Date: 31st May 2009
Distance: 9.8 miles
Time: 6.5 hours
Munros: Beinn Sgritheall
Weather: Hot, sunny, hazy
Famous last words: “It’s only three hours up and down.” This is no doubt true if you approach from Arnisdale, have a masochistic love for scree and it isn’t a scorching 27 degrees in the glens. Anyway, an utterance of the hillwalker’s prayer over a dram of Ardbeg the night before had clearly done the trick and we had another glorious day.
This was the final day of the Kintail expedition (traditionally a short day with a long drive back to Aberdeen ahead). We left the bunkhouse at Morvich quite late and had a great drive across the Mam Ratagan, down to the sleepy village of Glenelg facing Skye, and then into Gleann Beag passing the mysterious Brochs. On reaching the farm at Balvraid both of us tried to take cars a bit further but eventually thought better of it and parked on the verge above the Abhainn a Ghlinne Bhig, just outside the farm gates. Kitted up we were on our way in the bright morning sunshine just before 9:30.
The first part of the walk takes you deeper into the Gleann on a good vehicle track (much improved beyond the farm). The peacefulness of the situation and the sunshine make this remote glen and most beautiful spot. The rugged slopes of the hills here lead the eye towards the more rugged and shapely peaks in the distance.
After a pleasant stroll the track was left and we dropped through wooded slopes to an elegant bridge crossing the river which here flowed through steep-sided rocky chasm.
On the far side we had a slog up a damp slope to pick up the vague path which is shown on the OS Map running just inside the trees and avoiding the worst of the bog. We lost it again briefly as we cut a corner to reach the Allt Srath a Chomarbut were soon back on a good quality surface which finally brought us our first proper views of Beinn Sgritheall.
The heat was steadily beating as we crossed the stream (having spied a great looking spot for a later dip!) and headed through the tangle of woodland to the base of the real climb.
Not totally sure of the route we decided to head up into the central coire and see what happened. We scrambled our way up the stream in Coire Dubh until we could see a path winding its way up the headwall. To the right the east ridge looked impressive and there were other crags on the left.
As we got further into the coire we decided to climb up to the left to make it more of a round of the mountain than a straight up and down. It was a steep climb and then a nice scramble up onto this ridge which culminates at the spot height 641 on the map.
This gave fantastic views up to the higher reaches of Beinn Sgritheall as well as back down the glen we had walked up.
As we waited for our party to regroup we enjoyed a laze in the wonderful sunshine. Below us a small herd of deer lolled about in the heat. The hills of the fine Kingdom of Knoydart were shimmering in the haze.
From here we dropped down to the Lochan in Coire Min and then crossed to pick up the trail which led up to the final climb to the summit ridge.
This was a massively, stupid steep section of grass which, in the heat, was a total killer. Luckily though someone had arranged for an amazing view at the top and as I stood catching my breath, wiping sweat off my brow, I gazed out over the wonderful, shimmering waters of Loch Hourn to the peaks beyond. It was utterly glorious, as was the clear track which came down from the south top and headed up to the summit to the north.
The views got better as I gained the last few meters up to the summit, eventually reaching the cairn and dropping down on the very edge of the cliffs overlooking Arnisdale and the Loch.
With the weather we had this has to be one of the most amazing views in the north-west highlands. The Black Cuillin of Skye with Blaven in the foreground were just across the water, and to the south the distinct shape of Ben Nevis, snow still in the northern cliffs, was clearly seen despite the haze. More impressive though were the hills of Knoydart, very close at hand beyond the Loch.
After a very relaxed lunch on the top we decided to head down the east ridge as it looked a lot of fun from the climb up. It turned out to be a great way off the hill, offering superb views and a good track dropping down stony sections and with views into yawning gullies back down to Coire Min.
Soon enough we were dropping down the steep grassy slopes back down to the trees and the river. We wound our way back, tracing our outward steps until we found a nice looking spot in the river for a refreshing dip. The water, cool and clear, was the most refreshing thing and it felt great to wash away all the sweat and dust.
The walk back in the sunshine dried the shorts pretty quick and before too long we had crossed the bridge and were back on the tracks to the car at the top of Glenn Beag.
Then it was just a small matter of driving back to Aberdeen, stopping at the chipper in Drumnadrochit for a fish supper and doing battle with the usual useless driving.
And to finish, a video panorama from the top of Beinn Sgritheall.