The Kintail Outdoor Centre is owned by National trust for Scotland and nestles below Sgurr na Moraich, the last of the famous Five Sisters of Kintail, and Ben Attow. More than a couple of dozen Munros and Corbetts can be accessed from within a 30 minute drive – and quite a few can be climbed directly from the front door. The accommodation has five bedrooms, showers, a fully fitted kitchen and a seating area around a wood burning stove – definitely one of the more comfortable and roomy venues for our club meets. Several members had enjoyed previous visits/celebrations in this location and had made their recommendations known.
Jim Aire, Raymond Evenden, Blair Fraser, James Fraser, Logan Fraser, George Henderson, Susan Henderson, Rowena Hepple, Paul McGrandles, Ian Millar, Norrie Shand, Alastair Shaw, Lorn Smith, Gerry Weir
Donna Fraser, Debbie Shand, Lanie Shand, Laura Shand
It being Easter, a few members made an early getaway to make the most of the holiday weekend.
Raymond, James and Blair shot out of the blocks on the Thursday, heading up to Kintail to climb The Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine with their friend Jimmy Keen. The Forcan Ridge of The Saddle is one of the foremost ridge walks on the mainland and offers very enjoyable scrambling along it’s (at times) knife-edge spine – with bypass paths available for those who don’t fancy the a cheval manoeuvres. The conditions were decidedly murky but they enjoyed the scramble and the much more straightforward continuation to Sgurr na Sgine before their descent to the Kintail Lodge for supper and refreshment.
The advance party’s Long Good Friday saw them head up the ridge of the “long mountain”, Ben Attow – a massive hulk of mountain sitting north east of the Five Sisters. From there a descent was made to the Bealach na Sgairne before a seemingly straightforward ascent of the nearby Munro, A Ghlas Bheinn – although in reality the knobbly ridge and plethora of false summits made this more difficult than a casual glance at the map would suggest. The more favourable conditions on the day though saw them in fine spirits as they descended fairly directly to the Outdoor Centre. Some feral goats were passed on the way back but as nobody had packed a madras sauce it was decided to leave them in peace.
George and Susan had also made an early getaway on Thursday, heading up to the Misty Isle of Skye to spend a night in the new Skye Basecamp hostel in Broadford. Their feedback from this new enterprise was extremely positive and several members have made a note to stay there at some point in the future.
Having arrived in Skye they immediately set off for the Cuillin outlier, Blaven – one of Skye’s finest peaks. Having ascended it previously via the notorious Clach Glas scramble, their ascent on this occasion was by the more conventional route with some clear spells through the swirling trade-mark Skye mist offering tantalising glimpses of the views this magnificent mountain offers.
On Friday, they crossed back to the mainland and nabbed the Corbett of Am Bathach, another attractive Corbett sitting opposite the Cluanie Inn and from there they scampered down and then up the south ridge of the Munro, Ciste Dhubh. The weather wasn’t brilliant but before long they were ensconced in the Outdoor Centre and relaxing with a cup of tea – or at least Susan was.
Norrie had tempted his family with the prospect of a meet in luxury accommodation – relatively speaking – and on Friday they meandered their way north west via Glenfinnan, Morar and the Skye ferry, then back along Loch Duich to Morvich. Also on board was the keenest hillwalker in the party – their young golden retriever Slioch who was champing at the bit to add to his munro bagging tally. His accommodation was less luxurious than the others though as he was confined to sleep in the back of the car due to NTS rules.
Rowena and Ally weren’t going to make it up until Saturday. They had a major expedition planned and their new camper van required a bit of maintenance before they set off.
Everyone else arrived during the course of the evening and settled nicely into the lodgings in time honoured fashion.
Lorn decided to give his impressive legs a wee stretch on the Friday evening and took in the nearby Corbett of Sgurr an Airgid before arriving at the hut. This is a fine little mountain, offering an attractive view over Loch Duich before the clag appeared nearer the summit.
A convivial evening was enjoyed along familiar lines before a staggered retreat to bunks was made as the wee hours neared.
There had been a fresh fall of snow overnight and there were periodic showers of rain during the early morning which tempered the enthusiasm of some of the party.
Jim Aire had just recovered from a hernia operation and was confined to some low-level walking along the nearby glens.
Raymond’s pal Jimmy Keen had returned to the area on Saturday morning though and the pair had ambitious thoughts of tackling Ciste Dhubh and the Brothers and Sisters ridge – the Mother and Father of all walks in the Kintail area. Unfortunately, their early start meant they had to endure the worst of the weather and having made it to the summit of the most easterly Munro, Ciste Dhubh they decided to call it a day at that point and hitch-hiked back to base.
George and Susan were also fairly early starters – their plan was to take on the Munro A Ghlas Bheinn and return along the long ridge of Ben Attow and back to the lodge.
The Five Sisters of Kintail is an iconic ridge which dominates the area and proves a magnet to hillwalkers, three of the siblings being classified as Munros. Blair was confined to studying that day and had mixed feelings as he watched his Dad James and brother Logan head off to tackle these peaks with Gerry, Ian and Paul. For the most part they were rewarded with decent conditions and a hugely enjoyable traverse followed – with some great photo opportunities offering themselves when conditions allowed.
James, Logan, Gerry and Paul descended after the last Munro but a mere four sisters was never going to be enough to sate the appetite of Ian Millar and even though she was dumpy and less attractive Sgurr na Moraich was duly notched on his walking pole before he scampered back down to the hut.
Norrie and the Shandelles had intended to tackle the Munro of A Ghlas Bheinn but the dreich early morning weather resulted in some pretty serious humming and hawing. Eventually they decided they would at least head up the glen to the bealach and make a final decision when they got there. Lanie and Laura had climbed a few Munros and Corbetts previously but were a fair bit less experienced than the other club members. Laura’s budget did not extend to a pair of sealskin socks but some canny improvisation ensured her feet would remain dry at least for the first part of the walk.
With Slioch eagerly leading the way, they headed up the glen and were duly recompensed by a distinct improvement in the weather conditions. Showing great moral fibre and true grit, Laura and Lanie insisted they would make it to the summit and were determined to press on. The overnight fall of snow though made the going a bit slippery and the knobbly switchback approach over the numerous false summits resulted in several moments of anguish as some unladylike language echoed round the glens.
Half way along the ridge to the summit, a familiar sight approached them from behind. It was George and Susan whose boots were melting the snow as they scorched their way up the hillside. They had amended their initial plan due to the early morning conditions and tackled Ben Attow first by the conventional route, then descended before approaching the slopes of A Ghlas Bheinn. At least they would be able to report back to Debbie (who was enjoying a relaxing day back at base with Donna) that her family were all still breathing – albeit a bit more heavily than usual.
George and Susan decided against returning down the steep slopes west of the summit and retraced their steps as Sherpa Shand was still trying to spur his clients on to the summit. Eventually they made it and all the pain momentarily disappeared – at least for a nanosecond. Heeding George’s advice – and that of James the previous evening, Norrie decided that retracing their steps was the safest option although this was hardly music to the ears of his daughters. At the end of the day the New Sisters of Kintail were elated at the conclusion of their adventure.
Ally and Rowena had snaked their way west on Saturday in their sparkling new van. Following in George and Susan’s footsteps from the previous day, they too romped up Am Bathach before edging further in their quest for Munro completion by continuing to Ciste Dhubh.
Rowena did find a scabby hat (Ally’s description) on Ciste Dhubh. Ally insisted that she leave the filthy garment where it lay. Only later did they find out that it actually belonged to Jimmy Keen who was sorely tempted to head back up and retrieve it the following day.
Lorn had set off that morning on a frolic of his own – the South Glen Shiel ridge. This switchback of seven Munros is another classic walk that the region has to offer. With less scrambling than its neighbouring ridge on the north side of the glen, it is nevertheless a very entertaining expedition with the advantage to the bagger of a large handful of ticks (not the biting sort). If that wasn’t enough the intrepid Lorn continued on to the demote Corbett of Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais before heading down to the road.
Unable to locate Raymond’s van, Lorn started the long trudge back up the road towards the Cluanie Inn where he had left his car – but not before draining the last of his lukewarm tea from his flask and nibbling on his last biscuit. More in hope than expectation his right thumb was coerced into action – and before too long a kindly driver stopped to pick him up – despite the advice of his passenger who discouraged him from aiding the bedraggled hillwalker. Not until Lorn threw his pack in the car did the driver realise who it was – the man behind the wheel turned out to be James who hadn’t recognised Lorn on the road. The sheepish passenger was Paul who denied his motive in wanting to drive on was in any way connected with the box of wine he had cooling in the fridge.
As the evening progressed, the kitchen was a hubbub of activity as various concoctions were prepared and then consumed. A few glasses of liquid refreshment were taken as the chatter and banter rattled around the lounge. Gerry had brought along his new 12-string guitar and provided some soothing music, before Norrie produced his and belted out a few songs. When Norrie had had enough, Logan borrowed his guitar and he and Gerry collaborated on some very nice tunes.
The entertainment quality increased dramatically though when the Wi-Fi password was eventually found!
As midnight became a receding memory the group traipsed off to bed – rumours of a 10.00 am evacuation concentrating a few minds. As it happened there were no groups booked in for the Sunday night so a more relaxed exit was permitted.
On Sunday morning, a few weary souls headed off back to their homes – but for a few others, the adventures were still in their early stages.
Rowena and Ally tucked into the next course of their mega-Munro meal on Sunday morning heading up Gleann Choinneachan to take the stalkers path up onto the Glen Attow plateau and then on to the summit. They were assured that the crossing of the Allt Coire an Sgairne was relatively safe and there were no subsequent reports to suggest that this wasn’t the case.
Having lucked out on the Brothers and Sisters ridge on Saturday, Raymond accompanied by Lorn, picked up Jimmy Keen from his accommodation and once again set off on this epic ridge walk. This time round the saunter along this magnificent ridge was enjoyed to the full with ample opportunity to drink in the stupendous views as they traversed from east to west.
Lorn waved his goodbye after the Brothers section of the ridge leaving the other two to continue westwards.
An unfortunate foot note (an apt description) to the weekend occurred a week later as Lorn and his wife Elizabeth had spent hours of effort and several pounds in air fresheners trying to remove the foul-smelling odour that had plagued their car for the previous few days. Eventually a rogue pair of Jimmy Keen’s post-Saddle damp socks was located and (very carefully) removed. Their poor wee dog was eventually given a free pardon.
No doubt previous Easter weekends have produced better weekends for hillwalking but nevertheless the aggregate of miles walked and height climbed by club members and their guests over the three or four days was pretty impressive.