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Sgurr a' Mhaoraich

The story of this adventure will seem familiar if you have read PTC, Sandy and Phil's blogs already but I thought I'd write up my thoughts anyway. Apologies for the repetition and delay.That thing called work that finances my gear habit and excursions has been demanding way too much of my time and energy but hey ho.

Loch Quoich is an area that is virgin territory for me. I had looked at in wonder from the South Glen Shiel Ridge last year but it still hadn't made it onto this years "must do" list. When I got the email from PTC outlining the options for a weekend adventure this was the one that most took my fancy. The drive up was very familiar until we turned off at the sign saying Kinlochhourn. The light was fading fast but I could see there were lots of very interesting hills in here that will need to be explored at some point. We parked right at the start of the stalkers path onto the ridge up Bac nan Canaichea. Its a well maintained path so there were no difficulties even though we were walking in the dark having set off at 930pm. The sky was  clear so we were all trying to pick out the stars, looking for shooting stars and tracking the satellites. Then some cloud started coming over and I had to succumb to putting the red light on in the headtorch. This initially did me quite well until the ground got a bit more undulating and my depth perception was non existant, bloody nystagmus and astigmatism. This slowed me down a bit and eventually I had to put the white light on. We were initially planning to camp near the wall that disects the ridge just after the summit of Sgurr Coire nan Eincheallach but when we came across a really nice flat plateau at around 800m with a snow bank perfect for water purposes we decided to pitch there for the night.

We were soon set up, stoves were on and the food was out to refuel before bed. Amazingly I was still feeling very awake despite it being well after midnight. Our stars had disappeared under cloud which was a shame but it was a lovely still night with not even a whisper of wind. I eventually retired to the tent about 130am lying there listening to the music shuffle on the phone before drifting off. I woke a couple of hours later with a cold bum - I should have taken either the Downmat 7 or my PHD Down Trousers - but soon drifted off again after strategically placing my insulating jacket. When I next peaked out the tent at 515am the sun was already teasing the sky with tinges of orange. I opened the fly of the tent a little more and repositioned the pillow to make the most of it. PTC chuckled at me when I let out a "wow" at one point. Eventually around 6am we were all awake and exiting our various sleeping quarters to get the full effect of the sunrise. We all wandered over the ridge to get our various pictures of the scene and grab our own private moments with it. Hunger then got the better of us and the stoves were on for breakfast cuppas. We exchanged banter over how we'd slept and our thoughts on the sunrise. Perfect apart from not getting an inversion. Hey ho, we can't have it all ways

First peak out the tent
The boys enjoying the view
The perfect spot

We regretfully packed up and started up the rest of the route. We all agreed that we had found the perfect camp spot and were glad not to have pushed on for the original destination. When we reached the top of Sgurr Coire nan Eincheallach we were rewarded with a fantastic view of our intended peak and there was snow!!!!! The 360 degree views that we were getting were just getting better and better. To our north the Glen Shiel and Kintail hills, to our south Glen Kingie and Knoydart. Its an intersting undulating craggy little ridge with some entertaining rocky bits that we had fun scrambling over. We enjoyed taking our time drinking in the views and the feel of the mountain under our feet. Before too long we were on top ooing at ahhhing at the panorama. I couldn't get over how far we could see. Torridon, Cairngorms, Ben Nevis looking majestic  and Skye out west. We set up camp on the summit for cuppas and sticky gingerbread muffins. Again none of us really wanted to move but we needed to keep going.

The wall
Nice grippy rock to play on
Summit of Sgurr a Mhaoraich looking towards Ben Nevis

Our route off was down to Bealach Coire a Chaorainn then onto Am Bathaich before dropping into Glen Quoich. The route down to the bealach still had a fair bit of snow on it. The first section was perfectly angled for some sliding down. I just couldn't resist. The next was not so forgiving. The angle was a lot steeper and the snow more consolidated so crampons on and I followed the steps made by PTC, Phil & Sandy for me. When we reached the bealach we were able to see the next stage, working our way through the rock bands and grass terraces to the summit of Am Bathaich. It turned out to be easier than I first thought. The rest of this wee ridge down gave us some intersting rocks to play on and oggle at the strange letters that were on some of them. Soon enough we were on the stalkers path down into Glen Quoich, not the most exciting part of the day that's for sure.

Entertaining snow slope
Approaching Bealach Coire a Chaorainn
Heading down stalkers path to Glen Quoich

One more obstacle to negotiate before we were on the path back along the loch side, Allt Coire a' Chaorainn. PTC wondered if this would be a "Blondie stopper" I certainly wouldn't be able to cross it the same way the boys had as my balance is so crap I'd almost certainly fall in trying to rock hop. So the socks were off, the boys chucked some more rocks into the gaps on the river bed and off I went. That last 4km along the loch inlet really drained us all so we were really glad to eventually get back to the car 22 hours after we had left it. Irn Bru was graftefully consumed, fresh clothes donned and into the car as the sun was setting once more over Loch Quoich. A cheeky deer tried to stop us from leaving by standing in the middle of the road staring us out. We won. As we headed back to the main road we had the sudden realisation that we may have a problem. The road south of Fort William was due to close at 9pm. The race was on PTC's trusty stead was ever so slightly overloaded but despite his best efforts, within the law of course, we reached Spean Bridge at 858pm, no chance of getting south on the A82. We were off on a tour of Scotland heading over to the A9. By this time we were all craving proper food and we debated where we were likely to obtain some. It is really disappointing to realise that this country doesn't cater for those who find themselves needing food after 9pm on a Sunday night. We travelled 130 miles from Loch Quoich before we found anywhere open, the services at Perth where the selection was limited and delayed as the staff were changing shifts. We were soon back on the road and I eventually put the key in the door at 1am.

This was certainly a weekend that will put a smile on my face every time it is mentioned or comes into my thoughts, even with the sting in the tale.

Thanks boys :-))

For those who want to see more photos (of which there are many!!) you can find them here.


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