Gulvain: Clean boots on the Dirty Hill, in autumn sunshine

Route: Gulvain, near Kinlocheil

Munros: Gulvain

Date walked: 20/09/2020

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 21km

Ascent: 1230m

I'm cheering myself up, in what has been a nervous week for the world :? , by tidying up a couple of Walk Reports that I'd never gotten round to posting at the end of last year ... and it has worked, I'd have to say. My photos have reminded me what a lovely walk this was, and after all, the hills will still be there for us all, long after COVID-19 (and maverick world leaders) have been consigned to history's great dustbin, inshallah :roll: ...
Despite the very late start to the season, I'd actually managed to clock up more Munros than I'd initially thought possible during the ill-starred year of 2020. The fine weather, plus the impossibility of holidays overseas, probably both helped. By the end of August my tally stood at 13 new ones since the July "re-opening" of the hills post-lockdown, plus two repeats, taking me to the 200-Munros mark in total ... and with the weekend of 20th September earmarked for a walk and another surprisingly fine weather forecast to boot, I thought that I might just have a look at Gulvain before the winter weather set in, and try to make it fourteen for the year.
Gulvain is of course a real Awkward Singleton of a Munro, with a long walk-in for a single "tick" in a relatively remote corner of the country. It is potentially day-trippable from Glasgow at a push, but I thought that I might as well take it easy on myself (and give the hospitality industry some much-needed custom), by taking a Friday Annual Leave day and driving up to the Roybridge Hotel late afternoon. I hadn't bargained on a road closure on the A82 and a long and painful diversion via Connel and Ballachulish, of course :roll: ! Once I finally got to the hotel however, it was a pleasant enough stay (good bar food and draught beer fair perked me up after the nightmare drive :) ), and I took their room-only deal so that I could sort out my own breakfast and get an early start on the Saturday morning.
As per the website's route description, I parked at a handy parking area at the start of the A861 just beyond its junction with the A830, and walked back the short distance to the A830 to take the Gleann Fionnlighe track on the north side of the road. Thankfully the route-finding at the start of the route (usually the hardest bit!) was straightforward enough, and the weather was looking very promising as per forecast, once some early-morning haze had burned off...
WR1 - lovely early morning mist at start of route with ROW signpost to Strathan.jpg

The approach up the Gleann Fionnlighe track is long but scenic, through mixed forestry beside the tumbling waters of the Fionn Lighe burn that gives the glen its name, and soon enough the sun was shining brightly :D .
WR2 - sunshine at the start of approach track with a keek at shoulder of Gulvain in the distance already.jpg

Some nice spider-webs dusted with early-morning dew to the side of the track:
WR3 - some nice early morning cobwebs.jpg

...And a pleasing wee waterfall on the Fionn Lighe:
WR4 - a wee waterfall on the Fionn Lighe.jpg

It was a long walk in right enough, even after I'd passed the derelict building at Uachan, but a pleasant one on the whole. Eventually I emerged from the forestry with a grand view of Gulvain's south ridge and south top basking in wall-to-wall sunshine ahead:
WR4B - emerging from forestry with Gulvain S ridge and S top basking in sunshine ahead.jpg

This hill's Gaelic monicker is somewhat unpromising - the usual translation seems to be "Dirty or Rough Hill" (from Gaor Bheinn), although I see that the Walkhighlands Munros book has it as "Noisy Hill". I'd have to say, however, that the entire route was unusually bog-free by West of Scotland standards, and I actually managed to finish the day without getting my boots wet or even particularly muddy :) ... which is something of a first for me in Scotland's Wild West. The grand weather undoubtedly helped, of course.
A bit further down the track, there was a pleasingly Tolkein-ish view of this Lonely Mountain, nicely framed between two trees ... although thankfully Smaug the Dragon was nowhere in evidence!
WR5 - Gulvain looking a bit Tolkeinish framed by two trees near the end of the track.jpg

Just about at the end of the track now, where it degenerates into a rougher (but still serviceable) path, and the Lonely Mountain was looming very large now. That had the look of being something of an unrelenting ascent :roll: .
WR6 - the Lonely Mountain looming large now.jpg

Before starting the ascent, however, I came to the rather cute footbridge over the Allt a' Choire Reidh, with some nice wee birch trees around it:
WR7 - footbridge over the Allt a Choire Reidh with nice birch trees.jpg

Well, it was a bit of an unrelenting slog up Gulvain's long but grassy south ridge right enough, but as is often the case, there were excellent views by way of compensation. The vista in this case is the spectacular one back down Gleann Fionnlighe, with various impressively pointy Glenfinnan Corbetts jostling for attention on the south side of the A830.
WR8 - fine view back down Gleann Fionnlighe to Corbetts on south side of the road during initial ascent.jpg

A zoomed shot of those Corbetts:
WR9  - zoomed shot of Corbetts.jpg

Eventually I reached an initial cairned rise, where the gradient suddenly starts to ease off, after which the effort of the long slog up the south ridge was rewarded with a long and exhilarating rollecroaster of a ridge walk. Gulvain's twin summits were both clearly visible ahead now. The first one has the trig point, confusingly enough, but it's the further-away northern top beyond it that is the true summit.
WR10 - at first cairned rise with Gulvain twin summits now clearly visible - higher one is the further away.jpg

Looking back southwards down Gleann Fionnlighe, there was now a truly lovely view of the long ribbon of Loch Shiel, framed by all those Corbetts:
WR11 - spectacular view south from first cairned rise with Corbetts and Loch Shiel.jpg

It didn't seem that much further from the first cairned rise to the trig point on Gulvain's South Top, with a lovely view of the ongoing sinuous ridge leading to the second (and true) summit to the north:
WR12 - at trig point on S top with lovely view of ongoing sinuous ridge to true second summit.jpg

Another impressive West Coast vista looking (I think) roughly westwards from the South Top, into the Land of the Corbett (there are some eighteen Corbetts in the corner of Scotland south of the A830 that the SMC calls "Section 10a", although there are no Munros - and they all look very distinguished hills indeed).
WR13 - fine view I think west from south top into Land of the Corbetts.jpg

Looking south again from the South Top trig point, with that fantastic view down Loch Shiel in the distance:
WR14 - the view south from the S top with Loch Shiel looking very fine and B nan Uamhachan to R.jpg

I pressed onwards down the twisting ridge towards the North Top, with a bit of descent and re-ascent, but again with fabulous views to make up for the physical effort, and before long I was at the well-built true summit cairn. Munro Number 201 for me - a tally that had scarcely seemed possible at the start of the lockdown in March 2020.
WR15 - at the well built true summit cairn on N top now.jpg

Well, splashing out on hotel accommodation the night before this walk may have been a relative extravagance, but I had consoled myself with the thought that after all those hotel comforts, I'd at least be looking unusually suave and debonair in the Summit Selfie. Um...
WR16 - BHK resplendent in new hat.jpg

Anyway, enough of that. Further jaw-dropping West Coast views from Gulvain's summit - this was the view westwards, with the neighbouring Corbett Braigh nan Uamhachan in the foreground, and with the Paps of Jura and the Skye Cuillin both clearly visible way out west:
WR17 - looking SW with Braigh nan Uamhachan etc and with Jura and Skye in distance.jpg

A zoomed shot of Paps (if it's not too early in the day for such a thing):
WR18 - a zoomed shot of Paps of Jura.jpg

And a zoomed shot of Skye's "antlered Cuillin" away in the distance:
WR19 - zoomed shot of distant Skye Cuillin.jpg

Another view south, to that fantastic vista along Loch Shiel:
WR20 - looking S again to Loch Shiel and Corbetts.jpg

Looking east now, with Ben Nevis inevitably being prominent in the middle distance:
WR21 - looking E now with Ben Nevis prominent.jpg

A zoomed shot of the Ben:
WR22 - zoomed shot of Ben Nevis.jpg

Well, needless to say it felt just as long a walk on the way back downhill and along the full distance of the Gleann Fionnlaighe track back to the car, although to my considerable relief the A82 had re-opened for my drive back to Glasgow :) .
On a day like this, though, Gulvain amply repaid the effort involved in reaching its summit - it really is a fabulous viewpoint, and a very special place indeed. The hills are still there...

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Comments: 4

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Attachment(s) Munros: Meall a' Chrasgaidh, Sgùrr nan Clach Geala, Sgùrr nan Each
Date walked: 20/08/2020
Distance: 18km
Ascent: 1100m
Comments: 1
Views: 301

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Distance: 25km
Ascent: 1440m
Comments: 2
Views: 576

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Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn a' Chaorainn (Cairngorms), Beinn Bhreac
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Ascent: 870m
Comments: 1
Views: 391

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Attachment(s) Munros: Ciste Dhubh
Corbetts: Am Bathach
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Ascent: 1040m
Comments: 2
Views: 436

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Attachment(s) Munros: Sgùrr a' Mhaoraich
Date walked: 24/07/2020
Distance: 14km
Ascent: 1025m
Comments: 2
Views: 542

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Comments: 6
Views: 1625

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Attachment(s) Grahams: Cruinn a'Bheinn
Date walked: 01/12/2019
Distance: 15km
Ascent: 650m
Comments: 3
Views: 816

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Attachment(s) Munros: Sgùrr Chòinnich Mòr, Stob Bàn (Grey Corries), Stob Choire Claurigh, Stob Coire an Laoigh
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Distance: 27km
Ascent: 1900m
Comments: 13
Views: 1773

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Attachment(s) Corbetts: Sgùrr Coire Choinnichean
Date walked: 26/05/2019
Distance: 9km
Ascent: 790m
Views: 541


User avatar
Activity: Mountaineer
Pub: Kilchoan Hotel
Mountain: Cir Mhor
Place: Arran
Gear: walking poles
Member: none at present
Ideal day out: A multi-peak walk with good views.

Munros: 201
Corbetts: 34
Grahams: 37
Donalds: 19
Hewitts: 2
Sub 2000: 23

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