Gleouraich - 1035m
Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich - 1006m
Spidean Mialach - 996m

Saturday 26th September 2009

Weather/Conditions: Mix of cloud, blue skies and cumulus - base below the summits. With high winds, this made for interesting and rapidly changing weather.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 9.8km / 1200m / 5h 10m
Accompanying: Michael

Day two of my weekend at Loch Quoich with Kev and Michael.

Michael arrived in the morning of the 26th, early enough that I was dozing in my tent by the time he pulled up. He'd driven up the previous evening, but had needed the light of the morning to be able to see our campsite from the road. The convoluted way in which he found us is probably best not covered in detail, but he made it anyway and we spent an easy morning making breakfast and relaxing. It would have made anyone want to sit all day rather than climb mountains, but we got on our way deciding that we'd be better on the hills than dozing around, achieving nothing.

Kevin opted for a day in the glens, so Michael and I drove up to the car park for Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach. The wee car park was full to the brim, but having accidentally driven past one time, a car pulled out of a space as we arrived. We got parked, ready and checked out a notice by the trail telling us not to go into Coire Mheil since deer stalking was taking place. We'd worry about our descent route later.


So ready to go, we followed the path out of the dense rhododendrons (left over from gardens now submerged beneath the loch) and followed the stalkers track onto Druim Seileach. The light was ever changing and spectacular across Loch Quoich, the pace was easy and ascent not too steep given the zigzagging of the stalkers path. We were high up in no time, and now the wind was blowing, sun out, cumulus being whipped across the mountains and into the skies. The slopes to the west of Druim Seileach were steep too - it was all such an exhilarating walk. The kind of days that give you that feeling inside of 'living', being high up, battered by the elements but feeling excellent. There's nothing else like it, but I knew we'd be into the grey cloud soon.

Sure enough, the path went into mist and left the ridge. A flatter walk took us to some sort of ruin (it would be interesting to know why it's here), then the path climbed steeply up the face, meeting up with the ridge and onwards to the summit. Even when we came upon a small cairn, we suspected it not to be the top and carried on to the true summit. The cairn is unmistakable: 4 feet high and well built - the Gleouraich summit that I recognised from pictures. We arrived there 1 hour 50 minutes after starting out. Not bad progress.

Spidean Mialach

Having spent ten minutes at the summit, we headed on towards Spidean Mialach. The drops to the left were sure steep and disappeared rather abruptly into the mist - not a place to fall. But heading over Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich (a Munro Top), we dropped down to the saddle between the two Munros, the Fiar Bhealach itself. It was quite a long, steep descent to the saddle and therefore a long ascent back up to the next Munro.

Then on our way down, the weather began to clear and out of the mist, it was essentially a sunny day. The tops of the South Glen Shiel Ridge were also clearing to our left and we headed up Spidean Mialach beneath the sun and blue skies. The ascent was a bit of a slog and then we were back in the cloud again and following the ridge. It wasn't a 'wet' mist either and pleasant to walk in without having to bring out the waterproofs.

On the way to the summit, we passed a cairn at the 920m spur, another at the 977m top before arriving at the 996m summit. The true summit was unmistakable - a large wind breaker with bits of discarded food inside. Not very nice to sit in, I'd have to admit. I wouldn't surprise me if someone had taken a piss in it for a laugh. Similarly to Gleouraich, we spent twenty minutes at the top, sending texts or calling home. When we headed off, unknown to us it was in the wrong direction.


As happens to us unlucky walkers sometimes, we presume we know where we are, where north is and in what direction we should take our next steps. A map and compass is handy, but sometimes you think you know all too well to bother. Having approached the summit from the west, we presumed the ridge continued eastwards. We'd decided to descend back to Kevin McK's car at the Quoich dam instead of the van beneath Gleouraich, so when we followed a spur eastwards, we began to accidentally walk onto the north face. What we didn't know was that we should have started walking roughly south from the summit, and we only realised this when we were fifty metres down steep grassy slopes, much too steep to be the ridge, wishing we didn't have to climb all the way back to the top just to take a compass bearing back off again.

Sometimes you've got to learn the tough way, and once on the correct ridge, we could progress happily. It was a sharp ridge at points, but never exposed. When we'd followed it for some time, we headed south in the hope that we'd be right above the car. And when we appeared from the mist, the car was below, but also the Quoich Dam holding back the waters of Loch Quoich. You got an incredible sense of the depth of the loch, and in front of the dam was the car, seemingly so close but in truth a long way away. On the way down, we'd have to negotiate crags - we'd seen them in the morning from the campsite - but trying to take shortcuts led us onto steep ground. The only alternative was to climb back onto higher ground and descend again by an alternative route. In the end, the grassy ramp we followed was a steep way to go but unproblematic. Below the crags, only steep grassy slopes separated us from the car.

With tired legs pounding across the most undesirable of terrain, I beared the last minutes, I arriving down at Kevin's car (and the campsite where we'd spend the previous night) with Michael closely behind. Kevin already had a fire on the go - wonderful to sit in front of after a good afternoon walk. It was the middle of the day, but what the heck, it was nice to sit in front.

Afterwards, Michael headed off for home, so Kev and I packed up and left for Glasgow, stopping in Fort William en route.


Loch Quoich northern inlet

Above the Quoich Dam
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 10.50am Car parking
(1.50) 12.40pm Gleouraich
(2.00) 12.50pm Gleouraich (left)
(3.30) 2.20pm Spidean Mialach
(3.50) 2.40pm Spidean Mialach (left)
(5.10) 4.00pm Route end (Quoich dam)

Written: 2009-08-29