Author Topic: sunrise on a hill - sgurr na sgihe, just to the south of the saddle.  (Read 2706 times)


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‘So where are you going tomorrow’ my wife asked, to which I replied with the usual showing on a spare map plus the assortment of grid ref’s, etc, etc, along with the promise of a phone call which I have to admit I sometimes forget until I’m back in the car and surrounded by the phenomenon of ‘no reception’.
The map I produced was a very tattered OS 33, spare due to the areas on it that constant soaks have turned it into a blotted mess, particularly around the five sisters to glen Affric area where I have failed miserably to forget the ‘the monsoon day’. Unfortunately, it is joined by three other occasions where similar conditions did test my waterproofs to their limits. But they are but a mere easily cured itch compared to the numerous grand days I have had around kintail.
For a start the drive down the A 87 is a magical experience, especially past the clunie hotel, to which I have ferried many a hitch hiker. As you descend down through the steep sides where the rived delves into a short tunnel before tumbling in a series of astonishing water falls to the battle site. But your eyes will not be on the river, but the high mountains that tower either side of you, and especially of the pyramid shape of the saddle to your front. For here it is the Munros that dominate the scene like alpine secrets where light threads it tentative rays into the deep glen, over the rippling waters of the river and the heather that cling’s to the rocky slopes for dear life. All of this will, if you allow it, allure you into a false sense. No a real sense of mellow beauty where your eyes are seldom on the road (and perhaps the reason for the many lay-bys and numerous Car Parks) where time slows as your swept on the gentle current down the long straight to the lay-by conveniently positioned opposite the one series of mountains that had thus far always been covered in cloud for me.
On the right rises the five sisters, a colossal barrior of rock and heavenly tops, shadowed by their brothers, perhaps only there to guard their sister’s modesty against the five husbands they wait for. On the other side, loom faochag and the notorious saddle whose technical ridge tears into the sky like a sharks fin or perhaps like a claymore, its distinct commanding look dominating the scene. From the Lay-by, it is possible to clearly see the path heading up to it as it strikes out diagonally around a large block of stone that keeps the saddle out of view for the moment.
For me I did not see, onlt felt any of the above as the plan today was a short stroll upto sgurr na sgihe returning via the low wall around the saddle ridge back to the road.  The first top was reached in pitch darkness just so that I could see and capture the suns rising during twilight and upon the horizon as the bright colourful lights it produced played over the surrounding peaks and slopes with resounding soft musical tones during a day that was forecasted to provide 90% clear skies. I was not disappointed for once!
First, the hike. Being at night a good torch was needed and not watching a horror movie the night before helps as the total isolation you feel surrounded by nothing but black shadows can be a tad daunting. Most important is probably a familiarity with the paths and where your heading – I’d love to say I knew these hills by heart but after completely missing the bridge over the river, I can’t say that I do and negotiating a river crossing with a pole in one hand , and a torch in the other is very good fun! I did however find, or should I say, walk straight towards the gates along the deer fencing. Ye so far so good, I guess I should admit that a half moon helped with the previous problems but once the steep climbing started (all the way to the top, with no level rest), the moon disappeared now and again behind the blocks of rock above me and the going felt really slow when at times I felt completely unbalanced when I’d brush up against a tree or boulder.
At about 600m, the snow and thin ice started, the ice being the most problem during the whole day where the streamlets present within the paths were solid and caused a few cuss words to escape my mouth after falling head over ass a few times.
Made the first top just as twilight started to glow low in the sky like oil strokes of a masterpiece and boy was I glad to see this array of bright to faded oranges spread in an arc from the direction of clunie hotel. I had given myself one and a half hours to reach the top but due to the darkness and countless dead ends, it took me just over two hours. Regardless I had made it and could not help but just stand and admire the array of peaks, which this tentative light highlighted in all directions, even the culllions for a short while until a thick band of cloud covered all the islands (the only cloud seen). I walked along the ridge to the high point then set up my tripod and camera and basically played like a kid at Christmas as the light increased from the sun cloaking all the tops within its beams in dense orange.
It was beautiful, can’t explain any other way, the wind was fair and the air very cold and haze had taken the day off, giving me clear sharp views of mountain tops from all over the highlands – if kintail glen had glaciers, it would of looked just like those pictures you see from Antarctica. It was beautify, cannot really explain it any other way, hopefully the pictures below will show some of it, but really, you have to see it with your own eyes to fully appreciate a view such as the one I saw. Most of you will have had days like this, seen views like this, felt as complete as I did.
In all I changed my location about four times during different periods of the sunrise ending up on sgurr na sgihe just after the sun had pieced the horizon and risen into thin clouds. The colours this produced from one glen to another were soft and tantalizing, like a massage after a week of hiking or a shower after a week of hiking!
The way down had to arrive all too soon, having spent upto an hour just standing around the cold was seeping through the thick layers and biting onto the sweat making a chill turn into full blown shivers. From the line of mountains I was on, it was a steep climb down to the pass between here and the saddle over a rubble of ice covered rocks. Many people climb this but could not find a distinct path, not that I’d probably use it as mentioned before – most were covered in ice.
You will notice from the p[pictures of the saddle ridge that there appears a line, like a path diagonally across the bottom of the ridge. This is actually a wall, a very low wall but it does have a sort of path along side it, which leads you to the start of the ridge and the well-defined path, which provides the best easy walking of the whole day down to the road. It was at the start of the ridge walk where I passed the only two people I saw the whole morning. One of them, I did feel was a guide and the strange look he gave me, i.e. ‘where the heck have you come from’ (it was only about 10.30 or 11.00 when I past them) rather illustrates the early hour I choose to walk. In addition, my first trip on ice of the day happened just below them and not the nice type where you manage to keep hold of your dignity, no this was full throttle straight on the ass with pole and everything else flying – so embarrassing!
Once you reach the road, your probably have a good 500 metres to walk to your car – watch the traffic, it can be fast around here, including artics supply the isles.

from faochag towards clunie hotel

sgurr na sgine

one of me

towards knoydart

the sisters

sgurr a chuillin



the saddle and ridge

below start of ridge with two climbers mentioned

into glen shiel, my car is the one mid picture to the front of the rectangular area of woods

From glen bottom to sisters
Last night while I laid starring at the stars, I wondered.....where the hell is my ceiling!!!!

Cotswold Stroller

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Cheers Troy,
another brilliant report and pictures. I would love to go there and experience the views, looks so majestic  O0
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What a lovely report and pictures! thanks  O0


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Oh wow, beautiful photos  O0
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gary m

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lovely photos, i can remember driving through glen sheil and looking at the saddle
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 :-\  Fantastic write up and pictures but.....

I wanna go now! Doh.
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Absolutely brilliant pictures!



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Fan'bloody'tastic. O0
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Madmax Jnr

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Very Nice.

angry climber

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Cracking area mate but where were you when I had the long drag back to my car? Every one mentions the fact you can hitchhike back but I think you have to be a tall blond Scandinavian female because she was the only one that got a lift. The rest of us slogged it while she dried off in the pub.
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where were you when I had the long drag back to my car? Every one mentions the fact you can hitchhike back but I think you have to be a tall blond Scandinavian female because she was the only one that got a lift. The rest of us slogged it while she dried off in the pub.

an apparition of pure beauty in a bikini or a ragged bunch of hairy bearded misfits - which would you stop for? I would add that the ride was nicer but thats just below the belt!
Last night while I laid starring at the stars, I wondered.....where the hell is my ceiling!!!!


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Some of those pics will still be my favourties at the end of this year, flamin gorgeous. I saw the first one and thought WOW amazing, but you cant to that, then said the same to the 2nd and the 3rd etc etc  O0 O0 O0 O0 What a beautiful part of the world to visit.... totally breathtaking  O0 O0 O0 O0 O0 Off to look at em all over again now!
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Alex Quinn

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Excellent photographs and TR, particularly liked the 2nd photo O0