Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A scorching day on the South Glen Shiel Ridge


The old Road to the Isles, looking towards Cluanie
Last Friday provided a rare combination of fabulous weather and the opportunity for a spot of hillwalking. We decided on the South Glen Shiel Ridge, originally hoping to knock off the full seven Munros. However a later than intended start, a drive that took longer than my hopelessly optimistic prediction and a desire to return home at a reasonable hour to my extremely pregnant wife made a shorter day seem the more sensible option, so we contented ourselves with the eastern section of the ridge.

I left the van near the high point of the glen and cycled back to the Cluanie Inn where Paul and Tam the dog were sheltering in the shade of a tree. There are more direct routes to the ridge, but I was keen to follow the aesthetic line of the Old Road to the Isles, having been intrigued by its snaking path over the hills on previous visits to the glen. When Loch Loyne was dammed as part of a hydroelectric scheme part of the road and its impressive arch bridge disappeared beneath the waters. In times of drought the bridge emerges from its watery grave and the old road may be followed once again. 

View east along the ridge with the snowcapped peaks of the Cairngorms just visible in the centre
The weather was extremely hot, probably well into the 20s even on the tops. At first conditions were hazy, permitting only views of the adjacent peaks  but they cleared progressively as the day wore on, with grand views east as far as the snowcapped Cairngorms, incongruous in the harsh May sunshine. I could have enjoyed the last day of lift-served snowsports the following day had the urge taken me but it seemed more appropriate to head instead to the beach for a bracing dip in the sea.

Red deer hinds cool themselves on a snowpatch

Ridge leading to the summit of Aonach air Chrith (Ridge of Trembling) the scramble over was entertaining enough but no trembling was done
I took an enjoyable detour from the ridge to the airy subsidiary top to the north of Aonach air Chrith which proved to be sporting enough to quicken the pulse, the descent of the step prior to the top requiring the negotiation of either greasy chimney or airy crest. 

Sgurr a'Mhaoriach and Loch Quoich with the mighty Sgurr na Ciche on the right 
There is an intriguing track between the ridge and the Loch Quoich peaks of Sgurr a'Mhaoriach and Spidean Mealach which may could perhaps be used as part of a good mountain bike route, perhaps linking with the old Road to the Isles to make a circuit that includes a crossing of the Atlantan Bridge of Loch Loyne. The idea has certainly taken hold so I am sure that I will be back on the bike at some point to prospect it further.

During our lingering breaks on the summits I re-acquainted myself with the contours of the surrounding peaks, reigniting memories of past trips: a winter bivvy on Sgurr a'Mhaoriach to the south, a torchless benightment on Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan to the north and plenty more that preceed or haven't made it onto this blog. 

Too hot a day for dogs
As it turned out I don't think the dog would have been capable of completing the full ridge in that heat so it was just as well we opted for the shorter day. Quite apart from anything else it leaves me with a great excuse to return to a spectacular area that never disappoints.


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1 Comments:

Blogger blueskyscotland said...

Great photos of animals on snow patches.It was stifling during that heatwave.Too hot for me.
Cracking ridge walk that one.

30 May 2012 at 00:40  

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