Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Kintail, July 2012

This weekend’s group were from Edinburgh's Sunday Brunch Club - a mixed ability group all keen to complete the classic 5 Sisters of Kintail. The weather forecast wasn’t great, however for the climb up to the ridge the sun shone, at times.

We headed up the path by the layby just west of the car-park which starts thru a gate into the felled forestry. This is a good path which climbs at first, then turns west climbing very gradually and heading for the col west of Sgurr nan Spainteach - Peak of the Spaniards. From the col we scrambled east to Sgurr nan Spainteach's summit and back again to the col. For some this was their first taste of scrambling and the faces showed it! From here the ascent is a little rocky, and just before the bealach there is a short rock scramble to descend. Beyond this, the ridge has two separate crests with a depression between - very confusing in misty conditions. The path heads up the right hand crest at first before switching left.

After a steep climb the massive summit cairn of Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, the first Munro of the day at 1027 metres is reached - continue a short distance beyond to get a superb full length view down Loch Duich. From here, the ridge along the Five Sisters proper is broader and less well defined than that already traversed, though it is very steep, rough and bouldery. Continue down to the Bealach na Craoibhe.

The next Munro, Sgurr na Carnach (1002 metres) is gives very rough going, but there is a path winding up the stony slopes to the top. Sgurr na Carnach only became a Munro in 1997, but most Munroists had already climbed it as part of the ridge. Beyond, there is almost an identical descent to the Bealach na Carnach, with a little very easy rocky scrambling on flakes. Beyond, the ascent to Sgurr Fhuaran beyond is again steep and bouldery.

Sgurr Fhuaran is the highest and central of the Five Sisters at 1067 metres, and the third and final Munro of the day.

We descended the west ridge for around three hundred metres to avoid steep ground; at this point, we followed the path which cuts back off the west ridge and joins the north ridge. We continued to descend to reach the Bealach Buidhe. The next peak on the ridge is Sgurr nan Saighead; this is not a Munro, and it's a bit sad that the main path bypasses the summit. We kept to the ridge as these slopes are the steepest and most impressive in the whole Five Sisters range.

After crossing a minor bump, the steep peak of Beinn Bhuidhe appeared ahead From here, we headed north and cross the Allt a Chruinn before following the path down its north bank to be met by by friends of the club who transported folk back to where they were based at the Kintail Lodge Hotel.

The group all made the day very enjoyable despite some grim weather. For many this was a first taste of West Coast ridge walking and hopefully not the last !