Our blog - Glen Shiel, Aug'17

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

Glen Shiel and Beinn Sgritheall

26-28 August 2017
An extended guided weekend, hiking over 10 Munros in the Glen Shiel and Arnisdale areas in Scotland's West Highlands. John and Emma were leading, here's John's tale...

Day 1 - Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine

This summer continues to be a challenge with its wet and windy weather, but this long Bank Holiday weekend our group made the best of the 3 seasons in one day each day.

Saturday was an ascent of the Forcan Ridge of the Saddle and then on to Sgurr na Sgine in Glenshiel, and we met in the lay-by on the A87, (eventually, after some to-ing and fro-ing by certain navigationally-challenged folk), and got cracking quickly to avoid the midges who really appreciated the lack of breeze. There were 8 folks plus myself and Emma O'Shea, and we soon felt the warmth of the day as we gained height on the excellent stalkers path that takes you to the bealach between Biod an Fhithich and Meallan Odhar. The day was to be one of very light breeze and wide views, and they became ever more extensive as we gained height.

At the foot of the scramble, one of the guys made the decision that it would be too much for them, and wisely turned back - I am always proud of folks who know themselves and make the tough decisions. The hills will always be there when you feel ready and return. The others tackled the first steep obstacle with aplomb, and it must be mentioned that for some this was a new experience, so very well done. The ridge then rises in a succession of narrow towers, never very hard, and usually with a bypass path, so we varied the route by sometimes scrambling, sometimes going around as the feeling took us. Eventually you get to the famous 'bad step', and we circumvented that by taking the loose gully to the left, before finally summiting Sgurr nan Forcan itself. We were even accompanied by a Brocken Spectre for a time.

It is then just a little more scrambling to the summit of the Saddle, which although carrying a trig point, isn't actually the highest point, so there was some discussion as to which this is - I think it's just before, but whatever, we did all three. The descent to the bealach Coire Mhalagain is a little gnarly and boggy in sections, but we were enjoying the weather and making reasonable progress, and were soon slogging up onto the high point between Faochag and Sgurr na Sgine. The views from here were superlative, so a short break was called for.

Duly refreshed, we summited Sgurr na Sgine, (for some folk their second munro!), and drank in more 360 degree views before retracing our steps down the 'steep and unrelenting' descent of the Whelk, Faochag. It drops the full 900 metres back to the glen almost without a change in angle, and your knees don't thank you for it! Ok, it's quick, but my word, it never gets easier.

Day 2 - South Glen Shiel Ridge

Sunday saw us in less favourable conditions - Absolutely still in the glen (read midge-infested), with occasional showers and a 20-40mph wind on high, and swirling cloud around the summits. Actually, it added to the atmosphere at times, and we still had some good views. We set off late due to half of our team needing to help after they discovered a car that had left the road on the A87, so well done to them for summoning the Emergency Services in difficult circumstances communication-wise etc.

There were 12 of us, including guides and the person who had turned back on Saturday, and we made rapid progress up the track to the foot of Creag a'Mhaim, the first of seven munros on the South Glenshiel ridge. The first climb to the summit of this is the longest of the day, and the ridge then stretches out in a succession of peaks that rack up your munro tally in a most satisfying way! After the exertions of Saturday, I think it would be fair to say that there were some heavy legs as we ticked off summit after summit, but the smiles never subsided irrespective, even the two folks who had forgotten their lunches, (only one admitted it at the time). The group all contributed in a Loaves and Five Fishes kind of way, so I think a very varied lunch was had! Indeed, we never stopped for more than a few minutes, just enough to eat and drink, as the routes requires a steady pace to get it done in a reasonable time.

Eventually we bagged our seventh summit, and then had the short but steep scramble to gain the descent ridge, and in the wet it was more than a little entertaining. The team were by now in full-on gritty determination mode, and even the ones with shorter legs made the awkward scramble safely and efficiently in the murky conditions. And then came a long old descent, characteristic of the Glenshiel. The group split to allow the faster ones to retrieve the cars from the Cluanie Inn, and myself and one person made up the rear guard, eventually making the road just as darkness encroached - at least it meant we couldn't see the midges as they feasted, varmints that they are!

A long day, a satisfying day, a big haul of munros for the relative novices in the party, well done all.

Day 3 - Beinn Sgritheall

Monday Emma went off to lead a party on An Teallach. I had 4 folks still with enough vim in their legs to tackle one more summit, the steep and beautifully situated Beinn Sgritheall from Arnisdale. If I was ever to get a view from here, I am sure it would be wonderful, but I have only ever climbed it in poor weather, and Monday was to be no exception - Winds up to 60mph, rain almost all day, torrential at times, and cloud over 500m. Because you start and finish from sea level, you feel every one of the 974m, especially in the awful bog, enhanced by the continuous rain.

This would be one of those days that you look back on with rose-tinted spectacles, enjoying in retrospect the exhilaration of the upward toil against the wind, the short scrambly steps, the flat summit, the narrow section on the descent made exciting by the gusts, the delightful waterfalls as you cross the large gully, and finally, the view of Loch Hourn when you eventually come out of the cloud. Forget the unending bog, the eponymous scree and the wet and clammy clothes....not important :)

So, three days, three different weather types, 10 munros, 12 lovely people and a million memories. What long weekends are all about.

More photos by John are here on Flickr.

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