Arkle and the matter of Horn

Corbetts: Arkle, Meall Horn

Date walked: 13/08/2017

Time taken: 10.25 hours

Distance: 25.6km

Ascent: 1612m

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An enjoyable week's stay in Altnaharra was coming to its climax. I'd been climbing Corbetts using regular routes which seemed the prudent thing, given the time of year. But a promising weather forecast for non-stalking Sunday gave license to go off piste for what was to be the highlight of my trip. As it turned out, it was raining heavily when I parked up near Achfary. But it was only a shower which soon passed, so my boots were on and I was moving by Loch Stack.

Loch Stack and Arkle

The wind seemed to be coming from the NW, where there was a mixture of blue sky and clouds. Both Ben Stack and Arkle had there heads in mist.

Heading towards Arkle

Prevailing conditions would determine whether I went for Arkle or Meall Horn first, although of course this involved guesswork. I wanted to be on the sharp section of Arkle's ridge in dry conditions. Walking alongside the Allt Horn, the weather was looking promising...

Allt Horn

...so I turned up towards Arkle. A large herd of stags crossed the Allt na Dige Moire in front of me, which was good to see. I've heard larger numbers of deer are being culled these days around here, a controversial topic.

Skirting left of Meall Aonghais, the real character of this mountain country became apparent.

Lochan na Faoileige and Meall Horn from between Meall Aonghais and Arkle

Foinaven and Lochan an Easain Uaine from between Meall Aonghais and Arkle

After ascending a stony slope - not too difficult - I was on Arkle's SE top. By now I was in and out of the mist. I moved along the ridge, dropping to a bealach and then up to the 751 m top. The clouds were on and off the ridge.

Moving towards the ridge leading to Arkle's summit

At least conditions were dry when I reached the narrow, scrambly section. There was nothing too technical here, but the rock wasn't the grippiest and care was required with one or two awkward foot placements in quite exposed spots. Onto a flatter, easier section, and I was completely in the cloud. The summit was reached with not a lot to see. But then the cloud lifted a little. Only little bits of Foinaven were visible, but there were some great views downwards.

Loch Laxford from Arkle

As I began to retrace my steps, conditions were clear. The narrow ridge presented no problems on the way back.

Returning to the narrow ridge from Arkle's summit, with a view of Loch Stack

Heading back towards Arkles SE top

Arkles narrow ridge in retrospect

Descending from the 751 m top towards the bealach I was caught in a shower, but this soon cleared.

Foinaven from between Arkle's tops

Assynt hills, Ben Stack and Loch Stack from between Arkle's tops

I climbed back onto the SE top, with clear views this time.

Arkle's summit from the SE top

Foinaven from Arkle's SE top

Back down the stony slope, the bealach with Meall Aonghais was reached. This top was skirted on the north above An Garbh-choire. The ground here was much more rough with larger boulders. I reached to shores of Lochan na Faoileige in pleasant conditions - this is a nice spot. To the east of the lochan, I moved down a fairly rocky rib heading NE. This gave easier, dry walking, with wet looking sections on either side.

Creagan Meall Horn from below Lochan na Faoileige

Leaving the rib to make my way east for Meall Horn, things became wetter underfoot. After crossing the Bealach Horn track, the rough, stony ground of Arkle was truly left behind for the rough, grassy terrain of Meall Horn. The peat hags around here did not look good and some detouring was called for to try and find a decent way across. At one point I did manage to sink to my knees in a marsh. Care was required to pull my feet out without losing a boot.

As the gradient steepened, the ground was grassy and still quite wet, but nothing like as bad as around those hags lower down. Spirits were lifted as good weather continued and more great scenery unfolded.

Ascending Meall Horn, looking over to Suilven and Quinag

The gradient eased and things became drier underfoot as I swung right towards the top of the day's second Corbett. This rounded hill is definitely a Gaelic Meall rather than a Swiss-German Horn, but it is a superb viewpoint!

Cranstackie, Beinn Spionnaidh and Loch Eriboll from Meall Horn

Orkneys (just visible) and Ben Hope from Meall Horn

Ben Hee and Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill from Meall Horn

After taking in the panorama, from Assynt to the Outer Hebrides to the Orkneys to Caithness, it was time to start the descent. This made me glad I'd done Arkle first. Having started with Horn would have meant crossing those horrendous peat hags twice, but now I had the option to go over Creachan Thormaid.

Descending towards Creachan Thormaid

Loch Stack and Ben Stack from near Creachan Thormaid

Foinaven from near Creachan Thormaid

Actually, there were some more hags to negotiate moving down from Sail an Taighain, but these were not as bad as those crossed before the ascent. The track below Bad an Taghain was reached, and I turned right and back towards Loch Stack.

Boulders below Bad an Taghain

There was some fine scenery in retrospect along the path, but I kept on moving; just stopping to take a photo caused midges to arrive in vast amounts.

A last look back at Arkle

Back at the car, it was time for the longish drive back to Altnaharra passing Lochs More, Merkland and Shin. Mandy at the B and B had cooked a 7:00 am breakfast to allow for a big day, and now she was happy to do a 9:00 pm evening meal. So thanks are due to her for a great week, and to her husband Lindsay for providing useful information about activities on the estates in the area. Definitely a place worth visiting!

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Comments: 4

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Views: 3459


User avatar
Location: Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Activity: Munro compleatist
Pub: Wheatsheaf,Lorton,Lakes
Mountain: A Mhaighdean
Place: Killin
Gear: Rab Latok Alpine jacket
Member: none
Camera: Olympus X-44
Ideal day out: Horseshoe or circular mountain walk with some scrambling and narrow ridges, any time of year from base layer and shorts to ice axe and crampons.

Munros: 282
Corbetts: 31
Fionas: 7
Donalds: 12
Wainwrights: 214
Hewitts: 155
Sub 2000: 1
Islands: 4

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Wainwrights 8


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Wainwrights 7


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Distance: 214.95 km
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Munros: 17
Hewitts: 16
Wainwrights 23

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Last visited: May 20, 2024
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