Glen Shiel

Glen Shiel Munros, 13-15 September'19

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. Three days bagging the Munros on the South Glen Shiel Ridge and the Forcan Ridge John Hepburn and John King were leading, here's John Hepburn's tale...

Glen Shiel Munros

Day 1 - The Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine

Clear conditions greeted us in Glen Shiel, the forecast was for sunny spells, a southwest wind, and possibly a few light showers; let's see what it's like at the start of the ridge was the group decision. The approach to the ridge is on a good track taking us up and over Meallan Odhar, and before long we were having a break while surveying the ridge proper. We had a choice here, take the bypass up to the saddle or the classic scramble over the ridge, the group needed no encouragement, Adrian had already donned the shorts, ready for action, and Dave had the GoPro to catch the gnarly bits, so the ridge it was!

The start of the ridge is some easy angled slabs, a good warm up, this leads into a series of narrow ridges, pinnacles, corners and chimneys, until eventually popping out on the top of Sgurr na Forcan, we took the left gully to turn the bad step, had a quick look back at it trying to visualise the best line, it always looks easier from below, before continuing the final scramble on to the Saddle, one down!

Down to the bealach and up to Sgurr na Sgine, our second Munro of the day. We retraced our route for about a kilometre, then headed North East over Faochag before a steep descent back to the cars.

Our group was staying in various accommodation through the Glen, Dave was sampling the delights of the Cluanie Inn, while Lynne, Linda, Adrian and Beryl were up the Glen in the Kintail Lodge, and Mark, Catherine, Amanda and Kyle were doing some good traditional youth hostelling at Ratagan.

Day 2 - Beinn Sgritheall

Saturday's forecast leading up to the meet was looking poor and got consistently worse as it drew closer, so a decision was made to swap the Saturday and Sunday itinerary around - we'd go for the one Munro, Beinn Sgritheall, from Arnisdale on the Saturday, so if the weather beat us, we'd only loose the short day and one Munro. It takes time to get over the winding single-track road to Arnisdale, so a later meeting time of 9:30am was agreed. On arrival the weather was bad, seas were rough, wind was gusting to gale force with driving rain and low cloud, it was a sensible group decision to call the walk off, and save our energies for a big push on Sunday.

Day 3 - South Glen Shiel Ridge

What a difference a day makes! It was still windy, but it would be behind us, we could see blue sky breaking up the cloud and it was dry, Hallelujah!

Pam and Shona were joining us for the South Kintail ridge, so our group swelled to 11. Plan was to tackle it west to east, keeping the winds on our backs. After the vague path that climbs through a small forestry plantation we were on open ground and soon on the steep, grassy north east ridge leading to our first Munro of the day, Creag nan Damh, at 918m it just sneaks into the Munro table. After a short break at the top we set of on the next section to Sgurr an Lochain, a longish leg, with a fair drop and climb in between, compared to the rest of the ridge, but the terrain is ideal for making good progress and we were soon contouring the slopes of Sgurr Beag and on the climb up to Munro number 2, Sgurr an Lochain.

We knew from the onset this was going to be a long day, so were happy for the group to spread out, and regroup with short breaks on the summits. Next was Sgurr an Doire Leathain, the top lies just north of the main path, and I think this was the only time throughout the day it had clagged in on us. Coming off the top the clag cleared and we were rewarded with some great views of the surrounding peaks, the sisters and brothers ridges just to the north, Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach, with their many ridges, to the south. We did puzzle at what looked like a small airstrip in Glen Quoich? Maybe someone will enlighten me.

Bypassing the top, Sgurr Coire na Feinne, it's a short climb up to Maol Chinn-dearg, which I believe translates as 'bald red head' our 4 th summit for the day. The next section has some easy scrambling and a narrow airy ridge before top number 5, Aonach air Chrith, at 1021m is the highest summit on the whole ridge. From the top we could clearly see our final 2 tops, still 4km, but good terrain; we had this in the bag!

There was a bit more scrambling coming off Druim Shionnach, number 6 'the ridge of the fox' but no match for Beryl and the group! It felt like a really nice walk along to Creag a Mhaim number 7, and our last Munro, spirits were high, and thoughts of finishing were starting to creep in. The group were pleasantly surprised and relieved at the superb stalkers path that zig zagged down from Creag a Mhaim, and our bright attire, made for a colourful sight, as we weaved our way down to join the main track. Just under the 12 hours, a great effort by everyone.

We had juggled cars at the start to get back down the Glen, but you know what they say about the best laid plans, things did 'Gang aft a–gley' I had a wee chuckle, when I saw the WhatsApp message from Lynn, that just read 'Anyone seen beryl?'

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