Hills: Creag a' Mhaim, Druim Shionnach, Druim Shionnach (West Top), Aonach air Chrith and Maol Chinn-dearg
Date: Tuesday 1st January 2019
Company: Just myself
Distance: 22.8km, Ascent: 1355m
Time: 7Hrs 40Mins

After celebrating Hogmanay with friends from the Moray Mountaineering Club, I set off fairly early on New Year's Day to undertake a traverse of the four easternmost South Glen Shiel ridge Munros. I last undertook a traverse of the four westernmost Munros in August 2018, and last undertook a full traverse back in June 2000. Several mild, wet days in the run up to New Year had cleared all the snow from the summits, however, an overnight drop in temperature on Hogmanay had resulted in a coating of white powder returning to the tops.

I parked in the Cluanie Inn car park which is currently closed for refurbishment. From there I set off walking a short distance east along the A87 before turning off onto the old road leading to Tomdoun.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

Once onto the old Tomdoun road, I followed the road for just under 7km to reach the start of the stalker's path leading up Creag a' Mhaim. During the walk along this road I stopped to take a photograph of the sunrise beyond Loch Cluanie.

Loch Cluanie at sunrise:

The excellent stalker's path provided an easy ascent to the summit of the first Munro, Creag a' Mhaim. As I progressed up the path I could see fresh footprints. Two people and a dog were about an hour ahead of me - my tracking skills were not actually good enough to tell how far ahead they were. I knew how far ahead they were because I could see them standing at the first summit .

Ascending Creag a' Mhaim:

A dusting of snow on the upper slopes of Creag a' Mhaim:

I arrived at the summit of Creag a' Mhaim just under ten minutes later than anticipated. While at the summit I stopped to put on gloves and a second jacket as it was well below zero. The ridge ahead looked pleasant. While I was carrying an ice axe I hadn't bothered to carry crampons as I knew the snow was all going to be fresh and soft.

At the summit of Creag a' Mhaim:

I then commenced walking along the ridge. The views were magnificent.

Looking along the South Glen Shiel ridge from Creag a' Mhaim:

The walk to the col between the first and second Munro was pleasant and straight-forward as was the initial ascent of the second Munro, Druim Shionnach. The final section of Druim Shionnach was a bit more exposed but involved no 'hands-on'.

Druim Shionnach:

From the summit of Druim Shionnach, Aonach air Chrith looked a good distance away. In between the second and third Munro, I also had to ascend Druim Shionnach (West Top), a Munro Top.

At the summit of Druim Shionnach:

The walk from Druim Shionnach to Aonach air Chrith, via Druim Shionnach (West Top), was literally hands-in-pockets walking along a fairly wide ridge.

Aonach air Chrith from Druim Shionnach:

On reaching the Munro Top, I marked "Top" in the snow to remind me which cairn was which on writing-up this report .

At Druim Shionnach's West Top:

About to ascend Aonach air Chrith:

The final ascent of Aonach air Chrith was a little steeper. Due to the covering of snow, I ascended a metre or so back from the actual track which ascends right alongside the edge of the cliff.

The view back along the ridge to the first and second Munros was nice. The view towards the next Munro looked a tad steep and 'interesting'.

Looking back towards Druim Shionnach and Creag a' Mhaim from summit of Aonach air Chrith:

The walk between the third and fourth Munro was definitely not 'hands-in-pockets'. In summer this section involves several sections of easy down-scrambling. With the coating of snow the scrambling was still easy but the rocks were much slippier so I had to take care with my footing.

About to commence the steep descent from Aonach air Chrith:

Looking back at one of several down-scrambles:

Looking back at narrow, rocky descent:

It was a bit of a relief to get the last of the down-scrambling behind me especially given I was on my own. Taking care with every step resulted in me now being circa 30 minutes behind schedule - I didn't want to be late for dinner . I knew however that the remainder of the walk was all straight-forward.

Looking back at the descent from Aonach air Chrith:

The walk between the col and the fourth Munro, Maol Chinn-Dearg, was probably my favourite part of the walk thanks to the beautiful views down to Loch Quoich lit up by Crepuscular Rays ... and for any pedants out there yes I know Crepuscular Rays are generally rays from the sun at twilight but this term is also used for the same kind of rays seen outwith twilight!

Lovely views down to Loch Quoich:

Ascending Maol Chinn-dearg:

While the rays in the next photo look fairly spectacular, the actual view was even better.

Crepuscular rays above Loch Quoich:

On looking back towards the third Munro you can see that this section of ridge is quite narrow in comparison to that of the first three Munros.

Looking back to Aonach air Chrith:

It was fantastic to reach the summit of Maol Chinn-dearg, my fourth Munro of the day. I last stood on this summit only four months previous.

At the summit of Maol Chinn-dearg:

View along the South Glen Shiel Ridge (West):

At the summit of Maol Chinn-dearg, I stopped for a quick drink and a bite of chocolate before commencing my descent down the fantastic Druim Coire nan Eirecheanach ridge which has a great stalker's path.

Descent from Maol Chinn-dearg:

On reaching the A87, I walked along it for 3.5km to get back to my van which was parked at the Cluanie Inn. I arrived back shortly after sunset. What a great way to spend New Year's Day. After the walk I returned to the Moray Mountaineering Club meet for a feast.