Saturday, 7 June 2014

TGOC 2014 - Day 1: Glenelg to Glen Arnisdale

Friday 9th May 2014

An excellent walk up Beinn Sgritheall to start my TGO Challenge walk for 2014 

Distance: 23.5km; Ascent: 1340m; Mostly dry with occasional showers and cloud above 800m; Solo

After yesterday's long journey it was nice to wake up this morning on the west coast :-)  I chatted to Bob Tucker over breakfast in our B&B, which also happened to be the sign-out point for Glenelg (and hence why I decided to stay there).  It was raining heavily at breakfast-time, but the forecast was for the weather to improve during the day.  Therefore I saw little point it rushing off and instead opted to have a leisurely first half of the morning before repacking my bag and signing out at 10am.

Ready to set off at Glenelg
I wandered down to the sea near to the village war memorial, where some passing Corbett bagging walkers kindly took a photo of me on the west coast.  I nipped down onto the beach to dip my boots in the sea before heading SSW along the coast road with intermittent rain showers.

Glenelg war memorial
Boots in the sea at the west coast
Soon I reached the road junction at the foot of Gleann Beag where I had to make a decision on which route to take: my planned high level route or my foul weather option up the glen.  The weather seemed to have improved significantly since breakfast so I opted to head up into the hills :-)

Decision time: high or low level route?
There were a couple more showers as I continued SSW along the coast road, which climbed up to a height of around 200m over the next few kilometres.  There were excellent views out over the Sound of Sleat towards Skye on the other side, as well as further afield towards Eigg.  I was offered at least two lifts along this section of road, which I naturally declined!

Looking SW along the Sound of Sleat
Looking down the Sound of Sleat towards Eigg
Around a kilometre beyond Upper Sandaig I stopped for lunch with excellent views out over the sound.  A friendly pickup driver stopped for a chat before I set off walking eastwards along a good forest track.  After a kilometre or two it began to deteriorate to a grassy, muddy track, which led to open country at Loch na Lochain.

Loch na Lochain
I picked a way through the damp ground near the loch to reach a very pleasant looking green grassy area by the Allt Gorm; if it wasn't so early in the afternoon I might have been tempted to camp here!  I ascended up to reach a small lochain at the foot of the west ridge of Beinn Sgritheall, from where there were excellent views over to the peaks of the Knoydart peninsula.

Loch na Lochain from the SE
The peaks of Knoydart over Lochan Bhealach Rarsaidh
Soon I reached the Munro baggers' path and began to ascend up Beinn Sgrithreall's west ridge.  By now it was quite a warm afternoon so I opted for shorts in an attempt to stay cool whilst lugging my heavy back up the hill!  I took frequent rests to admire the absolutely stunning views out over Loch Hourn and the Sound of Sleat towards Knoydart, Eigg and Skye :-)

Eigg, Loch Hourn, Sleat and Beinn Mhialairigh
Looking west to Beinn Mhialairigh and Skye from the west ridge of Beinn Sgritheall
Looking across Loch Hourn to Ladhar Bheinn from the west ridge of Beinn Sgritheall
The cloud base seemed to be varying at around 800m to 1000m, which meant that I was occasionally able to pick out the summit of Ladhar Beinn across the loch, which had been the first hill I climbed on my previous TGO Challenge back in 2010.  Unfortunately the cloud stubbornly refused to lift off Beinn Sgritheall, so at around 750m I ascended into the cloud and the stunning views are replaced with the familiar view of the inside of a cloud!  Nevertheless I continued my ascent and reached the summit of Beinn Sgritheall (Munro, Marilyn) at around quarter to four.  I took a break here near the toppled remains of a trigpoint near the summit cairn.

Broken trigpoint on the summit of Beinn Sgritheall
On the summit of Beinn Sgritheall
Once I felt suitably refreshed I continued on through the mist to visit the cairn on the summit of the East Top (Corbett Top).  From here I descended steeply down towards the Bealach Arnisdale.  I had been toying with the idea of staying high and continuing on over the two Corbetts of Beinn na h-Eaglaise and Beinn nan Caorach, but it transpired that the cloud base had dropped significantly in the last hour, which meant that it could be tricky to pick a safe way up the steep slopes of Beinn na h-Eaglaise past the crags; instead I decided to stick with my original plan and descend down to Arnisdale.

Summit cairn of the East Top of Beinn Sgritheall
The descent SSW from Bealach Arnisdale was very steep; at around 500m I dropped back out of the cloud, to find I once more had excellent views down to Loch Hourn.  I soon picked up a Munro baggers' path, which I followed steeply down near the Allt a'Mhuilinn past a waterfall.

The steep descent SW from Bealach Arnisdale
The Allt a'Mhuilinn
Lower down the angle eased and I was able to enjoy the views across to Knoydart, which were still stunning even though the cloud now covered the summits.  I continued to descend down towards Loch Hourn to reach the road at the western end of Arnisdale village.  It was now early evening on my first day of the TGO Challenge and I was once again back on the west coast, hence I concluded it was probably time to leave the sea behind and start heading east!

Arnisdale and Loch Hourn
Loch Hourn at Arnisdale
After kilometre or so of road walking I picked up the track up Glen Arnisdale and began to look for somewhere to camp for the night.  After a brief detour to take a look at the building named on the map as Achadh a'Ghlinne, where I had been considering camping, I continued another kilometre up the glen in the lovely evening sunlight to find a spot to pitch my tent near the River Arnisdale.

Achadh a'Ghlinne
Evening Light in Glen Arnisdale
I pitched at around half-past eight after a ten and a half hour day of walking, much of it dry with excellent views :-)  It was nice to be backpacking again and I enjoyed dinner followed by a wee dram of Jura before getting some well earned rest!

Camp in Glen Arnisdale


  1. Nice one - this walking to the start of the Challenge mallarkey could catch on. I think it's a fine plan.

    1. Thanks JJ :-) Walking to the start sounds like an interesting idea, but I'd have to give it a miss due to time constraints. Although this year is my second challenge in a row on which I returned to the sea at the end of my first day's walking!

  2. There is enough walking on it, without walking to it. I am getting the train.
    Last year we started walking in the wrong direction intentionally. Madness.
    But a nice start.
    Somewhere in Knoydart there was a man getting ready to have a hurty knee.
    Suppose at some juncture I will have to write mine up.
    Unless I join the Mynott school of reporting.

    1. This year I spent the first morning walking southwest for 3 hours before deciding I'd better start walking east!
      A hurty knee in Knoydart? I don't think I heard about that ;)
      You'll probably still finish your write up before me - I can't see me finishing day 14 before July!

  3. I'll have you know that that man from Knoydart still has a hurty knee.
    Good start, Sir!

    1. Thanks Alan :-) I enjoyed my Glenelg start this year.
      I hope your knee gets better soon!

  4. A fine start Alastair looking forward to the next instalment

    1. Thanks Paul :-) The next instalment will hopefully follow at some point in the next few days.