Saturday 20 September 2014

The Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine

Setting off from Malagan by A87 - views west

Forecast excellent - MWIS stated that chance of rain was zero! How often does that happen in the North West Highlands...

Off we go.

Parked up at the side of the A87, surrounded by some of the most stupendous (I know, a touch over the top this early in the post, but I'm going to stick with it!) mountain scenery in Britain, we donned boots and Rafie donned his harness - there was a chance that he might need it today.

Leallan Odhar and Biod an Fithich from the stalkers path

A couple of hundred yards along the road and we were straight into our ascent, a good stalkers path (often oggled from the road) took us up and into the hills, the views improving with every step.

Glen Sheil and A87 from our ascent to Bealach na Craobhe

Once out from the knolls and drumlins of the glen bottom, the ascent to Bealach na Craobhe was a bit of a slog, but the views made up for it. The summits were still in cloud, but we could see it rising and clearing, better every minute.

Rafe was bouncing about, he knew he was in for a proper walk today...

Sgurr nan Forcan and The Saddle from Bealach na Craobhe

Once we reached Bealach na Craobhe, the sun hit the summits. What could beat this.

The Forcan Ridge, Sgurr na Forcan and the Saddle from Meallan Odhar

We were already at 500m, it felt like we were making good progress.

Rafe and Jim  between Meallan Odhar and Sgurr na Forcan

The path continued (although it disappears on the map!) onwards and upwards, skirting to the west of Meallan Odhar, before  taking us gently towards the foot of the Forcan Ridge, fabled grade 2 scramble.

Now Rafie doesn't quite have the skills or the equipment for a grade 2 scramble - he's really good in the hills, doesn't chase wildlife (if those deer below had said boo, he'd have run a mile!), does as he's told etc, etc. - but we would have been really silly to try and take him on the really pointy stuff. So we turned left at this point and took the wimps path, below the Easter Buttress.

Red deer on Meallan Odhar

The path was OK, beside a drystone dyke, contouring towards Bealach Coire Mhalagain - but the sight of the Forcan ridge above (with another group of walkers whooping their appreciation as they traversed the rocks!) was a bit too much to bear.

The Forcan Ridge

So once past the dreaded downclimb and the really pointy bits, we headed off up the open hillside towards the ridge.

Coire Mhalagain from below the Easter Butress, Forcan Ridge

It was pretty steep, a bit scree-y and good fun. We hit the ridge at the top of a gully at about the 958m spot height, just as the cloud came down.

Sgurr na Sgine from our ascent into Coire Mhalagain

It was still fairly ridgy, but nothing that we, or Rafe, haven't done before. But we'll have to come back sometime to do the rest of the ridge without our four legged friend... Not sure when that'll be.

The Forcan Ridge

The weather decided to take a definite turn for the worse at this point - a really heavy shower (how quickly can you put your waterproofs on!) including some rather stingy hail and a blustery cold wind - amazing how quickly things can change in the hills.

The Forcan Ridge

It made things rather slippery and it didn't do much for the views - but we get what we're given - but that didn't stop us having a good moan about the weather forecasters.

The Saddle (Munro 121, 1010m)

The summit of The Saddle, our first Munro of the day came up suddenly in the mist. There was none of that "hanging about in case the weather clears" nonsense today. We took couple of photo's and collected a small rock sample for Freddie, before heading down towards Bealach Coire Mhalagain. It was definitely time for first lunch.

The Saddle trig point (1011m)

Pretty much as soon as we got off the ridge and down into some shelter it started to warm up. We found a spot out of the wind (behind another drystone dyke) and watched the weather take itself off down the glen whilst we had a small repast.

The Forcan Ridge from descent to Bealach Coire Mhalagain

The views started to open up again, and I was soon back in just a tee shirt. (Jim, as usual, just unzipped his waterproof jacket a couple of inches!).

Bealach Coire Mhalagain with Sgurr na Sgine beyond

We continued to descend into the bealach, over scree, boulders and eventually easier going on grass. Rafe had a plodge in Lochan Bealach Coire Mhalagain.

The Saddle from Bealach Coire Mhalagain

All but the very highest summits were now clear, the sun was out and the views enormous.

Sgurr na Sgine and views south west from Bealach Coire Mhalagain

Views west to Knoydart from ascent of Sgurr na Sgine

The Saddle and the Forcan Ridge over Lochan Bealach Coire Mhalagain

Five Sisters of Kintail and beyond from ascent of Sgurr na Sgine

I found the ascent of Sgurr na Sgine hard going for some reason, and we stopped for a rest and a drink within striking distance of the summit. Another photo opportunity!

Rafe and Jim ascend Sgurr na Sgine 

The final push to the top seemed easy, over Sgurr na Sgine North West Top, a 360 panorama.

Knoydart from Sgurr ns Sgine

We met a few other walkers here. For one, this was her 263rd Munro. Made us feel like novices!

Rafe and Jim near the summit of Sgurr na Sgine (Munro 223, 946m)

But when we got to the summit, we had it all to ourselves. Bliss.

And a second lunch!

The South Glen Sheil Ridge from Sgurr na Sgine

Once we'd had our fill we made our way back over the North West Top and onto the Faochag Ridge...

Sgurr na Sgine NW Top, The Saddle and Faochag Ridge from Sgurr na Sgine

Rather a nice little ridge in its own right, with never ending views of the Five Sisters of Kintail and beyond.

Rafe and Jim on the Faochag Ridge - views to the Five Sisters of Kintail

Looking back to Sgurr na Sgine and the Faochag Ridge

Rafe and Jim - Faochag (909m) - views over Glen Sheil

It was pretty much straight down into Glen Sheil from the summit of Faochag, no gentle descents for us today. Zigging and zagging steeply for 850m on a rather eroded path, my knees had about given up by the time we hit level ground about 200m from the car.

West over Meallan Odhar and Biod an Fithich to Loch Duich and Kintail

Still - every moan and groan over the next couple of days will be worth it...

We called into the Redburn Cafe in Dundreggan for a wonderful coffee on our way back to the campsite - did you know that they're open until 6:30pm til end October! We'll be back...

Near the end of the walk at the foot of Faochag NE Ridge - looking SE to Coire Allt Mhalagain

Route:  Lay by on A87 100m SE of Malagan Bridge (NG973138), NW along A87, turn SW at gated stalkers path (NG968143), follow path SW then W to Bealach na Craoibhe, continue on good path to W of Meallan Odhar, at base of the Forcan Ridge, follow track to the north of drystone dyke below the Easter Butress, at approx NG943128 head NW steeply up towards Forcan Ridge aiming for 958m spot height, follow western end of Forcan Ridge to The Saddle (Munro 121, 1010m), Saddle trig point (1011m), path S to Bealach Coire Mhalagain, follow path S to Sgurr na Sgine North West Top (Munro Top 168, 942m), Sgurr na Sgine (Munro 223, 946m), return to Sgurr na Sgine NW Top, Faochag West Top (880m), Faochag Ridge, Faochag (909m), Faochag NE ridge crossing Allt Mhalagain at NG970136 (footbridge 200m S), track N to A87, E to start point.

Statistics:  Distance: 13km  Ascent: 1350m  Time: 8hours

Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor

Setting off from Glen Feshie - it was chilly - before the sun had a chance to peep over the hills...  Off we go! Jim - Setting off near Auch...