In keeping with my new ‘modularised’ plan I got dropped off at Inverkirkaig early on Tuesday morning and walked along the Kirkaig River (Steve, DEFINITELY couldn’t have crossed that one) then up to (and up) Suilven.Sadly it was covered in cloud so I couldn’t see anything from the top but the views from partway up and down were good. Also the ‘walk’ up and down the incredibly steep sides was interesting!
(On the way to Suilven I got a little complacent walking through a bog. Right leg up to mid calf, left leg to ankle but then was stuck and I couldn’t get it out. Luckily my elbows were on solid ground! Shoes, gaiters and pants did an admirable job of keeping the mud out.)
From there I headed east on reasonably good tracks before cutting crosscountry to the northern end of the little Loch Awe (not the huge one further south). This was as per my original route plan.
The following day I had a short road walk then headed up the valley towards Breabag. This area of the country is limestone so the valley walk is quite interesting with the stream (‘Allt’) disappearing and reappearing several times, with lots of springs and some caves.
Breabag is a long steady climb up from this side, with steep circular cliffs on the other side. The top was mostly clear, with some cloud swirling up from the corrie. Once that had cleared the views were stunning.
From here it was a long walk along the ridge and a surprisingly gentle drop into the Traligill valley (no paths and I was pretty happy with the route I ended up with). This valley also has appearing/disappearing streams and caves, and also some sinkholes so I was a little more careful about walking through bogs than normal. From there, a short road walk, some more bog, then a suitable campsite in site of Quinag.
This was it. My mountain. The whole purpose of this trip . . . The previous day had been pretty good so I thought Quinag might struggle to top it. How wrong I was! She was amazing. Clear skies so I could see all the views, a variety of walking (switching between sandstone and quartzite, narrow ridges, scree slopes, blocky steps, grassy hills) and the sheer joy of being on such an amazing hill. I walked all the way out to the end of each ridge, including the long arm in the original photo I have of her. What can I say, it was pretty amazing!
Also a bit easier walking as I had stashed my pack at the bottom so wasn’t carrying the same load I’d had on the previous two hills!
I got picked up from the base of Quinag mid afternoon and headed back to Durness where I had a lovely evening making pasta (and drinking red wine – we needed to empty the bottles for rolling pins!) with Scott’s sister.
The following day I got a lift down to Achfary with Scott’s cousin who works on the estate there. This is right in the middle of the next two hills on my list – Ben Stack and Arkle. They both had cloud on the tops of them, but Stack’s looked a little wispier, and that was the one I also cared more about going up. Stack is rare as it is made almost entirely of the ancient gneiss basement rock, but also has large sheets of intrusive granite (‘Scourie dykes’). I started up it and realised pretty quickly that the last 3 days (and last night!) had taken their toll on me. I had a slow ascent up a grassy, boggy slope and arrived suddenly, and somewhat anticlimactically, at the summit. It was covered in cloud but after waiting for a while it cleared in patches so I could get some views. There was then a precipitous ridge walk (made more interesting by the howling wind and swirling cloud) and a very steep, rocky descent. This climb definitely would’ve been better the other way around (NW to SE) as I’d originally intended!
I’d been considering doing part of my original planned route in reverse then looping back to estate but given how tired I was I opted for a leisurely stroll (except for the bits were I was tiptoeing through bogs!) around the SW side of the hill. It was, overall, a lovely day but certainly nothing on the previous day at Quinag.
Back in Durness now and enjoying a much needed break. My legs are pretty dead and even walking to the pub for dinner last night was a mission!
That said, I’m planning to walk from Rhiconich up to the Cape next week (when the weather clears up – it turned bad last night) and may get back to tackle Arkle or another hill in the area.
All good, and still enjoying myself very much. I hope you are all well and am thinking of you and love hearing from you all.