Thursday 20 September 2012

The Corryhully Horseshoe

Thursday 20th September

A long Munro bagging day in the Western Highlands from Glenfinnan.

Distance: 26km; Ascent: 1450m; Rainy & misty, but brighter later; Solo

Owing to the strong winds and forecast thunderstorms at the start of the week, I had delayed my day of Munro bagging until later in the week.  However the forecast for today wasn't brilliant (little wind but lots of rain!), but I could delay no longer so this morning I set off walking, in the rain, from Glenfinnan at around 8:30am heading for the Corryhully Horseshoe, a long two-Munro round.

The vehicle track up Glen Finnan marked on my mark turned out to be a private tarmac estate road, which whilst it made for good progress did make the first hour or so somewhat monotonous!  Shortly after the end of the tarmac I reached Corryhully bothy, where Lynsey had stopped at the end of her first day of this year's TGO Challenge.  As it was still raining, I took the opportunity to pop inside for a break in the dry, and was surprised to discover that the bothy has electricity and a kettle!

New and improved tracks in upper Glen Finnan
After suitable refreshment, I headed back out into the rain following a vehicle track further up the glen.  There were clearly some ongoing works taking place on the estate as this track appeared to have recently been improved and on the far side of the glen there was a brand new track not marked on my map; the bridge between them appeared to also be a work in progress.  A kilometre or so after leaving the bothy, it was time to begin the ascent proper and there was handy sign just in case I wasn't sure where I was going!

I wonder which way I should go?
As I began to ascend, I could tell that I hadn't yet fully recovered from the nasty cough and cold I had been suffering with pretty much since leaving home on Saturday (this was another reason why I delayed my hillwalking until later in the week).  Therefore I took the ascent slightly more gradually that I would have otherwise.  For the first few hundred metres, I traversed the east side of the ridge on a good path with excellent views back down into the valley.  Eventually I topped out on the pleasant looking ridge, with more good views, although it was clear that I would enter the cloud soon!

On the SE ridge of Sgurr a' Choire Riabhaich
The next section was quite steep and rocky, with a few easy-ish scrambly moves, but eventually I reached the summit of my first hill of the day: Sgurr a'Choire Riabhaich (Corbett Top).  A short descent followed by a misty 150m re-ascent brought me to the cylindrical trig point, which marked the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan (Munro, Marilyn) at around 1pm.  Here I noticed that my phone GPS had clearly gone crazy during the last hour, which resulted in the track from Viewranger (i.e. the one displayed on the map above) being somewhat more wiggly than reality!  A quick power-cycle appeared to solve the problem for now.

On the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan
I stopped in the shelter of the cairn for a spot of lunch, although there was no view to admire today!  Thinking about it, I think that this was my first Munro of the year from which I didn't have a view from the summit, which isn't bad considering that it was my 18th Munro ascent this year!  Around ten minutes after I arrived at the summit, the source of the ghostly voices I had been hearing though the mist arrived and turned out to be two other hill walkers, the first I had met since leaving the car.

Suddenly a view appeared!  Looking E towards Loch Arkaig
After much lunch, I left the misty summit and headed east along the undulating ridge that connected the two Munros.  Once I had dropped around 100m of height, the cloud began to thin and break around me and soon the view above appeared :-)  The best views were to the north (not surprising given that's the direction the rain had been clearing from!) and I could make out the chain of peaks to the north of Glen Dessarry quite clearly.

Looking N to the hills of Glen Dessarry
A short ascent brought me to the summit of my next hill: Meall an Tarmachain (Corbett Top), from where the views seemed to be even better!  I could make out the cloud capped Rum Cuillin in the distance, beyond a little slither of Loch Morar.  The cloud had also cleared in the other direction, which afforded a fine view down Glen Finnan towards the viaduct in the far distance.

Looking down Coire Thollaidh towards Glen Finnan
Soon I reached the summit of summit of Beinn Gharbh (Corbett Top), where I stopped for a quick break.  It had been looking like it would turn into a sunny afternoon, but the cloud seemed to be persistently hanging around the 900m mark.  However there were still good views eastwards from around here towards Loch Arkaig, a very long loch that I ended up walking the entire length of on my last TGO Challenge back in 2010.

Lochan on the Corryhully Horseshoe, with Loch Arkaig beyond
I continued along the fine ridge over the summits of the next couple of minor tops (Beinn Gharbh East Top and Sgurr Thuilm West Top) with fine views all around, including back around the head of the horseshoe.

Cloud topped Sgurr Thuilm from the west
Looking back towards Sgurr nan Coireachan
Eventually I reached the misty summit of Sgurr Thuilm (Munro, Marilyn) shortly after 3:30pm.  A brief glimpse of Loch Arkaig appeared through the clouds for around 30s or so before it disappeared and the summit view was replaced once again with a fine view of the inside of a cloud!

Summit cairn of Sgurr Thuilm
Heading south from the summit, I was soon out of the cloud again and began the very pleasant descent of the Druim Coire a' Bheithe ridge.  The upper two thirds of this ridge seemed to be at an almost ideal angle for me to descend, which resulted in a quick descent with excellent views :-)

Looking down Glen Finnan
Unfortunately the bottom portion of the ridge was very wet and sodden, so it was with relief that I reached the vehicle track in the valley bottom, from where there were excellent views back up towards the U-shaped Bealach a' Chaorainn.

Looking up Glen Finnan towards Bealach a' Chaorainn
I had not had a break since leaving the summit of Sgurr Thuilm, and as Corryhully bothy seemed as good a place as any to rest my legs before the tedious road walk, I stopped here for 10-15 minutes or so.  On venturing inside I found that it was no longer unoccupied, and that a German guy was planning on staying the night here. We chatted for a while before he admitted that he had no idea how to light the fire and asked if I could help!  I had a bit of an attempt but, given that the only fuel was large pieces of wood with a very limited amount of tiny twigs as kindling, I was also unsuccessful.  I bade him farewell and set off down the glen.

Corryhully Bothy
The walk-out seemed to go quicker than the walk-in this morning, perhaps because the weather was significantly nicer, and soon I was approaching the "Harry Potter" viaduct, built in 1897, which marks the southern end of Glen Finnan.  Another few minutes walking brought me to the car at around 6:30pm after another excellent day in the Highlands :-)

Glenfinnan Viaduct
And here's a link to my Social Hiking map of the walk.

 N.B. 30/10/12 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 20/09/12, (from 29/09/12)


  1. That's a great area Alistair. When you've done the Munros you'll also enjoy the Corbetts to the south of Glenfinnan.

    1. Yes it does look like a great area and those Corbetts looked good, so I may end up walking them before finishing the Munros!

  2. That's not a bad idea - I'd be happy to join you in Ardgour - the only place where my planned Challenge route has defeated me.

    1. Was that due to the weather? I'll let you know when I'm thinking of heading back there, although I don't have any definite plans as of yet (so it probably won't be this year!)

    2. A combination of not quite perfect weather and over ambitious planning on what is extremely 'slow' ground!