It was a dry night and the midges were mostly gone by morning. The campsite had been reasonably good. I packed up and headed across the bog, which was not too bad as it was starting to dry out. I was heading at a bit of an angle towards the road, thinking that the start point car park was further north but not entirely sure if I hadn’t missed it and gone too far north already. Shortly I saw people, the bridge and then the road signs.
Once I got there I filled my water bottle at the bridge (filtering the water, as it was a bit of a muddy stream) then headed up the path. I “hid” my pack off the track just pass the turn off to Spidean Conich (the southern ridge/peak). It was well hidden from the road side but pretty obvious to anyone coming back from the hill. It was the best I could do though with the flat terrain and low scrub.
It was a reasonably good path but it seemed to take forever to get to the col. The col on Quinag is very low down (only about 580m, vs 800 for the peak) but there were still very nice views out to the west from here.
After having a good look off the edge I headed NE up to Sail Garbh. Sail Garbh is the highest of the three peaks and is a small quartzite cap on top of the main sandstone ridge. It was easy enough going up on the sandstone but much harder going on the quartzite. The change between the two rock types is so obvious!
On the way there I came round a corner and saw a crazy old sheep – I’m not sure who looked more surprised, him or me!
The summit of Sail Garbh has a theodolite mount on it, as do quite a few of the peaks around here. I was very happy to be on the peak of my hill, and even happier at having a theodolite mount there (as well as loving geology, I’ve dabbled in old fashioned surveying. The thought of carrying an old theodolite up here doesn’t excite me though!).
From here I headed further north, coming down off the summit and along the long sandstone ridge to the very end. Coming off the peak was a bit loose and slippery, but not too bad. Then it was sandstone pavement all the way to the end of the ridge. It was stunning. Awesome. Wow! I was so excited to be there! This was the ridge that I’d seen 2 years ago that had dragged me back here, and now here I was, standing on the very end of it! It was a pretty impressive end too. A lot of places look steep from a distance but up close are not so bad. Not this one. The edges of this ridge were almost sheer all the way down to ground level. I walked around for a while with my arms out like an aeroplane, marvelling in the feeling of the hill and air and just being there.
I simply can’t explain how amazing it felt to be standing up there.
There were also some birds nesting just off the edge near the end of the ridge, which was pretty cool.
I was going to get a small piece of sandstone from the end of the ridge and a small piece of quartzite from the summit, but I completely forgot in all the excitement. It’s pretty amazing for me to come home from a holiday without any pieces of rock but after I didn’t have rocks from here (my favourite ridge on my favourite hill) it just seemed silly to collect any from anywhere else!
After soaking up as much of the atmosphere, and view, as I could, I headed back over the summit then onto the Sail Ghorm ridge (the north western one). It was a really long way out to the end of Sail Ghorm. Lots of ups and downs, narrow ridges, chimneys and buttresses. Amazing views. I went all the way to the end of the ridge again. Again it was awesome. I was very happy.
From here I was going across to Spidean Conich. I ran some of the way back, partly through sheer exuberance and partly to make up time (I was getting picked up at the base in the early arvo). The path back to the col actually drops down even lower and then comes back up. I wasn’t interested in doing that so ended up scampering around the side of the hill on a goat track, across some scree slopes then straight down the edge! I was getting pretty good at this! (although I had jammed my ankles several times already today!)
Across the col, admiring the views again, then up the apparently unassailable Spidean Conich. It was not as bad as it looked, although there were lots of very high ‘steps’ – so high that I had to put my knee on one and lever myself up because my little legs were too short to get my foot up onto it! Up I went, all the way to the top. Spidean Conich is primarily quartzite so it was reasonably tricky walking. While it was a pretty cool climb up, this was the least impressive summit, partly because it was so wide and partly because I’d seen so many amazing views already today!
After the summit it turned into a big boulder field for the descent, similar to Breabag’s ascent, wide and semi directionless. It was very difficult at first, although eased off into grass and rock or mostly flat (sloped) quartzite pavement. It actually looked like there was a small patch of sandstone in there too?!?
Towards the bottom the quartzite pavement became interspersed with bog. I followed the pavement strips too far, missing the path back to the main track (where I’d started). Once I realised this I cut back to the north and soon got back to the path. I’d seen signs on the way in asking people to “please use the new path to preserve the fragile heather and bog”, so I was keen to follow their request. Besides, walking through bogs sucks (no pun intended)!
It was an easy walk back from there then back to the road, with a slight detour to retrieve my pack. I was back right on time . . . about 10 minutes before I was scheduled to be picked up at 2pm. Then it was off home to Durness with a big smile on my face!
Breabag had been really good yesterday and I wasn’t sure if Quinag would be able to top that. Oh it did though. She was amazing. Even better than I thought it would be. I love that hill!
I had planned to make dinner (homemade pasta) with Scott’s sister that night so once I’d got home and showered I headed round to her place. We put the kids to bed, opened a bottle of wine (we needed the bottles as rolling pins . . . at least that’s our excuse!) and made an amazing creamy salmon pasta. Yum!! Her partner was home and we had a great evening chatting, eating and drinking. Scott was working, but came round afterwards to try the pasta. Some small payment for driving me around all week! You can see some more photos of Quinag, and our pasta making effort here.
I saw, and talked to, a lot of people on top of the hill today. I talked to one guy twice (while I was going out and then back from Sail Ghorm), who had camped up here last night (what?!?!?! – he said luckily it didn’t get windy so he was fine) and was heading to Suileag bothy for tonight (what?!?!?! that is miles away! – he said he’d done the walk before, it was mostly track . . .but crappy, boggy track). We shared our enthusiasm and love of the hill. I spoke to an older couple also while coming back off Sail Ghorm and told them that going out to the end of the ridge on Sail Garbh was amazing, and not so difficult, and they said they might give it a go (at first they thought going out there was a crazy idea). On the way to Spidean Conich I saw a German Shorthaired Pointer (dog) swimming in the lochan up there. His owner was just descending from the peak (which I struggled to get up, but apparently the dog had no trouble coming down!). He said the dog loves heights and water so he is in heaven up here. I also saw at least 8 other people up there. Just before I got back to the carpark I also helped a young couple who were trying to find the Eas a Chulaiin waterfall by telling them how to get to it and showing them my map and guidebook (the little one I got in Inverness).