Hills: Gleouraich, Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich and Spidean Mialach
Date: Tuesday 19th July 2016
Company: Just myself
Distance: 12.5km, Ascent: 1280m
Time: 5Hrs 25Mins
On Monday, the forecast for Tuesday was looking pretty-good; there was suggestion of it
possibly being the hottest day of the year thus far. I therefore booked a last-minute day off work with a view to heading for the hills.
Next I needed to come up with a plan. Having travelled South fairly frequently this year, I definitely wanted to head
either West or North-West. I was also keen to ascend some second-round Munros. I narrowed my options down to Creag Meagaidh, Liathach, Bidean nam Bian, Bla Bheinn, Gleuoraich and Spidean Mialach or something in the Northern Cairngorms.
On Tuesday, I got up reasonably early and was off driving by 5.15. I
decided to head towards Laggan for an ascent of Creag Meagaidh and its four
tops. The MetOffice forecast had been for wall-to-wall sunshine across
Scotland but the forecast was proving to be a work of fiction. As I passed the Northern Cairngorms, I quickly ruled them out as they were covered in cloud. On reaching Creag Meagaidh, I similarly had to rule it out as it was also covered in cloud. As the weather looked worse to the South, this also ruled out
heading for Bidean nam Bian. I therefore drove on to Spean Bridge and then
headed North into an increasing coverage of blue sky. At last I was heading in the right direction. As Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach were now quite close
by, I decided to drive to Loch Quoich to ascend these hills.
A schoolboy error was to set off walking from the parking area without looking at the map. I walked up a wide track leading to a small hydro scheme only to find on reaching the hydro scheme that I was on the wrong side of the Allt Coire Peitireach. I managed to cross the Allt Coire Peitireach just below the hydro scheme and then make my way up a steep slope
of long grass and bracken towards the correct stalker's path.
Views towards Loch Quoich and the Knoydart hills were fantastic but I was
already feeling the heat. It was 17C when I left the car and would get much
hotter as the day progressed.
Once onto the narrow but excellent stalker's path, I followed it pretty-much all the way to the summit of Gleouraich.
Loch Quoich and the Knoydart hills:
Panorama from Gairich to Knoydart:
Seeing all the hills beyond Loch Quoich brought back same great memories of
previous walks and one ascent I'd rather forget. Pointy Sgurr na Ciche ascended in 2005 and
again in 2007 along with its rocky neighbour Ben Aden also in 2007, Sgurr Mor which I ascended along with Sgurr an Fhuarain, and Gairich which I ascended in 2003 and 2013. My 2003 ascent of Gairich was
the one I'd rather forget. My first ascent of Gairich was on 31 December
2003 when I got caught in a bad storm which came in earlier than expected
and anticipated. While I did manage to reach the summit, I was not able to
return the same way and ended up having to head down Gairich's North ridge to escape severe gale force winds.
I then had to work my way round the shore of Loch Quoich to get back to the
Looking across Loch Quoich to Gairich:
Loch Quoich zoom towards Sgurr na Ciche and Ben Aden:
Getting onto the excellent stalker's path zigzagging its way up Gleouraich
was great as it made for fast progress up the hill.
Loch Quoich again:
It was a touch disappointing to see hardly any wildlife during my ascent of these hills. The roadside at Loch Quoich is excellent for seeing stags in autumn, winter and spring but not so in summer. I also saw few birds
during this walk. The only wildlife that was in prevalence were clegs and a variety of other
Of all the seasons, summer is probably my least favourite. On the plus side, summer provides long days for big hills. On the negative side, summer has too many beasties
for my liking; clegs, blackfly, midge and ticks.
As I made progress towards the 840m top of Gleouraich, I caught my first
glimpse of the summit of Gleouraich and also Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich
(Munro Top) and Spidean Mialach.
Looking towards the summits of Gleouraich, Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich and Spidean Mialach:
During the ascent of the 840m top, I stopped briefly to photograph Sgurr a'
Mhaoraich which I ascended in 2005 and 2012. Looking down into the glen
between Sgurr a' Mhaoraich and Gleouraich, I could see construction of wide tracks/destruction of land.
Sgurr a' Mhaoraich:
Heading towards the 840m top of Gleouraich:
I enjoyed the view down to Loch Quoich from this point.
On approaching the 840m top, I could see lots of cloud approaching from the south. While the weather had been good thus far, it was not going to last.
Obviously I hadn't ventured far enough north to get the best of the blue sky and escape the worst of the cloud. On the plus side, the cloud would cool things down just a little.
Ascending the 840m top of Gleouraich:
Loch Quoich again:
The stalker's path skirts round the back of the 840m top. I stuck to the path rather than summiting the 840m top.
I then continued on a level track until reaching a small dyke where the track changes direction.
From here it was straight up.
Wee dyke marking point to head up:
During the ascent, I thought of my pal Colin who has previously undertaken track maintenance on these hills. Good work Colin!
Looking back to the 840m top:
Glen Shiel hills:
By the time I was ascending the final section of Gleouraich, low cloud started to engulf the hills. Alas I would not be getting a view from the summit.
Final ascent of Gleouraich:
I stopped at the summit of Gleouraich to have my first drink of the walk. I was already feeling the effects of the heat and should have taken time to stop and drink during the ascent.
I should also dig my Camelbak out from the back of the cupboard and start using it.
At the summit of Gleouraich:
From the summit of Gleouraich, I made my way along to Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich, a Munro Top of Gleouraich. I had ascended this Top previously back in 2005.
Heading for Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich:
The summit cairn is perched on the edge of a steep drop.
Summit of Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich:
From Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich, the drop to the col between it and
Spidean Mialach seemed a long way down. Again I followed an excellent path
which zig-zagged its way down the hill.
The low cloud was now dissipating and I was again starting to get reasonable views albeit not as good as earlier in the morning.
Spidean Mialach during descent from Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich:
Looking back to Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich:
I should probably have stopped for another drink at the col but instead continued on. However by the time I was half way up Spidean Mialach's ridge, I had to stop for another drink and a wee sit down.
Loch Fearna, Loch Quoich and Gairich:
Ascending Spidean Mialach:
Looking back to Gleouraich:
The ascent of Spidean Mialach was easier and quicker than expected. Before long I was approaching the West Top and then on towards its summit.
Looking towards summit of Spidean Mialach:
Spidean Mialach from its West Top:
On reaching the summit of Spidean Mialach, I could see a number of Cumulonimbus clouds
starting to billow up high. I suspected there would be thunderstorms later in the day.
At the summit of Spidean Mialach:
The path descending Spidean Mialach was initially ok but soon to be replaced by mudfest. This section of the walk could do with some path maintenance.
Loch Fearna and Loch Quoich during descent from Spidean Mialach:
Instead of picking up a stalker's path marked on the map, I made my way towards a small hydro scheme such that I could use the wide vehicle track beyond to get back down to the road.
Walk out from Spidean Mialach:
On reaching the road, I had a circa 1km walk back along it to reach the car. My head was now thumping and I was regretting not drinking more frequently. After driving a good bit along the road, the car thermometer was still reading 26.5C and on reaching Nairn on the way home it had risen to 29C. It was indeed the hottest day of the year but it was definitely not wall to wall sunshine. It was however still a great day out with some cracking early morning views.