Kintail's Bothers and Sisters, 28-29 September'19

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. In the Scottish Western Highlands for 2 days of guided hillwalking up the Munros in the Brothers and Five Sisters of Kintail. Steven Fallon and John Hepburn were leading, here's Steven's tale of the weekend.

Kintail's Bothers and Sisters

Autumn is here and the green mountains of the Western Highlands are now golden with grasses and ferns changing colours. Autumn is also a time when weather changes in Scotland, typically becoming more unsettled, particularly in the west.

John Hepburn and myself were out here leading a keen group of Munro-baggers over the fine ridges north of Glen Shiel - the Brothers and Sisters of Kintail. There are 7 Munros in the mountain range and we were aiming to bag all over two days in the last weekend of September.

Day 1 - Kintail's Brothers

We met by the large car-park halfway along Glen Shiel. This was were our day was planned to end and we left a few cars here. Shuffling a few other cars here, a quick drive back through Glen Shiel saw us by the Cluanie Inn - the Inn was now open after extensive refurbishment, though still not quite finished. Handy to know that the Cluanie Inn sells fuel, but at £155/litre it will most likely be a distress purchase ! Note that the car-park opposite the Inn has a sign indicating that it is now for the sole use of their clients, this didn't use to be the case.

Gear sorted, we got down to the business of the day - some fine hillwalking. The forecast for the day was for an unsettled morning with improving picture as the day progressed - it was pretty overcast to begin with and mountain tops were shrouded in clouds as began our hike following the Allt a'Chaorainn Bhig towards Ciste Dhubh. Further on and onto the southern shoulder of our first Munro, we enjoyed a break, hoping the cloud would lift. After leaving rucksacks, a quick jaunt along the crest saw us on Ciste Dhubh's summit, which clung to mist, so no views :(

Returning along the crest and reunited with our rucksacks, we began the descent to Bealach a'Choinnich. Not only were we now out of the cloud, but sunshine was out, bringing a smile to our faces. The haul up to the next peak, Sgurr an Fhuarail is a gradual steep climb of around 400m and in the sunshine it was a joy with views gradually opening up the more height gained. Sgurr an Fhuarail has mere Munro 'top' status, so no stops here, we headed directly over to the Munro Aonach Meadhoin. Aptly named (middle ridge), this seemed a good place to stop for midday lunch.

Now with most of the uphill hiking out of the way, the group headed westwards. The views ahead were delicious, the Five Sisters occasionally poking through the cloud hinting at what lay ahead for tomorrow. Some slightly narrow ridge walking, followed by a grassy ascent took us up Sgurr a'Bhealaich Dheirg where a narrow ridge leads out to the summit cairn perched above some impressive drops - not a place to get vertigo, but that didn't stop some of the team posing on top of the large summit cairn !

What remained was mainly downhill back to the roadside, and although Saileag is justifiably a Munro, it felt like a bump on the way homewards. Views on the way were glorious - we could see all the way to Knoydart and Skye in one direction, Torridon to the north and back to lonely Glen Affric behind us. Thoughts turned to dinner, but we still had the descent to the roadside and it's pretty steep and unrelenting with a bit of care needed at a couple of water-crossings.

Day 2 - Five Sisters of Kintail

Like yesterday, our day was to begin in overcast conditions and improve later. After another car shuffle to avoid a long walk back along the A87, we began our day with a hike up through humid forestry, yup it was raining gently (I think Gaelic peakers call this type of rain 'smearl' ?). Out of the forest, a gently rising path took us towards the gap between Sgurr na Spainteach and Sgurr na Cishe Dhubh, but not all the way, it needs to be left behind for a direct and occasionally bouldery ascent to the gap (I'm not sure where the path ends up or if it disappears into the thick grass). At the gap we met up with another group heading over from Sgurr na Spainteach - Sgurr na Cishe Dhubh was a busy summit shrouded in mist.

We had made pretty good progress and the group was happy to continue. Downhill, we initially were following the other group, but I knew of a grassy bank that avoided the rocky crest and we took this. This route doesn't gain any time, and it needs a bit of commitment and navigation skills, but soon we were at the foot of Sgurr na Carnach. With the cloud hinting that it might lift and views occasionally popping up, it was time for a break.

Uphill towards Sgurr na Carnach requires a bit of route finding - the path something disappears into boulderfield. Onto the summit and we were back in cloud, boo ! Downhill next has some sections of easy scrambling, nothing of difficulty, just a few rocky sections requiring some care - everyone bounded down ! The last major uphill of the day was ahead - the climb up Sgurr Fhuaran, the highest peak in the Brothers and Sisters of Kintail. And the cloud began to lift as promised ! On the summit time for a break and some views to take in.

From the summit of Sgurr Fhuaran it is possible to descend directly back down to Glen Shiel. However, in fine conditions it's much more enjoyable to continue along the ridge, the views expanding ahead on the way. And this is what we did. The rock formations are quite spectaucular with a recent rockfall exposing fresh slabs on the eastern side of Sgurr na Saighead. We bypassed this peak, but climbed up the next peak, Beinn Bhuidhe for a final summit view. We descended out via Coire na Criche, returning back to the cars left of Morvich.

A great couple of days with some atmospheric conditions and good company.

More photos by Steven Fallon are here on Flickr.

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