Days Like This, No 7: On a Ridge Above Glen Shiel

On the summit of Sàileag, looking towards the Five Sisters of Kintail

On the summit of Sàileag, looking towards the Five Sisters of Kintail

SOMETIMES early mornings can be warm and skies blue. Sometimes the air is so peaceful that mountains reflect in lochs while shadows retreat to cooler places. This morning, in Strath Croe, nothing stirs except bees. Even sheep remain motionless. It’s a perfect day to traverse a high ridge . . .

This is a retro post for Because They’re There. It’s a letter from the past featuring a memorable walk and the contemporary events surrounding it . . .

I leave the car at the head of Glen Shiel and climb along a stream called Allt à Coire into a high rocky basin known as Coire na Cadha. Up here is a silent world of empty sky, bright sun and hazy peaks.

Kintail 12 Kintail 15

A very hazy Ciste Dhubh (see previous post), viewed from Sgùrr an Fhuarail

A very hazy Ciste Dhubh (see previous post), viewed from Sgùrr an Fhuarail

But Coire na Cadha does not come without its perils. The grassy ascent up its southern wall to the summit of Sgùrr an Fhuarail (987m or 3,238ft) is a hands-on-turf, sweaty, heartbreaking slog for its entirety. Every heavy step is a bitter-sweet grind through purgatory on a journey to heaven.

Is it worth it? Stumbling onto the airy ridge just below the summit cairn, with sudden views of unknown mountains and deep blue valleys – it is worth every single grunt and gasp, every bead of sweat. And there are many.

Kintail 17Kintail 18My ridge shoots off west to the nearby Munro of Aonach Meadhoin (1,001m or 3,284ft). In the distant haze is Sgùrr a’ Bhealaich Dheirg (1,036m or 3,398ft), and, tucked out of sight behind it, Sàileag (956m or 3,136ft), my final peak.

map2Few things in life are finer than a walk along a mountain ridge with the sun burning your back, a hot breeze in your hair and dark ridges on the horizon. Few things are more uplifting or more satisfying. Up here in Kintail, where the rocks of the earth reach up to scratch the sky, perceptions alter because the world is a different place.

A walk above Glen Shiel, September 2002

Kintail 16

On the summit of Sgùrr an Fhuarail with Aonach Meadhoin to the left and Sgùrr a’ Bhealaich Dheirg to the right

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About McFadzean

Alen McFadzean, journalist, formerly of the Northern Echo, in Darlington, and the North-West Evening Mail, Barrow. Former shipyard electrician. Former quarryman and tunneller. Climbs mountains and runs long distances to make life harder. Gravitates to the left in politics just to make life harder still. Now lives in Orgiva, Spain.
This entry was posted in Camping, Climbing, Environment, Hiking, Mountains, Walking, Weather and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Days Like This, No 7: On a Ridge Above Glen Shiel

  1. Argh – it’s Beast Dhubh again! 😉

    Funnily enough, I’ve just got my walk report for those 3 hills in draft. I still have the top of Sgurr an Fhuarail to do though – hopefully this August. Is it really that steep?

    Love the second photo!
    Carol.

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    • McEff says:

      Hi Carol. It’s very steep – but grassy steep. There will be other ways up, but I headed into the corrie, and from there you can look at the summit of Sgurr an Fhuarail and see a grassy patch just to the right that goes all the way up. It’s a right old slog but it takes you straight to the top.
      Have fun, Alen
      PS Beast Dhubh. I like that.

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      • Ah no, I was going to go straight up the rounded (convex) slope opposite the Cluanie – I know how steep it is from the corrie as that’s how I got to the Munro summit – that was hands-on turf!

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  2. Hanna says:

    It must be a wonderful landscape to explore, Alen, and tough too 😀
    I have always been fascinated by the Scottish Highlands. My brother was in training as a soldier with the SAS in the Scottish Highlands. I think he had ‘sold out’ at the time, for he cannot remember many details.
    I have absolutely nothing against your excellent way of expressing yourself 🙂
    Thank you for a beautiful post that makes my hiking boots jump.

    All the best,
    Hanna

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  3. These are terrific pictures.

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  4. David says:

    I have just got back from a week in the far north of Scotland with Moira and while driving along the valley on the way home we commented on how we still have some unfinished business with those hills. Thanks for the timely reminder 🙂

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  5. Hi Alen,
    I am always fascinated with your mountain pictures and wonderful stories. 🙂
    Loty

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  6. It looks like a blisteringly hot day from the photos. I can well imagine the grunt and groan of the climb on a day like that. And the exultation on reaching the top.
    Chris

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  7. Jo Woolf says:

    Great photos, Alen! A real mellow, vintage feel to them. How was the third shot taken? It would look like a forest of spears or pikes, if it wasn’t for that one head of grass! I can almost feel the heat in the last photo – it’s rare to have days like that on the tops and the sunburn can be excruciating!

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    • McEff says:

      Hi Jo. Now you come to mention it, that third shot does look like a forest of spears. I used a time-honoured photographic technique. I set the timer, plonked the camera on a tussock, and ran to get on the photo. I’m sure I didn’t intend it to come out all arty farty like it has.
      Cheers, Alen

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