Hill: Sgurr a' Chaorachain
Date: Saturday 28th May 2016
Company: Myself and Becky
Distance: 6.5km, Ascent: 430m
Time: 3Hrs 20Mins

I promised my daughter last weekend that if the weather was good this weekend I would take her camping. On Thursday, the weather forecast for the weekend was looking not too bad, so I began searching the net for a suitable campsite. I narrowed the list down to Ballater or Braemar (close to home), Ullapool or Ardmair, Gairloch or Applecross. The opportunity to revisit the outstanding Applecross Inn swung the decision in favour of Applecross.

After picking Becky up from school on Friday, we made our way out West to Applecross. I was in two minds whether to head to Lochcarron and then take the Bealach na Ba road or head to Torridon and then take the coastal road round from Shieldaig. We decided on the Bealach na Ba road as Becky had not been over this pass previously.

On arriving in Applecross, we pitched-up at the Applecross Campsite with a good 15m between us and the nearest tents/vans. We then took a walk down to the Applecross Inn for a drink and to watch the sunset.

We spent around 90 minutes at the inn and also at the pebble shore.

Outside the Applecross Inn:

The sunset was definitely worth waiting for. Beautiful!

Applecross sunset:

On walking back to the campsite, we passed a couple of stags which seemed to be fairly used to humans. I got very close to them as next photo is full frame not cropped.

An Applecross stag:

While we were down at the Applecross Inn, the campsite had got a bit busier with other tents now approximately 7m away. However, getting to sleep proved fairly hard as there was a rowdy crowd playing music at 23:00 and shouting until 02:45! While the warden did come out to tell people to stop playing music, he did nothing about the shouting into the early hours.

We were therefore a little tired when we got up and set off to ascend Sgurr a' Chaorachain.

We drove back up to the Bealach na Ba where we parked up and then set off up the track towards the transmitter. I last ascended Sgurr a' Chaorachain in May 2009.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

Becky at Bealach na Ba:

During the walk up the track, we spoke about the age of the surrounding Torridonian Sandstone and also about Lewisian Gneiss to be found further North.

Ascending the track towards the NW top of Sgurr a' Chaorachain:

During the walk up towards the transmitter, we could see two climbers ahead of us who I assume were setting off for an ascent of the Cioch Nose by somehow dropping down to the start, leaving their car conveniently at the Bealach.

Approaching the transmitter atop the NW top of Sgurr a' Chaorachain:

The ridge adjoining Beinn Bhan and Sgurr a' Chaorachain is excellent. In 2014, I ascended Beinn Bhan and then made my way across this ridge to the NW top of Sgurr a' Chaorachain before descending to the Bealach Na Ba. Had the weather been better that day, I would also have ascended Sgurr a' Chaorachain.

Nice ridge adjoining Beinn Bhan and Sgurr a' Chaorachain:

As we approached the NW top of Sgurr a' Chaorachain, we could see the ridge leading out to the summit. Becky seemed quite pleased with the look of the route ahead. This would involve Becky's first scrambling of any kind, albeit Becky has previously climbed at an indoor wall on several occasions.

The ridge out to the summit of Sgurr a' Chaorachain:

We stopped briefly at the NW top before commencing our traverse of the ridge.

Becky at the NW top of Sgurr a' Chaorachain:

Looking back to the NW top of Sgurr a' Chaorachain:

Looking down to Loch Kishorn and Loch Carron:

The initial section of ridge is straight-forward with opportunity to walk via grassy lines or on sandstone.

At a cairn on the ridge:

On reaching the first rocky tower, I held Becky's hand as we followed the path which skirts round the crag.

Looking back to the first rocky tower:

Beyond the first rocky top, we stopped such that I could take some photos, and salivate at, the Cioch Nose ridge. I have wanted to climb this ridge for some time and must get round to doing it soon before I get too old. The Cioch Nose was first climbed by Tom Patey and Chris Bonnington. It is one of the routes in the book Classic Rock.

Na Ciochan (Cioch Nose) ridge:

Looking back to the NW top of Sgurr a' Chaorachain:

The ascent of the second rocky tower was easier than I remembered, basically just a walk. However, I did remember that the descent was a little trickier and thus I was carrying 15m of 9mm rope to protect Becky during the initial scramble down. The scrambling is only Grade 1 and is very short but there is a good drop below and I don't take unnecessary risks with Becky.

Looking towards the summit of Sgurr a' Chaorachain from atop the second rocky tower:

Once roped together, and after tying off a number of coils, I guided Becky down the scramble while keeping her on a tight rope.

On reaching the base of the tower, we stopped for a quick drink before continuing on to the summit. There was no point in taking the rope off as we would be using it again on scrambling back up the tower. We therefore just moved together with the rope towards the summit.

Looking back at the descent of the second rocky tower:

Looking back at the descent of the second rocky tower:

As we continued along the ridge, we started to get great views down to Loch Kishorn and Loch Carron. Becky really enjoyed the views from this hill.

Looking down to Loch Kishorn / Loch Carron:

Loch Carron:

Looking back along the ridge towards the NW top:

On reaching the summit, I took a few photos and we admired the surrounding views. The weather was definitely not as good as had been forecast a couple of days previously but at least it was dry.

Becky at the summit of Sgurr a' Chaorachain:

Becky at the summit of Sgurr a' Chaorachain:

Loch Kishorn and Loch Carron:

Loch Carron:

From the summit, we made our way back along the ridge.

Heading back along the ridge:

On reaching the rocky tower, we moved up the initial stones together, then I scrambled to the top. I then took Becky up on a tight rope. She enjoyed the scrambling.

I kept the rope on until we were beyond the next tower and then put the rope back in the bag. We then continued on to the NW top.

Looking down to the Bealach na Ba and beyond to Raasay from the NW top:

On reaching the NW top, Becky thought the two concrete squares would make a great place to have a wee rest.

A good place for a wee rest:

From the NW top, we then made our way back down to the Bealach na Ba.

This was a nice short walk providing us with plenty time to get back and have a shower, re-visit the Applecross Inn and explore the Applecross coast.

We decided however to abandon the Applecross campsite at 22:00 as it was getting ridiculously busy. Other tents were now only 3m away from my one and I could foresee another noisy, sleepless night ahead. Midge were also out in force and biting. It was nice to drive home at this time as there were more stags than traffic on the road!

I love wild camping on mountains. Overfilled, noisy campsites are definitely not my thing. Applecross is great but I don't think I'll be returning to its campsite (at least not on a Bank Holiday weekend).