About Me

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Hello! My name is Keith Gault and I've been tramping the hills of the UK and further afield for over 40 years now. This blog records some recent hill days undertaken either on my own, with friends, or with clients under my guided hillwalking Company: Hillways (www.hillways.co.uk). I hope you enjoy my diary; please feel free to comment on any of the walks. I will respond to any direct questions.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Etive Hills

Buachaille Etive Mor Guards the Entrance to Glen Etive
Three hill-days to go to complete my 3rd Munro round and the longest of these was going to be this collection of 5 peaks hidden away at the foot of Glen Etive.  Whilst they are generally split into 2-3 separate days, the distance required to drive to them and the effort needed to climb the first one have always persuaded me to tackle all 5 in one gruelling day!  With one notable exception, the hills form a long undulating ridge far from the roadside and with a fair amount of up and down - so you know you’re in for a big day! 

Ben Starav From Glen Etive
Starting from the western end, Ben Starav is a brute of a mountain which will take at least 3hrs to climb.  Then comes Beinn nan Aighenan, probably the most awkwardly placed Munro in Scotland stubbornly sitting as it does 2 Km S of the main ridge and accessed via a frustratingly low bealach.  Then it’s back to the main ridge for shapely Glas Bheinn Mhor before another low bealach leads to big Stob Coir’an Albannaich.  Finally, rougher ground leads over a minor top before one last climb leads to Meall nan Eun, the baby of the group.  It’s a long way back to the car!

Ben Starav From the River Etive
I started, as on previous visits, from the end of the access track to Coileitir, a 30-min drive down Glen Etive and a couple of miles short of the road-end at the head of Loch Etive.  The familiar pyramid of Buachaille Etive Mor made for a grand sight in the early morning sunshine as I entered Glen Etive in pursuit of my hills.

Toiling Up Ben Starav!
Once over the River Etive (the bridge is essential), a muddy path leads to the Allt Mheuran which can usually be crossed where you meet it.  There then begins the long, unrelenting climb up Ben Starav’s N ridge. The ridge narrows as you approach the summit and the views are very impressive across Loch Etive and N towards the Glen Coe hills.  But it’s probably the climb you’ll remember.  I know I do!

Ben Starav From Beinn nan Aighenan
Three hours from the car and I was standing beside the summit cairn of Ben Starav (1078m; rustling hill).  Nothing remains of the OS trig point and the summit is surprisingly flat for such a big, steep-sided rocky mountain.  Normally you’d want to linger, but there is still such a long way to go….   

Ben Starav From Glas Bheinn Mhor
Descending quickly to the first of several frustratingly low bealachs, I reluctantly left the main ridge to traverse to Munro No 2.  For this, I had to descend all the way to 618m before re-ascending over 300m to the isolated summit of Beinn nan Aighenan (960m; hill of the hinds).  From here, you can see all the remaining hills and it’s a sobering sight if you’re planning to do them all today! 

Beinn nan Aighenan
It’s best just to keep your head down and plod steadily on. I know I did - back to the depressingly low bealach and back up the other side until I regained the main ridge and, after a steep climb, triumphantly secured my 3rd Munro of the day: Glas Bheinn Mhor (997m; big green-grey hill).

Glas Bheinn Mhor 
You’re never on level ground for very long on this route and there’s not much of it on the steep descent to the next bealach at the head of the Allt Mheuran.  

Stob Coir’an Albannaich & Glas Bheinn Mhor From Ben Starav
This is where most sensible folk would peel off left and return to Glen Etive!  Me?  No, I just had to toil up another steep slope before running out of path and crossing rougher ground leading to the surprisingly small summit of Stob Coir’an Albannaich (928m; peak of the corrie of the Scotsman).  The summit cairn sits on top of a strange grassy mound perched on the edge of the mountain’s sheer N face.  It’s a great spot, even if late-afternoon fatigue can take the edge off the aesthetics!

Stob Coir’an Albannaich
As the autumn sun started to sink in the W, I trudged wearily on heading E looking for the wee cairn that marks the descent route N to the next bealach.  No worries today (it stayed clear all day), and I was soon down at 754m and traversing the intermediate top of Meall Tarsuinn over indistinct ground for the final climb of the day.  One last ascent and I had my 5th Munro of the day: Meall nan Eun (928m; hill of the birds).

Meall nan Eun
The sun really was low now so I wasted no time departing from the flat summit and following the broad NW ridge for the descent into Glen Ceitlein.  There are some awkward steep granite slabs to negotiate on this descent and it is better to trend to the right to avoid most of them.  You run out of path for a while and it can get quite soggy, but eventually, a clear path emerges on the N side of the Allt Ceitlein and this leads all the way back down to Glen Etive.

Glas Bheinn Mhor From Beinn nan Aighenan
Headtorch on, I followed the path under a bright crescent moon until it intercepted a vehicle track in the main glen that leads back to the Coileitir access track.  By the time I reached the car, I had been walking for 11 hrs, covered almost 30 Kms and had climbed over 2700m. 
And boy, it felt like it! 
Late Afternoon Sunshine on the Etive Hills

Check out my plans for similar walks at: http://www.hillways.co.uk/summer/summer.htm

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Carn Mor Dearg

Carn Mor Dearg
A much-needed and very welcome improvement in the weather has enabled me to tackle the few remaining hills of my 3rd Munro round.  The highest of these was Carn Mor Dearg which holds hands with Ben Nevis and is connected to the former by the much-vaunted Carn Mor Dearg (CMD) arête.

Glen Nevis
For this ascent, I opted for the short, steep climb from the end of the road in Glen Nevis.  This avoids the long haul up the mountain’s N slopes and does include a traverse of the arête - but it’s hard work!

The Carn Mor Dearg Arête 
Parking at the road-end in Glen Nevis, it took a few minutes to locate the path in deep bracken.  When it did appear, so began the hard work - almost 500m of sustained steep climbing alongside the water-chute of the Allt Coire Eoghainn.  At least the views came quickly!

Ben Nevis From Carn Mor Dearg
The path disappears once in Coire Eoghainn, but reappears higher up just before the grassy slopes give way to a boulder field.  Keep climbing and all of a sudden, things begin to happen.  Almost simultaneously, the N face of Ben Nevis, the CMD arête and Carn Mor Dearg itself appear with the deep hollow of Coire Leis immediately in front of you.

Coire Leis
Not for the first time this year, the wind now became a problem with gusts of 50 mph threatening further progress.  Fortunately, the wind abated sufficiently to allow me to continue and I wasted no time in traversing the arête on to less hazardous ground.  With stunning views across Coire Leis to the Ben for added interest, the going got easier for the final climb up on to Carn Mor Dearg (1220m; big red hill).

The View North from the Summit
From the summit, I descended the peak’s sharply-defined E ridge to the 830m bealach between Carn Mor Dearg and Aonach Mor.  

Aonach Mor & Aonach Beag From Carn Mor Dearg
From here, and in thankfully lighter winds, the return to the car was straightforward - down Coire Giubhsachan, up and over the bealach immediately N of Meall Cumhann and then down to the car park in Glen Nevis.

Check out my plans for similar walks at: http://www.hillways.co.uk/summer/summer.htm

Monday, 26 September 2016


It wont have escaped anyone’s attention that this week’s weather and the fine art of hillwalking are not made for each other.  A succession of ‘vigorous’ Atlantic depressions is giving the NW Highlands a conveyor belt of gale-force winds and sustained heavy rain.  The result is the least successful week in Matt & Jenn’s 5-yr Munro campaign which is especially frustrating as they are so near the end!

The View From the Car
The one day we have managed to achieve so far resulted from an all-too-brief respite from the Atlantic onslaught which gave us just long enough to tackle the isolated peak of Gairich on the long and winding road to Kinlochhourn.

The View East Approaching the Summit
Parking by the Loch Quoich dam, we splish-sploshed our not-so-merry way across the sodden moorland for an hour to access the broad shoulder of Druim na Geid Salaich which gives access to the peak from the E.  There was a path, but it seemed academic such was the amount of groundwater.

Dark Storm Clouds Were Never far Away!
At least the wind had relented sufficiently enough to allow for walking as we passed the intermediate mound of Bac nam Foid (584m) and finally reached the shapely pyramid of Gairich itself.

Gleouraich Across Loch Quoich
The following 300m climb up steep slopes was greatly helped by an excellent path and fine views N across Coire Thollaidh to Loch Quoich and S across the watery wastes of Glen Kingie.

High Above Glen Kingie
The end came quickly with the summit cairn appearing shortly after the steepness eases and the relatively small summit area ensures some cracking views in all directions: Gairich (919m; roaring hill).

Loch Quoich
We returned the same way with some sunshine and light winds to brighten the mood, and only deer for company.  We knew, however, that this would be a rare experience this week - perhaps even a unique one….

Check out my plans for similar walks at: http://www.hillways.co.uk/summer/summer.htm 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

The Glen Carron Hills

Sgorr Ruadh & Fuar Tholl From Achintee
Hidden away, far and unseen from public roads, lie 3 (very) remote Munros which the aspiring Munroist will have to tackle at some stage.  By far the best way to access these awkwardly-placed hills is by bike, even if you will have to push it uphill for a while on your way in!  On this occasion, however, we were resigned to walking all the way and the hot, windless conditions made for 2 of  the most challenging hill-days in Matt & Jenn’s Munro campaign.
Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich & Lurg Mhor

Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich & Lurg Mhor
Lurg Mhor is one of the 3 remotest Munros in Scotland and together with ‘Cheescake’, will demand a long old day from you, however you choose to do them.  The 3 usual options start from Craig in Glen Carron (you have to climb over an intervening Corbett in and out!), Attadale beside Loch Carron (a bike-able track accounts for ⅔ of the distance) or on foot from Achintee. 

Approaching Bendronaig Lodge
Today, we walked in from Achintee, near Strathcarron (33 Kms round-trip) using the hill path for the first 2 hrs as far as the Bealach Alltan Ruairidh.  It is only now that you get your first view of the hills, and they don’t look particularity close even from here!  

Bendronaig Lodge & Bothy
It was only when we intercepted the Attadale track after 8 Kms that we realised that on-going hydro construction works have greatly improved the quality of the track and now make the bike option even more attractive.

Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich & Lurg Mhor From Sail Riabhach
After 10 Kms, you pass lonely Bendronaig Lodge (everything is lonely around here!) and its accompanying bothy.  From here, the track continues E past Loch Calavie to Pait Lodge on the shores of Loch Monar. 

Loch Calavie
We followed this through the energy-sapping heat for another 2 Kms before the climbing started in earnest with a tiring flog up the grassy bowl of Coire na Sorna and on to Sail Riabhach (771m).  From this intermediate top, our 1st Munro finally looked something like close!  And indeed, after a gentle traverse with a welcome breeze and a short, final climb, we reached the rather fine (if small) summit of Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich (945m; pinnacle of the corrie of the fallow cattle).

Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich From Lurg Mhor
Apart from the obvious relief of attaining our 1st summit, our spirits were further lifted by the obvious close proximity of Lurg Mhor.  The intervening bealach is a lowly 735m, but the relatively modest height of the 2 Munros make for a straightforward re-ascent up 2 rock steps to the very welcome summit cairn of Lurg Mhor (986m; big shank).  As if to underline our hard-won Munro, a pair of golden eagles soared above us in the bright blue sky.

Lurg Mhor
Any heightened sense of relief following our 2nd summit was muted by the knowledge we were only just half-way through our long day.  So it was with some weariness that we descended the grassy slopes of Coire Calavie back down to the Bendronaig track from where we started the long weary trudge all the way back to Achintee.
Maoile Lunndaidh

Maoile Lunndaidh From Glenuaig
The following day (as if the previous day’s exertions weren’t enough), we donned boots again and headed up yet another track in debilitating heat.  Today’s 27 Kms sojourn started at Craig in Glen Carron and followed the now familiar improved track alongside the Allt a’ Chonais to Pollan Buidhe.  Shortly before reaching Glenuaig Lodge, we left the track and cut right across some very rough and uneven ground to begin what became a very difficult climb up the steep flank of Fuar-tholl Mor and up on to the open hillside.  Being a flat-topped mountain, the summit cairn didn’t appear until the last minute but it was a mighty relief when it did.  At least there was some sort of breeze up there: Maoile Lunndaidh (1007m; bare hill of the wet place).

Below Fuar-tholl Mor
Still a long way from home, we traipsed wearily down the way we had come, descending steeply down into Gleann Fhiodhaig and making a direct line for Glenuaig Lodge where some very kind tenants offered cake!  We were still the best part of 2 hrs from the car and the heat never really relented.  So it was 3 very tired bunnies who eventually staggered back to Craig eagerly anticipating a day-off!

Approaching Glenuaig Lodge
That day-off was largely spent moving across to Speyside where we encountered markedly different conditions cycling down Loch Ericht for 15 Kms to Culra Bothy for a wet and windy few hours attempting 4 of the Ben Alder group.  We achieved 2 of them before scuttling back to Dalwhinnie wondering what is the more challenging - debilitating heat, or wild and windy weather……..

 Check out my plans for similar walks at: http://www.hillways.co.uk/summer/summer.htm

Monday, 15 August 2016

Gleouraich & Spidean Mialach

The View Across Loch Quoich Towards Knoydart
Returning to Loch Quoich one month after an unusually challenging hot and humid ascent of Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich, much kinder conditions awaited Matt, Jenn & I for this first class circular traverse of 2 fine mountains far down Glen Garry.

Gairich Across Loch Quoich
The hills were surprisingly quiet for mid-August and we saw very few people in a week that encompassed one of the Glen Etive hills, these 2 today, 3 very remote hills above Glen Carron and a partly-successful tilt at the Ben Alder group.

The View SW From Gleouraich
A network of excellent stalkers’ paths in the Loch Quoich hills make for very enjoyable (and easier) hillwalking than it would otherwise be.  These 2 hills are no exception with a fabulous stalkers’ path leading from the roadside to just 200m below the first summit.  Thereafter, a clear mountain path leads over both summits and part-way down the 2nd peak before another stalkers’ path returns you to the road.  Moreover, in keeping with many parts of the Highlands, there has been a lot of recent hill track/road building in mountain glens and one of these alongside the Allt a’ Mheil gives an even easier descent from Spidean Mialach.

So off we set, quite steeply at first, up on to the ridge of Sron a’ Chuilinn which gives stunning views down over Loch Quoich towards Knoydart and further W.  The path is a real ‘highway in the sky’ and quickly leads you to the upper part of the mountain.  Just before the stalkers’ path terminates high above Coire Peitireach, we took the obvious ridgeline which climbs and curves around to the substantial summit cairn of Gleouraich (1035m; roaring noise).

Spidean Mialach From Gleouraich
Both mountains have widely differing aspects with the summit crests separating deep rocky corries to the N from much gentler grassy slopes to the  S.  The dividing bealach (Fiar Bealach) dips down to a slightly mean 740m, but you can hardly complain given the shortness of the day!  The ascent from the bealach is grassy at first, but becomes increasingly stony as you approach the summit.  Once there though, you get 2 cairns for the price of one and fantastic views in every direction, particularly E where you can see the Cairngorms on a clear day!  Spidean Mialach (996m; peak of deer).

Gleouraich From Spidean Mialach
After admiring said views and someone’s very fair copy of a west Highland trig point using local stone, we took the obvious path down into Coire Dubh.  The path turned boggy in places so it was an easy decision to opt for the new Hydro track from about 400m rather than stay with the squelchy path!  Whilst the track meets the road further from the car than the path, the extra kilometer is a small price to pay to get onto firmer ground sooner.

Descending Into Sun
And anyway, the sun was still shining and the view across the shimmering waters of Loch Quoich towards the Rough Bounds of Knoydart and the distinctive outline of Sgurr na Ciche never looed better!

 Check out my plans for similar walks at: http://www.hillways.co.uk/summer/summer.htm