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ACTIVE OUTDOORS: A memorable trip to tackle three Munros at Glen Dessarry

By John Davidson

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Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr nan Coireachan with A Chuil bothy in foreground.
Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr nan Coireachan with A Chuil bothy in foreground.

The countdown was on. Peter Evans only had a handful of Munros to go to finish the set, so we were planning and enjoying some exciting trips into some of the harder-to-reach hills.

That meant a few overnight trips and some long walks, and this – from 2011 – was one of the most memorable.

Fine conditions meant it was hot for this sort of sustained effort, and the lack of wind meant there were a few midges to deal with. But what really sticks in the mind is the intricate ridge that connects the three Munros and the exquisite views from such grand heights.

After driving the long, snaking road alongside Loch Arkaig, we had an even longer day ahead of us. First, we dragged our overnight kit the five kilometres or so through Strathan and along forest tracks to A’Chuil bothy.

Having claimed a space with sleeping mats and bags, we continued with our lighter rucksacks deeper into Glen Dessarry, joining the right of way that eventually leads to Sourlies bothy and beyond, over the newly replaced Carnoch footbridge that opens up the walkers’ route to Inverie.

Knoydart Estate has been owned by the community since a buyout in 1999, and earlier this year The Old Forge at Inverie was also transferred into the ownership of a community group.

Looking up Feadan na Ciche gully - not as difficult as it might look.
Looking up Feadan na Ciche gully - not as difficult as it might look.

Our route wouldn’t take us that far, as we left the main path to fork right into the upper reaches of Coire na Ciche, following an intermittent trod that leads to the base of a gully.

Descriptions we’d read in advance of this trip made us expect something much more challenging than we were actually faced with. The gully led steeply but straightforwardly on grass and rocks to the bealach between Sgurr na Ciche and Garbh Chioch Mhor.

With a short out-and-back route to reach the summit of our first Munro of the day – and the highest too – we decided to leave our bags here and travel with just a bottle of water and a camera in order to conserve some energy.

In some conditions this would be less wise, but on this clear day there was no danger of the cloud coming down and impacting our route finding, so we quickly touched the 1040m summit of Sgurr na Ciche before returning to our sacks.

The views from that first summit were something special, with Luinne Bheinn and Ladhar Bheinn close by, Loch Quoich with its sandy shores below and the islands of Muck, Eigg and Rum out to sea.

Sgurr na Ciche summit cairn with Loch Quoich beyond.
Sgurr na Ciche summit cairn with Loch Quoich beyond.

From the bealach, a lengthy dry-stone dyke follows the ridge line. It would act as a useful navigational aid in worse weather, but the intricate ridge posed little difficulty in such perfect conditions as we were fortunate to enjoy.

Some hands-on very easy scrambling was required as we made our way up to the top of Garbh Chioch Mhor at 1013m. Two Munros down and one to go – but we still had some distance to cover before that final Munro summit and, importantly on this hot day, before we could top up the water bottles again.

A twisting walk led through rocky outcrops over the intervening top of Garbh Chioch Bheag before dropping to the Bealach Coire nan Gall at 733m, which left a solid 220m of further ascent to reach Sgurr nan Coireachan.

We were still following that wall, which leads directly to the 953m summit and beyond, although our descent led us south, finally turning away from the wall now – after spending some time resting and taking in the views from our final high point on this stunning day.

The descent was relentless and tough going after such a long traverse, so it was a relief to finally reach the Allt Coire nan Uth to fill up the water and prepare for the last couple of kilometres back through the forestry to reach the bothy, where our evening meal and stoves were waiting.

The hard work now done, we enjoyed a pleasant summer’s evening in this remote glen on the edge of Knoydart before an easy walk, albeit with all of our gear in tow again, back to the car at the road end the next morning, ready for the long and winding road back to civilisation.

Garbh Chioch Mhor from the zigzag path up Sgurr na Ciche.
Garbh Chioch Mhor from the zigzag path up Sgurr na Ciche.

Route details

Glen Dessarry Munros

Distance 10 miles / 16km circuit from bothy (plus 3 miles / 5km each way to road end)

Terrain Remote mountain paths and pathless hilltops; navigation skills required

Start/finish Road end at Strathan, at the head of Loch Arkaig

Map OS Landranger 40 / OS Explorer 398

Looking back on a route taking in three remote Munros on the edge of Knoydart

Scrambling up Garbh Chioch Mhor.
Scrambling up Garbh Chioch Mhor.

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