Chuinneag (Sail Gharbh, Sail Ghorm, Spidean Coinnich)
Saturday 6th May 2017

Weather/Conditions: Really beautiful spring weather. Calm, temperate and sunny.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 13km / 1250m / 4h 30m
Accompanying: Alone

I'd spent the preceding week working out of Lochinver, and with Saturday it was just about time to get home. Chuinneag (oddly named 'Quinag') is a stonking mountain positioned between Loch Assynt and Kylesku, and very prominent from the road to Lochinver.

It's a conspicuous hill; perhaps no more so than what lies nearby, yet unique in its form and outline. I climbed Sail Gharbh (the highest of the lot) years ago. But I'd still to climb this triple-pronged hill in it's entirety.

Although I'd picked up a cold in Lochinver, I was nonetheless keen to go for this. It's not often I'd be this far north for work. I was driving by it; too good an opportunity to miss!

I left the car at the parking near the top of the pass. I walked into 'Coire Chornaidh' (I'm making that name up now) on a warm lunchtime. In truth I felt pretty whacked by the cold. It's amazing how unpleasant an otherwise beautiful day can become by the simple fact that a virus is running your system down.

Nonetheless, I got impatient with all the low-level walking and struck a line directly up to the summit of Sail Gharbh. It was a good long plod; nowadays I don't like to follow a path that takes a circuitous route, when there is a quicker alternative nearby.

Sail Gharbh gave great views from the top - this was what I missed last time. It had been epic (and wet, and windy!) that day, but now the sea and the hills were all laid out. Folk were sitting on the summit having lunch. It was just coming on 1pm, I had a bite to eat and a sit down myself.

Out to the north, Chuinneag throws out the great heel of Sail Ghorm. It's a substantially sized hill in itself, a Corbett, yet another facet of this great hill. A good path winds all the way, I stopped by the bump of the 'Far West Top' then continued to the summit. Another panorama, some more food and a sit down. I was still feeling absolutely whacked.

Although these sandstone mountains are so impressive of form, I hate how fragile their slopes are. I stopped by the 'West Top' of Sail Gharbh on the way back, trying to move up soil that is so delicate that a single footfall substantially alters it. I was trying to walk on stone to stop this motion, but it's difficult to keep the impact low. They are very sensitive mountains for all their primeval immensity.

Spidean Coinnich was the last Corbett of the lot; a strangely shaped summit with a pimple crowing the summit and long quartzite slabs that sweep eastward down to the road (They are very inviting!). There are good paths on this section, and I really put the head down and walked the distance out. I felt having the cold really sucked a bit of the enjoyment out of the day, it's always hard when you are fighting against yourself.

Over the top of Spidean Coinnich, I took slabs downward, following great terraces peppered in loose stone and the occasional tuft of grass. It's an odd mountain, and very different to most of Scotland.

Once again, I enjoyed this all on an intellectual level, but it's never a great idea to go hillwalking when you just feel ill! I followed the JMT's new diversion along slabs to rejoin the initial path, and was back to the car four and a half hours after starting.

I also noticed the Suilven fire had died right down. That had been so unlucky in it's timing. And as I drove south through Elphin I stopped for a careful look, seeing that Suilven was clear of fire; extinguished for the first time in four days. You can't have it all. Nevermind!

360° Panoramas

Sail Gharbh

Sail Ghorm

Sail Ghorm - Coast Detail

Spidean Coinnich
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 11.45am Chuinneag parking
(1.10) 12.55pm Sail Gharbh
(2.00) 1.45pm Sail Ghorm
(3.00) 2.45pm Sail Gharbh West Top
(3.35) 3.20pm Spidean Coinnich
(4.30) 4.15pm Chuinneag parking

Written: 2017-08-17