Thursday 26 June 2014

TGOC 2014 - Day 3: Loch Quoich to Inchlaggan

Sunday 11th May 2014

Two fantastic Munros followed by a road walk down Glen Garry 

Distance: 24km; Ascent: 1640m; Windy & showery on the summits, warm down in the glen; Mostly solo

After yesterday's long day I wasn't in much of hurry to set off this morning, although I was keen to leave this tick infested area!  Therefore I had my morning coffee and muesli, packed the tent up and set off shortly before 9am.  It was dry and overcast, with patchy cloud on the summits, as I walked along the Loch Quoich road for a couple of kilometres to reach the start of a stalkers' path up Gleouraich.

Camp by Loch Quoich
Looking west over Loch Quoich
I was glad that I hadn't tried to push on any further yesterday evening as I didn't spot any better places to camp as I walked along the road, and there was a dead deer lying in the only obvious camping spot I saw by the start of the stalkers' path.  The path initially headed up through an area of damp overgrown rhododendrons, which made for slow progress.  However I soon left these behind and continued to ascend, with excellent views over Loch Quoich towards Gairich, Sgurr Mor, Sgurr na Ciche and many other hills!  There also appeared to be a new looking bulldozed track on the east side of the Allt Coire Peitireach - I wondered what it was being built for?

Sgurr Mor, the Knoydart peaks and Loch Quoich from the path up Gleouraich
Gairich across Loch Quoich from the Gleouraich path
Looking west over Loch Quoich into Knoydart from Sron a'Chuilinn
I continued to ascend towards the nose of Sron a Chuilinn, stopping briefly to resupply with water on route.  The views were excellent this morning and continued to improve as I gained height.  The stalkers' path made for excellent upwards progress and I was soon detouring to visit the summit of Druim Seileach.  Continuing northwards I rejoined the stalkers' path which continued ENE towards Gleouraich before ending abruptly at a well built looking shooting butt, beyond which a boot worn Munro baggers' path continued steeply upwards.

Looking up Wester Glen Quoich from Druim Seileach
Gleouraich from Druim Seileach
Looking west across Glen Quoich towards yesterday afternoon's hills
I followed the boot worn path upwards to reach the 984m NW top of Gleouraich, where I rejoined my original planned route for the day.  As I continued along the ridgeline towards the highest point I could see another walker on the summit, who I ended up following around 500m behind for the next few hours - I later discovered that it was fellow challenger Andy Dawkins.

The summit slopes of Gleouraich (Andy on the summit)
I reached the summit of Gleouraich (Munro, Marilyn) at around half-past midday in intermittent cloud.  I stopped here for lunch and after a few minutes it started to rain!  Luckily this turned out to be a short, but sharp, shower and I soon had excellent views eastwards along the ridge towards my second Munro of the day: Spidean Mialach.

Summit of Gleouraich
Looking E from Gleouraich
Despite the short lived shower, I opted to stick with waterproofs for the next section of ridge walking as it was now quite cold due a bitter wind!  I continued along the excellent ridge, whose north side was still covered in a surprisingly large amount of snow for May!

Gleouraich from the east ridge
Lots of snow left up here!
I continued onwards to reach the summit of the eastern outlier of Gleouraich: Craig Coire na Fiar Bhealaich (Munro Top) at around half-past one.  It was now sunny, but still a bit windy, so I swapped my waterproofs for a fleece.  Again the views were absolutely stunning up here; I could see my onward route to Spidean Mialach with Loch Loyne further east.  In the distance to the east the weather appeared to be worse than here, with low cloud and rain; I hoped it improved before I got there!

Loch Loyne and Spidean Mialach from Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich
After descending to the Fiar Bhealaich I began to ascend up the WNW ridge of Spidean Mialach.  By now it was quite warm and I was suffering from having already had two long days of walking, so my progress was quite slow!  However to compensate there were good views along almost the entire length of Loch Quoich and the cloud had pretty much lifted off all the Knoydart peaks :-)  I could make out the pointy Sgurr na Ciche just above the far end of the loch together with many other hills!  Views like these are one of the many reasons why I love hillwalking in the NW Highlands :-)

Looking up all the way up Loch Quoich towards Sgurr na Ciche at the far end
Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich from NW slopes of Spidean Mialach
Looking across the head of Coire an Spidein to Spidean Mialach
Continuing past the remains of cornices at the head of Coire an Spidein, I finally reached what turned out to be my final summit of the day: Spidean Mialach (Munro, Marilyn) at around ten to three.  By now I was quite tired, so I took a rest here by the cairn to admire the fantastic views.  There was a noticeable difference in weather depending upon which direction I looked in: to the west it mainly looked fine with sunny spells, whereas to the east it looked grey and wet.  I hoped that the weather would improve as I continued eastwards!

Summit of Spidean Mialach with Loch Loyne beyond
Views westward from Spidean Mialach back towards Knoydart
Gairich, Sgurr an Fhuarain, Sgurr Mor, Sgurr na Cihce and Loch Quoich
I descended the SE ridge with the intention of continuing east along the ridgeline all the way to Lochain Bad an Losguinn.  However given it was already late afternoon, and I'd recently heard by text that Alan, Andrew and Phil weren't going to make our planned rendezvous in Coire nam Brath, I decided to look into an easier option.

It was clear to me that if I left my planned route it would be quite tricky to rejoin it before Fort Augustus.  Therefore I came up with a plan that involved descending down to Glen Garry, from where I could follow the minor road, forest tracks and Great Glen Way to reach Fort Augustus tomorrow afternoon.  The only question was where should I stay this evening?  I had a vague recollection that there was a B&B in Inchlaggan, a couple of kilometres east of Tomdoun, so I got my phone out and was pleased to discover I had sufficient signal to search online for their phone number.  I gave them call and was pleasantly surprised to discover that they did indeed have space this evening, due to a last minute cancellation!  I booked the room there and then, and was already looking forward to a good night's sleep in a comfy bed :-)  However there was still the small matter of getting there, and it was still 11-12km away!

I continued down the rocky ridge to reach the remains of a stone building just south of the bealach.  The decent from here down into Coire an t-Seasgaich was very steep and rocky in places, which made for slow progress down to the road.

Loch Quoich dam
Once I reached the road I picked up my pace as it was still around another 10km to my overnight accommodation.  After two or three kilometres I caught up with the other walker that I had been following for much of the day since Gleouraich.  By now I had guessed that he would be a challenger as who else would be walking for miles along a tarmac road!  When I reached him I discovered he was Andy Dawkins, who I had met on a previous TGOC.

Andy and I chatted as we continued to head east along the road and after a while we eventually reached the old Tomdoun Hotel.  Here Andy stopped to camp, where we also found Alan, Phil and Andy setting up camp for the night.  I stopped for a while to chat about what we had all been up to for the last three days, and discovered that they had had a bit of an epic scramble through a gorge in deepest Knoydart!

Trailstars outside the old Tomdoun Hotel
After a while I decided that I'd better get going and walked the 2km down the road to my B&B in Inchlaggan, where I arrived at around 8pm.  After a dinner of couscous and chocolate, I unpacked all my stuff to let it dry out and went off to sleep in a comfy bed for the first time since leaving the west coast!


  1. Mad, Sir. Utterly barmy.
    It's much easier, you know, if you stick to the valleys and gorges.
    Hang on...

    1. Thanks Alan :-)
      I like the views from the ridges, although gorges are nice too! Maybe I should include some gorges in 2016 if they're easier than the hills ;)

  2. Looks like a great day and some lovely pics there, Alistair. How we envied your B&B!

    1. Thanks Phil :-) It was such a hardship to spend the night in a warm comfy bed that evening ;)