Our blog - Suilven, 18 Sep'17

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

Bespoke hike to Suilven

18 September 2017
Day hiking to Suilven in the North-West of Scotland. John King was leading....

Heading into Assynt on Monday morning it would have been hard not to be excited by the Northwest Highlands. At dawn the temperature was hovering just above freezing, light mists hung low in the glens and above that the hills towered up from the land in that way so typical of this region. The air was clear and the light was picking out all the fine details and folds of the land. With the colours in the landscape starting to turn from green to orange, it all had a very autumnal feel to it. Our hill for the day, Suilven, was clear and looking great.

Myself and my client for the day – also John – set off from Glencanisp Lodge a little after 9am and, after a short walk through wooded surroundings, we joined the track heading through the hills towards Elphin. As we followed this undulating track eastwards the peaks of Canisp and Suilven were in full view ahead encouraging us along. It was a very still morning with almost no wind and the hills were reflected perfectly in the numerous lochans and pools giving the perfect excuse for frequent photography stops. Fortunately there were very few midges around !

Just before Loch na Gainimh we had our first rest, then turned onto the recently upgraded path towards the Bealach Mor. The path-work here isn’t done yet but the first stage has been completed and it has been done to a very high standard, completely transforming the first section of the path, which used to be very boggy to say the least. Apparently one of the contractors undertaking this work had walked 450 miles to and from the site over the course of the project !

Heading into Assynt on Monday morning it would have been hard not to be excited by the Northwest Highlands. At dawn the temperature was hovering just above freezing, light mists hung low in the glens and above that the hills towered up from the land in that way so typical of this region. The air was clear and the light was picking out all the fine details and folds of the land. With the colours in the landscape starting to turn from green to orange, it all had a very autumnal feel to it. Our hill for the day, Suilven, was clear and looking great.

We took another short rest on a sandy beach by Loch na Barrack bracing ourselves for the steady upwards pull to the Bealach. We made good progress winding up the zig-zag path and reached some more good path restoration near the top. Reaching the Bealach Mor the magical panorama south and west towards Coigach and beyond burst into view. From this point, it was also possible to pick out the scorch marks on the southern slopes of the hill from wildfires in the spring.

We enjoyed the views for a few moments then left our sacks and wandered up the last 100m or so to Suilven’s summit, Caisteal Liath. As we climbed we could hear a group of stags rutting down in the valley below and we stumbled across a ptarmigan, already starting to change to its white winter coat. On reaching the top the panorama got even better with views stretching from the Skye Cuillin to the hills of Northwest Sutherland. You could even make out beaches on the western isles! We took some time here with the obligatory summit photos then, with time marching on, we headed back the way we had come. It was a quiet day on the hill but it was on this upper part of the mountain that we met a small rush of five other people, the only folk we met all day.

Back at our rucksacks we took one last look at the view southwards then started on the descent down the steep gully back to lower ground. We picked our way down carefully and took another rest at the beach to have a snack to energise us for the long walk out. From there it was back down to the main track and then out to the Lochinver. The day was starting to draw to a close as we were reaching Glencanisp Lodge and we were treated to a classic west coast sunset. It was a fitting end to a super day in the hills! All that remained was to make one last stop at the honesty shop behind the lodge to pick up a quick coffee to see us through the last short section to the car.

More photos by John King are here on Flickr.



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