Sgurr nan Coireachan – 953m
Garbh Choich Mhor – 1013m
Sgurr na Ciche – 1040m
Date: 22nd May 2012
Distance: 16 miles
Weather: Warm, overcast and heating up
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Molly and Milly
Our first two visits to these hills had been in disappointing weather on days when the forecast failed to live up to expectations. The third visit had been during the stunning spring of 2011 where views were limitless and the only difficulty faced on the route was whether we would make it back to the car before we were overcome by heat exhaustion. As a result, I had vowed never to visit the area again unless we were guaranteed the same perfect climactic conditions.
Summer had arrived early in the north west highlands and unlike the rest of the country it seemed keen to stay. I arrived at the end of the road after the nausea inducing drive along Loch Arkaig with the car thermometer already reading 18oc and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself the only car at the start; one of the joys of midweek hill walking.
All the way along Loch Arkaig I had been deliberating over my route. Should I go east to west for the best views and avoid the knee destroying descent from Sgurr nan Coireachan and there would also be plenty of water to cool the dogs on the long walk out along the glen in the heat of the late afternoon sun, or should I go west to east to get the long, long walk up Glen Dessary out of the way first? Molly and Milly spent most of the walk in to Glen Dessary Lodge in the river or any other water they could find so that sealed the decision. East to west it was……………….I’m sure my knees would thank me later.
It took two hours to walk to the foot of the south ridge of Sgurr nan Coireachan and I was pleasantly surprised to find the notoriously boggy path quite firm and dry. The wildlife certainly livened up the walk in, massive herds of deer were in the fields along the river obviously partial to a cooling dip as well. Also for the first time ever l heard a Snipe ‘drumming’, I wasn’t sure whether this was really was a Snipe but the sound was with me for at least 10 minutes and when l took my first choccie bar break l used the Bird Identification App on my phone which has recordings of bird song/calls and this confirmed that it was the sound of a Snipe. The wonders of modern technology!
It was a long, hot, sweaty pull to Sgurr nan Coireachan’s summit with the added annoyance of plenty of false summits thrown in along the way. My brain had clearly removed these from my memory as I certainly didn’t remember that many of them from previous visits!
There was an extremely welcome breeze at the summit and l had a lengthy break enjoying the peace and solitude and lapping up the views when suddenly both dogs ran down the NE ridge in full Guard Dog mode, another walker had sneaked up on us from Kinbreak Bothy. We got chatting and Richard from Kinloch Rannoch with only 6 Munro’s left to climb would be my companion for the rest of the day.
I always admire the optimism of some of the timings in the SMC Munros book. They state an hour to the summit of Garbh Choich Mor, no make that two.
It is a section of the walk that is rough but never too tough and whenever you get tired of walking uphill there is a bit of descent to add some variety. The drystone wall and fence posts along the ridge are remarkable and you have to admire the determination of landlords in insisting that building a wall in such a challenging location was actually necessary and at the skill and fortitude of the unfortunate souls who had to build it.
Eventually we reached the summit cairn on Garbh Choich Mhor and another lengthy restorative break was taken. Richard informed me that his original plan had been to reverse his route over the hills back to Kinbreak Bothy and l nearly choked on my sandwich.
Only being part way through the route he was rapidly revising his plans and decided that he would walk along the glen to Glen Dessary Lodge and back over the pass to Glen Kingie and I could only admire his stamina.
There were several patches of snow lying against the wall and Molly and Milly took great pleasure rolling around in these to cool off.
The face of Sgurr na Ciche looked pretty formidable, rising directly up in front of us, but thankfully l knew it looked far harder than it actually was. The faint path described in the SMC Munros book is now more of an eroded trench and rubble filled gully after the footfall of many thousands of Munro baggers. Route finding was never a problem but staying upright on the descent was more of a challenge. We celebrated our arrival with another rest break and took the opportunity to make phone calls to our nearest and dearest to reassure them we were still alive. The views were as stunning as l remembered them and l always find it highly enjoyable to share a summit with someone who is experiencing the landscape for the first time. After a while the reality of our situation dawned on us, we were a very, very long way from our ultimate destinations so it was with great reluctance that we dragged ourselves away and retraced our steps down to the col followed by the boulder hop down the pass of Feadan na Ciche.
At the bottom of the gully there is a path which winds round the southern slopes of Garbh Choich Mhor and eventually picks up a crudely engineered bulldozed track which we followed back to the path alongside the infant River Dessary.
The long walk out was broken down into sections with a reward at the end of each one. Richard was allowed to take his boots off and put on a pair of clean socks at the edge of the forest, at the river we had another choccie bar break and Molly and Milly had a swim and at Glen Dessary Lodge we ate our final (now slightly sweaty) sandwich and bade our fond farewells. I think we had both appreciated having company on such a long route and the walk out didn’t seem too bad with a companion to blether away the miles with.
Another 30 minutes saw me back to the car with another stop for Molly and Milly to have a final swim in the river, not even having the decency to be tired after a twelve hour day. I definitely didn’t envy Richard the walk back over the pass to the bothy.