walkhighlands

The Magnificent Seven conquer The Seven - a walk backwards!

Route: South Glen Shiel Ridge: 7 Munros

Munros: Aonach Air Chrith, Creag a'Mhaim, Creag nan Damh, Druim Shionnach, Maol chinn-dearg, Sgurr an Doire Leathain, Sgurr an Lochain

Date walked: 13/07/2019

Time taken: 11.5 hours

Ascent: 2018m

Before the weekend of the summer walkhighland meet at Ratagan I had taken a week’s holiday to get out in the hills and catch up on a bit of munro bagging and warm up for what would be my biggest day on the hills to date the South Glen Shiel ridge and 7 ticks on the munro chart. A grand day out if the weather stayed fine and a good opportunity to join other folks with cars to leave at either end. Fortunately one of the WHers Martin had put a note up on the site to gauge interest and the date was set. The down side was that he was insistent that we start the walk at 6am so as not to miss the famous Saturday quiz. The other discussion was regarding the path down at the end of the walk which a lot of people seemed to miss and end up descending a steep grassy gully and waist high bracken. This apparently was due to ‘The Wall’. I discussed the route at length with Val and Deborah the day before who had just completed the walk and so was convinced that we would not make the same mistake but Martin insisted that he wanted to err on the side of caution and begin the walk from the west end which would mean a start from almost sea level! This did not really sink in until we were starting the climb the next day. The only thing we could sway Martin on at least was the start time and finally at 6.30am the next morning as agreed we left the Ratagan hostel co-ordinating cars for our grand day out. Just over an hour later we were booted up ready for off at 7:40am, 6 guys (one father and son) and me the only female of the group!

01 Signpost marking the start.jpg
Sign post for the start / finish of the walk


We started off on a good path behind the carpark before realising about 5 minutes later we’d have to cross a deer fence so headed back to the road to the well sign posted path for the ridge. Start take two! The weather forecast had changed many times over the week from mist and heavy rain to sunshine and back again! We started off in a light drizzle with the mist down fairly low over the hills. It didn’t look like we were going to see much today.

02 Route Along the Allt Mhalagain.jpg
Route along the Allt Mhalagain


The good path started off gently at first and then gradually steepened till we came to cross the Allt Mhalagain. As we contemplated which was the best way to cross Martin took a run at it in the hope his feet wouldn’t have time to get wet I assume. The rest of us chose a more conventional approach picking our way across the boulders just below the surface of the water, we were soon all safely across.

03 Crossing the Allt Mhalagain.jpg
Crossing the Allt Mhalagain


After the burn crossing the route steepened quite considerably and the path although still clear in places was very indistinct in others. Although the rain had become very light, by now we were in thick mist so big Steve took over leading with his GPS and kept up a moderate pace that everyone could easily follow. I voiced my thoughts wondering if we had reached the height of the road at the official start of the walk yet. I was met with stony silence, probably best to keep those kind of thoughts to myself. The ascent seemed to be unrelenting, it rose up and up and up more and more steeply. Eventually we reached the bealach duibh Leac and the small cairn marking the stalkers path for the descent making sure people didn’t add the Corbett to their 7 munros.

04 Relief on reaching the first cairn.jpg
Relief on reaching the cairn marking the ridge path to the summit


From here the path levelled off a little though we still couldn’t see to the first munro. I started to cool down a fair bit having only a t-shirt under my waterproofs for the climb. As we stopped for a quick break I realised I’d have to swap tops somewhere. As Kevin walked off behind the only available rock I realised there was nowhere available for a quick change. I looked at the boys engrossed in Parminder’s fold out map and father and son engrossed in getting to the bottom of their bag of wine gums. Quick as a flash I swapped over my t-shirt for my long sleeved thermals. Not a flicker from the side lines. I smugly zipped up my water proof as the troops reassembled and we continued our more gentle walk beside the drystone wall. I'm always amazed at how people build drystone walls in such precarious places. All was going well until we came to ‘The Wall’ which Val had mentioned the day before in her description of the descent. We had come to an 8m drop in the path as mentioned in the walk highland description. And worse still we would have to descend it! Anyone that knows me knows I am not a scrambler and have a bit of a fear of heights together with the occasional bought of vertigo which reappears now and again. But since I have upped my munro tally over the 100 mark I realise this is something I was going to have to improve on. To the average walker this ‘mild’ scramble was nothing and really if you looked at it logically what’s the worst that could happen it was only 8m of down climbing after all and it wasn’t exposed. Still my legs were shaking and my heart starting to beat furiously. I gingerly started the down climb and realising my poles were getting in the way passed them down to Steve who by now had a collection of poles. Since he had the longest legs he had swiftly descended and was now guiding the rest of us. It wasn’t till I had nearly made it to the bottom that I realised Steve had been trying to tell me it would have been much easier if I had turned around to face the wall! I had tuned everything out till I got to the bottom. Oh well I'd remember this for next time.My legs quickly returned to their sturdy selves and heart rate gradually slowed to a sensible rate. I looked back up to the rock wondering what I had been worrying about!

05 Keeper of the poles.jpg
Steve keeper of the poles!


The poles were shared back out and we continued the steepening ascent up to the first munro of the day. Finally after 3 hours of up we reached our first munro or munro number 7 depending how you look at it. Creag nan Damh tick number 1 of 7.

06 Creag nan Damh first summit.jpg
Creag nan Damh our first summit


No view from the summit but this was expected. With another 6 to go we didn’t spend much time at this top and picked our way down off this and to the beallach before starting to skirt along the side of Sgurr Beag. At this point we were still in thick mist and the steep grassy slope disappeared below. I chatted to Iain in front as we walked along the path cut into the hillside.

07 Traversing around the Sgurr Beag top.jpg
Traversing around the side of Sgurr Beag top


About half way along I started to feel a little dizzy as the mist was quite disorientating and there was nothing to focus on. I could feel my recurring vertigo starting to make me feel slightly off balance. I focused on the back of Iain’s head which kept me from looking down too much and it seemed to do the trick. Soon pockets of mist started to part and we could see right down to the river Quoich far below. We finally reached the beallach between Sgurr Beag and our next munro Sgurr Lochain. My dizziness started to subside. I was starting to overheat in my waterproofs though and as the rain had finally stopped I decided it was time to swap my waterproof jacket for my much lighter windstopper before tackling the next ascent. Steve looked on in horror as I realised we were now matching which made me laugh, great minds you see!

08 Top 2 still in the mist.jpg
Looking across to summit 2 still in the mist

09 Rise up to Sgurr an Lochain.jpg
The ascent to Sgurr an Lochain


The next section we started at a steady climb which seemed to go on and on with many false tops before finally reaching the second summit of Sgurr an Lochain. This felt like the longest climb of the day although not quite the highest point at 1004m. That was a few summits away yet.

10 Top 2 Sgurr an Lochain.jpg
Summit 2 - Sgurr an Lochain


We continued on to Sgurr an Doire Leathain and agreed we’d make this our lunch stop. As we traversed the ridge now with fence posts to lead the way the mist was continuing to clear and it was definitely clearing towards the east. We met our first walkers of the day the boys had first met them in the top carpark several hours before. They had made speedy progress. It seemed a little quicker this time to reach the summit of Sgurr an Doire Leathain which was a short detour off the main path.

11 Steep drops off the narrowing ridge.jpg
The narrowing ridge

12a Looking towards Loch Quoich.jpg
Looking towards Loch Quoich

13 Looking back along the clearing ridge.jpg
Looking back along the clearing ridge

14 Sgurr an Doire Leathain time to check themap.jpg
Summit 3 - Sgurr an Doire Leathain time to check the map


We decided as it was a little breezy on top we would descend a little to find a good spot for lunch. There was a short ‘discussion’ about whether the path continued on or went back along the ridge. Parminder got out his trusty laminated map and checked it against Steve’s GPS finally deciding to go back the short distance to the cairn we’d seen and sure enough the path continued along the ridge. By now the mist clearing and showing us the way. We stopped a little way off the top and had a bite of lunch by now much more enthusiastic about the way ahead. The weather and views having a lot to do with that. The next munro would be half way.

As we packed up and continued on down the ridge Martin suddenly stopped ‘my poles’ . We turned back and way up almost at the top of the previous summit where we had stopped were Martins poles still sticking out of the hillside where he had left them. He resigned himself.....oh well that’s that then. After 3 munros and 4 to go he was not going back and you can bet none of us were offering!!. Martin did not have a good track record on losing gear….I’ll say no more. A couple we had passed going the opposite direction were almost at the poles so he gestured to them waving his arms wildly in the air. They must have thought the long walk had got to him, eventually we turned around and carried on along the ridge Martin now dreaming up the fancy new poles he was going to have to buy as a replacement.

15 A view from the ridge.jpg
Continuing along the ridge


It didn't seem to take us nearly as long this time to reach the next munro of the day Maol Chinn–dearg and our half way point. We all touched the top excitedly although there was no sign of Martin. All of a sudden he appeared over the horizon in true magnificent 7 style donning a 100 badge of honour across the front of his chest. To shouts and whoops he ceremonially touched his one hundredth munro. It was nice to share someone else’s 100th hill as friends had shared mine a month before in the Fannichs.

17 Martin contemplates his 100th munro.jpg
Martin contemplating his 100th munro

16 Twins! Maol Chinn-dearg.jpg
Summit 4 -Maol Chinn-dearg, twins!


Martin had certainly kept that quiet and the sun had almost come out to shine on the moment. Sweets were shared before continuing on to munro 5 Aonach Air Crith. We passed another few parties of walkers before it become just us heading along the ridge again. A few little clambers along the way eventually getting us to our next destination of Aonach Air Crith.

18 Some airy ridge sections up to the next summit.jpg
Some exciting ridge sections on route to the next summit!

19 From Aonach Air Chrith looking to our final 2 summits.jpg
Summit 5 - Aonach Air Chrith looking towards our final 2 summits


We could now see the final two munros within reach and suddenly our goal of 7 didn’t seem so far away. The going to the next hill seemed a little less steep although the youngest of our party Stuart was starting to flag. Everyone was doing really well up to this point but a couple of the guys realised low blood sugar was maybe something to do with Stuarts slowing pace as he was suffering quite a lot from cramp as well as fatigue. Dextrose tablets were passed along the line along with an Isotonic drink someone had. He soon perked up again and it was a lesson to us all to make sure we were drinking and eating enough for the long distance. We eventually made it to the penultimate top of Druim Shionnach which was back in a little mist. This summit cairn was adorned with a little smiley faced pebble to greet us!

20 More gentle descent towards summit 6.jpg
A more gentle descent towards summit 6

21 Mist creeping in as I touch the summit of Druim Shionnach.jpg
Summit 6 - Druim Shionnach with the mist creeping in as I ceremonially touch the top

22 Back in the mist.jpg
Back in the mist


We were soon back out the mist and our last top of the day was clear. We could now see right down to the Cluanie Inn far below and a long winding track disappearing away to the east around the back of our last munro. We tried not to think about the long walk out as we looked across to the final summit of the day although one of the guys said he didn’t realise we had such a long way back. I had read the walk description the night before but had tried not to think about it. No point in thinking about the destination when you’re only half way through, this was about enjoying every moment and at this point I really was. It was a more gentle ascent up to the final top of Creag a Mhaim. Still fairly together as a group we touched the summit cairn adorned with another smiley face and there were hugs and handshakes all round. What an achievement for us all and nothing not even a long walk out was going to wipe the grin off my face.

23 Last top clearing.jpg
The last summit of the day starting to clear ahead of us

24 Creag a Mhaim summit 7!.jpg
A satisfying 7 - Creag a Mhaim


We all shared the moment and took lots of summit photos. It was 5pm by now so we decided after a quick refuelling we needed to continue the journey out before fatigue took over. Steve was out in front overcome by a desire to reach The Kintail lodge for 7pm dinner reservations, I didn’t like to tell him that I didn’t think that was going to happen! From the final top there was a good path which zig-zagged it’s way down the final munro. We started to spread out as a little tiredness was taking over. Some of us ran down the Heather between the zigzags for a little variety and we eventually arrived at the track we had seen from way above. My heart sank as I realised it was a tarred road an absolute killer for the feet at the end of a hard day. But not to be deterred I walked some of it on the soft verges and as our party spread out I also ran some of it believe it or not to take the pressure off my now aching feet. It really did the trick although no-one else would believe me. Less time on the soles of my feet made all the difference.

25 The long walk out.jpg
The long walk out to The Cluanie


For the final stretch of road Martin kept us entertained with daft games possibly kept for his kids on long car journeys. It did the trick though and we laughed and groaned along towards our destination. The groaning only reserved for bad jokes of course as the sore feet were forgotten! The only interruption was two walk highlanders careering down hill on their bikes after a day out on the Loch Quoich munros. Not even the offer of a backy but nothing could spoil our fantastic day out! (to be fair I would have done the same!) Eventually we came to the bridge at the end of our walk and there on the other side were Martin’s poles proudly sticking up out of the ground. The kindness of strangers…the couple we had met on the hill had carried an extra two poles for their last 4 munros and back to their rightful owner. Martin was made up (although in his head he had already picked out a new set of poles).

As I reached the finish with a satisfied grin on my face I looked back at our fantastic achievement. We still had one straggler so Iain quickly jumped in his car to go back for the last of our party although by then he had almost reached the bridge. No man left behind! We had reached our destination at 7:10pm, 7 summits completed 11 ½ hours after we started.

Steve reckoned we’d still make the pub for dinner so we quickly piled into two cars out the midges and drove back down Glen Shiel. I stared up at the glorious mountains above taking in our fantastic achievement and grinning from ear to ear....what a day. I decided in order to savour the day a rush to the pub for a meal we were already late for was not for me so I showered and went into the hostel kitchen trying to decide what was going to be quickest to cook after such a long day. I was immediately offered a seat at Leah’s table for a massive curry. As I tucked into this fantastic spread I started to recount my amazing day on the hills. A fitting end to the day along with the infamous WH quiz of course not that I paid much attention I was still in my 7 summit bubble. I have to say that grin lasted me all week at work. This was by far one of my best days out on the hill ever (along with my own 100th of course) with some great walkhighlanders to share it with. Thanks Steve, Martin, Parminder, Kevin, Iain and Stuart for making it such a special day.

Footnote: I had over 100 photos of this walk so it was very difficult to whittle it down to 25 especially when you have to make sure you also get all 7 summits recorded. Hopefully along with the notes it describes a little of our day. As to the extra 200m or so of climbing we had to do the jury’s still out on that. Whichever way you go it's a long walk out although this walk backwards was probably a little easier on the knees. Maybe next time I'll try it forwards!

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Comments: 8



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Quincy


User avatar
Location: Argyll
Activity: Mountain Walker

Munros: 118
Corbetts: 24
Grahams: 5
Donalds: 8
Wainwrights: 24
Hewitts: 15
Sub 2000: 3



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Statistics

2019

Trips: 4
Distance: 51.5 km
Ascent: 5388m
Munros: 11
Corbetts: 1

2018

Trips: 8
Distance: 129 km
Ascent: 9085m
Munros: 14

2017

Trips: 1
Distance: 14 km
Ascent: 1259m
Munros: 2

2016

Trips: 3
Distance: 70.65 km
Ascent: 2969m
Munros: 3


Joined: Mar 30, 2015
Last visited: Aug 04, 2019
Total posts: 120 | Search posts