The South Glen Shiel Ridge is described as a ‘Munro-baggers delight’ on Walkhighlands and, having now walked it (back in September 2010), I can confirm that this is indeed the case. A fabulous ridge walk that takes in no fewer than seven Munros and is no more strenuous (but is a little longer) than some walks I’ve done that only involve one or two. Brilliant!
For a relatively new Munro-bagger (me), it is a great way to get the count up but, even if you don’t own a Munro map, subscribe to Munro magic and underline those you’ve climbed in the back of your copy of The Munros: Scottish Mountaineering Club Hillwalkers’ Guide, it is still a fabulous walk with some of the most beautiful views in the world. Like this one, for example:
However, one thing I would advise, make sure you give yourself enough time to complete the walk in daylight! We did not do this and the day lengthened into something of an epic adventure.
But let’s begin at the beginning.
I completed this walk with my dad, my friend Tracey, and dad’s friend, Matt. We were camping nearby and intended to make an early start but the campsite office didn’t open until 9am and we didn’t want to leave without letting someone know that we were there and paying for our spot. So we waited until 9am and dutifully went to pay for our two nights… and the guy in the shop was very laid back and didn’t ask how many tents we had or take car registrations or anything like that. And so we could quite happily have waited and paid the next day. Ah well. Add to this the time it took to shuffle motorbikes and cars so that we had a car at the end of the walk (the end of the walk being 9km down the road from the start) and we didn’t start walking until after 10am. Not wise. But we worried not and started the walk in high spirits.
It’s a fairly long walk from the road to the start of the ascent, and the first ascent is a bit of a slog. But our efforts were rewarded with multiple sightings of rock ptarmigans along with the knowledge that, at peak one, the hardest part of the walk was already over.
We stopped for a while at summit one (Creag a’ Mhaim) to rest a little and admire the views and then turned our attention to the ridge stretching out, seemingly endlessly, ahead of us. What an amazing sight.
On we walked. The directions from Walk Highlands warned of a ‘very narrow’ section of ridge on the ascent to summit two but it wasn’t as bad as we feared and the top of Druim Shionnach was reached without incident. Next came Aonach air Chrith – the highest peak of the day. And, just beyond that, a rather rocky section that looks much scarier than it actually is.
Let’s take a moment here to appreciate the beautiful blue sky in that last photo. Weather-wise, we could not have asked for a better day to complete this walk. Warm, but not too hot, and clear enough to see for miles. I still can’t believe how lucky we were.
It felt like a long way to the fourth peak, Aonach air Chrith. This was mainly due to the two minor summits that try to fool you into thinking you’ve reached it when you haven’t. But reach it we did (eventually). And this was our reward:
A rather poor photo, I admit, but they were a long way off. Excellent views through dad’s binoculars though and nice to see them at last after hearing their rutting calls throughout the day.
Summit five (Sgurr an Doire Leathain) involves a detour from the main path which meant we could rid ourselves of our rucksacks for a short while. Lovely. By the time we reached it we realised we were starting to lose daylight. This failed to instill any sense of alarm and, instead, we revelled in how pretty the light was with the sun so low in the sky.
Still two more summits to go at this point but not one of us suggested cutting the walk short. Having done night walks before, I was not phased by walking in the dark, especially when the sky was so clear and we knew the moon would be almost full. So onwards we went and soon reached our sixth summit, Sgurr an Lochain.
The final climb, up to the top of Creag nan Damh, was rather wearying. But we made it. Seven summits in one day. Beautiful weather. Stunning views. Wildlife sightings. Great company. Fantastic.
Now all we had to do was climb down. In the dark.
It should have been easy. It sounded easy in the directions. It looked easy on the map. But we were tired and we weren’t really concentrating. And did I mention that it was dark? And so we overruled the GPS and started down the first thing we came to that looked like it might possibly be a path. It wasn’t a path.
And so, what should have been a nice, gentle descent became a steep scramble along the side of a river/waterfall. Whoops. It was pretty tough going and really rather surreal to be climbing down a Munro in the moonlight. But it was a beautiful, unique experience.
We should have set off earlier. We should have cut the walk short when we realised we weren’t going to finish it in dayight. But we didn’t. And I’m glad we didn’t. It was an adventure. And I would far rather have an adventure than miss a Munro.
That attitude might get me into trouble one day…