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Corbett bagging: 3 summits in Sgùrr Ghiubhsachain round, Glenfinnan

Written by Fiona

January 01 1970

The Sgùrr Ghiubhsachain round at Glenfinnan is a route to save for good weather. The views are spectacular and it’s a fairly long and challenging route to reach three Corbett summits, so you will want to complete it when the sun is shining.

My friend Rob and I completed another fabulous walk: Three Corbetts of the Rois-bheinn round last summer and we were keen to do something similar.

3 summits in Sgùrr Ghiubhsachain round

Sgùrr Ghiubhsachan  means “peak of the pine wood” in Gaelic.

Glenfinnan, at the northern head of Loch Shiel, in Lochaber, is busy with visitors year-round. Thousands of tourists come to see two main attractions, a tall monument, built in 1815 in memory of Highlanders who fought in the 1745 Jacobite Rising, and a viaduct, now famous worldwide as the “Harry Potter bridge”.

Yet less than a mile away at Callop, just off the main A830 road that streams with tourist traffic, my friend Rob and I start a walk in solitude. Less than a mile of strolling along a track south and we can hear only the sounds of a gently flowing river and the whisper of a breeze.

For us, our main attraction is a rugged ridge featuring three Corbett summits that overlook the southern shores of Loch Shiel. 

At first, we follow a wide estate track, passing a small power station and then head uphill until we reach a dam. The opposite bank of the narrow waterway here features a delightful woodland of Scots Pine.

A hillwakers’ sign, sadly lying on the ground, indicates the way right and towards Glen Cona, where we soon pass through a gate in a deer fence.

As we ascend a gently rising path through the glen, the view of the high ridge ahead becomes ever clearer and more dominant. The sun grows warmer, making me shed my jacket, and early morning clouds drift and thin to high wisps.

The day feels full of promise, with all the right ingredients for a perfect mountain adventure, including fine weather, fabulous views and good company amid a wildly beautiful landscape.  

Still climbing above Cona Glen, we can now make out the line of a faint route far ahead climbing below high, craggy slopes on Meall Mòr and up towards our first summit on Druim Tarsuinn, to the west.

But, first, we need to descend into the glen to cross a river and some very boggy ground, before regaining the previous elevation in a shadowy gully. I feel suddenly chilly, although this is short-lived as Rob and I, with Rob’s dog Storm alongside, quickly ascend the steep, rough ground.

The rocky, undulating ridge extends in a circuit and we stop to take in the spectacular vista. We can see further ahead to where we will be walking for most of the day.

At a bealach on the ridge, we turn right and then thoroughly enjoy the final ascent on a terrain of rocks and short, dry grass to reach the summit of Beinn Tarsuinn (Stob a’ Bhealach an Sgriodain). 

Storm loves to see a cairn and although the 2526ft (7770m) peak was marked with only a small pile of stones atop a rocky outcrop, he heads straight for the highest place.

From car park to the summit of our first Corbett has taken three hours and we’ve not seen, nor heard, another person. Then strangely, out of seemingly nowhere, a head bobs up just below us.

Surprisingly, as the walker comes closer, Rob recognises him. He’d met Robin Wallace on another occasion and I also knew of him by his social media moniker “Walk with Wallace”. 

Robin’s friend arrives next and we sit for a while, chatting about the Corbetts in general, their walk of the ridge but in the opposite direction and the joys of being in such a remote landscape with very few people.

We part company to walk our separate ways and return once again to our respective bubbles of solitude. 

An old gate with no fence.

On to Corbett two

Rob and I descend over more rocks and grassland, down to Bealach Sgriodain, along a flatter section of ridge and then a steeper decline to the Bealach Scamodale. The views all around, over glens, lochs and surrounding peaks, are magnificent.

In the far distance, to the north-east, we spot our next Corbett, Sgùrr Ghiubhsachain, although we need to climb the slope of another smaller summit, Meall nan Creag Leac, first. 

Below us, we see the end of picturesque Loch Shiel, stretching back towards Glenfinnan, before we turn more easterly to see another rugged ascent before us. The wind, blowing from the north, has become stronger and colder and I layer on a fleece and a windproof jacket.

Meanwhile, the terrain continues to be coarse and bumpy and I can feel the miles and climbing in my leg muscles.

I become even more grateful for the superb views and the company and chat of Rob as a way to distract from the chill and fatigue.

The cairn on Sgùrr Ghiubhsachain, at 2785ft (849m) elevation, is impressive and immediately catches Storm’s attention. He readily poses for a photograph with Rob and also he knows it will be time for his next snack.

As the happy collie tucks into a bowl of sardines, Rob and I seek out a sheltered spot for our own food. 

From the first Corbett to the second has taken some two hours although, after considering the map, we realise we still have more than five miles to walk, including our third Corbett.

To reach Sgùrr Craobh a’ Chaorainn, we make our way carefully down a rocky descent, picking a meandering route around large slabs before reaching a lower grassy slope.

From another bealach, we walk upwards again, stopping occasionally to look back at the stunning slopes of the previous Corbett behind us.

Sgòrr Craobh a’ Chaorainn rises to 2542ft (775m) – just taller than Beinn Tarsuinn –  and, at first, it appears our route will involve a craggy climb. However, the higher we walk, the more obvious the way becomes with many sections of fairly obvious trodden ground as guidance.

Next up, Corbett three

We stop for another short break at the summit cairn and then continue along the ridge, descending on a rocky slope, towards another minor hill, Meall na Cuartaige. 

We were further surprised to see two adults and two young children making their way uphill as we walk downhill. Aside from Robin and his friend, the group comprises the only other people we’ve seen all day.

We wonder where they were heading so late in the afternoon but they choose a route too far from us to ask.

In any case, our minds are suddenly more focused on the descent, which had become a crest of steeper rock before the way ahead flattens, then drops again to the south of Meall na Cuartaige.

The final section of the walk sees us rejoining the hill path above the Scots Pines, before continuing through the deer gate on to the wider track back down to Callop.

We pass another couple of walkers on the track and at the car park, where we had began our outing, we find ourselves surrounded by vehicles and more people. Abruptly, the thrum of the A830 also catches my attention again.

The contrast of our almost entirely lonesome adventure, compared to the busyness of the tourist hotspot around Glenfinnan is striking. How lucky we are in Scotland to be able to escape the crowds on foot, yet still with easy access to roads, villages and towns.

Route details:

Distance: 23km

Total ascent: Approx 1600m

Suggested route: Strava

Corbetts bagged: 113 ,114, 115.

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