Sguman Coinntich - 879m
Faochaig - 868m
Aonach Buidhe - 899m
An Creachal Beag - 870m

Sunday 19th March 2017

Weather/Conditions: Hard, persistent rain in the morning, clearing to showers of sun interspersed with sun. Pretty dramatic conditions!
Distance/Ascent/Time: 22.6km / 1650m / 7h 55m
Accompanying: Struan

There are a number of hills scattered across a hinterland between Mullardoch and Monar, all beneath Munro-height. Three broad-backed hills rise above the west coast and run inland; Sguman Coinntich, Faochaig and Aonach Buidhe. To the north are the wild reaches of the River Ling, and north again is Beinn Dronaig with the Monar Munros adjacent.

I had a phenomenal trip across these Corbetts with Struan in March 2017, which included a bothy night, then following day a wild river crossing and an interesting walk back down the length of the River Ling.

The start was somewhat more difficult, with a hard pull out of Cill Fhaolain (Killilan!) in the morning. The rain was torrential and rucksacks heavy. My body hadn't woken up yet, and it took a hell of a lot of willpower not to just give in and go down. We followed a track into Coire Mòr, which cuts into the western aspect of Sguman Coinntich. The effort was utterly grinding, and did not improve when we traded the hard track for the bog and saturated ground. We threaded up the north-western slopes of the hill and in time emerged on the summit ridge. Views opened up and the terrain eased. Just like that, everything seemed to click into gear: I didn't feel so awful. It's worth persisting in hard times; it doesn't take much to pop out the other end and eventually find the miles less a burden.

Sguman Coinntich is a true stonker; a tall cone climbing skyward above the surrounding hills; all butch West Highland schist weathered into storm-battered drama. I first saw the mountain from Mullardoch in 2012, so big and in such an unlikely location I wondered what the hell is that? It's sure a mountain worthy of attention.

We gained its top under wild skies, a place of fresh panoramic views falling to unknown glens. Of particular interest was the southern view to Glen Elchaig, a place that I don't know quite so well. I must change that one day.

These hills are all broad and we had a long walk across to Faochaig: a broad summit, another Corbett. We'd packed sleeping kit for our bothy night, and I felt an acute sense of walking off into the wilds. Every step into this land would be reversed at some point, an intoxicating thrill. There is a broad, U-shaped glen off to the north, Gleann a' Choire Dhomhain, which I simply did not expect to see. I felt a thrill of the wild here. How many people would ever come and see this?

Over the top of Faochaig, we dropped toward Aonach Buidhe which was now far enough inland that we were finding new horizons. The skies were opening out, and the last showers were dying to the sun breaking out in a deep blue afternoon. It was a wild place, but familiar with the high tops of Mullardoch and Monar in sight. This day felt to me like a maturing of the knowledge I'd gained through climbing the Munros, we were on all the other hills of the region, expanding and extending my knowledge of this empty corner of the Highlands.

We dropped bags at the foot of Aonach Buidhe and struck off toward a little gully in the cliff band above; a short scramble of no particular interest other than it was just fun. The domed plateau arrived and we saw the cairn at the end of the coire rim. I was in no rush; the walk across to the top was just pleasure. We extended the day further; why not go to An Creachal Beag? This is a subsidiary top, a remote dome extending eastward and pointing to Monar and Strathfarrar. We walked out to its cairn and then back. I wondered, too, when I would next be here.

We descended Aonach Buidhe, straight back to the bags. With the afternoon wearing on we had just a walk down to our night’s shelter, Maol Bhuidhe. The moors opened out and the hill terrain eased off. A few kilometres brought us there to a bothy by the river - a remote, saturated and exposed location.

The bothy itself is lovely and in good nick thanks to the MBA. All the more of a contrast given its difficulty of access. For the rest of the evening we made dinner and hot drinks, watching the light and showers roving across the flank of Beinn Dronaig now just across the river. The world presses in from the outside here: this is the essence of the remote and untouched Highlands. Yet it seems like every second peatbog and hill is now carved up in the name of quick-access deer stalking, grouse shooting or in the name of wind farms. For me, with the familiarity of the hills, this remoteness is becoming ever-harder to find. But this broad strath in which we found ourselves is both on the fringes of human civilisation yet right in the centre of a couple of mountain ranges. Such a silent place, where the light and seasons will always pass mostly unnoticed and unobserved.

360° Panoramas

Sguman Coinntich


Aonach Buidhe
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 9.45am Killilan
(1.55) 11.40am Sguman Coinntich
(3.45) 1.30pm Faochaig
(8.42) 3.27pm Aonach Buidhe
(6.00) 3.45pm An Creachal Beag
(7.55) 5.40pm Maol Bhuidhe

Written: 2017-11-23!