Easter weekend in Kintail: Some you win...

Good Friday saw Fiona, Mary and Julia travelling up the A9 - not surprisingly there was lots of traffic and at times it was slow moving.  It was less busy on the road west from Dalwhinnie.  We got our weekend off to a good start by filling up on yummy cakes at Laggan Bunkhouse where we met up with Jennifer. The rest of the journey was straightforward and we had some fine views of tempting hills above the road. 

 

Ratagan Youth Hostel was our base for the weekend: it was fully booked.   On arrival we were astonished to see someone swimming in the cold waters of Loch Duich – she was wearing a wetsuit and trailing a flotation aid, but even so...  Jim and friends were already in residence.

 

Saturday was cloudy and damp, but nevertheless Jim, Jim, David, Paul and Fiona headed off for the Five Sisters.  Calum, Julia, Jennifer and Mary set their sights on something less ambitious and crossed the causeway at the head of the loch to park almost at the foot of our objective, the Corbett, Sgurr an Airgid.  Starting at just 9 metres above sea level we followed an old path that zig zagged up the hillside.  It was very wet in places but the route was clear – until we went into the clouds.   We overshot the bealach and found ourselves in a damp basin that appeared to be dropping away, however Calum’s map and compass and Julia’s electronic device helped us to relocate and soon through the mist we were able to pick out the ridge ahead – there were some snowy patches but the snow was very soft so we avoided walking in it as much as we could.   Stopping for a quick bite to eat we heard a ptarmigan call but could not spot it.  Further on we picked up a path but it kept disappearing under the snow so we just kept travelling in the general direction – upwards!  We did have to cross a couple of snowy banks before the final ascent to the broken cylindrical trig point.   There was a chilly breeze on the top so we took the obligatory photos and then dropped a short distance before stopping for a hot drink.  

Visibility on the summit on Sgurr an Airgid was ‘poor’- no view

Visibility on the summit on Sgurr an Airgid was ‘poor’- no view

Then it was time to charge down the snowy gullies.  This was much more fun than labouring up through the snow.  A more direct route took us back to our upward path and soon we were below the clouds and looking across to the end of Five Sisters ridge above Kintail Lodge: we wondered how our friends were faring on the ridge.

Back at the hostel we received a text from Jim saying they were OK but they expected to be later than anticipated due to conditions on the hill.   Later we heard that they were leaving the ridge early and descending into Glen Shiel.  Unfortunately, the bridge they hoped to cross was unsafe so they had to continue along the east bank of the river to Shiel Bridge.  At least they were safely off the hill.   Jennifer and Calum went to their aid, driving to Shiel Bridge to take the drivers back to the cars which had been left at the start and finish points of the walk.   A very tired party returned to the hostel for a late meal.

On Sunday the weather could not have been more different.   Jim, Jim, David and Paul decided to go sight seeing: visiting Glenelg, Eilean Donan, Skye and Plockton.   Calum was making a solo trip up Am Bathach before driving home for Easter dinner with his family; Mike was heading for the three most easterly, snowy, summits on the South Glenshiel ridge and the ladies had decided that another Corbett, Beinn Loinne, above Loch Cluanie, would make a fine outing.   We met up with Lynn and Mike at Cluanie Inn and prepared to set off in what looked as if it was going to turn into a stunning day!

 

Superb views emerging from the clouds

Superb views emerging from the clouds

Cluanie Inn flanked by Sgurr an Fhuarail and Am Bathach as the clouds burn off

Cluanie Inn flanked by Sgurr an Fhuarail and Am Bathach as the clouds burn off

Snow covered Spidean Mhalach rising behind the south Glen Shiel ridge

Snow covered Spidean Mhalach rising behind the south Glen Shiel ridge

Steady progress was made up the old road towards Glen Loyne.  Mike headed off for his first hill and was soon just a dot on the horizon.   The ladies continued to follow the track and soon met a solitary walker heading in the other direction – the only person we met all day.

Eventually we took the plunge into the water-logged moorland that rises slowly towards our target – we had to watch not to fall in any holes.  Gradually we gained height and the going underfoot became drier.   There were lots of snow patches: some we crossed and some we avoided.   Once on the ridge the going was much easier and we were soon on the top – another cylindrical trig point – what an array of hills in every direction.  Unmistakeably, to the south, Ben Nevis and the Grey Corries, to the west, the Five Sisters and the Brothers with glimpses north towards Glen Affric; opposite them the south Glen Shiel ridge and behind that Spidean Mhalach and Gleouraich – all resplendent in white. It was an afternoon to savour.   While we lazed in the sunshine and enjoyed the view from the top of our Corbett Lynn received messages from Mike saying he had reached the tops of all three Munros.  He had a much longer walk out than ours, but nonetheless he was not far behind us in the end.

After showers and a change of clothes we all repaired to the Kintail Lodge Hotel for an evening meal and exchanged tales with the other members of the group.

On Monday Jim, Jim, David and Paul set off early for home; Lynn and Mike and I headed for a bird spotting tour of Applecross (what stark hills confront the motorist approaching the twisty drive up over the Bealach na Ba) and the ladies set off for a relaxing drive home, no doubt including lunch at a spot recommended by Fiona; she seems to know the all best places for delicious refreshments.

Great accommodation, great walks and great company, what more could we ask for?

Thanks to Jim L for organising another successful Club weekend.  

 

The Five Sisters looking splendid in the early evening sunshine

The Five Sisters looking splendid in the early evening sunshine

Sgurr an Airgid from the youth hostel

Sgurr an Airgid from the youth hostel

Lynn and Mike enjoy a relaxing lunch break beside Applecross Bay

Lynn and Mike enjoy a relaxing lunch break beside Applecross Bay