A late start at 10.30am followed a latish arrival the previous evening at the Kintail Lodge Hotel in the footsteps of the WH meet. I parked up outside the Kintail Outdoor Centre. The previous evening had seen a turn in the weather and a dump of snow that had turned the mountains from Spring green back to white to quite low levels.
The wind was brisk and chill and snow flurries blew by as I started off. Yet the weather omens were promising. Although the cloud was still sitting on top of the higher hills, there were patches of blue sky – including around the target for today.
From the turning area at the end of the public road beyond the Centre a bridge is crossed and a sign soon directs you through the settlement of Inchnacroe on a clear path that leads in half a kilometre to the banks of the Abhainn Chonaig. You are on the path to the Falls of Glomach. There then followed a pleasant walk through woodland and on to open hillside beyond. The views also began to open out behind me.
In a couple of kilometres the path splits. Once upon a time before it was sold by Forest Enterprise into private ownership, it was possible to drive into the Dorusduain forest to a car park saving about four kilometres walk when tackling either A’Ghlas-bheinn or Beinn Fhada. The “P” is still shown on some maps but access is now denied.
To the left is the path to the Falls. To the right the path goes on to Gleann Choinneachain and then to the Bealach an Sgairne, the Gates of Affric. This, of course, is a common route up Beinn Fhada and separately a couple and a chap were heading that way. Shortly beyond that sign there is a gate in a fence and you now feel as though you are starting to climb.
Despite the snowfall the path was still clear as it wriggled up through the white coated heather.
The path is well constructed and at a pleasing gradient making for swift progress. At about the 200m mark there was a further fence with a gate across the path. At this point the transformation in the path was remarkable. It was as if someone had carefully swept away the snow to that point but had then given up. The path was obliterated. Its line could be followed where it appeared from under the drifts.
Even though the sun made its appearance from time to time, the air in the glen was chilly. Plumes of spindrift rose driven up and around by the stiff north easterly wind causing the snowdrifts on the route I was taking.
The way alternated between knee deep drifts, teetering on the firmer edge of the path and the softer heather. Occasionally holes hidden under the carpet of snow sent me flying forward with curses. In time I reached the crossing of the Allt Coire an Sgairne. It is interesting to compare the next photo with the third photo in Monty’s report of his walk a couple of days earlier which was taken nearby.
I stopped for some food and drink and the single chap passed me. He soon left the route of the path to take a direct line up the corrie. Meanwhile I continued towards the pass. I lost the path completely for a while. Its route re-appeared occasionally once the glen narrowed in its final approach to the Gates. Meanwhile the lone walker became subsumed into the vastness of the landscape surrounding him.
The Glen narrowed significantly. From there, what should have been a 10 minute walk to the top of the pass became a 40 minute battle through thigh deep snow with occasional respite on rocky outcrops. Of course, I had miscalculated. That north easterly wind was carrying the Affric snow through the defile and depositing soft powder on the more sheltered slopes. I am not shamed to admit that it was sometimes faster to crawl on all fours – not a technique that I have often been known to use.
But eventually I did make it to the Gates and received a face full of flying snow and a slightly gloomy outlook. 500m altitude and 2 hours 40 minutes after I had set out. I reckoned that St Duthac probably never had these problems. Kilduich, located at the northern end of the causeway at the head of Loch Duich is associated with him. And Loch Duich is Loch Dubhthaic in Gaelic (Duthac’s Loch). He probably passed this way on his journeys between Tain and Ireland. The Catholic church in nearby Dornie is St Duthac’s.
Here a path leads onwards and upwards towards the rough southern ridge of A’Ghlas-bheinn. Again the path came and went. Now, however, the battle was with the wind. At times I just had to stop and brace myself until it relented. Any difficulties with the cliffs ahead were circumvented by turning them to the right (east). The terrain became easier. As I got higher the wind eased.
And the views opened out to Beinn Fhada.
Sgurr Gaorsaic and Loch a’Bhealaich.
This hill is one of many false summits, but eventually I reached the top at 2.15pm – almost 4 hours after setting off. But it was worth it. The cloud was lifting further, and breaking. I managed to find a sheltered spot a few feet beneath the summit cairn for a rather late lunch. Mini tornados sprung up around me and from time to time I was showered by fine flakes of snow – it was quite refreshing. What a perch I had – views all around.
Breaking trail had been hard but well, see for yourself….
Skye and Sgurr an Airgid
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan
I revelled in it. I had this spot all to myself. There was no-one there to share the experience. Sometimes that is a shame but today I was greedy. I wanted this experience to myself. I felt that I had earned it. No-one was nearby. For all I knew the nearest people to me were on Fhada.
After almost an hour on the top, I knew that I had to tear myself away. I also knew that I was not going to return the way I had come up. So I headed northwest. I was going to aim for the point where the path to the Falls of Glomach exited the forest. Until the final kilometre down to the path the slopes were gentle and most deep snow was avoidable. The final drop to the path was steep and what snow there was tended to slough off from the grass underneath, which was awkward. But it was a good way down I felt. In the glen I shed a couple of layers. The wind had died down and it was a bit of a suntrap. The northwest end of Beinn Fhada and the western flanks of A’Ghlas-bheinn now towered above.
And it was good to have the firmer track beneath my soles. A left branch in the track was taken before it went into the forest followed shortly after by a path through a gate into fields passed sorry abandoned Dorusduain.
The footbridge across the river is hidden from view but access is via an obvious gate above.
As short rise took me back to the sign shown in the third photo and from there the path led back to the day’s starting point.