Ridges in Glen Shiel


Having spent four days cycling the coast to coast route, and then driving up to Edinburgh, Alastair sat at my dining room table and looked at the map. It was an ambitious plan.

We arrived at Cluanie Inn at about midnight and found some woods to stash a load of food, then we continued towards Shiel Bridge. Finding a lay-by we laid out our mats and sleeping bags in the back of the VW people carrier (seats removed) and slept like logs.

Wednesday began with porridge, tea and rain showers. We set off up Meallan Odhar and then on to the Forcan Ridge. Despite the continuing showers we scrambled along the crest, resisting the temptation of the path on the right hand side which avoided the difficulties. Only when we reached a steep down climb did we opt for a steep muddy gully instead. With a few more short sections of scrambling on the route we topped The Saddle and dropped down into Bealach Coire Mhaligain and then walked up the path to Munro number two: Sgurr na Sgine.
My poor map reading was to blame for a choice to go down of this peak via a dodgy NW ridge, whilst the GPS wanted us to go over the edge of a vertical cliff. The prudent choice in hindsight is to head south at first and then cut back to the bealach.

Four peaks later (and only two Munros), E along the South Glen Shiel, we passed Sgurr an Lochainn and looked at the lochan. It looked a bit far down. Seeming a waste to loose any height unnecessarily we looked for a spot of flat ground for a campsite. This proved difficult and led us to drop towards the lochan. We eventually found a precarious spot that was not too boggy and got in the tent just in time to avoid another shower. We cooked up some cous cous and some bush tea and were asleep by 8:30pm.
We woke on Thursday to rain on the flysheet, we ate maltloaf and waited. When the deluge turned to drizzle and then petered out, I brewed up another bush tea and we packed up the soggy tent and got going. With little respite from the rain we headed east and bagged munros. At the last, Creag Mhaim, the sun popped out for a moment or two. We dropped down a track and followed it to Cluanie Inn.

At this point our plan had been to take on the Chralaig-Mullach ridge, stay at the Camban Bothy and then hike back to the car via some of the hills on the north of Glen Shiel. Disillusioned by the weather, fatigue but mostly, I suspect, the fact that we had forgot to stash the wine, Alastair hitched back to fetch the car. We regrouped, got a coffee in the Inn, found the stash, ditched the wet tent, packed two bottles of wine and set off along the track on An Caorann Mor. The track became path and the path faded out into a bog. We hopped over the river on stepping stones and contoured on drier ground on the side of Ciste Dubh. Spotting the bothy in the vast glen where three large burns converge to form the River Affric, we headed back into the bog and looked doubtfully at our next river crossing. There was nothing else for it, boots and socks had to come off and we waded across barefoot. Sadly there was no fuel supply at the bothy, and vain attempts to light a few lumps of charcoal with the gas stove didn't manage to dry out my socks. The bothy was warm enough anyway and the best accommodation yet. We drank wine, ate noodles, custard and bananas and slept.
Friday started in a familar manner, rain. We tidied the bothy a bit, made porridge, drank tea and headed along the track towards the youth hostel. At some point we decided to veer off across a bog. We then had to recross the river. Al got his feet wet again but, with a few lucky leaps, I managed to hop across a couple of boulders. Then we came across a few bits of metal. Then we came across a few more. Then we came across a crash site. (Later uncle google didn't disappoint).
The ridge from Mullach to A Cralaig was much better than I was expecting, and so was the weather. The sun came out and my jacket, and then my fleece went in the sack. Being on the hill in a t-shirt doesn't happen too often and I was happy to get a touch of sunburn too!

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