It was 2018 that I’d last ventured to hills above the Great Glen, to the hills above Glen Shiel, when myself and Magnus walked the Brothers and Sisters Ridge on the north side of the glen, on a blisteringly hot day on our way South after the Benbecula Half Marathon that year. I’d planned to climb the hills on the South the following year with Andrew, but we scrubbed that plan thanks to heavy rain, which ended up making our already logistically complicated plans to do it with a single car unravel. So it was in June 2012, after two years of pandemic, that plans came together for me, Magnus, and Declan to take-on these hills over the Platinum Jubilee weekend. Only for me to contract COVID-19 and spend the entire long-weekend in bed. Eventually a new date was set, 20 August, and Andrew and Shona would join.
During the week before the big day the forecast had been gradually deteriorating, before stabilising with a forecast for strong winds on the tops. On Friday Declan picked me up, and we headed up the A82, only to be diverted at Tyndrum across to Appin because of an accident, jeopardising our chances of climbing Am Bathach and Ciste Dubh en-route. The plan was soon to come totally unstuck when another accident by Castle Stalker turned us back towards Tyndrum. We ended-up camping-out in the Real Food Cafe at Tyndrum for an hour or so until the A82 reopened, and made it to Shiel Bridge, with all of the party’s food, by 8pm.
It rained heavily that night, but by the time we set out with Shona and Magnus’s cars it had started to clear up. Because of the forecast wind we decided to walk West-to-East, finishing at the Cluanie Inn. Ahead of us lay 25km of ridge, and no fewer than seven Munros.
We started up the hillside on a path which was standing-in as a temporary river for the morning, at almost the same time as another group. It wasn’t long before we encountered the first major obstacle, a river in spate! For all but Declan this proved to be a boots-off wading affair, while the group behind us seemed to spend a lot of time searching for a place to cross further up-stream. From here it was a damp climb to the Bealach nam Dubh Leac, and then, finally, onto the ridge.
The first of the day’s Munros, Creag nam Damh (918m) was eventually reached, though it wasn’t the most distinguished of summits. But from here progress would become more swift, with the considerable wind at our backs, and the second Munro, Sgùrr an Lochain (1004m) had a much more distinguished conical profile, and as we continued the weather started to clear. We’d bypassed Sgùrr Beag, and I offer my apologies to the SMC Guide’s authors for this sin of omission! The clear weather continued, though so did the very blustery wind as we scrambled up to Sgùrr an Doire Leathain (1010m). Here we were finally able to see both to the end of the ridge as it curved ahead of us, but also to the end of the walk at the Cluanie Inn.
The two ‘halves’ of the walk are split here by a fairly long walk to the next Munro, however the ridge broadened out, and any remaining concerns about the wind started to fade. The fourth Munro, Maol Chinn Dearg (981m), in constrast to its more conical neighbours presented a profile more akin to the back of a spinosaurus, seen from the North; a long, almost-level ridge with a steep drop down to a corrie. The weather, however, did start to close-in on us again, and didn’t really improve much again. The subsequent summits, Aonach air Chrith, Druim Shionnach, and Creag a’ Mhaim were fairly unremarkable, and we passed them quickly, though the views over Lochs Cluanie, Loyne, and Quoiche were moody and impressive.
The final descent from the ridge was by a steep path which was divided into what felt like an unending number of switchbacks down to an old road. From here it was around an hour’s walk back to Magnus’s car which we’d left here in the morning. We ate at the Cluanie Inn before picking Shona’s car up, and getting back to the tents, in order to collapse until sometime in the morning, hopefully recovered enough to tackle the Forcan Ridge the next day (though this may have been a hope exclusive to myself).Share Share Share