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

Forcan & South Glen Shiel Ridges

4-5 June 2016
A weekend of fine weather was forecast for the Scottish Highlands and we had organised a two day event in the Glen Shiel area. Our first day would see us on the famed Forcan Ridge, followed by the South Glen Shiel Ridge on our second day. Richard and Steven were leading the trip, here's Steven's tale of the weekend...

photo 1 We (Julie, Diane, Neil, Carol-Anne, Andrew, Ewan, Paul, Mike, Richard and myself) all met in the lay-by at the western end of Glen Shiel, got kitted out and started walking along the road for the short distance to the start of our hike. It was a rather murcky morning with a fair breeze belting its way westwards down the glen, but we had faith in the very promising forecasts. Up the fine stalker's path, we blethered as we gained height. The path does a very obvious change of direction at c500m and it was here we took some shelter out of the wind and enjoyed our first tea-break of the day. Ahead the Forcan Ridge was poking above the cloud, its spine teasing us !

photo 2 Onwards and upwards, over grass and rock, we reached the base of the Forcan Ridge. There's an option to by-pass the ridge by following a wall - we had a determined group who were having none of such whimpsical stuff ! So we clambered up, really enjoying getting our hands on the rock. For some of the group, this was their first time scrambling, so lots to learn. As we climbed, the cloud gradually lifted and retreated eastwards, revealing some fabulous views. Much fun was had as we progressed along and reached the 'bad step', which we by-passed using the loose 'path' off left. From here on the ridge gets easier and we were quickly on the summit crest, touching both the cairn and the trig point. Looking at the summits and comparing them with each other and the horizon we debated and deduced that the true summit was the piece of rock a few paces to the east of the trig point. Well that's our scientific conclusion and we're sticking to it !

photo 1 Time for lunch ! The views were fabulous, if just a touch hazy. The Skye Cuillin, Ben Nevis, the Affric peaks and the Torridon mountains were all picked out. There was a patch of snow below us, which Richard and Carol went to investigate (I remember finding an iPod in there on a previous trip). On another patch of snow further below we could see some deer - what were they doing, chilling out in the heat ?

photo 2 We started downhill, steep and loose, it quickly leveled out for an enjoyable hike over grass. The ground was very dry, but had a couple of springs to refill bottles. At the col with the two small lochans we said goodbye to Carol-Anne - she'd done the Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine before, but not via the Forcan Ridge which was her goal today, so delighted with what she'd achieved, she headed down to the roadside. Uphill again next for the rest of us, Sgurr na Sgine was our next target - the heat was beginning to get to us. Being smart-alecs, Julie and I left our rucksacks at the foot of the last climb, what relief to our backs ! Onto the summit and time for more views.

photo 1 I presumed we would head down over Faochag to get back to the cars, however some folk had now run out of water. So with the heat taking it's toll, we opted to return to the lochans and follow the wall around the base of the Forcan Ridge, being watched by a curious deer. Richard did his best to find water, but to little avail - conditions had been so dry for the last week. Straight down the path and for most folk - to the pub !

photo 2 One our second day we had everyone from Saturday, minus Carol-Anne, plus Frank, Lynne, Vilma and her daughter - 10 eager folk ! After meeting in by the old bridge at the Glenshiel battlefield site, we headed around the forest and uphill. The route isn't obvious at first, only once the top of the forest is reached did we join a good path to head higher (at the end of the day Richard came back down this path through the forest - not recommended). Just before reaching Am Fraoch-choire, we struck directly uphill via the north-eastern spurr of Creag nan Damh. This was fairly steep, proving challenging for newbies. Onto the summit of our first Munro, we met 3 guys who'd just completed a 2-day traverse of the ridge, all very chuffed. Time for a quick break.

photo 1 We couldn't stay too long as we still had another 6 Munros to bag. Today was as hot as yesterday, probably slightly more humid, encouraging the daddy-long-legs to rise out of the grass. Our group split on the next Munro, Sgurr an Lochain, with some deciding that it was too warm for a long day bagging all 7 Munros. Richard returned with those opting out, I continued on with the others.

Sgurr an Doire Leathain was the next Munro its crest grass covered making for quick progress (I think we took top-to-top in under half an hour). We could see lots of new building below with at least two small hydro schemes now in place. A helicopter hovered below and folk laughed at the thought of it being laid on for us to take us back to the pub after our final Munro.

photo 2 Onto Maol Cheann Dearg - the halfway point in the ridge, so time for lunch. We reached this summit the same time as a few others did, so a popular point of the day.

The highest point of the ridge next, Aonach Air Chrith. We gathered balls of snow to cool the back of our necks as we hiked westwards towards this summit. There's a wee bit of easy scrambling on the way too, which everyone just simply bounded up like mountain-goats. The terrain changed beyond this peak, the crest of the ridge becomes wide and grassy - time for a relaxed hike. Up to Druim Shionnach saw Frank get to his 100th Munro - woo-hoo !

photo 1 A bit of careful footwork next to progress south-east towards our final Munro of the weekend. The ridge became rocky and a bit loose and narrowed, with the path switching over the crest from the southside to the northside and back again. With the summit of Creag a'Mhaim now in view, Julie put the foot down and almost ran up it leaving everyone in her wake - it was her 50th Munro. It also turned out to be Mike's 70th and Andrew's 82nd (ie only 200 left to go).

photo 2 Diane had to be back in London, so after Hi-Fiving on the summit and a few pics taken, we started quickly down the stalker's path following the south-east shoulder of the mountain. There was the option of a direct ascent, but after two long days hiking everyone agreed this steep descend would be hard on the knees, so the stalker's path it was ! Diane and I belted down the path (and quite a bit off-piste through the heather too) to the old road where we said our goodbyes (Have a great holiday and enjoy the cocktails !!!). We had met a group on the way and I got blethering to their guide by the roadside - it was a Gold DofE group on their last day, one guy struggling with his huge pack in the heat - impressive stuff and good going. Our group gathered and we were merrily hiking along the road in the direction of the Cluanie Inn, the thought of a cool beer spurring us on (well, me certainly).

A great weekend on some fine rock with stunning scenery. The weather was a bonus and the cheery group certainly made Richard and my work most enjoyable.

More photos by Steven are here on Flickr.

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