Three Munros, two poles and a ferry to a pub
Amazingly the sun continued to shine on the Scottish Highlands as we dragged our weary post-seven Munros bodies from Fern the Campervan on Sunday morning.
Today we planned to do a “quick bag of three Munros” (the G-Force’s words) still in the Kintail area and close to the One day. Seven Munros walk.
With “only a four-hour hike” (more of the G-Force’s words) ahead of us we decided to enjoy a lazy breakfast next to the campervan and overlooking glorious Loch Cluanie. Our vista as we cooked bacon and eggs and made proper coffee was truly glorious.
All of a sudden 11am arrived and we realised we should be on our way. Quickly packing up the van, we drove the short distance to the start of today’s “easy-ish” (more of the G-Force’s patter) walk at Lundie.
I expect you are now realising that the G-Force is going to get the blame for a walk that was not “quick”, “four hours” or “easy”. In fact it was 10.5 miles with another 1300m of ascent and took closer to 5.5 hours.
The three Munros are Carn Ghluasaid, Sgurr nan Conbhairean and Sail Chaorainn. I imagine that on fresh legs this would not be too much of a tough day of hiking but on fatigued seven-Munro- bagged legs it was quite a walk.
For some reason the G-Force always remembers the Munro hikes with rose-tinted glasses. He walked his first round a few years ago and in the intervening time all walks have become easier and quicker!
However, the weather was utterly beautiful and even warmer than the day before so we took our time, chatted and enjoyed the spectacular views. The conditions were so still that the mountains in the distance were perfectly reflected in the flat loch below us creating the most stunning picture postcard scene.
The three Munros
The hike up the first Munro Carn Ghluasaid (957m) is fairly long but not too arduous. There is a zig-zagging stalker’s path to follow and the going is never too steep. Even so my quads felt exhausted and we took lots of stops to view the scenery (and rest our muscles).
This is one of those Munros that has a few false summits. Each time we imagined the cairn to be over the top of a crest we caught sight of another crest just ahead. But the vista from this Munro is a great reward and pure gorgeousness.
Munro Two, Sgurr nan Conbhairean, can be seen from Munro One but this view denies walkers any idea of the ascent that is to come. At 1110 metres, Conbhairean is one of the tallest peaks in the area and while the curve of the approach to this summit looks gentle it is in fact long and steep. By now my quads were crying out at me for mercy!
However, I kept reminding myself that we so rarely enjoy such amazing weather while Munro walking so the pain was worth the rewards.
I have no idea how long it took us to reach Munro Number Two but the G-Force’s earlier estimations of “a quick half hour hike between each summit” was hugely inaccurate.
We met three other walkers on the top of this next Munro. As we chatted three paragliders came into view. They were clearly enjoying the calm weather and soared high above the fabulous snow-caped mountainscape laid out before us. If I have been landed on this summit and shown the view I might have believed we were in the Alps, except for the very clear outline of Ben Nevis in the distance.
Munro Number Three could be seen out on a limb. Sail Chaorainn is 1002m high, while another summit just further on is 1001m. I was delighted to find that the peaks were in that order!
A steep descent was required before another fairly easy hike up to Sail Chaorainn. We had left our rucksacks on Conbhairean and it felt amazing to be so light while we walked.
I also have a confession to make.
Never again will I laugh at walking poles
For too many years I have laughed at people who walk with poles. I have tried using them myself but found them to be ungainly and annoying. I thought that poles were a kind of cheat and that “real walkers” hiked without poles.
But now I have discovered Leki Micro Magic walking poles. The G-Force has been trying to convince me that poles made walking easier and less painful on leg muscles. He reckons they help with stability, balance and on both ascents and descents. I did a little reading and found that other people agreed with him.
So I decided to try a pair of lightweight poles. These Leki poles have a nifty set up for hands. The straps go around the hand, wrist and thumb like a cut off glove and attach to the poles with a small loop. This allows the movement of the hand on the pole to be free and light.
The problem I had with poles before was that I couldn’t easily grip the poles but with the Leki Micro Magic poles I found the hand to pole set up very easy to use.
The poles are also made of carbon so they are super lightweight and I quickly discovered that walking up and down hill with poles is made a great deal easier. I doubt that I would have been able to manage another three Munros the day after the South Glen Shiel Ridge if it wasn’t for these poles. I am actually a bit gutted that I have not discovered these before.
Find out more about the right hiking poles for you.
Back to the three Munro walk
To finish the Carn Ghluasaid, Sgurr nan Conbhairean and Sail Chaorainn hike, we needed to retrace our steps to the top of Munro Number Two again. This means we walked four Munros, although we can tick off only three from the Munro bagging list.
It’s possible to stay 150m below Munro Two but this is something else the G-Force must have overlooked! (Next time I am going to thoroughly read the direction details for our walk!)
At the top of Sgurr nan Conbhairean we collected out rucksacks and started the very long and very weary descent via Meall Breac. The alternative descent would be to retrace our steps towards the stalker’s path that we climbed at the start of the day but we fancied making the walk into a loop.
I am not sure I would do this again. The descent that we chose comprised an indistinct, very steep and often boggy path downwards and with my sore quads the going was slow and painful. The poles really did help but I think my body had gone past feeling in any way fresh!
We joined the road for a half hour slog back to the car. Brilliantly the sun was still shining and we decided to make the most of the weather with a quick dip in the loch (very, very cold) followed by a short ferry trip to The Inn at Ardgour.
A ferry ride to a pub meal
We had heard about The Inn a few years ago. Diners can catch the five-minute ferry from Corran, just south of Fort William to The Inn at Ardgour. Foot passengers are free and the ferry runs every half hour or so.
At The Inn the owner promises to serve food to everyone who catches the ferry, even if you arrive just half an hour before the last ferry back (at 9.20pm).
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and drink and the fun of taking a short but delightful ferry journey before and afterwards.
Again the campervan served a great purpose as we drove on to the popular Clachaig pub at Glencoe for a night-cap and then a peaceful night surrounded by the lofty mountains right across from the pub.