans. BV persuaded me to continue for a short while, remembering an experience we had shared on Luinne Bheinn a coupe of years ago, when I had had enough, but he managed to coax me to the summit.

Begrudgingly, I agreed and as we started the ascent we came across a burn and took the opportunity to fill our water. I was down to about 500ml and had been rationing since the summit of Coireachan. Having now found a source, I drank a full litre, topped up all my bottles and, as if by magic, the negative thoughts that had plagued me for the last hour, all disappeared. Looking back, I am pretty sure that I was suffering from a mild form of dehydration that had made me feel low. But now, replenished, I was up for the climb ahead and we ascended up to the summit of Sgurr na Ciche.

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

Pretty steep up the side of the scree and then a narrow zig zag to the ridge. From there, an easy walk to the cairn at the end with dramatic views out over Loch Nevis. So pleased I did not give up at the bealach.

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

And, having completed 5 munros, 1 corbett and many other tops, it was down to the gully and the long walk out. I had wondered how steep the gully would be, but with little rain, the gully was relatively dry and with only a couple of hands on sections we were soon through it. Views over to Eigg were immense

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

We were now left with the walk out, must have been about 8K and the last 3 were pretty tough on the track with tired feet. Eventually back at the car park after just over 15 hours at 8.30pm. 48.5 Kilometres, 3241 metres of ascent, 5 munros and 1 Corbett.

Cooked up some food at the car and then retired down to tents for a beer and celebratory mug(s) of wine. However, the midges were out in force and pretty quickly we had to retire to tents.

ImageArkaig by paul wilson, on Flickr

Thanks to BV for the shared experience. Here's to the next epic!

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Location: Boston, Lincolnshire
Activity: Mountain Walker

Munros: 56
Corbetts: 21
Grahams: 7
Donalds: 9
Wainwrights: 21
Hewitts: 18
Sub 2000: 7
Islands: 7

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Ascent: 3241m
Munros: 5
Corbetts: 1


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Sub2000s: 1


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Sub2000s: 1

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