Hills: Sgurr Choinnich Beag and Sgurr Choinnich Mor
Date: Saturday 20th March 2021
Distance: 17.8km, Ascent: 1240m
Time: 6Hrs 50Mins

Local authority based lockdown travel restrictions are grossly unfair; a real postcode lottery of how far you can travel based on where you live. If you live in the Highlands you are permitted to travel literally hundreds of miles to hills as far north as Durness, to hills around Fort William and even to the Cuillin on Skye. Now compare such freedom to that of those living in a city such as Aberdeen, Edinburgh or Glasgow where individuals are restricted to the confines of the city within which they live.

While fines can be imposed for non-compliance with lockdown restrictions, as far as travel is concerned I reckon any fines imposed would not stand up if challenged in a court of law due to the disproportionate nature of the restrictions - unfair imposition of the restrictions by local authority area, and close to zero risk of actually infecting anyone or becoming infected while physically distanced in the outdoors. To disregard Human Rights articles, public health restrictions have to be proportionate. They are not in the context of outdoor activities.

I decided I wanted a change of scenery so revisited the legislation and regulations to ensure I had at least one reasonable excuse to do so. If challenged I would take the matter to court for the reasons I have mentioned above and not pay any fine.

Thanks to currently being single and living alone, I was able to call a single friend from the Highlands area and establish a temporary extended household allowing for us to meet-up to undertake a hillwalk. Further, as I can make money from the photos I take, the walk therefore comes under work and not recreation or exercise. Further still, as the list of reasonable excuses is a non-exhaustive list, I felt I needed to get out for the good of my own physical and mental health which has been increasingly suffering.

I would suggest to others wanting to get outdoors i) check the non-exhaustive list of reasonable excuses and see if any apply; if not ii) do you have a reasonable excuse that is not listed, if not iii) are you prepared to pay a £60 fine (reducing to £30 if paid early) or take the matter to court.

If heading out do ensure you fill-up with fuel at home, ensure you have all the food and drink you need from home, and ensure you have the appropriate skills and experience for anything you decide to tackle and know your limits - you do not want to have to call Mountain Rescue. Police Scotland are charging individuals needing rescued with culpable and reckless conduct as well as with a Coronavirus Restrictions fine in order to make example of individuals. I know many mountain rescue volunteers who are not happy with the line Police Scotland have been taking and Police Scotland are at serious risk of losing volunteers.

Having previously submitted a FOI(S)A request to the Scottish Government, I have confirmed that much of this is not science-based. Great coincidence that travel restrictions are due to come to an end the week before the election!

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

From the Glen Nevis car park we set off walking towards the Steall Gorge and Waterfall. I last walked this track in September 2003 also for an ascent of Sgurr Choinnich Beag and Sgurr Choinnich Mor.

Steall Gorge and Waterfall signage in Glen Nevis car park:

The walk towards the Steall falls was pleasant. It was great to see the Steall falls again for the first time in eighteen years. The area around the Steall falls looks a wonderful place to wild camp.

Steall waterfall:

Beyond the Steal falls we continued on to the Steall ruin passing numerous mating frogs and frog spawn on the track.

Bridge at Steall ruin:

The weather from the outset was dry but with low cloud capping the Mamores.

Looking back along the Water of Nevis:

After walking circa 5km along the glen we left the main track to begin a rising traverse towards Sgurr Choinnich Beag. We passed below Sgurr a' Bhuic and Stob Coire Bhealaich which are both Munro Tops of Aonach Beag.

I will need to revisit Glen Nevis at least a couple of times over the next year or so as out of the 38 remaining Munros to complete a second round, I still have to walk the Ring of Steall Munros and the Aonachs.

Ascending the slopes of Sgurr Choinnich Beag below Sgurr a' Bhuic and Stob Coire Bhealaich:

We initially aimed to skirt round Sgurr Choinnich Beag to reach the col between Sgurr Choinnich Beag and Sgurr Choinnich Mor. However, due to a bank of snow at the col, it was easier to ascend onto the ridge of Sgurr Choinnich Beag.

Sgurr Choinnich Mor:

On reaching Sgurr Choinnich Beag's ridge we made the short ascent to the summit of Sgurr Choinnich Beag, a Munro Top, before returning back down towards the col.

Aonach Beag and Aonach Mor from the summit of Sgurr Choinnich Beag:

Sgurr Choinnich Mor from the summit of Sgurr Choinnich Beag:

The descent from Sgurr Choinnich Beag involved negotiating an unavoidable section of steep snow. The snow was however mostly soft so there was no need for crampons but we did get our axes out just in case we tripped and needed to self-arrest.

On reaching the col we decided to leave our rucksacks at the col to make the final circa 180m of ascent up Sgurr Choinnich Mor that little bit more pleasant. We could see the ridge ahead and that the path was almost completely devoid of snow.

Looking back to Sgurr Choinnich Beag:

During the ascent we got great views across to the Aonachs. I am looking forward to re-ascending these and will likely do so in a traverse in order to also ascend the four Munro tops.

Aonach Beag and Aonach Mor from Sgurr Choinnich Mor:

It was great to reach the summit of Sgurr Choinnich Mor.

The Grey Corries from the summit of Sgurr Choinnich Mor:

From the summit we returned to the Glen Nevis car park via approximately the same route.

Descent to the col between Sgurr Choinnich Beag and Sgurr Choinnich Mor:

Sgurr a' Bhuic and waterfall passed during descent:

Looking back to Sgurr Choinnich Beag and Sgurr Choinnich Mor during descent:

As forecast, the weather began to deteroriate after lunchtime as we were making our way back out along the glen. An early start resulted in getting the best of the weather.