Forcan Ridge and South Shiel Ridge
Area: Glen Shiel to Loch Hourn and Loch Quoich
Munros: Sgurr na Sgine, The Saddle, Aonach Air Chrith, Creag a’Mhaim, Creag nan Damh, Druim Shionnach, Maol chinn-dearg, Sgurr an Doire Leathain, Sgurr an Lochain
Distance = 33.7km
Ascent = 3000m
Time taken = 11 hours 9 minutes
We had planned to go to the Loch Cluanie area for months now and the time had come. However driving up on the Friday night with the campervan was postponed due to the warning of 100mph winds and we drove up on the Saturday afternoon instead. We arrived at approximately 1800hrs and parked the van on the road to Cluanie lodge which is just off the A87, 100 metres up from the Cluanie Inn. This area is fine for pitching a tent if you choose to do so. The weather was only slightly windy with no rain but there were clouds in the sky. So a quick couple of pints in the Cluanie Inn to finish the evening and heads down for the long walk ahead on Sunday. (The skye Pipes and Drums band popped into the Cluanie on their way home from Nairn highland games and gave us 20 minutes of rousing tunes which was excellent and thoroughly enjoyed by all.)
It rained all night accompanied by gale force winds. Dannys alarm went off at 0500 and the weather was so bad we just went back to sleep. However it all stopped at 0700 and unbelievable calm was the order of the day. We had a big walk planned adding the Forcan Ridge to the South Sheil Ridge which consisted of nine munros and one corbet so breakfast and kit and into the car for the 13km drive to the layby near the path going up the hillside. Its now 0752 as we leave the road and head off into the hillside on the well worn track. The track meanders and then goes North West around the hillside as it climbs to the beallach which is about 2km from the car. The track then heads South for 1km before heading directly West up the Forcan ridge.
It started to rain at this point but the rain didn’t last for long. This is where the scambling/hands on climbing begins. The ridge is pretty much in the mist as we climb for the next 800m or so ascending just under 400m. Its quite steep in places but the only real problem we have is the wet rock, due to the mist and rain which makes the going sometimes precarious. We eventually arrive at the big drop. I descend just the top section to get a feel for it but we decide to use the bypass path because of the amount of water on the rocks. So its now another 50m or so ascent over half a kilometre and we are on the first summit, The Saddle, getting here at 2 hours 17 mins from the car.
The path now heads South East descending for about 100m to a wall which is then crossed. However at this point we lose the path due to the boggy ground and what looks like numerous footprints. We should be heading for the Lochan below Sgur na Forcan but instead are heading down the valley descending into boggy ground as we go. Neither of us question the route until we realise that we can’t see the Lochan. This is because its above us hahaha. We now have to walk 300m straight up the hillside to rejoin the track which has added 150m to our total ascent. An extra 150m we could have done without. So, back on track and we are soon on the summit of Sgur na Sgine. We meet a guy from Perth here just up to do the one munro and he takes a mugshot for us and vice versa. After a bite to eat and a good chat we head of on our way.
We now head South West for about 250m then head South down the hillside to a wall. This is much easier than I had imagined. We now head East from 700m to the Beallach and then 600m to the summit of the Corbet Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais. There is a steep climb near the summit but it is short lived and easily passed.
Its now 2.5km East to our first summit on the South Shiel ridge, Creag na Damh, over easy terrain following the boundary line and we arrive there after 5 hours 16 mins from the car. Its now pretty much a good path for the rest of the journey along the South Shiel Ridge.
We now descend for 1km to the Beallach Fraoch Choire. After ascending another 40m we reach the bypass path which traverses the summit of Sgurr Beag. Halfway along this path there is a small burn/water course which I use to refill two of my water bottles replenishing 1 litre of fluid which I have drunk so far. Its now a further 1km to the summit of Sgurr an Lochain
Again its another easy 1km to the summit of Sgurr an Doire Leathain.
And 2.5 km later comes Maol Chinn Dearg. As we walk along the ridge the sun comes and goes and the mist rises and falls but luckily enough for the whole day the rain stays away.
A further 2km later comes the summit of Aonach air Chrith after a hands on climb up the ridge near the top. At this point I start to get cramp in my right leg. With two munros still to go I hope I can finish the walk.
However from this point to the next munro is a nice grassy walk which gives the legs a well earned rest, relatively speaking. 2.5km later comes the summit of Druim Shionnach.
Then its onto a very small ridge which might be testing in high winds for the final 1.5km to Creag a Mhaim, our last summit.
That was hard. My legs are feeling it bad and we still have approximately 9km to get back to the van dropping around 700m as we go. The track from Creag a Mhaim descends down the hillside in a zig zag fashion, akin to many uphill tracks, which makes it a little easier on the knees. After 2.5km we arrive at the main track in and walk the final 6.5km back to the van. My legs are knackered. I hate to say this but I am now having trouble keeping up with Danny as my legs start shutting down. I tell him to to leave me behind and I will head back at my own pace which ended getting me to the van 15 minutes after Danny. (That hurt just saying that hahaha).