Start/Finish: Cluanie Inn, Glen Shiel
Terrain: 30% gravel/surfaced road, 60% good trails, 10% ridge-top, mild scrambling
Transport: citylink bus services Cluanie Inn (Gla/Edi - Skye service)
Route: Route Map
|Descending on Maol Chinn Dearg|
A munro-baggers' classic, this ridge of 7 munros lies to the South of Glen Shiel and the road to Skye. After completing the ridge from East to West, the route follows a stalkers path S into the remote Glen Quoich, and with most of the hard work done a great trail-run takes you back beneath the summits along Glen Loyne, then over a small Bealach to the estate road leading back to the Cluanie Inn.
I'm really glad I went for it. Leaving Cluanie Inn on the road to Cluanie Lodge, with the Loch still and reflecting snowy peaks, my sense of adventure was there but a bit dampened by the expectation that I'd probably encounter ice along the ridge and have to turn back.
|A good track leading to the base of Creag a Mhaim|
The path did appear on the right just before a little bridge, and it looked nice and gravelly and so very runnable. After a km or so this path forks - I was heading right up onto the ridge, but later today I'd be returning here from the left.
|Loch Loyne from the SE ridge of Creag a Mhaim|
As always it felt good to reach the summit cairn, cloud came down then back up and I was still getting reasonable visibility along the ridge ahead, which at this end is broad.
After some mild scrambling I was on the 2nd peak of the ridge and moving on, the NW wind beginning to pick-up as forecast.
|Looking back E towards Druim Shionnach|
I had a third text-message exchange with my dad, he now knew it was my intention to proceed.
Between the summits I was often back below the cloud base and taking in views down from the ridge, both sides, including back NE to Loch Cluanie. A couple of times I did try to run the less exposed downhill bits but the snow deepened as I headed W and rocks hidden by the snow made it a bit silly. And after the third summit - Aonach air Chirth - the ridge became a bum-cheek scramble along snow and rock. I didn't want to slip here. Fortunately nearly all the snowfall was fresh, and I did not encounter any ice.
|Loch Cluanie in the distance|
|Final rise up Sgurr an Lochain (rusty fenceposts!)|
The narrow ridge of Maol Chinn-Dearg was a highlight (title photo), being able to see down both sides. It goes over a bump and broadens back out to the summit at 981m, then the ridge remains relatively broad from there as it descends over a subsiduary top down to an 820m Bealach. It was along this section when the air filled with high velocity polystyrene balls. I pulled my hat and hood around such that I could only see with the left eye. I also changed gloves. For the next hour or so I didn't see much other than snow, rock, blizzard, and battered rusty fence-posts which appear along this section. I summitted Sgurr an Doire Leathain, ignoring the quickly-filling bootprints as I remembered to head slightly N from the main spine to find the summit cairn. Next was the penultimate Munro of the ridge, Sgurr an Lochain, which looks like a nice peak in other people's photos but I wasn't seeing much!
|The head of Glen Quoich with distant Knoydart hills beyond|
|Looking towards Sgurr Thionail from Bealach a Fraoch Choire|
|Looking down Glen Quoich towards Gleouraich|
|Looking back (W) up Glen Loyne|