The drama of Sutherland’s mountains never ceases to amaze, no matter how many times I venture north of Ullapool into that rugged landscape of peaks and lochs.
Suilven, for instance, doesn’t even reach Corbett height but it’s not height that matters here, its shapeliness and wild grandeur. It’s what makes Suilven rank among Sir Chris Bonington’s favourites.
And it’s no exaggeration to say that these wonderful mountains remind me of Henry Moore sculptures, so individual are they.
I always feel just a frisson of nervous excitement as I drive out of Ullapool with a plan in mind to climb one of these peaks.
This time it was Canisp, a Corbett next door to Suilven. Although its south-east ridge looks to be a fairly straightforward rising ramp from the A837, there’s a lot of pathless, stony ground to cross to reach the summit, so it’s no pushover. Rosemary and I left the lay-by at the north end of Loch Awe and took to the rather squelchy path leading to a wooden bridge over the outflow from the loch.
On this glorious day with everything seemingly standing out in technicolour, we forgot about the sometimes wet conditions underfoot and admired the scenery.
The path continues, following an ATV track, passing Loch na Gruagaich to the left. It bears right over a small mound to dip down just south of the Allt Mhic Mhurchadh Gheir.
A well-surfaced stony path then makes the going a lot easier for a while. It ends at a line of rising slabs, again making for easy walking, until pathless, stony ground is reached.
We set off on a line between two obvious areas of rising ground, with cairns every now and then helping the route-finding. Higher up, a cleft with a watercourse in it divides a broad ridge to the left from a slightly steeper ridge to the right.
Hard snow in the bed of the cleft made crossing it easy and we picked our way up the ridge on the other side, zigzagging to take the strain out of it, with a steep slope dropping away on the right.
Ascending this way means the prize views are kept to last and as we topped out, Suilven suddenly burst on the scene in all its glory across sparkling Loch na Gainimh.
A huge shelter, shaped like an igloo without the top, offers refuge from the elements on foul days. Today all we wanted to do was admire Suilven and gaze across Loch Assynt to the complex form of Quinag to the north.
I looked down the steep north-west ridge of Canisp, which provides a possible circuit, ending in a path along the shore of Loch na Gainimh but that would have to wait for another day.
It was hard to tear ourselves away from such a magnificent panorama but we knew there was a lot of rough walking to be done to regain our start point.
Rather than descend the same way I took a bearing on the broad ridge to our right, which has a path winding down it and the constant presence of Suilven for company.
We couldn’t help but stop every now and then, drawn by its majesty to admire it.
Initial steepness ends at a dip and from there it was a matter of returning to the slabs and the stony path, then the wetter ground, back to the car.
Distance 7.5 miles / 12km
Terrain Much pathless, rough ground and some paths
Start/finish Lay-by alongside the A837 north of Ledmore junction
Maps OS Landranger 15, Loch Assynt; Harvey Superwalker, Suilven
A strenuous but very rewarding walk for its views – especially of Suilven