Kintail's Big 9

Kintail's Big 9

Hillwalking route on the 9 Munros in Kintail

On the road to Skye, the peaks of Kintail rise steeply above Glen Shiel. The hidden north-facing side of this range drops even more dramatically down into Gleann Lichd below the mass of Beinn Fhada. All of the Munros in this area can be bagged on one epic circular hillwalking route, with the option of an overnight in a lonely bothy.



Route outline


Munros

Sgurr Fhuaran, 

Sgurr na Carnach, 

Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, 

Saileag, 

Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg, 

Aonach Meadhoin, 

Ciste Dhubh, 

Beinn Fhada, 

A' Ghlas-bheinn

Ascent 4115m (13500ft)
Distance 41km (26m)
Time 17:05hr
Start/finish Kintail Outdoor Centre, Morvich
Grid Ref : NG960211
Terrain
easy hard
Nav
easy hard
Effort
easy hard
Scenery
ok fab


A challenging circular route starting from the head of Loch Duich taking in all nine Munros that overlook Kintail and Strath Croe.

For the most part, this epic hillwalking route follows paths along mountain crests and ridges making for fairly straightforward navigation. The drop from Beinn Fhada to Fionngleann and subsequent rise to Ciste Duibhe is the most significant re-ascent on the route and with Camban Bothy close by, this is possibly the preferred point to split the route if needed.

This demanding hiking route can be split into three shorter ones, more details of which are in 'Alternative and nearby routes' below.



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Route description


1. Getting to Morvich

Bridge over the Abhainn Chonaig

Bridge over the Abhainn Chonaig

The A87 travels from Invergarry in the Great Glen, north west onto Kyle of Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye. As it descends through Glen Shiel and meets with the head of Loch Duich, the road turns north-east.

As the road approaches a causeway over an inlet at the western end of Strath Croe, there is an unclassified road marked with a sign pointing to Morvich. Turn onto this road and follow it for around 2km to where another junction is marked pointing to the NTS Kintail Outdoor Centre.

Turn up the side road, head to the outdoor centre and park in the large designated parking area by some buildings and information boards. Overnight parking is not permitted here.

There are some more spots to park further along the road, though these are rather limited to verge sides.


2. A' Ghlas Bheinn

Through Strath Croe, A' Ghlas Bheinn ahead

Through Strath Croe, A' Ghlas Bheinn ahead

Leave the outdoor centre and follow the public road to its end then cross the bridge over the River Croe. After passing a side-road on your right, take a path marked with a sign showing the way to Glomach Falls.

This rough path crosses through a field and heads through the first of many gates and into woodland. The path wanders alongside the Abhainn Chonaig, travels out of the woodland into a field of grass to arrive at a split in the path by a wooden post marking way to the 'Falls' .

By the post, head left and follow a path into woodland to cross the Abhainn Chonaig via a bridge . On the northern bank of the river, head out of the woodland and turn right on track through a field, passing an old ruined cottage, to reach a gate in a deer fence.

Through the gate, turn right on a forestry track, cross a bridge and follow the track as it heads into dense spruce plantation where it turns north-east. The forestry track turns sharply south-east and is followed to the edge of forest .

Out of the forest, turn left and trace the fence enclosing the forest directly uphill. A track is crossed and the top of the forest is reached.

Now on open hillside and on one of A' Ghlas-bheinn's west facing shoulders, hike up a grass-covered steep hillside. After gaining much height, the ascent begins to level and a wide grass-covered expanse is crossed.

Summit of A' Ghlas Bheinn, looking to Ceathreamhnan

Summit of A' Ghlas Bheinn, looking to Ceathreamhnan

Gradually a faint path forms and this is traced to A' Ghlas-bheinn's summit on which a rather untidy cairn stands and from where stunning all-round views can be savoured.

Summit of A' Ghlas Bheinn, looking to Ceathreamhnan

Summit of A' Ghlas Bheinn, looking to Ceathreamhnan


3. Beinn Fhada

Bealach an Sgairne

Bealach an Sgairne

From A' Ghlas-bheinn's summit, pick up a path and follow it southwards along the hill's grass-covered crest. Descending down a gentle gradient, some height is lost and the path comes to drop, where it then swings left (east) and drops to flat area.

Travelling over undulating ground, the path then passes a lochan (with Beinn Sgritheall beautifully framed in the distance to the west) and drops to a substantial cairn on the top of Bealach an Sgairne - the narrow break between A' Ghlas Bheinn and Meall a' Bhealaich.

Head west from the cairn and follow a stalkers path through the gap, losing a little height to meet a little cairn by junction in the path .

After taking the left branch, this path quickly begins to climb uphill and heads into Coire an Sgairne. Upon gaining the base of steeper ground in the coire, the stalkers path turns eastwards, then zig-zags up to meet a cairn on the crest of Beinn Fhada's northern shoulder.

Once on the crest of this shoulder, the path turns southwards, gains a little height and begins to trace the upper edge of Coire an Sgairne. When the path meets with a burn, leave it and aim south-east up a wide grass-covered, and sometimes soggy, hillside.

On the path in Coire an Sgairne

On the path in Coire an Sgairne

The hillside becomes more of a broad shoulder which begins to veer eastwards. A few short patches of boulderfield are crossed and the trig point on Beinn Fhada's summit is reached. Spectacular views all round !

On the path in Coire an Sgairne

On the path in Coire an Sgairne


4. Ciste Duibhe

Heading along Beinn Fhada's eastern shoulder, looking back to its summit

Heading along Beinn Fhada's eastern shoulder, looking back to its summit

From the trig-point on Beinn Fhada's summit, follow a path initially south-west-south, turning gradually eastwards as it follows the crest of the hill above Coire Toll a' Mhadaidh. With a little ascent, the minor summit of Sgurr a' Dubh Doire is reached.

Follow the crest of Sgurr a' Dubh Doire eastwards until ground start to drop steeply, where turn south-east and drop 600m down steep, pathless, but easy and grass-covered terrain to cross the path of the 'Affric-Kintail Way' and reach the Allt Cam-ban below in Fionngleann.

If hiking this route over two days, Camban bothy is just a short distance to the north-east along the 'Affric-Kintail Way' path.

Continuing onwards towards Ciste Duibhe, cross the Allt Cam-ban, then head directly up the hillside ahead. There are no paths to follow and terrain can be rather soggy in patches lower down. Higher up, ground narrows, steepens and forms the north-western shoulder of Ciste Dhubh.

Ciste Duibhe from the Allt Cam-ban

Ciste Duibhe from the Allt Cam-ban

As ascent begins to level out, Ciste Duibhe's summit can be seen ahead. A small cairn rests on Ciste Dhubh's top which is an intriguing place with some very sharp drops on its eastern side.

Ciste Duibhe from the Allt Cam-ban

Ciste Duibhe from the Allt Cam-ban


5. Aonach Meadhoin

Hiking up slopes of Sgurr an Fhuarail, looking back to Ciste Dhubh

Hiking up slopes of Sgurr an Fhuarail, looking back to Ciste Dhubh

Head south from Ciste Dhubh's small cairn on a very obvious path downhill, bypassing the minor summit of An Cnapach. The crest of the hill turns south-east with the path becoming fainter as it descends to the burn flowing from the lochan on Bealach a' Choinich - an ideal spot to fill waterbottles, as there are no other burns on the remaining route.

Aim up wet grass-covered ground with path gradually forming and heading for Sgurr an Fhuarail's northern arm. The going underfoot becomes drier further up as the wide hillside narrows into a ridge of sortsto reach the cairn sitting on Sgurr an Fhuarail's boulder covered top .

On way from Sgurr an Fhuarail to Aonach Meadhoin

On way from Sgurr an Fhuarail to Aonach Meadhoin

Leaving Sgurr an Fhuarail, aim initially west on the path, which turns south-west and keeps slightly below the crest of a ridge to drop down to a wide col. A steeper rise on the other side of the col leads up onto Aonach Meadhoin's wide flat dome-like summit where a large untidy cairn rests.

On way from Sgurr an Fhuarail to Aonach Meadhoin

On way from Sgurr an Fhuarail to Aonach Meadhoin


6. Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg

Approaching col between Aonach Meadhoin and Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg

Approaching col between Aonach Meadhoin and Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg

Leave Aonach Meadhoin's summit heading west-south-west and cross its broad crest. As height is lost, the crest narrows to form a grassy ridge with a path tracing along its spine above Coire nan Eun. There are a couple of little rocky sections encountered on route which aren't difficult to cross or by-pass.

The ridge widens and the path travels down to the bealach below Sgurr a Bhealaich Dheirg. A wide grass-covered and gently rising slope leads from this col up onto the crest running along the top of Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg .

On Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg's large cairn

On Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg's large cairn

At the top, cross a dyke and head north-east with care over rocky ground. This detour to the summit is only around 100m, but is on a narrow ridge. A final little scramble and the huge, well constructed cairn resting on the highest point is reached.

On Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg's large cairn

On Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg's large cairn


7. Saileag

Saileag from west of Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg

Saileag from west of Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg

Retrace your steps back along the ridge detour to the dyke, then initially heading westwards cross a grass-covered crest above Glas-choire reach to a minor summit .

Turn west to lose height on bouldery ground, then follow grass-covered crests to meet with a little rocky lump. This lump appears to block progress - it is easily scrambled up to reach to top of a minor top just above the 900m contour. Thereafter, the path is followed above Am Fraoch-choire over an undulating crest to reach the bealach below Saileag.

Path crossing col on way to Saileag

Path crossing col on way to Saileag

A straightforward hike up a slope of less than 100m is all that remains to reach Saileag's grassy top .

Path crossing col on way to Saileag

Path crossing col on way to Saileag


8. Sgurr nan Spainteach and Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe

Descending the western crest of Saileag

Descending the western crest of Saileag

Beyond Saileag, the path takes a straightforward route downhill over grass covered ground, south-west for around 1km to drop to Bealach an Lapain .

If you're short of water, there are a few springs in the coire to the north, but you'll need to descend 20-30m to reach them depending on the amount of recent rainfall.

Leaving the Bealach an Lapain behind, follow the ridgeline ahead westwards. The route climbs gradually over the next 2km, encountering a few rises and false summits to land on the summit of Sgurr nan Spainteach .

West of Sgurr nan Spainteach, a drop down boulder-covered ground is made without any real difficulties until some steep rocky ground just above the col between Sgurr nan Spainteach and Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe is reached. In dry conditions and with a little scrambling, this is fairly straighforward to descend.

The bealach between Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe and Sgurr nan Spainteach is reached and is a slightly confusing place where a grassy hollow sits below two minor shoulders. Along each shoulder is a path - either path will do as they converge further along the crest to form one path. This path then veers right to the north-west, then turns back to zig-zag up some scree onto some boulders, which can hold snow into late spring.

Looking back to Sgurr nan Spainteach while nearing the summit of Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe

Looking back to Sgurr nan Spainteach while nearing the summit of Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe

Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe's summit is reached where a large cairn sits.

Looking back to Sgurr nan Spainteach while nearing the summit of Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe

Looking back to Sgurr nan Spainteach while nearing the summit of Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe


9. Sgurr na Carnach

Sgurr na Carnach from Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe

Sgurr na Carnach from Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe

From Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe's large cairn, head initially west on a faint path crossing through patches of stoney ground and boulderfield on the mountain's crest. The crest turns north-west and becomes more grass-covered at it drops to Bealach na Craoibhe, the col below Sgurr na Carnach .

From the bealach, the path heads slightly right (east) of the crest ahead, then follows an easy line, initially on grass, then stone, to zig-zag its way back onto the crest of Sgurr na Carnach's southern shoulder, then to it's summit .

Climbing Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe behind

Climbing Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe behind

There's a small cairn on the summit with some divets in the ground to shelter from any winds.

Climbing Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe behind

Climbing Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe behind


10. Sgurr Fhuaran

Descending Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr Fhuaran ahead

Descending Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr Fhuaran ahead

Leaving Sgurr na Carnach's summit, head northwards and suddenly the ground ahead drops steeply. The path is found, well-trodden and obvious, but occasionally there are some short rocky sections in descent. Though the scrambling involved to pass these sections is easy and for the most part quite protected, some care is required.

Having passed Sgurr na Carnach's steep north-facing ground, the path crosses more level and grass-covered ground to reach Bealach na Carnach , the col below Sgurr Fhuaran.

Above Bealach na Carnach, the path continues uphill as it tries to find an easy line between boulders and scree. The path begins to branch out in various directions as it progresses uphill - take any line that suits - I've found it slightly easier keeping to the left branches, whereas paths on the right tend to end with an occasional scramble over loose rock or scree.

Nearing Sgurr Fhuaran's summit, looking back to Sgurr na Carnach

Nearing Sgurr Fhuaran's summit, looking back to Sgurr na Carnach

Higher up boulderfield is unavoidable on the final approach to Sgurr Fhuaran's summit where a small cairn rests.

Nearing Sgurr Fhuaran's summit, looking back to Sgurr na Carnach

Nearing Sgurr Fhuaran's summit, looking back to Sgurr na Carnach


11. Sgurr nan Saighead and return to Morvich

Sgurr nan Saighead from the descent on Sgurr Fhuaran

Sgurr nan Saighead from the descent on Sgurr Fhuaran

Head north-west from Sgurr Fhuaran's summit following the obvious path as it twist and turns to lose around 100m of height. The ground levels a little and reaches a grassy bank.

Ignore the faint path heading off left and keep to the more obvious path as it follows the crest of Sgurr Fhuaran's northern spur dropping to Bealach Buidhe. Ahead is Sgurr nan Saighead , a grass-covered pyramid with spectacular cliffs on its east face. This fine peak is worth summiting, but as it is not a Munro, a by-pass path has developed on the grassy slopes of its south-western face.

Beyond Sgurr nan Saighead the path follows the ridge-line of the Five Sisters and heads north-west to cross the minor summit of Beinn Bhuidhe, before turning north-east to drop to the bealach at the head of Coire na Criche .

From the bealach, head down a path into Coire na Criche as it traces the northern bank of the Allt a' Chruinn. Lower down this path becomes more maintained as it curves around some woodland surrounding a waterfall, crosses a stile and drops to reach the head of a head of track by a water supply. The track drops to the narrow road by the head of Loch Duich, where all that remains is a walk of just over 1km back to Morvich.





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Alternative and nearby routes »


A' Ghlas Bheinn and Beinn Fhada

In Kintail, a hike up Strath Croe leads to the two Munros of A' Ghlas Bheinn and Beinn Fhada which stand either side of the narrow gap of Bealach an Sgairne.

Peaks : 2 Munros

Ascent : 1500m (4920ft)
Distance : 20km (12m)
Time : 8:45hr

Sisters of Kintail

From close to the site of the Battle of Glen Shiel, a linear hillwalking route leads along a fine ridge and over the peaks that form the famed Five Sisters of Kintail to drop to the head of Loch Duich.

Peaks : 3 Munros

Ascent : 1330m (4360ft)
Distance : 13km (8m)
Time : 5:30hr

Brothers of Kintail

Above the western end of Loch Cluanie, well defined paths travel along mountain crests to the top of four Munros, of which Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg is the highest. Some cracking views from the summits.

Peaks : 4 Munros, 1 Corbett

Ascent : 1650m (5410ft)
Distance : 16km (10m)
Time : 6:45hr

Sgurr Gaorsaic and Falls of Glomach

A hike into the heart of Kintail on well-defined paths leads to a circular route around the slopes of A' Ghlas Bheinn, bags the Corbett Sgurr Gaorsaic and visits the impressive Falls of Glomach.

Peaks : 1 Corbett

Ascent : 1250m (4100ft)
Distance : 23km (14m)
Time : 7:50hr









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