Sgurr Cos na Breachd-Laoigh, Loch Arkaig

18 08 2017

Wed 9 Aug 2017
This walk prompted a new motto for my walking career, such as it is since my severe hip deterioration – no more pathless peaks! This, unfortunately, is going to rule out a great many of the Corbetts proving that you’re best to do those first before you wear out!


All photos my digi-camera unfortunately
I’d looked at this particular Corbett down Glen Dessary at the end of Loch Arkaig for many years now and thought it looked delightful. Now I’ve got the Munros and their ‘Tops’ out of the way and as I was wanting a nice car-camp, I decided now was a great time to do it. The forecast was superb (unusual for Scotland) so I set off at 1000 on the Wednesday to make the 7 hour drive to the end of Loch Arkaig. The drive to the start of Loch Arkaig is only 6 hours but the fourteen miles down the loch road is pretty horrific for my ancient Sunny with its knackered suspension. That meant another hour for the drive down to the end at Strathan. To be honest, I doubt most people would take their car a lot faster down the road and I seem to remember it was nearly an hour in the car’s younger days when I went down there to do the ‘Rough Bounds of Knoydart’ Munros.

Due to various appalling drivers holding me up on the drive to Spean Bridge, it was 1645 before I managed to get my boots and bags on and set off for the walk. One example of the appalling drivers was one who no doubt thought he/she was a superb and fast driver. They did 80mph along the straights in Glen Spean (which I was quite happy to follow – I normally do most of the glen between 60 and 70mph where possible) but, each time there was any kind of kink in the road, they braked hard down to 40mph! They even speeded up to 80mph for the really short straights and braked heavily again at the other end. I found this irritating as I couldn’t get past their multi-litre Volvo in my little 1.4cc Sunny so had to put up with this behaviour for the whole length of the glen (around 30-40 miles). A further annoyance was that this driver didn’t see fit to slow to 30mph for the couple of villages on the route and blazed through them at above 40mph. The whole thing proved that Volvo drivers must be obscenely rich if they can afford their brake pads replacing each week and the huge amounts of fuel required for this style of stop/start driving. I was amused, however, to see that the little van plodding along at a steady 60mph in front, soon left said car way behind! I was also amused that I only had to brake twice, even following behind them – a bit of planning goes a long way…

Anyway, back to the walk. I romped happily along the Glen Dessary estate road for two miles to the foot of the hill – my hip was feeling well for a change. I was very amused to see, about half a mile from the carpark, the occupants of a mini-bus – they were ‘yoofs’ with large packs and they’d shed their packs and were literally lying on the estate road in a state of despondent exhaustion – already! They were too tired to speak to me with the exception of one young girl who was stood up and looking fed up of waiting for their recovery. At the bridge across the burn I was to follow uphill to the first col, I met an instructor-looking chappie with a few fit looking youths. He asked whether I’d seen some walkers on my way. I told him I hadn’t seen any walkers as such but had seen said yoofs with large packs lying in the road at the junction for Glen Dessary and that they didn’t look like they were about to move at all! He sighed and pounded off back down the glen to drag them along…


My hill – up the right hand ridge and back down the left was the plan (the right is lower actually but I can’t keep digi-cameras straight!)

I continued to romp up the good stalkers path to the col feeling very pleased with how I was going. My ascent ridge took off to the left and looked really easy – life was good…


Looking back to the start (round the corner) from the ascent

I was soon brought back to earth. The grass was long and the going wet, the ground seemed quite steep to me and there wasn’t a hint of a path anywhere. My hip soon decided it didn’t want to plod up this horrible ground and, unusually for it, even started to object to pushing uphill – the only problems I’ve been having to date are downhill. This worried me greatly… In a short time, I was also becoming pretty puffed and exhausted – I’m obviously very far from fit now. In addition to all this, it was roasting hot – very unusual for most Scottish summers – especially this year. I’d taken the opportunity to ‘soak my buff’ and put it on my head just before I left the path and was grateful for the cooler head – it’s amazing how much better you walk with a cool head on a hot day. I was soon to regret doing this however…


Good views


Gulvain

On cresting every rise, I was despondent to see another large and hard rise to ascend – the ridge seemed to be going on much longer than I’d expected and my altimeter wasn’t showing much increase in height with each rise. In the end, I was so fed up with the long grass and rough ground, I took to looking for areas of slab to ascend. I noticed the slabs here were beautifully wrinkled – I felt too tired to bother to photograph them though.


Corbetts and Munros in Glen Kingie behind

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally reached ‘the ridgeline’ and found a summit cairn already. I knew this wasn’t the Corbett though and, looking on the map later, found it was Druim a’ Chuirn, classified as a Corbett Top. A great viewpoint for Glen Kingie, Gairich and Sgurr Fhurain though.

From here a path materialised and I set off down it – going much better now I was on the undulating ridge and had a path. I still slowed alarmingly uphill though. It was here I started to regret soaking my buff – I started with a horrible earache from my wet hair now I was in a very cold breeze and the sun had gone. I had to pack a tissue between my buff and my ear to warm it up again.


A cold spell – the ridge to the Corbett

I spotted a lovely mountain hare very nearby which made a dash for some rocks a few yards away. I was surprised it didn’t run much further away as I peered into the other side of the rocks and the poor thing looked horrified. I quickly left it alone and continued on… maybe it was young and inexperienced?

There is a descent to a col which has a pinnacle, A’ Chioch, on it. I’d been looking for the pinnacle all the way along the undulating ridge but it appeared quite suddenly and only on the final descent to the col.

The ridge was pleasantly narrow here and interestingly rocky – it didn’t look a bad ascent to the Corbett thankfully. I had an admire of the pinnacle and the various views and took some photos and continued up the ridge.


Looking back to the pinnacle – doesn’t look very significant to say you can clearly see it from the valley

I found a phone signal on my Vodafone mobile here and texted Richard to say I’d arrived okay but was now doing an evening hill (and was exhausted). He texted back to say I was silly! I don’t normally play with my phone on the hill but knew this would be the only signal down the glen.


Phone spot with a view – Sgurrs Beag, Mor and Sgurr Fhuarain

The rise to the Corbett is probably easy enough but I was pretty tired and had to have the odd rest here and there – something I never used to have to do at all. I also seemed to be moving at a glacial pace.


Views along the Rough Bounds of Knoydart


… and back to base…

There is a lovely summit lochan which affords a great foreground for photos in various directions. I took more photos. I’m afraid I only had my digi-camera on this walk as I found, when I was packing my bags, that I hadn’t taken my proper film camera to the new house yet…

There is a very steep descent from the final peak at the end of the ridge so I decided to take what looked like an easier descent from the low col with the pinnacle into the corrie. It was an easy and scenic plod back to the col.

The descent was grassy but fairly steep – I found, however, that going down sideways (leading with either leg) was comfortable for my worn hip. The deer in the corrie weren’t so comfortable with my unexpected descent into their corrie though and they scattered in all directions – I felt very guilty.

Unfortunately, the way out through the corrie was, as I suspected it might be, on very bad ground with long grass, quite a few holes and much unevenness. It was also a very long way and took a couple of hours, trying my hip very sorely indeed. I eventually found a quad bike track down very wet and boggy ground and followed that. At one point, there was a flattish area leading across to my ascent path so I headed off for that. I was surprised to find another quad bike track which joined my original outward path – amazing when I could have headed off across that ground at any point really. Luckily, once on my original path, I found it easy going again down to the estate road and my hip stopped moaning. It seized up on the second mile along the hard road back though.

By the time I reached the car it was 2145 and very nearly dark. Just enough time to get my car set up for sleeping in and my food loaded into the car. I couldn’t face the bread I’d brought for sandwiches as it is too drying and I was quite dehydrated. I just ripped open the Edam cheese slices and ate half the pack in one go along with most of the pack of tomatoes and the litre bottle of raspberry fizz I’d brought along. I supposed I ought to have a pudding, especially as I’d had no bread for carbohydrates. I opened my coffee swiss roll and chewed along it for a way while admiring the darkening view out of the window.

I’d been interested to see, on arriving back at the car, another walker sat in his car. I kept expecting him to drive off but he never did. I was soon feeling very cold indeed and climbed fully-clothed into my sleeping back on the passenger seat to gaze out of the window. Soon I was lovely and warm again.

At 2300, another car came along the glen (just as I was having a pee – typical) and also parked up. The first guy got out of his car and went to speak to him for a while so I gathered they were meeting up. I wasn’t so chuffed when they both settled down in their respective cars for the night – I was really hoping to have the whole place to myself! Strangely, early next morning, the first guy loaded his bike onto his car and set off for home and the second guy set off for a walk – looks like they weren’t meeting up after all. I wonder if the first guy was just even nosier than I am and went to ask the guy what he was doing? Or maybe he didn’t like being lonely and wanted someone to talk to. He could have spoken to me if he’d wanted – still, I never care either way whether I have company or not as I’m quite the loner!

While watching these two, I started to doze off and settled down to sleep a little. However, after only an hour or so, I awoke and saw that the moon was rising over the hill opposite. I’d far rather lie awake watching things like that so spent a good deal of the night looking at the moon and marvelling at how light it made everything – it was almost a full moon – lovely!

The next morning dawned dull and gloomy with a few spots of rain and a very cold, brisk wind. I’d wanted to also do the Corbett of Sgurr Mhurlagain but wasn’t encouraged by the weather. I also wondered how my hip was. It had had a superbly comfortable night as, with the passenger seat not going completely flat, my hip didn’t touch at all – all my weight went down through my bum like I was sat down with a little weight spread onto my shoulders. That was a good thing as beds are one of the worst things for my hip as they are just so hard nowadays – they really cause problems. Richard suggests I sleep in my car in the future and I have to say the thought has crossed my mind!

I got out and pottered round tidying the car. That was long enough to tell me my hip wasn’t in SUCH a good mood after all! It was niggling a bit. I thought I could probably do the standard, boring route, up Mhurlagain and back but that isn’t what I had in mind for the lovely hill. I decided I wasn’t up to my plan for it at all and packed up and headed off for home down the glen. As I’ve more or less promised my long-suffering and battered Sunny that I won’t take him down Loch Arkaig again, the next visit will have to be a day trip from Fort William I think in my newer Polo. Mhurlagain awaits…

Stats: 9 miles, 2805 feet of ascent, 5 hours

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14 responses

25 08 2017
tessapark1969

Glad to see you have managed to get back out there! Lovely photos.

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28 08 2017
mountaincoward

Albeit briefly. I’ve been struck down by a mystery flu-type illness now due to overdoing it recently trying to get my garden ready to sell my house 😦

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23 08 2017
chrissiedixie

You do seem to get a lot of blue sky on your outings……. Lovely photos!

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24 08 2017
mountaincoward

that was deliberate – I drove up and did the walk that day on the strength of the weather forecast. If I’d done the next day’s hill, it would have been more clag than blue sky. I still wish I’d been able to do it though!

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20 08 2017
Simon Howlett

Stunning scenery Carol and a real treat to see the moon rising over the hills. Curious behaviour regarding the guys in cars. Your battered Sunny will be pleased the newer Polo is taking over! My Peugeot is still soldiering on 🙂

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20 08 2017
mountaincoward

Well I’m not aiming to retire the battered Sunny yet – just said I wouldn’t take him back down that particular road. He’s not mad on the Kinlochhourn road either and I’m dying to go car-camping back there too!

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19 08 2017
Blue Sky Scotland

I’m amazed you got any good days in the Western Highlands this summer Carol as the weather has been appalling the past two months, even in the more sheltered Central Belt. Rain or heavy showers almost every day in Glasgow.
Not got a clue if I’ve done that one as they all look the same to me up there and I forget the Gaelic names almost immediately never mind 20 years ago :o) Well done for effort.

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19 08 2017
mountaincoward

I think that’s the Gaelic hill name I struggled most with and always called it ‘Sgurr Cos-whatsit’ until I had to write this post!

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19 08 2017
Andrew

Great photos and well worth the effort of posting them 😉
Hip sounds a bit of a nuisance. Friends of my own age (58) have started to have replacements – certainly makes you realise the years are slipping by! Knoydart looks fabulous, although I did meet a chap in a bothy who said it was the worst place in the highlands for ticks. All good wishes A

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19 08 2017
mountaincoward

… and the worst place for rough ground I think! The hip certainly IS a nuisance unfortunately. I’ve noticed myself that many walkers my age are having hip trouble too.

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19 08 2017
Gaslight Crime

Superb mountain photography

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19 08 2017
mountaincoward

Beautiful scenery – I wasn’t particularly happy with the camera’s efforts though – Richard’s is an Olympus digi-camera and seems to take far better photos.

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18 08 2017
Jim R

We took a barge holiday with Caledonian Discovery in Sept 2016. We hiked from Clunes along the Dark Mile? to the falls and across to the Cameron lands. That was a beautiful day.

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19 08 2017
mountaincoward

One wet day, Richard and I were staying at Roy Bridge and took a drive out to the Cia-Aig waterfall and did a walk around the Dark Mile, the lochside road and back via Achnacarry Estate. I love the Dark Mile!

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