Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
24th & 25th March 2012
A backpack from Morvich in Kintail to Glen Affric to climb Sgurr Gaorsaic, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan & Mullarch na Dheiragain before returning via Glomach Falls.
Sgurr Gaorsaic is a somewhat overlooked hill at the west end of Glen Affric. It is overlooked quite often in terms of preference but also quite literally by its giant neighbour Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan. The situation of the hill had held some intrigue and although it can be accessed up Glen affric from the east a more enticing approach from Sheil bridge further west held more appeal. Leaving the van at Morvich in Strath Croe I took the back lane past a couple of cottages and followed the sign for Glomach Falls. The path leads over sheep pasture through a deer fence and into the tree lined Gleann Choinneachachain.
A' Ghlas bheinn from Gleann Choinneachachain
I ignored a further sign for the falls at a fork in the path to follow the way along what is probably one of Scotland’s finest passes, Bealach an Sgairine. The only other walker I would see all day branched off near the head of the pass to take in Ben Fhada (Attow).
Bealach an Sgairne
I continued up on through the ever narrowing gap to reach the bealach otherwise known quite romantically as the gates of Affric.
Bealach an Sgairne, the Gates of Affric
A fine view unfolded at the height of the pass with Sgurr Gaorsaic now in sight across Loch a’ Bhealaich with Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan standing dominantly behind.
Sgurr Gaorsaic & Loch a' Bhealaich
The fine path continued as it lowered me down to the side of the loch; one of many that string out northward along Glen Gaorsaic. Some stags could be seen in the distance beside loch Gaorsaic while a couple of swans paddled majestically ahead of me on loch a’ Bhealaich
The good surface became quite boggy in places as I worked my way around the corner of the loch.
The Gates of Affric across Loch a' Bhealaich
Some old boundary fence posts traced a line up the steep grassy slopes of Sgurr Gaorsaic and seemed to mark as a good a route up as any. The metal posts continued all the way to the rather flat but stony summit area.
Loch a' Bhealaich from Gaorsaic
After visiting the cairn a short way north I took shelter behind a rocky knoll on the opposite side of the top. Stove out I boiled up some water for a cup of soup to go along with my sandwiches. It was somewhat hazy but a fine day otherwise and quite warm when sheltered from the breeze.
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan from Gaorsaic
I was enjoying my vantage point and quite happy sitting and soaking up the atmosphere but eventually decided it was time to move on. After a little consideration I decided that the fence posts would again provide a reasonable guide as I prepared to make my way across the peaty bealach to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan. The eastern slopes Sgurr Gaorsaic drop off quite steeply and my first job was to work around the snow field lying just below the rim. As I started uphill from the bealach I spotted a number of deer over to my left, they were quite relaxed although they did shift position slightly whilst viewing my initial climb. It was a fair old pull before I made the col above Bheinn an t-Socaich on the south ridge of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan. From here there was still a bit of climbing to do as I followed the ridge round and onto the west top.
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan - East top
After a short dip as worked my way along the narrow ridgeline I was finally at the summit cairn to take in the far flung views all around. I had left my options open from this point but decided that I would head onto Mullarch na Dheiragain before making camp. A steep descent down the north east spur soon saw me at the col between the two Munro’s. Time was now getting on but I still had a least a couple of hour’s daylight on my side. I wanted to camp as near the top as possible while still hoping to find some relief from the stiff breeze that was now blowing. Part way along the ridge I managed to top up my water bottles from a small burn that was being drip fed from a melting snow bank. There seemed to be plenty of suitable spots to pitch the tent and I eventually settled for a place just a short way from the summit. It wasn't long before camp was made and I'd had a quick wash in a nearby pool and set about making my evening meal. A coffee and a wee dram were in order before relaxing on my sleeping mat and gazing out through the tent porch. The persistent haze had failed to clear so all but the brightest stars remained hidden from view but the tops of the bigger peaks in Glen Affric were just discernible. The wind picked up a little during the night and the rattling flysheet had me awake and searching for my ear plugs. Sleep was further interrupted a couple more times when I needed to let a little air into my sleeping bag and release some heat, it was'nt as cold as I’d anticipated. It was a treat to be waking up in such an elevated position and be able to enjoy the views afforded by my high mountain perch.
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan from camp on Mullarch na Dheiragain
The day again started hazy with a thin layer of high cloud but snippets of blue gave hope for improvement. A brew and porridge with raisins gave the necessary fuel to kick start the day. The clocks had gone forward during the night so I was starting at a fairly relaxed nine o’clock having stirred an hour or so earlier. First job was to head over onto the next top of Mullach Sithidh before taking the north ridge steeply down toward North Creag a' Choir' Aird. After working beyond the lines of crags lying in wait below the ridge I turned to contour down the final slope to reach the track marked on the map.
Gleann Sithidh & Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan
I bumped into a couple and another guy discussing route options and after a chat left them to begin their ascent after their long walk in. The damp and soggy sections of the track were soon left behind and I was then tramping along a more defined track but harder surface. A final few zigzags eased me down into Strath Duilleach with some fine views along its length over Loch na Leitreach to the pointed peak of Carnan Cruithneachd. The well-kept but seemingly empty Iron Lodge was sat in what appeared a pretty idyllic place, at least under today's clearing skies and fine weather.
Carnan Cruithneachd down Strath Duilleach
I stopped for a while to talk with a mountain biker who introduced himself as Ben Collins. He was part way through what looked like an interesting route that would take him around to the shore of Loch Calvie and then onto Attadale. He said his wife wanted to make the crossing of Lochcarron while the old ferry service reinstated to counter the effects of the land slip at Stromeferry was still running. Leaving Ben I headed on down the Glen passing a small group of stags enjoying the sunshine, one or two thought about heading off but most just nonchalantly watched my passing. Another deer on the other side of the road was busy shaking water from itself while standing in the rushes after cooling itself in a pool.
Stags in Strath Duilleach
After passing Loch na Leitreach a bridge provided a crossing point and access to the gorge that winds its way up to the Falls of Glomach. First though it was time for a brew and a couple of croissants while dipping my feet in the cool waters of the river. A combination of first backpack of the year and a few km along the fairly hard surface of the estate tracks had my feet feeling a little sore. Feet refreshed and hunger satisfied it was time to be on my way again.
Loch na Leitreach
After crossing the river flats I followed Allt a Ghlomaich a short way upstream to a sign for the falls and a footbridge to ford the burn. The gorge itself is a narrow defile cutting through the mountain side and provides plenty of interest during the climb. A surprising number of Birch trees have managed to gain a foothold somehow on steep south facing walls of the gorge. It wasn't long before I got views of the falls themselves, the top showing above one of a number of spurs jutting out from the hill side.
Falls of Glomach
The falls were not quite as forceful as I had expected for this time of year when snow melt usually combines with the plentiful west coast rain to swell the waters.
Falls of Glomach
After lingering and taking a few photos there was still a bit of uphill before reaching the top of Bealach na Sroine.
Falls of Glomach
As the path started its gentle descent alongside the gullied slopes of A' Ghlas Bheinn it was time for another break and a sandwich. It’s a steady descent from here with views all the way down to Glen Croe and Loch Duich.
Looking back up Bealach na Sroine
Down in glen the signs for the falls provided back markers as I made my way along forest tracks and through a number of gates then over a footbridge kindly built by the army. After crossing I soon joined my outward path for the final couple of km back to the car park. Back at the van I met a couple who had been stretching their legs before the final part of a two day journey from down south to Skye. After bidding them farewell it was time to load up and head off home after a fine couple of days roaming around the edge of Glen Affric.
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