Date: Friday 26th July 2013 to Saturday 27th July 2013
Start: End of public road past Loch Arkaig
Time taken: 12 Hours 50 Minutes
Ascent: 2662 metres
Accompanied by: Kev
Munro: Sgurr na Ciche (1040 metres)
Munro: Garbh Chioch Mhor (1013 metres)
Munro: Sgurr Mor (1003 metres)
Munro: Sgurr nan Coireachan (953 metres)
Munro Top: Garbh Chioch Bheag (968 metres)
Corbett: Sgurr an Fhuarain (901 metres)
fter icking off 41 Munro’s in 2012, things had slowed down a little in 2013. Actually, slowed down is a total understatement. This year, I had so managed a paltry total of three new Munro’s. A combination of switching my running to more trails (in preparation for the Ultimate Trails 100K) and my commitment to only climb new Munro’s in good weather had meant things has pretty much grinded to a halt. When Kev suggested a ‘meet-up’ to knock off the Loch Arkaig Munros, the peaks sandwiched between Loch Arkaig and Loch Quoich, I was happy to oblige.
There are four potential Munro’s in the area (well five if you include Gairich to the east) and also a smattering of Corbetts if the Munro’s left you unsatisfied. The plan was straightforward, hike in Friday afternoon, set up camp on the summit of Sgurr Beag (A 890 metre subsidiary top of Sgurr Mor) then the following day knock off a bunch of peaks and hike out.
Kev was heading up earlier as he wanted to climb a couple of Corbetts (Fraoch Bheinn and Sgurr Cos na Breachd Laoidh) but unfortunately I could not set off until late afternoon. It was a fair old slog up the A9 not helped by an hours delay at Perth. Once clear of the congestion it was plain sailing apart from a little fun and games on the minor ‘roller coaster‘ road that hugs the north shore of Loch Arkaig.
I quickly parked up and at 18:38 I had my rucksack on my back and I was off. The first thing I noticed was the weight of the bloody thing. It had been a good while since I had headed into the hills with any weight of significance, let alone tent, sleeping bag etc. None the less, I maintained a decent pace towards the farm at Glendessary. From here I headed directly north up a path near the Allt na Feithe. For this time in the evening, it was baking hot and whenever I stood still for more than two seconds, the midges would descend! The path petered out near the col between Druim a’Chuirn and Fraoch Bhein so it was a case of a little cross country slogging until I picked up the track that heads through Glen Kingie. The good news was that this led straight up onto the summit ridge where Kev had already pitched up.
It had been a good while since Kev and I had last had any ‘hill action’ together and as usual Kev had a hip flask full of some random malt. So we spent a couple of hours catching up discussing work, self-published novels, my plant based diet and the usual mountain chat. We still managed to hit the sack at a reasonable hour though with plans drawn of a dawn assault eastwards along the ridge to nail Sgurr Mor and the Corbett, Sgurr an Fhuarain.
At 5am I was up and had a cup of coffee and a sausage butty (vegan obviously! 🙂 ) on the go. Anyone who has camped out in the wild will know how amazing food tastes when cooked on a camping stove and my breakfast did not disappoint. Neither did the weather, the sun was beginning to rise from the east and whilst there was cloud over some of the summit tops, it looked like it would easily burn away as the morning progressed.
Unfortunately it was going to have to be a traverse along the ridge and then retrace our steps back again. This meant that we would have to climb Sgurr Mor twice but the good news was that we could leave all our kit at camp which meant hopefully we could move fast along the ridge. At 5:30 we were hiking along the ridge just as the sun was rising and casting a red glow over the eastern peaks – awesome stuff! The col between Sgurr Beag and Sgurr Mor was 774 metres so that meant a 100 metre drop then about a 230 metre climb to the summit. With all the running I have done recently, I felt strong and made short work of the descent and re-ascent (20 minutes). Unluckily for us, cloud that had been sitting over Sgurr an Fhuarain had moved westwards and by the time we hit the summit we were in clag. Typical! Oh well maybe it may have moved by the time we retraced our steps back.
The ridge around Choire Bhuidhe was wide and would have been amazing to run but was still great fun walking. By the time we reached the summit of Sgurr an Fhuarain the cloud was breaking up and glimpses of the peaks were appearing and then disappearing. It was a pretty awe-inspiring experience and made me realise how lucky I was to live in close proximity to such amazing scenery. We did not hang around for long but it was good to get this Corbett out of the way. As we travelled back along the ridge, the cloud swirled in and out and I wondered if the summit top of Sgurr Mor would clear. Just as we walked over the top the clouds open to reveal an amazing view of Sgurr Beag and our campsite. We took some pictures, got a cracking ‘broken spectre’ shot then headed back down to the col and up to our camp. It was 8.15 by the time we reached our tents, a journey time of one hour forty five. Not too bad.
Sadly, it was here that I said goodbye to Kev. He was feeling a little under the weather today and decided that a traverse along the entire ridge then the big walk out would be pushing it time wise, especially as we were both keen to get home for a decent time. Instead he was going to knock off Sgurr nan Coireachan and head out. Whilst Kev chilled out, I packed all my gear up and contemplated my route for the day. The plan was to follow the ridge westwards and knock off An Eag (a top of Sgurr nan Coireachan), then Sgurr nan Coireachan. Then the two tops of Garb Chioch Mhor; Garbh Chioch Bheag East Top and Garbh Chioch Bheag. Garb Chioch Mhor itself and then finally the amazing looking Sgurr na Ciche. Phew! This was a good ten kilometres of hiking with plenty of ascent. Should be fun with a full pack.
I dropped down off the summit of Sgurr Beag and headed down the zig zag path I had climbed the evening before on my ascent to camp. I felt a little encumbered with the heavy pack after my early morning trip excursion where I had carried nothing. The good news was that the path was good and it did not take long to drop down and then back up to the summit of An Eag. I took my time and continued across the ridge, enjoying the amazing views and the solitude of being on my own. At noon I arrived on the penultimate peak, Garbh Chioch Mhor and chilled for a while whilst I watched the cloud twirl around the summit of Sgurr na Ciche. I grabbed my lunch and waited for it to clear. The views across Loch Nevis were stunning.
Ten minutes later the cloud had cleared so I dropped down to the col and dumped my rucksack. No point in humping that to the summit when I would be dropping back down to the col afterwards. A group of walkers arrived at the col so I decided to push on up to the top. It was just short of 200 metres to the top but without my pack it was breeze and fifteen minutes later I was on the summit. Job done, four Munro’s, a Corbett, a Munro Top and three other tops! There is something satisfying about a knocking off a significant number of peaks in one go, especially in great weather, on an amazing ridge and with a wild camp thrown in.
As I sat on the summit the group of walkers caught up and a couple approached up from a Drium a’ Ghoirtein. I was interested in their approach as this did not seem a conventional way to climb this peak so I waited to speak to them. They had sailed into the loch and climbed from their boat. Apparently they were touring Scotland and trying to climb as many peaks as possible this way. What an amazing way to tick off the peaks. I always try and choose unconventional approaches and string together different peaks to make things interesting. Sure beats just humping up and down the tourist paths.
I chatted for a while then headed back down to the col. With no heavy pack, I was able to run which was good as I now had the small matter of a 12km hike back to the car but after a trip like this, it did not really matter! 🙂