South Kintail ridge with summit camp

Route: South Glen Shiel Ridge: 7 Munros

Munros: Aonach Air Chrith, Creag a'Mhàim, Creag nan Dàmh, Druim Shionnach, Maol chinn-dearg, Sgùrr an Doire Leathain, Sgùrr an Lochain

Date walked: 07/06/2021

Time taken: 27 hours

Distance: 26km

Ascent: 2000m

Last year due to Covid we only managed two trips North and 7 Munros so we were feeling really out of practice. I have been training by walking around Roseberry Topping 3 or 4 times a week, but this Kintail walk is the height equivalent of 10 Roseberry Toppings and a bit longer as well!
We finished 2020 with 30 Munros still to do before Compleation, and it was lovely at last to be allowed back to Scotland! We had the opportunity of a two-car trip, as I was going to visit my Mum in Islay first, while Rudolph was doing jobs at home. This gave us the choice of the South Kintail ridge or the traverse from the Easans to Ben Nevis. The forecast was better for Kintail than Lochaber, so that's where we went.
I caught the 9.45 ferry from Islay and Rudolph left Yorkshire at the crack of dawn and it was not much of a detour to meet up outside the Real Food cafe for a slightly late lunch. Suitably fortified we then drove to Kintail, leaving one car near the Cluanie Inn and taking the other to Malagan Bridge.
We planned an overnight camp which made the West-East direction more suitable because of access to water, despite the extra 200m of climb. Splitting the walk into two days makes it more manageable but of course the downside is carrying the ovarnight gear.
We set off from Malagan Bridge at about 5.30pm. It was a gorgeous evening, hot, with the occasional midge but after about 300m of climb we were treated to a breeze that blew them away. We were serenaded by a cuckoo in the woods.
We crossed the Allt Mhalagan by this footbridge which looks like it might be wobbly but it is sound.

everything was very dry underfoot and we were starting to worry if there would be water in the burns higher up in the corrie

Looking back towards Sgurr na Ciste Duibh

We'd hoped to pick up water high up in the coire at about 600 metres but so many of the burns were dry so we filled our bottles for overnight camping where the path crossed the burn at about 280 metres. There was also enough water in the burn at 380 metres but we weren't certain of this.
Shortly after crossing this burn the path turns sharply left at a cairn. The path marked on the map goes straight on and soon peters out. We tried to follow the map which was a mistake and left us scrambling up steep grass to find the actual path again. Looking down hill from where we came back to the path, it was completely obvious what we should have done! We did have a bit of discussion about why the cairn had been built at this point, which is obvious in hindsight, life is like that sometimes!
lochan at about 625m

Faochag with bits of Loch Duich behind

Here we are at the ridge in the lovely evening sunshine

Looking over towards the Rough Bounds, with the shoulder of Sgurr a' Mhaoraich on the left

Brothers ridge and beyond

some spoor with small bones in it. Anyone know what kind of animal produced this?

This is where we are heading tonight, Creag nan Damh

looking south towards Sgurr na Ciche and its neighbours

Ben Nevis, CMD and the Aonachs

Looking down Glenshiel

ooh, a little surprise downclimb and a small snow patch just to add a bit of variety

And here is Rudolph on the summit of Creag nan Damh - one down, six to go, view to the East

and myself with the view to the west

We had originally thought we might camp somewhere around the flattish area near the Bealach Fraoch Choire but by this time it was already 9.30pm. We found a perfectly flat area just past the summit which normally would be a bog, but today it was just nice soft dry peat. We pitched the tent here and Rudolph got the sleeping bags ready while I boiled the kettle for blow-up Chilli which we ate in the gathering dusk.
"cooking" is maybe an exaggeration for what I am doing here but the chilli was good

View from camp

Unfortunately Rudolph's sleeping mat refused to stay blown up, and I gallantly told him that I had no intention of giving him a turn on mine. We always carry closed cell foam mats as well for such eventualities, which provide a bit of extra insulation and protect the groundsheet from underneath. The mat originally came with a repair kit but the glue had long ago dried up. It will get repaired when we get home.
Despite this he assured me he had a good sleep and so did I. We didn't get up till 8.30am and woke to clag. However it wasn't cold and the views had been so magnificent the day before we felt that we could cope with this.
ooh but we have not gone very far and the clag is lifting what a treat, looking back to Creag nan Damh from the bypass path below Sgurr Beag

we stopped at the burn which comes down the South side of Sgurr Beag to fill up for the day and were very relieved that it still contained enough water to collect with a happy mug.
We also picked up some litter, three coffee filter bags and three backing strips from mepore dressings, and a plastic wrapper. For shame!

P6085716 (2).JPG
And here is Rudolph on the first summit of the day, Sgurr an Lochain, which I think we can count as a cloud-free Munro.

And here am I, looking towards Loch Quoich and the Glen Dessary munros where we had an epic adventure some years ago and met some WH friends. Only I have to imagine those hills just now.

The next summit, Sgurr an Doire Leathan, where we get our first view of our destination at the west end of Loch Cluanie

me on the same summit, with the view along the ridge over the top of Sgurr Coire na Feinne, towards the next munro which is Maol Chinn-Dearg

The weather was turning out to be quite mixed, with views coming and going, and a good breeze fortunately mostly from the south west which was mainly behind us. Sometimes it was raining but never lashing and it didn't last long.
It was close to noon by this point and we decided it was time for a brew. We found a sheltered spot near the next bealach and I had an instant hot chocolate, a new venture for me to try and keep my calorie intake up. After previous experiences of being unable to eat and feeling really nauseous on hills I was trying the technique of eating something at every summit and every bealach, and a few times in between. I think it worked. I think it also helped that over the course of 2020 I have done a lot more than my usual amount ofwalking. Not Munros, sadly, but brisk walks up and down the hills of my local area so theoretically I should be fitter.
The path misses out the next top which is not a Munro, this picture is looking back where we have just been

Rudolph on the next top, that is 3 for today and 4 for the trip, Maol Chinn-Dearg with Scotland's Favourite View

but really there is plenty to smile about today

Coming down this hill we spotted someone coming towards us at a cracking pace, he had set off at 7am from the Cluanie and was making good time. He told us that there were two more people coming along as well, and that the forecast for tomorrow was not very good. However, today was turning out not half bad and we felt we were achieving quite a lot really, we did not feel any major compulsion to bag more munros this week.
The ridge between Maol Chinn-Dearg and the next summit, Aonach Air Chrith, is a bit scrambly in places with some slightly narrow bits but nothing technical, and it was very enjoyable.
Rudolph going off the edge, with a funny we lochan on the left

narrow bit

clearing up again

Here is Rudolph at the high point of the ridge, Aonach Air Chrith, number 4 for the day.
We arrived at the summit at the same moment as a man who appeared from our left having come up the ridge of Druim na Ciche. He said he had read in a book that this was an excellent way up but actually it was a terrifying scramble and not to be recommended. He also advised us that tomorrow was going to be wet and windy. He had done the western three and the eastern two already and was going to go down the Druim Coire nan Eiricheanach

and me! another summit in clag though.

It was time for another brew and second lunch, or perhaps afternoon tea.

and from this point we got some smashing views again. This one into Knoydart

Cluanie Hotel with the Corbett am Bathach behind, and A' Chraileag behind that. You can just make out the wiggly ridge of Mullach Fraoch-Choire behind, which was my 100th Munro. ON the left with the snow is Sgurr nan Ceathramhnan, or Mount Doom as we christened it when we did the Mullardoch Round. And the wee pointy thing just to the right of that is Ciste Dubh where we saw our first Brocken Spectre.

Looking down Glenshiel to the Sisters

summit number six, Druim Shionnach looking north towards a whole lot of mountains we have been up and we had fun identifying them. Well I did anyway

and from the same point looking south westish, you can see Sgurr na Ciche just to the left of my shoulder

It was really very pleasant on this summit and we stayed for a while as Rudolph tried to phone and change our accommodation plans for the rest of the week. Having met three lots of people who had told us there was going to be low cloud and gale force winds we decided that we would not bother with another two nights camping, or climbing Beinn Fhada and A'Glas-bheinn for the time being. We felt we had achieved quite a lot given that we had not set foot on a Munro for 8 months or so. As usual, Rudolph's parents in Aboyne would be delighted to have us instead, it being almost a year since we had seen them.
There was still the matter of one more summit to reach
this interesting bit of ridge

and here is Rudolph, tired but happy, on Carn a'Mhaim, with Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach behind

So now there was just the simple matter of getting down, for which an excellent path was provided.
We took a wee detour at the bottom from about the 620metre point down a steep heathery slope. I have no idea if it saved us any time, as it was very rough, but it did shorten the distance a little.
Then there was just the matter of the long fast walk out along the old road back to the Cluanie, with a rush to get there in time for dinner.
So that was an excellent day, with interesting weather, the best possible ridge walking with varied terrain and some magnificent views. Who could ask for more?

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User avatar
Location: north yorkshire moors
Activity: Mountain Walker
Pub: just gimme a cup of tea
Place: Everywhere
Gear: the Map
Ideal day out: waking up in a tent in the middle of nowhere and then doing 2 or 3 munros followed by a hot bath
Ambition: Lots more hills

Munros: 259
Corbetts: 11
Grahams: 3
Wainwrights: 40
Hewitts: 43
Sub 2000: 9
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