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

Thursday 23rd March 2017

Weather/Conditions: End of winter, it seems - snow low on the hills but radpily thawing in a warm sun. Stunning afternoon weather.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 11.1km / 1200m / 3h 25m
Accompanying: Alone

This was the first day of three in the Northwest Highlands, a trip inspired by the phenomenal forecast. I'd intended to be up earlier, but I was in Glasgow and spent the morning and afternoon driving north instead of on the hills. I stopped by Ballachulish, organised my things - then almost hung around doing nothing. What a waste of a day that would be. I needed to get my head in gear, but assumed that as always, once I was on the hills it would all click back into place.

The weather was just glorious on the drive up. West from Invergarry, the trees slowly pulled away and long-ranging views opened up to snow covered mountains in the sun. Gairich was especially prominent, but it was the twin hills on the north shore of Loch Quoich I was bound for; Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach.

I drove up by Loch Quoich, my head full of mental noise - then at one layby I pulled over, got out and was just knocked sideways by the silence. I stood in the silence of a West Highland afternoon, and left as though I'd had the life poured back into me.

Further down the road by a cluster of vehicles I parked at the foot of Gleouraich and set off at half past two, with a quick pace to match the late start!

I moved fast for I didn't have all the time of the day, and passed a couple of other parties, all going down. Gleouraich has a prominent SW ridge; Druim Seileach, up which my route would trace. To it's west this ridge drops dramatically toward the artificial northern inlet of Loch Cuaich, and the stalking track I was on traces the edge of this drop. Loch Quoich was like glass, the hills snow covered but softened under the wide skies of a spring high pressure.

Gleouraich summit followed in good time, a fantastic viewpoint and my first properly clear view from this mountain. Many of my visits down the Loch Hourn road have been under perpetually cloudy skies, and I took my first summit panorama from here. I'm purposely doing 360s from the Munros and there aren't a lot left anymore; perhaps about 15, then I'll have done the lot!

I walked east to the top of Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich - this looks like it would have a bit of new routing potential, though you never know where certain folk have been climbing either. I then headed down long slopes to the foot of Spidean Mialach.

When I approach ascents, I'm always aware of the effort that's coming my way. But when I get stuck into these ascents, they always pass by pretty unnoticed and I find myself back at height having switched off from the effort completely. I suppose it's a mental skill that gets bolstered by every effort on the hills. I'm now at a point where I just know my legs will go, and go futher, and it's liberating in that this confidence in body gives me the confidence to express ambition. Pretty cool. What I did two days later in Kintail would be one example.

Spidean Mialach was gained under these golden skies, the sun now rapidly reaching for the horizon behind Loch Quoich. I took a summit panorama and headed off the hill, down snow banks to gain the lower coire. This walk out to the car was just lovely and I eventually picked up prints in the snow which brought me gradually to the road.

Back at the car I bumped into Stevie O'Neill and had some good chat about the hills. I then headed west to Kinloch Hourn where I spent the night. I intended Sgurr a' Mhaoraich for the morning, but I'd change plans last minute for the Great Glen hills instead.

360° Panoramas


Spidean Mialach
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 2.30pm Parking
(1.15) 3.45pm Gleouraich
(1.35) 4.05pm Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich
(2.28) 4.58pm Spidean Mialach
(3.25) 5.55pm Parking

Written: 2017-04-06