Monday, 16 June 2014

TGOC 2014 - Day 2: Glen Arnisdale to Loch Quoich

Saturday 10th May 2014

A low level walk from Glen Arnisdale to Kinloch Hourn, followed by an afternoon ascent of the Munro of Sgurr a'Mhaoraich 

Distance: 25km; Ascent: 1870m; Wet in the morning - warm & sunny in afternoon; Solo

I woke to rain this morning and so didn't make much of an effort to get an early start!  As I hadn't ascended up to my planned camp on the Druim Fada ridge last night, I decided due to the rain not to bother going up high today due to the weather.  Therefore I set off walking at around half eight, in showery light rain, and headed east along the reasonable track to reach the Dubh Lochain.

Looking down Glen Arnisdale in the morning rain
Waterfall at the outlet of the Dubh Lochain
The walk through the woods to reach the loch was pleasant enough and I was rewarded with an impressive fall of water tumbling out of the outlet of the Dubh Lochain.  I continued along the north shore of the loch before stopping to resupply with water just beyond the eastern end of the loch.  I had declined to collect water from the previous couple of burns I had passed due to the proximity of them to dead sheep - therefore I spent time checking upstream of this burn prior to filling my bottle!

I then continued along the track to cross another burn by way of a a handy bridge, which like all the bridges I had encountered so for in Glen Arnisdale had a sign warning me that I crossed at my own risk and that horses weren't allowed to use it.  Luckily I didn't have any horses with me today, so I happily crossed the bridge and continued for a few hundred metres to a track junction.

The Dubh Lochain
Bridge over the Allt an Tomain Odhair
This warning sign seems to be displayed on the all the bridges in Glen Arnisdale
The junction was the point at which my foul weather route from yesterday joined up with today's route, together with the line of pylons that stretches from Skye to Invergarry via Kinloch Hourn and Loch Quoich.  Soon I had to the ford the Abhainn Ghleann Dubh Lochain, which today posed no problems as I was able to boulder hop my way across - however I could imagine this could be quite tricky if it were in spate!  I then ascended up a reasonable track, with good views back down Gleann Dubh Lochain.

Looking down Gleann Dubh Lochain
Soon I reached Lochain Torr a'Choit, where I had considered camping last night had I been on my FWA.  However I was glad I hadn't as at first glance there didn't appear to be any nice spots to pitch!  I crossed the Allt a'Coire Reidh by way of a bridge and began ascending again, with good views back towards Loch Hourn and the east end of the Druim Fada ridge.

Loch Hourn and Druim Fada
Around here I met my first other person of the day: a walker out walking their dog.  I continued and began to ascend down towards the forest above Kinloch Hourn.  My original plan had been to traverse above this forest, cross the Allt Coire Sgoireadail and ascend up onto Sgurr a'Mhaoraich.  However given that it was still raining I decided instead to descend to Kinloch Hourn, where I stopped at the tea room :-)

The Kinlochhourn tea rooms :-)
There was a handful of other challengers here, the first I'd met since leaving Glenelg, and it was nice to chat to them whilst I enjoyed my tea and scone :-)  After the best part of an hour I decided it was time to make a move and I went outside to discover that the weather had significantly improved since I had arrived at Kinloch Hourn!  Therefore I decided that I'd spend the afternoon climbing my planned Munro: Sgurr a'Mhaoriach, although not by the route I had originally intended to.

The Lochourn River
I had a quick chat with Alan Hardy who had just arrived at the tea room, before I set off in shorts and t-shirt, which made a pleasant change from this morning when I walked in full waterproofs!  I followed the road along the Lochourn River for around a kilometre and a half to reach Loch Coire Shubh.  Here I stopped for a short break to discover that I had four ticks on my legs!  These were swiftly removed and trouser legs donned for the rest of the day in an attempt to prevent any more ticks biting me!

Loch Coire Shubh
I had decided to ascend Sgurr a'Mhaoraich by way of the descent route in the Pocket Mountains: West Highlands guidebook, which involved ascending along the route of the pylons before heading steeply up the rocky NW ridge of Meall an Uillt Bhain.  This was a nice ascent, although it was completely pathless and hard work in the heat of this afternoon!  I was however rewarded with excellent views out over Loch Hourn :-)

Looking down to Loch Hourn from the NW ridge of Meall an Uillt Bhain
Shortly before 5pm I topped out on the 607m high summit of Meall an Uillt Bhain (Highland Five), from where there were excellent views.  I studied the SW slopes of Sgurr a'Mhaoraich from here to attempt to pick an ascent route avoiding as much of the steep craggy ground as possible.

The SW slopes of Sgurr a'Mhaoraich from Meall an Uillt Bhain
Gairich, Sgurr an Fhuarain & Sgurr Mor from the SW slopes of Sgurr a'Mhaoraich
The ascent was pleasant enough, and initially I followed what appeared to be the remains of an old stalkers' path, although this faded after a few hundred metres.  There were good views out towards the hills on the south side of Loch Quoich from here: Gairich, Sgurr an Fhuarain & Sgurr Mor, which I had been planning on traversing on my last TGOC back in 2010.  I continued on upwards into intermittent mist to reach the summit of Sgurr a' Mhaoraich Beag (Munro Top) at around 6pm.

Summit of Sgurr a' Mhaoraich Beag
Between Sgurr a'Mhaoraich Beag & Sgurr a'Mhaoraich
Continuing eastwards along the ridge between Sgurr a'Mhaoraich Beag and Sgurr a'Mhaoraich I stumbled across a well camouflaged ptarmigan hiding next to the rocks, which seemed surprised to see me but didn't fly away.  I guessed it was probably protecting its nest and moved quickly on past to avoid disturbing it any more!

At around twenty past six this evening I finally reached the lofty summit of Sgurr a'Mhaoraich (Munro, Marilyn).  The cloud had mainly lifted above me by now so there were excellent views from here :-)  I rested a while to enjoy the views before deciding that it was time to begin my descent down to the valley to seek out somewhere to camp.

My original plan had been to descend down to Alltbeithe for the evening and ascend the north ridge of Gleouraich tomorrow morning.  However tomorrow's forecast, coupled with the large amount of snow I had seen on the north side of Gleouraich from the coach on Thursday, meant that I decided to take the easier option instead of descending to Loch Quoich, from where I would be able to pick up a good stalkers' path for tomorrow morning's ascent.

Summit of Sgurr a'Mhaoraich
Looking east down to Easter Glen Quoich and Gleouraich from Sgurr a'Mhaoraich
The descent east along the ridge was good, with lovely views to keep me going after what was turning out to be quite a long day's walk!  There were occasional showers to contend with, although this did mean that I was rewarded with a rainbow over Loch Quoich!  I continued on over the summit of Sgurr Coire nan Eiricheallach (Corbett Top) and started to descend southwards along the Bac nan Canaichean ridge.

Rainbow over Loch Quoich
Looking along the Sgurr Coire nan Eiricheallach ridge
Lower down I stopped to collect water for the evening from one of the many burns that drained this waterlogged hillside.  I then started to keep an eye open for potential camping spots for the evening but nothing took my fancy so I continued down along the stalkers' path to reach the road many hours after having left it!  I had previously heard that there might be some flat spots to pitch near the Loch Quoich bridge, and I found a spot close to the start of the vehicle track to Alltbeithe.

It was around 9pm when I finally pitched the tent this evening!  It appeared that I had picked a relatively ticky spot to pitch as I had to brush several off my hands after pitching the tent!  Therefore that evening I had the inner tent open as little as possible in an attempt to kept the ticks out, which actually seemed to work as I didn't get any further bites :-)  I had a quick dinner before drifting off to sleep after a very long, but good, day.


  1. Some absolutely gorgeous pictures in there, Alistair.
    That's a very long day, with a mad Englishman out in the midday & afternoon sunshine.

    1. Thanks Alan :-)

      It was indeed a very long day, and my original plan had been to climb a hill in the morning too! The problem I had was that someone had filled my rucksack full of heavy things like whisky ;)