summer on sgritheall

Sun, Jul 5, 2015

The Five Sisters

Ah the blog. I have a blog I suddenly remembered! What with stravaiging, cycling, writing (a bivvy article in The Scottish Mountaineer), preparing for a photography exhibition and what not, it’s been quiet in the eBothy but this weekend was a cracker as I met up with an old friend at Suardalan bothy for his final Munro. It was to be Beinn Sgritheall by the north ridge. The connoisseur’s route.

The forecast was ridiculous for summer. 50mph winds, torrential rain, cloud down to 200m and thunder and lightning. Very very frightening! Wind, clag and rain I can cope with but when the air goes electric it’s time for a sharp exit. In the end it was the forecast itself that was ridiculous, with only the wind featuring and the cloud above the summits.

Andy preparing for his final Munro at Suardalan

So at 6am we started a fair old tramp on a good track through beautiful woodland. A cool wind came from the NE, blowing across the scarred landscape opposite the bothy where a new road has been bulldozed in with a backdrop of clear felled hillside. A real mess. No idea why they’ve bulldozed the road to the bothy as there are no trees there. The frightening thing is, there are ‘trees’, well those awful dense plantations of dead stuff further up the glen and the worry is they just keep bulldozing their way into the wilds, trying to recoup every last penny of their ‘investment’.

Clear felling and new road to Suardalan

A shoogly bridge crossing at Ruighe na Corpaich (sheiling on ground under which there is decayed wood) and damp plod over a rise into Strath a’Chomair (glen of the confluence) where we picked up another good path if a tad boggy.

It’s a gorgeous walk up Strath a’Chomair past birch edged 1970s tax avoidance zones (conifers), waterfalls and up onto beautiful greensward where it would be a delight to camp. This is where the foot of the ridge is ringed by the remnants of conifer and birch and if the bean counters decided they really needed those last few sheckels out of the land, they’d totally destroy this place.

Sheiling in Strath a'Chomair with Beinn Sgritheall beyond

The wood is actually rather nice though, with grass, of all things, growing green and fresh under the canopy. How refreshing and the walk through to the remains of the fence on the other side is a delight. Then it’s straight up the grassy ridge. Very steep at first then easing off until at around 500m the summit push begins.

Beinn Sgritheall from the north

The ridge narrows, twists and turns and has fantastic views of Skye.

Blaven and the Black Cuillin from Beinn Sgritheall

Down on the left is the wonderfully, verdantly green Coire Mìn, which translates as ‘coire of the plain field’. An apt description and a wonderful spot to camp no doubt.

The higher we climbed the stronger the wind until we were eventually clinging on and crawling as it threw us around. It was screaming in from the NE, hitting the big slabs on the side of the ridge and roaring into us. It was almost impossible to breathe let alone walk and at points I had to grip my rucksack straps as they were being ripped off my back.

Loch Hourn and Arnisdale from Beinn Sgritheall

Eventually we reached the top just as the rain came in. Violently stinging needles that made it impossible to look to the east without covering your face with your hand and peeping between your fingers. Summer in Scotland!

Andy on his final Munro

The shattered trig point reminded us how violent it can be up here on the edge of Europe and we huddled on the other side, the wind hissing through gaps in the rocks.

It was wild but it was nowhere near as bad as the forecast but we headed back, the storm force wind cooling us down too much to hang around, not to mention the black clouds massing over the wilds of Knoydart. A lone ptarmigan sheltered in the rocks and stared at us.

Back at Ruighe na Corpaich I noticed something. The day had a sub text of destruction. The clear felling, the bulldozing and now this. I couldn’t think what this lot would be useful for in such a beautiful place.

Barbed crap at Ruigha na Corpaich

Why would someone take that into a place like this? What do they expect to meet? Who do they expect to come by, such that they’ll need this to keep them out, or off?

Back at the bothy the sun came out and I slept on the bench outside. Sprawled, snoring, an unkempt and smelly tramp in the brief summer sun. Surrounded by the hills I love. It’s not always about the cash, don’t you know?


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