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Kintail walk: Corbett Sgùrr Mhic Bharraich & Fiona Biod an Fhithich

Written by Fiona

July 10 2024

Keeping a close eye on the Met office weather map, I spotted that there might be a window of dry weather in the Kintail area of the Scottish Highlands on Sunday. Given the wet and cold summer – Swinter? – that we have been experiencing, I wanted to make the most of the opportunity for a walk in milder conditions. 

To ensure I got an early start, I drove Frankie Van to Kintail the night before. I found a spot where no one else was parked – it can be a busy area for van parking in the summer – and enjoyed a peaceful night.

There are a couple of good camping sites –  Glenshiel Campsite and Morvich Club Campsite – if you are looking for more facilities and a guaranteed place to park overnight.

Path crosses a footbridge over a river.
View along the glen.
Ever widening vista along the glen.

Walk plan: 2 shorter walks or 1 longer walk

My plan for the day’s walking was two shorter routes, to the Corbett Sgùrr Mhic Bharraich and the Fiona Biod an Fhithich, or a longer walk to include both in one outing. I decided I would walk the Corbett first and then see how I felt about adding the Fiona to the one walk, or returning to Frankie and then driving along the glen to then walk the Fiona separately.

The route follows a section of the Lochalsh Trail.

Corbett Sgùrr Mhic Bharraich from Shiel Bridge

The route to Sgùrr Mhic Bharraich starts close to Glenshiel Campsite. Parking Frankie near the campsite, I then walked south along a short section of tarmac road and through a gate to turn left on to a grassy path along the outside of the camping ground fence. The route is between the campsite and a fast-flowing stream, which I could hear but not see at this point.

There is no doubting the way to go and I followed a track up a steep and rocky incline for a short way, before the terrain levelled and then descended to cross a wooden bridge over the river, Alt Undalain. 

The next stage took me on to a mostly dry, stony track that continued south into wide-opn Glean Underlain that felt almost immediately remote and wild.

Steep-sided mountains veered up to my right (including my first summit target), while to my left and below there was a beautiful winding river.

The map indicated I should walk for a few kilometres along the track before the route started to head west and uphill. I enjoyed a warming sun and took off a couple of layers of clothing as I made easy and quick progress through the glen.

In the distance ahead I spotted what I thought might be the Fiona I had planned, too.

The high lochan.

Ascent of Sgùrr Mhic Bharraich

The wider path eventually narrowed started to climb uphill and closer to the Allt na h-Innse Gairbhe. It was lovely to hear the chirp of a European Stonechat (identified via the brilliant Merlin Bird app).

The path narrowed still further and ascended more steeply but the going never felt arduous. 

I checked the map and knew that I would need to turn on to rougher ground below a high mountain lochan. I passed a couple of trail waymarkers, indicating the Lochalsh Trail. I learned later that the path is part of an ancient route to Glenelg via Moyle and Gleann Mòr and the route of the Lochalsh Dirty 30 Challenge route. (Also see Lochalsh Dirty 30 event.)  

I soon came to a series of three cairns at the side of the path. I wasn’t sure if one of them indicated a best route and there was little evidence of a trod, so I simply headed north and tramped over thick vegetation interspersed with soggy and boggy areas.

I skirted the lower edge of Lochan Coire nan Crogachan and decided that this wasn’t the worst ground I have walked on recently, but but still wasn’t the best either.

Ahead I could see the lower slopes of my Corbett, while behind me the vista had grown to take in many of the great peaks of Kintail, including the distinct outline of the Saddle and Forcan Ridge, which is situated in front of the famous South Glen Shiel Ridge.

View back along the glen to my next mountain.
Upper slope of the Corbett.

Across the other side of the glen, to the east, the triangular mountains of the Five Sisters came into view and accompanied me for much of the rest of the hike uphill. In front of the Five Sisters, the long ridge of Biod an Fhithich became ever clearer.

It was around this point that I decided I would probably continue to the Fiona along the glen after walking the Corbett. I could spotted a path and, after checking the map, it could see the path would head up towards the summit of the Fiona. 

View from the summit.

No trod – just keep heading upwards

Higher up the Corbett, there was no obvious way uphill, although I kept thinking I had picked up a trod, only for it to disappear again. I simply used my map and instinct to find my way up the steep slopes until the terrain levelled out a bit on the broad upper ridge of Sgùrr Mhic Bharraich. 

The land dropped for a short way and then rose again and I walked over some rocky outcrops before spotting the obvious summit area ahead. I rested at the cairn at 779m elevation and took in a wide sweep of superb mountain views including the Five Sisters, Biod an Fhithich, the Forcan Ridge, the Saddle and Beinn Sgritheall to the southwest with Skye’s Cuillin further in the distance. 

There was very little wind and a fairly warm sun so I enjoyed a break to eat my lunch while considering the map. I was now sure of my plans for the rest of the day.

It was hard to join up the stepping stones to find a dry way across the river.
There were lovely waterfalls on the river as I ascended the glen.

Corbett to a Fiona

There is an option to descend steeply off the summit of Sgùrr Mhic Bharraich, more directly east, to rejoin the path along the glen for the return. But I decided to return the way I had come. The more easterly descent looked like it would end up in thick heather and bracken in any case.

Walking back the way I had come would take me back down the stalker’s path to reach the glen where I would need to cross Alt Undalain.  I needed to reach a path on the other side of the river that traversed and climbed the western side of the ridge of the Fiona Biod an Fhithich. (Don’t be attracted by the more obvious wide track on the west bank of the river because it goes nowhere.)

I gave up looking for a sensible line of stones in the river and gave in to wet feet. I needn’t have worried a bout keeping dry feet anyway since the path along the glen was extremely wet and boggy. 

It was easy to see the path ahead and I settled into a comfortable pace as I climbed gradually uphill. I met only the second couple of people that I encountered all day. The other couple had been climbing the Corbett as I was descending.

Looking up to the bealach at the end of the Biod an Fhithich ridge.

On the glen path, the pair told me they were walking the Cape Wrath Trail. I was a little confused as I was sure the CWT followed a route on the other side of the Five Sisters range. (Checking later, I was correct, although perhaps there is an alternative route on the CWT in the Kintail area.) 

I felt fortunate to be still enjoying fine weather, although there were ominous looking clouds building ahead. Also on the skyline, I enjoyed a vista of the jagged Forcan Ridge and recalled how I’d faced a tricky back climb when bagging that Munro many years ago.

Ascent on Biod an Fhithich

At some point, I knew I’d need to climb more steeply up the side of Biod an Fhithich. Once I could see the bealach to the south of the summit, I took a fairly straight line upwards and lost any sign of a trod or path for a while. It might be that if I’d continued further along the glen there would have been a more obvious uphill trod, but I didn’t see one.

On reaching the bealach there was an obvious path that I followed up on to the ridge. The summit of Biod an Fhithich is the first high point I came to. Again, I sat for a while at the top – at elevation 646m – and enjoyed the breathtaking views east to the Five Sisters mountains, south-west towards the Forcan Ridge and buttresses of The Saddle and north to the Corbett I’d walked earlier.

More splendid summit views.
Views of the Forcan Ridge.

Return walk from Biod an Fhithich

I took almost the same route back off the summit of Biod an Fhithich and then followed the boggy glen path back towards the river crossing. I confess I lost any will to try to stay out of the wet and mud and simply stomped where my steps took me. 

It was then that the clouds caught up with me and I pulled on my waterproof jacket in the heavy downpour. It felt like a boggy slog towards the end and I was grateful to cross the river again (this helped to clean my footwear) before rejoining the much drier path further along the glen and back to Shiel Bridge. 

The rain had stopped by the time I approached the footbridge again, where I heard lots of voices. It turned out that local mountain rescue teams were doing a training day in a gorge on the river. 

Finally skirting the edge of the campsite, I exited through the gate and returned to Frankie Van.

The very boggy glen path.

Route details: Corbett Sgùrr Mhic Bharraich & Fiona Biod an Fhithich

The total distance was little over 19km with 1375m of ascent. It had been a very rewarding day of superlative views, mostly good weather and the satisfaction of succeeding under my own steam and navigation. 

See: Strava and OS Maps (these are suggested routes, which you follow at your own risk)

Total Corbetts bagged: 154

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