I spent my New Years with Edinburgh Mountaineering Club in Glen Shiel. The club has a tradition of having a larger-than usual meet at New Years and this time we stayed in Kintail Outdoor Centre in Morvich. Since this was my first year in the club, I really didn’t know what to expect from the meet. I had heard a lot of stories involving egg-frying-pan-ping-pong and other weird stuff so I just had to mentally prepare myself for all kind of stuff – especially because the weather was going to be bad. As expected, the weather turned to be awful on New Year’s day and the day after that so our original plan to climb The Five Sisters of Kintail was dropped without even talking about it. You can read the meet report here and see some awesome pictures here.
Claire and I decided to try our luck with the weather on Saturday and tackle Beinn Sgritheall near Arnisdale. I had been admiring it from Knoydart where we had had a meet last Easter. Some munro guide books define Beinn Sgirtheall as the steepest munro and since it’s right next to the sea, you have to start from the sea level.
Quote from walkhighlands :
Beinn Sgritheall gives a steep and punishing ascent; the effort is well worthwhile however as this is one of the finest viewpoints in the Highlands, with a fantastic outlook over dramatic Loch Hourn to Knoydart and the Cuillin of Skye.
That sounded like a challenge! Weather forecast sounded very nice for a while and neither of us had climbed it before so the target was set.
Unfortunately Mike and Fiona decided not to join us; Claire and I set off around 8:00 on Saturday morning in clear weather. First we headed to Glenelg where we were running the day before. At this point I was wondering why my legs didn’t hurt from that run. Claire mapped the run later and it turned to be just under a half marathon – I can’t remember when I have run that distance – if ever! Maybe the training is starting slowly to give some results? Anyway, the sunrise was beautiful and we stopped to take pictures a couple times before we got to Arnisdale.
The way up
We took the traditional route to that starts from Arnisdale and goes to the bealach where the route turns to the north to the first top (906 m). The track to the bealach is steep and swampy like the guide books say but it wasn’t too bad. Sweaty yes, but I was expecting it to be a bit more punishing. We saw several deer while heading up and it seems that they were very cautious about us and moved away long before we arrived to the same location.
We had our first lunch (flunch) at the bealach where we had our first views toward the inland side. The sun was still rising and the wind was picking up a bit but it was still very warm. From here we decided to take a bee-line to the first summit. The ground was frozen and we started to get some snow and ice so we took our ice axes to use. We also saw that after this short and gentle (it’s relative you know) approach we got to the steep section that would be much harder what we had climbed today. I think that one of the guide books said something on these lines: “if you thought that the climb to the bealach was hellish, now it will get even worse”.
The climb was fairly straight forward but the ground was very steep and mixture of rock and snow which made it hard work. Claire had to cut some steps to the snow too. We arrived to the first top around noon and now we got our first 360 degree views. Stunning! Absolutely stunning! When looking south I could see Ladhar Bheinn amongst other Knoydart hills. When watching west, I could see southern peaks of the Culling Ridge and east showed magnificent view to the Five sisters of Kintail and other Glen Shiel hills.
From the first top we dropped a bit to reach the ridge that would lead to the real summit. While we approached the ridge, the mountain got much sharper and now you could see how steep the mountain really was. The wind was a bit stronger again but sun was still shining. I was really happy that we decided to come here today.
From the first peak we headed towards ridge that leads to the real summit of the Beinn Sgritheall (974 m) that we reached around 1pm. Just before arriving there, we heard a dog barking which meant that we weren’t alone. When we finally saw the cairn, we saw also a man with a dog having a cup of coffee at the top. First the dog wasn’t very sure about us and made a short gnarl but after he figured that we were good guys, he started to hunt some snow balls. They had come to the top from north taking a gentler but much longer route from the brochs near Glenelg.
The views from the summit are even better than from the first top. Now we could also see Torridon and the view was much wider in every direction. The summit of Beinn Sgritheal offers clearly one of the best panoramas I have seen in the highlands. If you are planning to climb Beinn Sqritheall, save it for a good day. These views are definitely worth to wait for.
Bagging the last top
We had heard that while we are here, we should also go and bag the last top. There are several club members that still haven’t done it – even they have been up at least twice (khrohm, Mike, khrohm, Fiona, khrohm, Alison) so we decided to check it out. From the top it’s gentle drop down to 900 meters and from there it’s only short walk to the last top. The header image of the post is taken from the third top.
From the last top we dropped back down the gully and followed it until we joined the path that comes down from the summit. After we hit the path, we followed it towards Coille Mhialairigh forest. When we arrived to the first loch we took very steep path down trough a small forest. The path was tricky but we could see awesome old trees. When we came to the coastal road, we followed it back to Arnisdale. It seemed like we hit the rush hour since while we were walking along the road, we saw at least 10 cars heading north from Arnisdale.
We arrived to the Arnisdale at 3:30 pm tired but very happy. The day had been definitely one of the best days on the hills ever. It’s a bit pity that photos doesn’t show the beauty of the place or maybe it’s just my photography skills.
It’s funny how much you grin after having a day like this on the hills!