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.

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

Friday, 29 July 2016

The Laggan Hills: Beinn a’ Chaorainn & Beinn Teallach

The Loch Treig Hills From Beinn a’ Chaorainn
DJ’s mid-summer Munro foray was aimed at wrapping up his unfinished  Munros on either side of the A86 between Spean Bridge and Newtonmore.  And that is exactly what we achieved over a 3-day visit at the end of July. 
For the middle day, we chose these 2 hills which lie immediately N of the Laggan Dam.  They are generally done together but have no convenient high bealach between them so you have to descend below 600m between Munros (Ouch)!  So take some solace from Beinn Teallach being the 2nd lowest Munro - it could be a lot worse!

Beinn a’ Chaorainn From Beinn Teallach
A further crumb of comfort is the high start (270m) afforded by beginning from Roughburn on the A86.  From here, we took the track that leads through the forestry plantation to open (if boggy) ground beside the Allt a’ Chaorainn.  Then it was up, up….oh, and up… over some fairly tedious grassy slopes - these hills have plenty of them!

Beinn Teallach
Half-way up, the rocky knoll of Meall Clachaig leads to a slight easing of the gradient, but eventually (and it’s a long eventually), the ground becomes more stony and you finally arrive on Beinn a’ Chaorainn’s summit ridge.  The view that suddenly appears across the steep eastern corrie of the mountain’s 3 tops towards Craig Meagaidh is the best of the day. The summit is the middle of the 3 tops and it’s always a relief to get there: Beinn a’ Chaorainn (1049m; hill of the rowan).
Descending to the Allt a’ Chaorainn
Any joy was short-lived though as the descent back to the Allt a’ Chaorainn was long and in places steep.  After pausing for lunch (the midges’, not ours!), the 2nd climb of the day followed - 400m of steep, broken ground in humid windless purgatory!  But at least it put us on top just in time to see a hen harrier taking flight from the summit cairn - a very fair reward for our efforts!  There are 2 cairns; the E one being the higher of the 2 by a short stone:  Beinn Teallach (915m; forge hill).

Beinn Teallach From Beinn a’ Chaorainn
We descended the straightforward easy-angled S slopes of the mountain and re-crossed the Allt a’ Chaorainn without difficulty (it must have stopped raining for a few hours)!  A possible sparrowhawk sighting in the forest supported the slightly unfair notion that the birds we had seen today were perhaps more interesting than the hills we had climbed!  Jon was happy though - a further 3 Munros the following day gave him his clean sweep of the Laggan hills despite cloudy conditions and 3 viewless summits (so no blog)!

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

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich

Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich
Mid-July saw a continuation of the misfiring summer of 2016 with a  succession of relentlessly wet and windy days in the Highlands.  Consequently, Jennifer’s mid-summer Munro raid on the hills around Loch Quoich, west of Invergarry in the Great Glen was threatening to be a complete washout.  Fortunately, after snatching a hard-fought hill-day (2 Munros) above Loch Treig in slightly less wet and windy conditions, the last day dawned bright and sunny and a quality Munro day beckoned.

The Long and Winding Road to Kinlochhourn
Back we went along the long and winding road to Kinlochhourn and parked just past the northern extension of Loch Quoich.  From here, an excellent stalkers’ path leads from the road up and along the grassy ridge of Bac nan Canaichean.  Without meaning to sound ungrateful, the sunny weather came with an uncomfortable sting in the tail.  Very warm and humid conditions do not make for comfortable hillwalking and that was certainly the case this morning when the strength appeared to drain from our legs.  At times, it felt a bit like high altitude walking and we were forced to pause frequently as we struggled under a hot sun.  Some respite was offered by a light breeze once over the subsidiary top of Sgurr Coire nan Eiricheallach (891m), but it wasn’t much of a concession.

Gairich Across Loch Quoich
Despite the debilitating conditions, the final stretch of ridge between this top and the Munro summit is truly delightful with spectacular views in all directions.  The summit itself came just 2hrs after leaving the car, but it was hard work which the photos don’t really capture.  It is a fine peak though with ridges radiating in all directions and a fabulous view down Loch Hourn towards Knoydart: Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich (1027m; peak of the shellfish). 

The View West From the Summit Towards Knoydart
We descended the same way (easy) thereby taking advantage of the path rather than descending the S ridge and cutting down across the pathless Coire nan Eiricheallach, a route I’d taken on my 2 previous visits.
 So, only one of the Quoich Munros achieved over the 5 days, but it won’t be long before Jennifer returns to finish them off - we just need summer to start taking itself seriously!

Sgurr a' Mhaoraich

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

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Five Sisters of Kintail

The Five Sisters of Kintail
Lynn was fast approaching her 100th Munro and needed a few days in Kintail to seal the deal!  The original plan had been to capture all 7 of the South Cluanie Ridge Munros in a day, add the Five Sisters of Kintail and pick up anything else the weather allowed over another couple of days.

Ah, Sunny Kintail.........
However, as what has become a rather wet and windy summer refused to play ball, we ended up, as always, compromising and grabbing what we could.

So, after pausing on the way up to climb Creise (and necessarily, Meall a’ Bhuiridh) above the Glen Coe ski complex, we decided to use the best day of the 4 traversing the Five Sisters ridge.  This was in the hope of seeing something of the amazing views that this always enjoyable traverse can give.

Saileag (on a good day)!
Leavin  the car at the end-point, and benefiting from a kindly lift part-way up Glen Shiel from David, we headed up the usual path (not as steep or as long as it looks from below) to the skyline at the Bealach an Lapain (730m).  It was a muggy old climb that soon entered thick cloud which was to linger for the next couple of hours.  On impulse, we decided to turn right instead of left and invest an additional 45 mins of our day adding a 4th Munro to the day’s haul: Saileag (956m; little heel).  It didn’t take long, wasn’t very steep and we saw nothing!  But it was still Lynn’s 95th Munro so was well worth climbing!

The North Cluanie Ridge
Back at the Bealach an Lapain, we reverted to Plan A and continued westwards along the ever-tightening ridge over various bumps and dips to Sgurr nan Spainteach (990m; peak of the Spaniard).  No Munro, but we wouldn’t have long to wait.  A steep, if short, descent to negotiate an interesting landslip followed by a modest re-ascent and a short boulder field brought us to our 2nd Munro of the day: Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe (1027m; peak of the black chest).

Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe
By now, the cloud was beginning to noticeably thin and we were getting glimpses of Loch Duich far below and some of the surrounding hills.  By the time we had paused for some lunch at the intervening bealach, there were clear signs of a sunny afternoon to come.  First though, we had to climb up and over Sgurr na Carnach (1002m; rocky peak) and the ridge’s crowning peak: Sgurr Fhuaran (1067m; peak of the wolf) before the cloud started to leave us for good.

Sgurr Fhuaran
Descending from Sgurr Fhuaran, everything got better quickly and there then followed what has become a typically warm, bright and sunny traverse around Sgurr nan Saighead and Beinn Bhuidhe before dropping into Coire na Criche and following the delightful Allt a’ Chruinn back down to the waiting car.  Lovely!

West From Sgurr Fhuaran

Loch Duich From Coire na Criche
The following day, Lynn achieved her 100th Munro on the South Cluanie Ridge.  Weather precluded us attempting a full traverse of all 7 peaks, but we managed the easternmost 3 and we celebrated her first century on Druim Shionnach - typically, in thick cloud!  The following day, in bright sunshine, we climbed Schiehallion on the way home thereby completing Lynn’s 102nd Munro and ensuring we achieved the major aim of the trip.  Phew! 

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

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Fisherfield Five

Looking West From A' Mhaighdean
There is no easy way to climb these 5 very remote Munros tucked away in the vast road-less tract of mountain, moorland and glen between Dundonnell, Poolewe and Kinlochewe in the NW Highlands.  The fairly recent demotion of a 6th Munro (Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh) following a re-survey has done little to reduce the considerable number of footsteps required to stand on their summits. 

Approaching the First 2 Munros: Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair & Sgurr Ban
Moreover, the geography of the group is such that splitting them into 2 days has little material effect on the distance covered.  For this reason, it is perhaps best to swallow the pill and take them all on in one go.  Providing you are hill-fit, choose the right day/time of the year, give some thought to the logistics and don’t plan anything for the day after, you have a good chance of success!

Looking North to Loch an Nid & An Teallach
So, after much deliberation, one previous attempt and with a mindset that oozed flexibility, Matt & Jenn went for it.  As if to illustrate the above points, we chose the week before the summer solstice to give us maximum daylight, put cars at 2 access points and took advantage of a prolonged dry spell so the river crossings would not be a problem.

Beinn Tarsuinn
Leaving a car at Corrie Hallie with the intention of walking out that way and reducing the overall distance by a modest, but precious 2 Km, we drove back along the Destitution Road and parked near Loch a’ Bhraoin (280m) at 08.15.  Five minutes later, the sight of an osprey taking flight immediately before us seemed like a promising omen! 

Climbing the Quartzite Slabs on Sgurr Ban
It was a welcome surprise to find a vehicle track leading all the way along the loch and a short way beyond Lochivraon cottage.  In 2hrs, we were taking our first big break immediately S of Loch an Nid with our first 2 Munros towering above us.  Sunny skies had seen us on our way, but as we toiled up the quartzite boulder field above Coire nan Clach, a cool breeze and cloud aplenty heralded a change.  As if to illustrate the distances involved in climbing these mountains, it was 4hrs 10mins before we stood on our first summit: Sgurr Ban (989m; white peak).

Sgurr Ban
From here we could see all of the day’s 5 Munros which form a horseshoe around Gleann na Muice.  It is probably at this point (and not before) that you can make a judgement call on whether you want to go for all 5 in one day.  The 2nd hill, however, is very close and following a short, if steep, drop and re-ascent, we were standing on top of Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (1019m; peak of the corrie of Farquhar’s son).  We had now been walking for 5hrs.
Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair
Hill No 3 is not far away either and after another short, steep descent and welcome traverse around the intervening lump of Meall Garbh, we paused again, at Bealach Odhar, before climbing the easy grass slopes of Beinn Tarsuinn (937m; transverse hill) which we summited after 6hrs 15mins.

Beinn Tarsuinn
The traverse of this mountain ridge is very Torridonian in feel (same rock and mountain architecture), but is short-lived before a steep, messy descent and short traverse ends on the wide saddle of Pollan na Muice (525m).  This was just short of half-way on our particular route so we took another long break before the long steady climb up easy grassy slopes to the stunning summit of Munro No 4: A’ Mhaighdean (967m; the maiden) which we attained after 8hrs 35mins. 

Three Down; 2 to Go!  Approaching A' Mhaighdean
This is one of the finest (and remotest) of Munro summits and gives a fantastic view west as the mountain plummets almost vertically to the Dubh and Fionn Lochs and beyond towards Poolewe and the distant sea.

Sugar Ban & Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair
Moving on, reluctantly, it doesn’t take long to descend to the intervening bealach and climb the steep sandstone bluff that leads to the flat summit of Munro No 5: Ruadh Stac Mor (918m; big red stack).  We achieved this at 9hrs 35mins from the car and although tired and pretty foot-sore, the elation at this point will be more than enough to get you home!

A' Mhaighdean & Ruadh Stac Mor
So it was that at 18.00 we started our 5hr walk-out - a sobering thought that once again underlines the uniqueness of the Fisherfield circuit.  As we descended past Fuar Loch Mor, we passed the most remote spot on the UK mainland (as calculated by an OS cartographer and based upon the distance to the nearest road (NH0202077000). 

South From A'Mhaighdean
The key to the first part of the walk-out is the excellent stalkers’ path that leads down into Gleann na Muice Beag to its junction with Gleann na Muice where the latter’s eponymous river provides the 2nd of 3 potentially problematical river crossing on the route.  Fortunately, we encountered no such difficulty today and, after a 3rd major break (another key to success),   were soon across and traversing the largely flat heathery ground into Strath na Sealga.

North From Ruadh Stac Mor: The Long Walk-Out Started Here!
In failing light, we crossed our last river obstacle (again, trouble-free), passing the rather forlorn decaying house of Achneigie before summoning one last bout of energy to climb out of Strath na Sealga on the vehicle track that leads (eventually) down into Gleann Chaorachain and ultimately to Corrie Hallie where we arrived at 22.55!

The Sun Going Down Over Strath na Sealga
In all, our round of the Fisherfield Munros involved 42 Kms (26 miles) of walking, 2,420m (7,940’) of climbing and 14 hrs 40 mins of our lives!
We took the next day off!

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