Monday, May 14, 2007

Glen Shiel Hills: The Saddle (121) and Sgurr na Sgine (223)

Walk date: 09/05/07
My Munro #'s: 114 and 115

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
The saddle - the saddle - 1010m
Skoor na skeena - peak of the knife - 946m

Duration - 08:45-16:00
Distance - 17.4km
Weather - periods of soaking precipitation, but not constant. Warm enough in breaks to enjoy!
Team - solo
Other hikers: 7 (guided group)

There was no chance of The Forcan Ridge for me:

Hiking Expedition '07 - Glen Shiel area - Day 5 (Weds 9th)

The name of The Saddle conjures up some dark feelings of foreboding, mainly due to its accepted approach, the mighty Forcan Ridge. After my Aonach Eigach day, I was not at all feeling gusty over the prospect. However, despite these two hills both being grand affairs with front doors to match, The Forcan Ridge for The Saddle and the impressive Faochag for Sgurr na Sgine, they each have the same convenient and very approachable side door in Bealach Coire Mhalagain.

My day started with parking just southeast of Malagan Bridge along the A87. This soon turned out to be wrong as the more convenient start is the carpark just to the northwest, opposite the little island in the river as drawn on the 1:25,000 OS map. From there the good path leading over Cnoc Dubh Achadh Arsgalain is clearly seen. For my own part, I had tried for the spot where the old military road (a bog in a line) meets Allt Mhalagain only to find the river in far too heavy flow. Not seeing a bridge (I later found one just a few dozen metres upstream on my South Shiel Ridge day...), I retreated to the road, crossed by the road bridge, and then made rough progress across rough and boggy grass to intersect the good path as it started to climb. Ach well, better late than never...

How'd they know I was here? Early morning neighbours:

Going was good on the path and without too much trouble, Bealach na Craoibhe was soon reached. Despite what the OS map shows, the path does continue from the bealach toward The Saddle, with a small cairn marking the decision point between The Forcan Ridge and Bealach Coire Mhalagain. As my decision had already been made I followed the continuing good path over boulders along a wall right to the bealach.

The Forcan Ridge from its start:

After some needed refreshments, the first significant rain/snow of the day hit. Although it only lasted for 10 minutes or so, the incoming cloud completely obscured the way on and I ended up losing the path when it became indistinct over boulders and bog. Nevermind, I made a line for the safe grassy slopes to the south of the summit and with a bit of effort found myself quickly enough on the broad back of The Saddle.

Heading up onto The Saddle from the corrie:

Having rejoined the path (it goes high in the corrie; head for the wall above you when coming from the bealach, then follow it to its western end where the path is clearly seen ascending), I strolled along and was very quickly on the first of The Saddle's two peaks. This southwesterly one is the trigpointed version, but most baggers make their way north easterly to the second, more pointy version, just to make sure. The second looks mighty, but a good path leads up the back of it and a tap of the cairn is soon made.

The first of The Saddle's summits; trig-point version:

The cloud being in obscured most of the classic views to The Forcan Ridge while I was up there, but from what shapes I could just about make out it actually looked fun, but fun that I was fine without having.

'Slopes' below the second summit:

Back towards the first summit from the second:

The Forcan Ridge peeking through the cloud:

A bit clearer, including the second summit:

Rolling cloud on my return to the bealach:

Moving on, I followed the path back to the bealach where the rain duly returned as I continued still on a path up onto the wide ridge between Faochag and Sgurr na Sgine. This ascent path goes over a few boulder fields and the path can be lost, but as long as you're going up, you're fine!

Sgurr na Sgine in clear view:

The path is soon re-found on top anyway and a little weaving brings you to Sgurr na Sgine. At this point, not only did it stop raining, but some fine views opened up all around as the cloud broke for the first time since the bealach.

Clearing views from Sgurr na Sgine:

South from Sgurr na Sgine:

The panoramic from Sgurr na Sgine:

Back toward the summit as I made off northwest:

The lower section of The Forcan Ridge:

The upper section of The Forcan Ridge:

Although Faochag looked easy enough despite its impressive profile my return was as ascended as I wanted the simplest return and was a little worried about a potential river crossing at the end of Faochag (if I'd have found the bridge earlier it would have not been an issue!). Time to check out The Cluanie Inn for a pint...

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Blogger Luke said...

Those mountains that you took pictures of are really beautiful. My favorite one is the first one in the row. I've been to Scotland before. My dad went crazy about it. The one crazy thing about Scotland is we were at this restaurant, and one side of the building was raining and the other was not.

19 May 2007 at 01:47  
Blogger Eddie said...

When my dad went crazy about Scotland, he couldn't stop taking pictures!

19 May 2007 at 01:48  
Blogger Scott said...

Hey, I hope you don't mind, but my kids wanted to see your site, and liked the "cairns".

19 May 2007 at 01:49  
Blogger George Walks said...

Hey guys, thank you very much, and you are all welcome!

Luke - I see the photo you mean. I was very happy to get some good shots that day as the weather was quite changeable! I've experienced the kind of weather you saw in the restaurant too; sometimes in the hills I can actually outrun incoming rainfall as it's so localised!

Eddie - I've seen some of your Dad's photos so I know what you mean! The thing is, there are so many places in Scotland that are so nice they make a nice photograph themselves, so as a photographer you don't have to put in any extra work!! My girlfriend often gets bored with the number of photographs I'm taking if we're walking together!

Scott - cheers for the extra visitors!

19 May 2007 at 15:03  

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