Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th April 2015
We set off on Good Friday intent on enjoying a good weekend with the Five Sisters of Kintail firmly in our sights for the Saturday and some alternatives pencilled in for Sunday. The weather forecast for the weekend was, like the weather, variable. En route our first stop was in Roy Bridge at the Stronlossit Inn, a chance to sample tea and scones. Verdict ? The beer, for non drivers, was good as were the scones but then again the scones were not as good as those from the Boghall Butchers. We were the first of the party to arrive at Rattan and although the reception hadn’t yet opened the hostel itself was open allowing us an opportunity to “explore” the facilities. The location of the Ratagan Hostel is excellent as the views over the loch and towards the Five Sisters were pretty good. The general consensus was that we would recommend the hostel to anyone travelling in the area. As the other club members began to arrive we talked over the plans for Saturday and discussed the weather conditions to be expected on the hills. Five of us were determined to meet the Five Sisters whilst the remainder apart from Mike decided on the Corbetts in the area. Dinner and a few refreshments later it was time to retire. So early Saturday morning almost fully refreshed, almost because our room contained the SYHA token loud snorer ( not one of our club members I hasten to add ) it was time to head for the hills. Around 0730 we were at the start position for the Five Sisters. According to the walk description on WalkHighlands the beginning is “very steep ( no argument from us ) as 550 metres have to be gained to reach Bealach an Lapain. Once at the bealach, relax, as the hardest part of the day is already behind (aye right ) ”The steep beginning was to bring us onto the ridge however it was quite difficult to see the edge of the ridge as we climbed because the sky was the same colour as the snow. Walkhighlands describes this section thus; “After a steep climb the massive summit cairn of Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, the first Munro of the day at 1027 metres is reached; continue a short distance beyond to get a superb full length view down Loch Duich.” The superb view will have to wait for another day!! See pictures of Sgùrr na Ciste Duibhe. My pictures have been lightened to help distinguish the bits of faces you can see but it was one drench Saturday morning. You will also note the lack of photos decribing the walk, this was mainly because of the cold and wind. It was a case of reach each summit in turn, quick fotie and get moving as fast as possible.
We had packed our crampons and ice axes but the snow covering wasn’t really firm enough for ironmongery but was deep enough on occasion to come up to the thigh.
From start to finish going was slow as navigation was difficult because of the low mist/ low cloud whatever you want to call it. Walkhighlands states “Beyond this ( bealach after Sgurr nan Spainteach ) the ridge has two separate crests with a depression between - very confusing in misty conditions.” No kidding Sherlock, we can testify to it’s being confusing !! To give you an idea of the weather conditions, we stopped for a wee breather high on Sgùrr na Càrnach and it was only when we resumed the climbthat we spotted through a lift in the mist that we were only about 50 metres away from the summit cairn anyway.
From Sgùrr na Càrnach we pressed on to Sgùrr Fhuaran. Once on the ridge I can’t recall us ever seeing the path beneath the snow but we had a good idea where Sgùrr Fhuaran was. Once we had begun our walk along the ridge it may have crossed our minds to cut short the traverse but it would only have been a fleeting moment as we were all determined to complete the 3 Munros. Nothing special to remark on as we scaled Sgùrr Fhuaran where we posed for a quick snap and then it was a fast as we could safely get off the hill. Walkhighlands walk description contains text at this point as follows; “Purists and aesthetes, however, will want to continue the ridge walk.” We purists and aesthetes decided to leave that for another day as we searched for the down escalator. We had planned to progress to Allt a'chruinn village where we had left one car.
We found a steep route down to Glen Shiel which would leave us on the east bank of the river Shiel. The route was too steep to allow us to appreciate the fine views, when the cloud lifted a wee bit, of Loch Duich.
As we knew beforehand that the footbridge across the river was unusable we were prepared for the wee walk along the east bank until almost at Shiel Bridge where we would have access to the main road. This comparatively leisurely stroll along the boggy ground beside the river was not without its mishaps though as yours truly, attempting to find a quick way across one of the streams which joined the river, found himself trapped in the Bawdeep Burn and needed the assistance of two guys to escape.
During the descent we revised our eta back at the hostel and because we wouldn’t be reaching Allt a'chruinn village we had to call the cavalry to pick us up at the shop/garage at Shiel Bridge.
By the time the cavalry arrived we had been out on the hills for 12 hours, satisfied that we had completed the Munros but tired and ready for a hot meal and a swally.
Sunday 5th April 2015
Looking up at the Five Sisters this morning we were scratching our heads and thinking why didn’t we go today ?
One of our number was suffering from a very heavy cold and another was feeling the effects of a dodgy knee so instead of attempting further climbs we opted for a sightseeing tour of the nearby area. I won’t bore you with the details of our visits to the Glenelg Brochs, the Glenelg / Kylerhea ferry, dining al fresco in Plockton, a photo stop at Eilean Donan castle, a wee trip over the Skye bridge to the Sligachan Hotel with a view of the Cuillin and the Red Cuillin and a couple of pints in the Kintail Lodge Hotel, the latter in preparation for Sunday night’s club dinner at the same venue. Instead of all that I thought I’d just post a couple of pictures.
A note about the Kintail Lodge Hotel, the bill for the dinner contained erroneous charges for two additional main courses which we had not ordered. A spotter’s badge for Mike for uncovering this “error”.