Our blog - Suilven, 15 May'18

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

Suilven

15 May 2018
Steven was checking out route options, while John was guiding, both to Suilven in the north-west highlands....

Steven doing a recci...

If I'm leading groups out on the hills and mountains of Scotland, I like to know I'm giving the best possible experience. So, if there's anywhere I've not been before, I'll get out there before taking people there. I've been up Suilven many times before, but always from Glencanisp Lodge. This is a fabulous gem of a mountain, with a domed 'Sugar Loaf' hulk of a hill and its highest point at the western end with a narrow ridge leading eastwards over other lower peaks. Other members of our freelance team have come in from different directions and the route from Inverkirkaig was recommended. So time to give this route a hurl.

I managed to organise my trip to coincide with another bespoke trip we had on the go - John King was leading a client on a 1:1 up the mountain. John was intending to hike in from Glencanisp and hopefully we'd meet somewhere on the crest of the mountain and exchange tales.

In fell-running gear, I set of from the car-park by the coffee and bookshop near Inverkirkaig and jogged up the tarmac. Very quickly, I was on a rough path which climbed gradually for 3km to the Falls of Kirkcaig - quite picturesque and well worth a walk just to here. A shortcut north, then re-joining the path, it was then a hard slog. Even after the spell of recent dry weather, the path was boggy and faint in bits as it meandered along the northern shore of Fionn Loch. It didn't take long to get to the foot of Suilven, but it felt really long !

The ground up to Bealach Mor is steep, but not as steep as it first looks. It's rougher going than the other side, but I found a direct line to ascend on grass and heather to re-join the worn path for a final pull to reach the col. The effort was rewarded with some fine views, but alas it began to rain. Meandering over towards the eastern summit of Meall Meadhonach, involves a bit of easy and enjoyable scrambling at first, but the sandstone felt a bit greasy in the now damp conditions and I could feel the traction of the aggressive Inov8 Mudclaws slipping a bit, so after reaching the col below Meall Meadhonach, I decided to give the climb up this summit a miss. Returning along the ridge to Bealach Mor, I met with John and Heinz - the cloud now down and engulfing any views. A wee blether and I headed up to the main summit, Caisteal Liath, while John and Heinz aimed for shelter to put on some more layers.

The thoughts turned to my return route, I weighed up the options - the north side and back to Glencanisp is a joy, however I would then be faced with a 5km jog along tarmac (not good for the knees) so eventually decided to head back the way I came - it wasn't any better on the way out ! Stopped off in Achins coffee and bookshop by the car-park - the first thing that greets you is a sign "Beware of the grumpy old man" - take heed !

I'm thinking of heading in from the roadside by Little Assynt, north of Suilven, or trying a route from the east, taking in Canisp - so if anyone has thoughts, would love to hear them !



John guiding...

The forecast didn't look promising on Tuesday for our ascent of Suilven, but when I met Heinz, who was over in Scotland on holiday from Switzerland, in Lochinver it was a lovely morning. We set off from Glencanisp Lodge with great views over Loch Druim Suardalain to Suilven and Canisp. It was a colourful scene with the gorse in full bloom and there was a cuckoo calling from somewhere in the woods. Steven was also out on the hill today, coming in from the Inverkirkaig side of the hill and we planned to meet him on the ridge.

We made very good time along the track, admiring the mountain reflected perfectly in the various lochans along the way, then set-off up the new section of path just before Loch na Gainimh. This new bit of path is really excellent and is so much better than the old slog through a peat bog. As we ascended we passed two guys working on the second phase of the path work and a lot of bags of material that were airlifted in last week. It will be interesting to come back later in the summer and see what further improvements have been made.

It is a steep pull up to the Bealach Mor and although it started to rain as we climbed we left off our waterproofs to stay cool. The views back across the lochan-studded landscape were spectacular, so we made a few stops to take photos and get our breath back! On reaching the bealach we were met by the stunning view to the south over the peaks of Coigach, but there was also a keen wind blowing. We were just making our way over to the very well constructed wall over the ridge for a bit of shelter to get a bite to eat and increase our layers when we were passed by Steven running down from the eastern top, Meall Meadhonach. After a brief chat he was off again, disappearing off into the fast descending mist.

By the time we'd sorted ourselves out in the shelter of the wall he passed us on the way back down again!! Our plan had been to traverse the hill but given Steven's recommendation that the way we'd come was much better we changed our minds. We headed on up, passing clear scorch marks still remaining from last years wild fire. Unfortunately the top was shrouded in dense mist, the wind was getting up and drizzly rain was starting to become more constant. This didn't dampen our spirits though! It was great to be out on the hills, chatting, comparing and contrasting our experiences in the mountains of Scotland and Switzerland. We got the obligatory summit photo and headed on down.

As we descended we stopped again as Heinz was keen to get a photo at the spot he'd seen in the trailer for Edie, the film to be released in the coming weeks in which Suilven plays a staring role. It's a shame we didn't get the weather they had for the filming!

With the weather looking like it was getting worse rather than better we decided to leave Meall Meadhonach on this occasion and headed back down to the lower ground. As we headed back out along the track the cloud was right down on the tops and a keen westerly wind was blasting drizzle into our faces so it was a good decision. We made a short diversion en route to visit SuileagBothy for a quick look and to show Heinz a Scottish bothy. It was definitely looking in tidy and in good condition. There was even a nice supply of kindling on the fire. A good find for whoever is staying there next!

Back at Glencanisp it had stopped raining and the sun was trying to re-emerge. By the time we were in Lochinver we were able to sit by the water's edge and enjoy a pie and a coffee from the famous Lochinver pie shop. A great end to another super day on Suilven.

More photos by John, Heinz and Steven are here on Flickr.



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