Area: Kyle of Lochalsh to Garve
Munro’s: Carn nan Gobhar (Strathfarrar), Sgurr a’Choire Ghlais, Sgurr Fhuar-thuill, Sgurr na Ruaidhe
Date walked: 15/04/2012
Time taken: 6.2 hours
Distance: 25 km
Well after last weekends big walk, far too much drink on the Sunday night, and lots of work during the short week that was left I hadn’t done any planning for the coming weekend. I had a tentative plan in mind to visit ben Alder but with my knees being sore all week I wasn’t sure the cycling would do me any good never mind the walking. In addition the cup semi finals and the Grand National were due to be on telly on the Saturday and the temptation to become a lounge lizard, a drunken lounge lizard at that, was all too much. So after buying a few beers midday Saturday I go around to my brothers to watch sport on TV. After and entertaining afternoon, Footie over, Grand National over, Guitar playing over I find myself back home falling asleep on the sofa.
I had no intention of walking on the Sunday and duly set my alarm for a respectable 0855 in time to catch Sunday Politics on the TV. Now I had work planned for Monday in Inverness so somewhere in the depths of my brain cogs must have been turning, because my subconcius mind must have seen a good opportunity here to do some walking. I would have to drive to Inverness early on Monday anyway so my deep brain must have been thinking get up early on Sunday and get your self up to Strathfarrar. Then stay overnight and voila you are on the doorstep for work on Monday. Job done as they say, and low and behold I woke up wide awake at 0420hrs on Sunday morning. My initial thoughts were to try to go back to sleep because I had nothing packed, no maps printed etc etc. But the more I thought about it the more eager I became.
So porridge for breakfast, pack my gear, print a map of the area etc etc and I am in the car at 0530hrs heading for Inverness. My usual 2 season boots, which can take crampons, fell apart in all the water during last weeks walk. I think the glue holding them together was water soluble and unfortunately they are now in the bin. And even though we are now in mid April there is still a significant amount of snow on the hills and crampons and ice axe may be required for this walk. I had two choices, my stiff winter boots or my soft pretty well worn summer boots and I decided to use my summer boots. That meant that I could not use crampons but I would take the ice axe in order to arrest myself if needed and if the slopes were hard and icy I would come back down and do this walk another day. We are certainly seeing the back of winter and I expected the snow to be soft with very little ice around and this luckily enough turned out to be the case the case.
So I arrived at the gates to the Glen at 0915 and got my day pass. 15 minutes later I am parked on the grassy plain between the two lochans just passed the power station. There is another chap here and after a couple of minutes chat I am on my way just as another walker pulls up. I intend to walk hard and set off at a good pace. I am wearing just one base layer on top and a jacket but after a short while I stop and remove the jacket because it is quite warm. More so because I am working hard but also the ambient temp here in the Glen is about 5 degrees or so.
I follow the Landrover track up the valley for a short while. This then peters out to a small track which more or less follows the Allt Coire Mhuillidh up the valley. After about 2.5km I then head North West up the pathless hillside heading directly for the summit of Sgurr na Ruaidhe. I can see the summit rising above me covered in snow and as I reach approx. 800m I enter the snow line. There are a number of small terraces to cross as I ascend and the snow has built up in front of each making it a little bit testing. The snow is soft and powder dry. There are lots of small ice sheets on the hillside but these crumble when stepped upon and I am soon on the summit of Sgurr na Ruaidhe. A nice little cairn here and unusually I am not in the clag. There are some dark clouds above me and it does snow briefly during the walk but the views are extensive if somewhat dark.
I can clearly see Carn nan Gobhar which is 2.5km North West and quickly head down the hillside for 1km to the Beallach and then climb up, skirting the spot height and into the snow which again is soft and in places walking is hard work. Once onto the ridge proper I can see a good boulder field ahead leading to the summit and I am soon on the summit of Carn nan Gobhar. Again the views are excellent although dark. The ridge leading up to Sgurr a’Choire Ghlais looks impressive and also scary in the snow. There is a cold wind blowing from the north and I put my jacket back on. So with Ice axe in one hand and walking pole in the other I head off down the boulders and jog down to the Bealach. My only concern, knowing that the snow is soft, is the corniced snow and the snow drifts. Luckily the Northern edge of the ridge is clear due to the wind so it’s just a matter of picking my path carefully and ascending up to the summit.
There are two cairns and a trig point on this summit and I visit each in turn. At this point my windows phone switched itself off. Last week my windows phone died on me due to getting soaked. On drying it out the screen has gone so I purchased another to use as GPS mapping but due to my poor preparation, I did not recharge my spare batteries and after some faffing about realised that without a portable wind turbine I don’t have any power for it hahaha. As I said it was a clear day anyway so the route was plain to see.
It’s now about 3km to Sgurr Fhuar-Thuill descending to the Bealach, then climbing the spot height of Creag Ghorm a Bealaich and then another easy descent then ascent to the summit. There are some crags on the ascent to Creag Ghorm a Bealaich but it’s easy enough to pick a route through and onwards to the top. Then it’s a run down the soft snow to the Bealach. As I ascend Sgurr Fhuar-Thuill I meet a couple that have come in from the end of the Glen road to bag the two Munro’s. I take a photo for them at the summit and they say that they will give me a lift back to the car. Not likely I say. You will have to catch me first hahaha. It’s just under 4 hours to this point. I have food but decide not to eat on this round and head over the summit and down the hillside towards Sgurr na Fearstag.
Just as I start to ascend this top I meet another couple. They are walking the reverse of my route and tell me the path is a bit dodgy coming up. However, I have their footprints to follow so that makes things easier. As I descend towards Loch Toll a Mhuic the path becomes less obvious and I descend across the heather to the obvious path I can see way down the valley below me. I am soon on the path out the valley, past the huge waterfall and the bridge, and eventually back to the roadside where the two cars are parked. The descent took me 1 hour 10 minutes. I take my jacket and wet top of and put a dry top on for the 7km walk back along the road to my van. I also have 5 jelly babies. Man they were good. It takes me an hour to get back. 100m from my van the first couple catch me and ask if I want a lift hahaha.Thanks but no thanks on this occasion.
I am so happy with my days walk. I thoroughly enjoyed it all. I loved the isolation up in the snow powereing along with the cold wind, dark sky’s and awesome feeling of independence such a walk gives you. The views to Mullardock were intimidating. I am sure they were shouting over in the breeze, “come and try us if your hard enough” hahaha.