Saturday 15 November 2014

Ciste Dhubh

Loch Cluanie from the start of the walk by A87 (NH087121)

With the daylight hours shortening, we had an early start from the campsite. An hour or so later we were setting off from the layby on the A87 (NH087121) just as the sun was rising.

Views over Loch Cluanie were stunning.

Am Bathach from NH089122

Am Bathach, our first hill of the day, catching the rays whilst we set off in the gloom in the glen - it loomed above us,

The South Glen Sheil Ridge and Cluanie Inn from ascent of Am Bathach  

It was only about 100 yards along the road before we went through the metal gate and headed north west up the steep nose of the Corbett - no gentle walk in for us today.

Jim and Rafe - ascent of Am Bathach

There's one thing about steep, you go up fast - the views opened up beneath us.

Loch Cluanie, Glen Shiel and a mountain sunrise...

Loch Cluanie sunrise from ascent of Am Bathach

A grassy (and sometimes boggy) path led us up to and along the Am Bathach ridge, welcoming into us into the north Kintail hills - golden green against the blue of a perfect Scottish autumn day.

Jim on Am Bathach ridge

Am Bathach with Ciste Dhubh beyond

I think the pictures pretty much speak for themselves!

Jim and Rafe near Am Bathach summit

Am Bathach ridge looking south from summit

Am Bathach summit (Corbett, 798m) - views north to Ciste Dhubh

We reached the summit all too soon - Am Bathach (Corbett, 798m) - how lucky to have such a wonderful day in the middle of November.

Bealach a'Choinich and Ciste Dhubh from descent from Am Bathach

Once we passed into the shadow of the hill, there was a definite chill in the air and a touch of frost on the grass.

Views east to A'Chralaig from Bealach a'Choinich

But once in Bealach a'Choinich, back in the sunshine, all alone in the hills it was time for a first lunch (actually I think it was more of a second breakfast!). We found a nice flat stretch of rock, perfect for a picnic - and it was perfect, warm, startlingly clear with some of our favourite hills all around - some we have already walked, others still to do...

Na Geurain Ridge from Bealach a'Choinich

To the east was A'Chralaig with its scrambly Na Geurain Ridge, we climbed in May 2013. To the west lies the Brothers Ridge and the Five Sisters of Kintail beyond them - definitely on our tick list for next year.

South from Bealach a'Choinich - a good spot for a bite to eat

After our second breakfast, onward across Bealach a'Choinich, across rocks, past lochans and peat hags.

Rafe - Ciste Dhubh from Bealach a'Choinich 

Am Bathach and Bealach a'Choinich 

As we started to ascend towards Ciste Dhubh, the "path" went through a particularly boggy bit, to the east of some crags. It didn't last long, but it really was quite squelchy!

Bealach a'Choinich  from a boggy initial ascent of Ciste Dhubh

Once beyond the bog, the going got easier and we were soon on the wide shoulder of Ciste Dhubh and the views opened up again - this time to the west - layer upon layer of hills to the Black Cuillin on Skye in the spiky distance.

Am Bathach from the ascent of Ciste Dhubh

West from the ascent of Ciste Dhubh

The ridge started to narrow nicely, a wonderful airy feeling...

Jim and Rafe - An Cnapach and Ciste Dhubh ridge

Rafe - ascent of Ciste Dhubh

The main path bypasses the crag of An Cnapach to the west - but it was definitely worth a quick nip up to the summit - great views and a great photo opportunity!

 Jim and shadow Polly - on An Cnapach - views to Ciste Dhubh

It really was one of those "wow" days.

Polly and Rafe on An Cnapach summit (877m)

Am Bathach and An Cnapach from Ciste Dhubh ridge

The ridge undulated up and then up again as we neared the summit of Ciste Dhubh, reasonably narrow but never difficult.

Views west from ascent of Ciste Dhubh

Rafe and Jim - Ciste Dhubh ridge

Views west to a distant Syke Cuillin from Ciste Dhubh ridge

Jim on ascent to Ciste Dhubh

Rafe and Ciste Dhubh

Jim near Ciste Dhubh summit

Views west  from Ciste Dhubh over Brothers Ridge, Five Sisters and Skye

Loch Cluanie Am Bathach and our ascent route from Ciste Dhubh summit

The summit of Ciste Dhubh (Munro 173, 979m), felt airy, the top of the world (despite not being the highest hill hearabouts!). It was crisp and frosty and clear as a bell.

Ciste Dhubh summit (Munro 173, 979m) - views south west

We could see the hills of Skye in the west, the Beauly Firth in the east, Torridon in the north and Ben Nevis in the south - we were pretty happy!

Views north to Torridon from Ciste Dhubh

We really didn't want to set off down.

After taking about 100 photographs we descended back along the Ciste Dhubh ridge to Bealach a'Choinich,

The light had changed, the views were new...

Jim - descent back along Ciste Dhubh ridge

We met three other groups of walkers as we descended - every one overwhelmed by such a great hill day.

Jim and Rafe - descent from Ciste Dhubh - views south over An Caorainn Beag

We had a second lunch (or was it a first lunch!!?)  in Bealach a'Choinich again - before descening into An Caorainn Beag, west of Am Bathach, to walk out.

Jim in An Caorainn Beag

It was a lovely golden glen, smoothly glaciated, with a tumbling burn flowing to Loch Cluanie.

Views north up An Caorainn Beag

But! The path was pretty nasty - sometimes boggy (really boggy), sometimes a flowing stream, sometimes thick mud, sometimes rocky, sometimes we were hopping from stone to stone and sometimes for short stretches it was fine (which, every time, lulled us into a false sense that the path was going to stay okay). It was one of those paths that you really have to concentrate to walk along and it was just long enough to be tiring! And we were glad to reach the end of it.

Loch Cluanie from An Caorainn Beag (NH077125)

The final stretch was along the side of Allt a'Caorainn Beag, lovely... Especially for Rafie, who really needed a bath after all that mud.

Allt a'Caorainn Beag (NH080122)

Before a very short trot east along the A87 back to the car.

A really memorable day...

Rafe turns back into a black and white dog in Allt a'Caorainn Beag
with views to Am Bathach

Route:  Layby on N of A87 1km E of Cluanie Inn (NH087121), E along A87 for 100m, N through gate onto path on hillside, NW to Am Bathach ridge, Am Bathach (Corbett, 798m), NW to Bealach a'Choinich (sh 591), N to An Cnappach (877m), Ciste Dhubh (Munro 173, 979m), return to Bealach a'Choinich, SE on path through An Caorainn Beag to A87, 500m E along road to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 13km  Ascent: 1000m  Time: 6hours

Ciste Dhubh

Am Bathach

No comments:

Post a Comment

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...