The Mountain's Silhouette

Hiking and backpacking in the mountains of Scotland

The Saddle via the Forcan Ridge

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Distance: 10.4 miles
Time: 8.5 hours (including lunch, snoozes, scrambling etc)
Ascent: 5200ft
Munros: The Saddle, Sgurr na Sgine
Corbett: Ben a Crois Chaolais
Route: View on OS Map

The west coast wonder weather continued on Saturday despite a somewhat cloudy start. Aiming to have the majority of the tough climbing and scrambling done before the sun became too ridiculous we were on the road from Morvich before 7:30 and were the second car to arrive in the layby close to the plantation by the A87 at NG973138.

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We kitted up and headed back west down the road until we came to the usual start point for the path up to the start of the Forcan Ridge at NG968143. This is an excellent stalkers path which rapidly gains height up the slopes of Meallan Odhar.

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Behind us to the east the rising sun was finding its way through chinks in the cloud and casting a glorious light on the slopes of the Five Sisters. The spectacular scenery got better as we climbed and the clouds kept the temperatures to a reasonable level.

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After climbing past the summit of Meallan Odhar we rounded a corner and got a first view of the very impressive Forcan Ridge. From here it looked a lot of fun in a jagged sort of way.

The Forcan Ridge

We crossed the lumpy ground to the foot of it and then, in the face of a stiff wind, donned an extra layer before starting the scramble.

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I was leading and kept to the crest of the ridge as much as possible. The first section runs up some steep grooves with excellent hand and footholds on good rock. The views behind were getting very spectacular indeed.

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After this some path sections take you up to below Sgurr Nan Forcan. There was then some excellent scrambling, with one fun move around an airy corner and some other steps along narrow slabs of rock, tipped on their edges. Nothing was beyond my comfort zone though and it felt good to be moving. We were first on the ridge and so had plenty of time to explore.

View down the Forcan Ridge

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We reached Sgurr Nan Forcan and enjoyed breathtaking views in all directions.

On the Forcan Ridge

Looking along the Forcan Ridge

From here, there was a steep drop down to the final rise up towards the Saddle itself. My teammates chose to avoid this and scrambled down a steep gully to the left, reaching an avoidance path below. I took a look at the downclimb and went for it. The first couple of moves were somewhat leaps of faith, my foot reaching down into the void but soon finding a good purchase. Once I started moving it flowed nicely together and after a couple of long reaches I was down on the path feeling really proud of myself.

The Downclimb!

I again took the lead for the final section, narrow but fun, which took us up to the Saddle itself.

Final ridge to the summit

Summit of The Saddle

The views from the trig point on the summit were spectacular. We took a few minutes soaking them in before turning slightly down slope on the sheltered northern side to eat a mid-morning snack. Our progress had been steady and we’d reached the summit in 3 hours from our starting point up the road.

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We were now headed for Sgurr na Sgine, the next Munro around heading towards the South Cluanie Ridge. From this side it was a lumpy looking hill with no great prominenence. After taking a look into the Saddle’s huge central coire we dropped steeply down a rubbly path, paralleling a drystone dyke that dropped from the summit slopes of the mountain. This is the avoiding route if you don’t fancy the Forcan Ridge.

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It brought us down below the ridge to a wide bealach where we paused again to admire the views onto the Knoydart hills.

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After a wee snooze we continued on past the small lochan and then climbed steep grassy slopes onto the ridge between Faochag and Sgurr na Sgine.

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We followed a good track round and then up the final steep slope to the summit plateau. It is a rocky, undulating area with the summit cairn located at the very eastern end perched above the mountain’s prominent east facing cliffs.

Summit of Sgurr na Sgine

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Here we ate lunch gazing out on a landscape now basking in the heat of a high summer sun. From Skye to Torridon, Knoydart and down to Ben Nevis it was a dream view.

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South Cluanie Ridge from Sgurr na Sgine

The Saddle from Sgurr na Sgine

After scoping out our options we dropped southeast off the summit, staying above the cliffs and looking down a couple of steep gullies until we came down to a point we we could drop down steep, grassy slopes to another drystone wall. This brought us safely down below the cliffs to another col which we crossed before climbing up the Corbett Ben a Crois Chaolais.

Ben a Crois Chaolais

Sgurr na Sgine

With the sun beating down this was a vicious climb across boulder strewn gullies and then up steep, heathery slopes. Luckily it was soon over and we gratefully sat down next to the cairn at the summit drinking in the stunning view across to the South Cluanie Ridge.

Sgurr na Sgine and the Saddle

Looking down Glen Shiel

Here we had another snooze in the sun before being woken up by a chap coming up from the Cluanie Ridge side carrying nothing much besides a water bottle. He had driven up from Paisley, set off at 7:30-ish from the Cluanie Inn and got to this point in roughly the same time it had taken us to reach the Corbett!

The South Cluanie Ridge

After this we dropped down off the east side of Ben a Crois Chaolais and then made our way across the lumpy col between it and the Cluanie Ridge. At a point more than halfway along there is a right of way which eventually heads to Kinloch Hourn. We used it to drop down the Allt Mhalagain, a long descent in the late afternoon heat. We paused a few times at stream crossings to wash faces and refill bottles before eventually coming across the boggy land back to the A87.

Allt Crossing

West down Glen Shiel

What a day it had been. Tired from the heat but bowled over by the incredible views and fine scrambling of the Forcan Ridge.

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