Sgùrr a' Mhaoraich, Am Bàthaich, Sgùrr Thionail
Sgùrr a' Bhac Chaolais, Buidhe Bheinn
& Tops

Tuesday 3rd July 2018

Weather/Conditions: Sizzingly hot. Ground was bone dry, hardly a drop of water to be found anywhere.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 18.7km / 2030m / 6h 20m
Accompanying: Alone

For a long time I’d had a plan to go around the five-summit circuit of Coire Sgoireadail. This loop is centred around Kinloch Hourn, that little road-end place from where the hills climb sharp 3,000 feet. To add to the big ascents of the day, the weather was also phenomenally hot, so much so I’d been walking less with the temperatures. Very unusual for Scotland and as a summer it was exceptional.

I only left Ballachulish late, I took my time driving, and kept stopping en route. As such it made these hills an afternoon trip, entirely achievable at mid-summer. That's pretty cool!

Sgurr a' Mhaoraich

I left the Kinloch Hourn parking after quarter past three and set off back up the road. The day was sizzling hot. I left the road and ploughed a course right up the side of Sgurr a' Mhaoraich, first heading toward its beagan counterpart, also a subsidiary west top. It was a 3,000 feet grind, all done under a hard and hot sun. I was dripping in sweat and toiling.

Eventually I made it first to Sgurr a' Mhaoraich Beag, then its parent mountain Sgurr a' Mhaoraich shortly after. This was one Munro I’d never had a view from before, but today the view was pin sharp. The resultant panorama was a satisfying catch!

I went north toward the next summits, and quickly got diverted by a curious pinnacle hanging off the crags on the north flank of Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich. This column of rock is just a couple of metres high but sits on a sloping ledge held on by just a few points of contact. You can see right through the crack to the other side. It really looks as though it will come crashing down any time. It's amazing that it survived getting bulldozed by glaciers in the first place, and obviously not by much. I wanted to climb it anyway, so climbed up the easy side as far as I could justify, and touched the top with my fingertips. No way was I going to stand on top. I'm sure anyone else who tries will understand!

To Sgurr a' Bhac Chaolais

I continued to Am Bathaich, a simple rise up rocky slopes to a cairn. Perhaps it resembles the byre of its name - it seems to have that appearance anyway. Sgurr Thionail was beyond, a stunning triangular peak when seen from the South Shiel ridge, but not much more than a sweaty slog today. Pools were often dried up, the ground dry and crisp. Deer sped off leaving me to slog out the miles alone.

I was aware of my liquids going down fast; much quicker than I would have liked. Perhaps because I hadn't been out on the hills much of late, I didn't appreciate how the heat made me drink. I normally don’t drink much, today was a massive exception!

I felt stretched on the link across to Sgurr a' Bhac Chaolais. As another hundred metre prominence, this was included in my day. But it was sitting by the summit cairn that I looked down the bottle to see the last sips of juice swilling in the bottom.

Buidhe Bheinn

I was suffering on the way to Buidhe Bheinn, but the light was stunning and only improving. On days like this the whole country was bright and clear. Sometimes you forget just how good these days can be. But damn, the heat and lack of fluid made it tough. I went past the Cadha nam Bò Ruadha; a notch in the ridge obviously used for the cattle in times gone by.

Every hill was a good one today, but Buidhe Bheinn another step up; an absolute corker of a mountain and probably the best of the day. It's got great form, a main summit linked by a sharp ridge to the west top. Consider too, the land it looks out over: the west top looks arrow straight down Loch Hourn, to Ladhar Bheinn and the open sea. As afternoon wore on, the hills went from their lurid greens to mature into burnt brown; rugged hillsides crosslit and dark shadows.

But reaching Buidhe Bheinn's west top was more relief than inspiration: I was stretched, feeling badly dehydrated; i.e. if this went on a lot longer it could get serious. I don’t usually feel that at all. I ploughed down the south ridge gasping for water. It was a long way, nearly 3,000 feet steeply from top to bottom. The far horizons hemmed in to the tightly bound hills of Kinloch Hourn. This place is a little lost world nestled in among summits and sightlines of incredible scale.

I didn't find any water until I was back at sea level. The river running through Kinloch was little more than a stagnant trickle: fat chance I was drinking from that! The tea room was shut, but I found a tap by the outside toilets. Who knows if it was safe to drink - but I drank plenty anyway at the risk of feeling ill, and in last light of a midsummer evening I left Kinloch Hourn having had a great, if thirsty day.

360° Panoramas

Sgùrr a' Mhaoraich

Am Bàthaich

Sgùrr Thionail

Sgùrr a' Bhac Chaolais

Buidhe Bheinn
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 3.15pm Kinloch Hourn
(1.38) 4.53pm Sgùrr a' Mhaoraich Beag
(1.49) 5.04pm Sgùrr a' Mhaoraich
(2.35) 5.50pm Am Bàthaich
(3.01) 6.16pm Sgùrr Thionail
(4.17) 7.32pm Sgùrr a' Bhac Chaolais
(4.43) 7.58pm Cadha nam Bò Ruadha
(4.53) 8.08pm Buidhe Bheinn North Top
(5.10) 8.25pm Buidhe Bheinn
(5.25) 8.40pm Buidhe Bheinn West Top
(6.20) 9.35pm Kinloch Hourn
Written: 2019-01-27