This report has been re-written on 10th April 2016 to utilise larger, higher-quality photos and also to include additional photos of the superb sunset witnessed from the high camp on Scaraben.

Hills: Maiden Pap, Smean, Morven, Scaraben
Date: Saturday 10th April and Sunday 11th April
Company: Just me
Time: 9.5 Hours (walking)
Dog friendly: Yes

An ascent of Morven and Scaraben had been on my wishlist for a number of years. Given the good weather forecast for this weekend, what would be better than to include a wild camp and an ascent of not only Smean but also Maiden Pap. On Friday afternoon, I drove to Sutherland and ascended Beinn Dhorain from Glen Loth. Beinn Dhorain provided an appetising preview of Morven and Scaraben. I subsequently drove to Helmsdale where I spent the night at Helmsdale Hostel.

On Saturday morning, I left nice and early for the drive to Braemore in Caithness (turn off A9 just before Dunbeath to get to Braemore). The route I undertook can be accessed from the link below. This route allowed me to store all my camping gear at Smean and go light over to Morven and back. The red dot on the map shows my wild camp location.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken
There is room for two or three cars near the telephone box at Braemore.

Starting point at Braemore:

Bridge over Berriedale Water at Braemore:

A few hundred metres after setting off, I was already feeling the weight of my rucksack (13kg). This made me think, I’m getting old . However, after a couple of kilometres of walking, I grew accustomed to the weight.

Maiden Pap from Braeval:

Maiden Pap from Braeval:

From Braemore/Braeval, I could see that Maiden Pap was aptly named. I was however suprised, as I walked further along the track towards Corrichoich, that the single pap became a pair. I made my way up via the cleavage. The ascent was as steep as it looks and hard-work with a heavy pack. I used heather as hand-holds on several occasions.

Maiden Pap:

Morven from the base of Maiden Pap:

It didn’t take long to reach the col where I stopped for a minute to admire the conglomerate rock before ascending easily to the cairnless summit.

Smean and Morven from summit of Maiden Pap:

Berriedale Water from summit of Maiden Pap:

From the col on Maiden Pap, I descended south and then south-west across moorland towards Smean. If you want an easy ascent of Maiden Pap it is less-steep on its south side.

Looking back to Maiden Pap:

My map indicated that the ground between Maiden Pap and Smean was marshland. I didn’t find it too bad; bog was easily avoided.

En-route to Smean:

Looking back to Maiden Pap:

The closer I got to Smean the more impressed I was with its tors. Some of the tors are at least 20m high. I'm not sure if there is any climbing interest on them; conglomerate generally isn’t great for climbing.


Tor on Smean:

Tor on Smean:

Summit tor of Smean:

The ascent of the summit tor was straight-forward. Before I ascended to the summit, I removed all my camping gear from the rucksack and stored it in a crack between some rocks. I would retrieve it later in the day after ascending Morven.

Summit tor:

Again, I was really amazed at the rock. Maiden Pap, Smean and Morven tors are all conglomerate. Scaraben is however mostly quartzite.

Conglomerate tor:

Morven from summit of Smean:

I enjoyed the view back towards Maiden Pap from the summit.

Looking back to Maiden Pap from summit of Smean:

Scaraben from the summit of Smean:

I made quick progress towards Morven from Smean. On reaching the base of Morven, at the col between it and Smean, I found a faint track which I followed up the initial steep slopes.

En-route to Morven:


Maiden Pap, Smean and Scaraben from the slopes of Morven:

The faint track eventually disappeared and the next section of ascent was via boulderfield.

Conglomerate boulderfield on Morven:

During the ascent, I mistakenly thought the large tor at the top was the summit. It isn’t. The summit is on easy ground beyond the tor which can be bypassed to the left.

Tors near summit of Morven:

I spent some time at the summit soaking in the views. Orkney was visible although I couldn’t make out the Old Man of Hoy. I could see Ben Loyal, Ben Hope, Ben Klibreck as well as some of the Assynt hills. Closer to the summit were Ben Griam Beg and Ben Griam Mor.

Orkney just visible in distance:

Ben Loyal, Ben Griam Mor and Ben Griam Beg from the summit of Morven:

Small Mount and Ben Klibreck from the summit of Morven:

Ben Griam Mor and Ben Griam Beg from the summit of Morven:

The view back towards Maiden Pap, Smean and over to Scaraben was great.

Maiden Pap, Smean and Scaraben from summit of Morven:

Tor near summit of Morven:

I made my descent back to the col between Morven and Smean initially via the same route as in ascent. As I approached the base I descended towards the stream that leads to Wag. My water supply was low and I needed to top-up for camping.

Looking back to Morven:

I spent just over 20 minutes filtering water at the burn. As I did, some movement caught my eye. Initially, I thought it was a mouse. On getting a second look I could see it was a stoat/weasel. I didn't get a view of its tail so not sure which! It was very inquisitive, watching me filtering the water.

Stoat or weasel?:

After re-filling my water bottles, I made my way back to the summit of Smean where I collected my camping gear which I had stashed earlier in the day.

Heading back to Smean:

Morven across bog:

Maiden Pap:

The descent to Scaraben was straight-forward. On reaching the col between Smean and Scaraben I could see a nice grassy shoulder where I thought I might camp. On reaching the shoulder, I stopped for a while to pitch my tent before carrying on again with a much lighter pack to the summit of Scaraben.

En-route to Scaraben:

Looking back to Smean and Morven from camping spot on Scaraben:

Final ascent to summit of Scaraben:

Trig point and shelter at summit of Scaraben:

From the summit of Scaraben, I returned to my tent.

Room with a view:

After an hour or so of lounging around, I cooked my luxury item, a tin of soup. Yes, I know cup-a-soup is lighter but it doesn’t taste as good. Perhaps Baxters should send me some free soup for this advert .


I spent the next hour or so looking forward to watching the sunset. I wasn’t to be disappointed.

Waiting for sunset over Morven:

Sunset over Morven:

Sunset over Morven:

Sunset over Morven:

Sunset over Morven:

Sunset over Morven:

Sunset over Morven:

I settled down for the night around 22.00 and woke-up around 04.45. It was already light enough to see without the headtorch. I started packing-up and was ready to go by 05.20.

Packing up tent just before sunrise:

From the shoulder of Scaraben, I returned to Braeval, to the East of Maiden Pap, alongside the Allt Aoil. As I made my way back I was also lucky enough to enjoy a nice sunrise.

Pre-sunrise view of Smean and Morven:



Looking back to Scaraben from cairn beside Allt Aoil:

From the shoulder of Scaraben it took me circa 90 minutes to get back to Braemore.

Approaching Braeval:

This was a thoroughly enjoyable walk and wild camp .