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A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Kintail

24-25 September 2016
A weekend of hiking up some Munros in Kintail, including the famed Five Sisters. John was leading the days with Christine shadowing, here's his tale, photos by Christine ...

After a month basking in the unseasonably warm conditions that the Continent has been enjoying recently, it was back to Earth with a bump for me as I read the forecast for this weekend - MWIS were suggesting 'torrential rain and 60mph gusts', whilst the Metoffice trumped them with 80mph gusts! And we were planning the spectacular ridge that makes up North Glenshiel, i:e The Brothers to the East, and then the superlative Five Sisters to the West.

Beinn Fhada, Kintail So what to do? It always pays to have a Plan B, so after meeting up with the team, they agreed that a route in the relatively sheltered Strath Croe area would be preferable to being buffeted if not blown over. As a few had done A' Ghlas-bheinn, Beinn Fhada (or Ben Attow as it is Anglicised to) would be the target.

As we set off from Morvich, it was blowy, and it certainly did rain all day, but the mad winds never materialised. We suspect the wild overnight and early morning spell had been evidence of it passing over, though what it left was an awful lot of water. And therein lay our first challenge. The normally easy splash across the Allt Coire an Sgairne on the stalker's path up to the bealach was very high, and borderline dangerous. A couple in front of us tried to negotiate the slippery boulders, and sure enough both fell in. It wasn't desperately deep at that point, but the chance of at best a soaking, and at worst an injury led to us pressing on up the West bank a little, crossing the tributary of Allt a'Choire Chaoill, and then tacking the much reduced main burn higher up, where the contours flattened out. It was good move, and we were soon on the excellent stalker's path again.

Beinn Fhada, Kintail The wet couple were young, fit and keeping a blistering pace, (probably needing to keep warm due to being soaked!), and we watched them summit as we chatted to a group who were on their descent. They had done exactly what we had at the burn, and indeed, we all agreed that Route One on the descent was probably preferable to the standard route in normal conditions too. They counselled us sagely about the folly of trying for the second summit due to the encroaching dark, storms and dragons, (well, maybe not the dragons ;), and we parted smiling, having assured them we would be careful, and didn't fancy the second summit anyway in these conditions.

The broad plateau onto the summit of Beinn Fhada is gradual, and despite the bog being enhanced by the rain, it was easy enough, and we were on top in a jiffy. It is a cylindrical trig point in good condition, with a nice summit shelter which always seem to point into the prevailing S wind to me, as I have only ever used it once! The odd thing was how very little wind there was given the menace promised by the forecasters. Ah well, suppose we should be happy it was that way around eh?

The descent was uneventful, the team being practiced burn-crossers by this point, and we were back down to the cars by 4pm, wet, but not as battered as we had expected. It was good compromise day. So will tomorrow be as successful?

The night was stormy again, and lying in my camper, you always fully 'appreciate' the strength of the wind and rain. The forecast was for winds to 50mph, with heavy squally rain showers, merging at times into prolonged rain. They were spot on, unfortunately. That said, we did get occasional shafts of sunlight coming through to make really atmospheric mountain vistas, and when they did, it was pretty spectacular.

Five Sisters of Kintai The planned route was the Five Sisters, taking the new and much improved path from the Glen Shiel car park that cuts obliquely up the hillside to the low point between Sgurr nan Spainteach and Sgurr na Ciste-Duibhe. Whilst it is many times preferable to the old bog-fest that led to the Bealach an Lapain, it does entail a there-and-back-again to Spainteach in order to complete all five Sisters, and this is what we did. That meant going up and back down the only really steep bit of scrambling on the whole route, and in the rain and wind, it needed care.

From then on, it was a steady plod over the three munros in the group, and whilst much of the time we were heads down in the weather, we were treated to a splendid view from Sgurr na Ciste-Duibhe, and an even better one from the highest and last, Sgurr Fhuaran, with the rest of the ridge in sharp contrast, with sun one side and cloud the other - Splendid.

Five Sisters of Kintail We dispatched this final section of the ridge in good order, over the final Sister of Sgurr nan Saighead, making up time that we had lost in the wind and rain earlier on, as the group was getting used to the cross-wind. After a short steep scrambly chimney, we were on the final bump of Beinn Bhuidhe, and it was then down to the long descent path down Coire na Criche. This is very boggy higher up, especially after this rain, but has a delightful series of little waterfalls to make up for it. It then improves considerably, and deposits you on a steep hillside above Morvich and the waiting cars (and dry clothes).

A great weekend making the best of some decidedly dodgy forecasts, and well done to the team who smiled throughout and never let it dampen their spirits!

More photos by John, Christine and Lawrence are here on Flickr.



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