Thursday, 11 August 2011

Quinag The Three Corbetts

The weather forecasts late on Wednesday promised Thursday would be the best weather day of what was too be a pretty wet and windy week. With that in mind I knew Thursday had to be the day I climbed to the top of a significant mountain. There are dozens of spectacular and unique mountains around Assynt but sadly I have only climbed to the top of a handful of its hardest and highest mountains. I wasn't feeling that fit as I haven't done much hill walking recently. The walk up Stac Pollaidh two days before had me clutching my sore knee a few times and my big toe which I broke two months ago was also still giving me grief. I decided I would have a go at a Munro so I chose Ben More Assynt as the walk didn't seem too long or technical. The route I decided on was the popular one from Inchnadamph via Conival. Elaina had mentioned that Quinag could be a fall back option as you can climb in from the road the passes over from Loch Assynt to Kylesku. This was a route I had spotted before when travelling over the pass, and Quinag is a mountain that had always caught my eye both when I have seen it with my own eyes and when read other peoples accounts. So I decided I would head for Inchnadamph to do Ben More Assynt but if I changed my mind and wanted a slightly easier option I would head for the car park on the pass below Quinag and just do the first of its Corbett summits. I packed most of my gear the night before. I was delighted when I woke the next morning to see sunshine beaming through the curtains for the first time this week!

Loch Assynt from Spidean Coinich ascent

I set off on my own as Nicky was having to study to complete her assignment which had to be in the next day. Elaina, Craig and Steve were all off to see the beautiful Sandwood Bay. I had done Sandwood Bay a few years before with them so I decided against doing it again for the sake of getting up a mountain on the best possible day. As I headed out of Ullapool the weather was great and the stereo was on full blast, banging out The Best of James. I rounded the bend at the stunning Ardmair pebble beech over looking Ben More Coigach with a smile on my face. By the time I'd passed Knockan Crag the weather wasn't looking quite as promising on the higher tops. Cul Mor was holding a lot of cloud and as I got closer to Inchnadamph and pulled in to the car park I realised that both Conival and Ben More Assynt weren't to be seen. I looked across Loch Assynt towards Quinag and it was basking in warm sunshine. This made the decision to go for the easier option of Quinag much easier. So I continued along the main road, drove past Ardvreck Castle and turned north on the A894. At the top of the pass I pulled in to the decent sized car park and parked up. It was sunny and I was about to climb a new mountain in Assynt. I set off along the clear footpath that heads out towards the corrie and Lochan Bealach Cornaidh. When the footpath reached the first lot of rocks I turned left and headed towards the eastern slopes of Spidean Coinich. I expected great things from Spidean Coinich and I wasn't disappointed. After passing a pond full of lilies I started the long arduous slog up the gentle eastern slope of Spidean Coinich. This eastern side of Spidean Coinich is what is known as a 'dip slope' of quartzites. I have often passed over the road pass and marvelled at the white and light colours of Spidean Coinich and its neighbouring peaks. I have however, never walked on such a mass of quartz rock before and I was quite shocked at how hard it was to keep on my feet where it was wet. The surface was like marble, almost like trying to walk on the floors of the Trafford Centre when they are slippery, wet and at a forty degree angled slope.

Spidean Coinich

As I made my way up Spidean Coinich the views across the corrie and Lochan Bealach Cornaidh to Sail Garbh were amazing. I stopped on several occasions turning a complete circle and staring in amazement at the world around me. Just before the summit there was a drop down to a beautiful small unnamed lochan. As I reached the top the quartz gave way to Torridonian sandstone, which was weathered in places and was kind of like a limestone pavement on its side, creating what looked like huge man made walls. It was an incredible sight and I soon found that almost the entire summit area was surrounded and held up by this incredible natural geological marvel. As I reached the summit I honestly at one point found it hard to believe that one of these huge cliff walls wasn't man made. The top of Spidean Coinich was extremely windy so I didn't stay around for long. I headed north west along the ridge passing another lovely lochan, this one known as Lochan RuadhBealach a Chornaidh and told myself that despite my original plan of doing just this mountain then back to the car, I would see how I felt at the bealach. If I was up for it I would at the least carry on and climb up and down Sail Gharbh, the highest peak on Quinag and then the second Corbett of the day.

Sail Gharbh

The drop to Bealach a Chornaidh was quite far, which I already knew would be the case as in order for the Corbetts to be classified as such they require a drop between each of at least five hundred feet. I made it to the path which comes up from the corrie and heads up on to Sail Gharbh and I didn't even need to have the conversation with myself, I already knew what I wanted to do and set my sights on not just Sail Gharbh but also the third Corbett of Sail Ghorm. I knew this would not be an easy walk, but I still had several hours of daylight left and all the time in the world, in one of the greatest places I'd seen. The ascent path to the ridge out to Sail Gharbh was fairly steep and muddy in places but soon reaches the bealach on the ridge. A direct walk along the ridge and over a few false rocky summits and I was stood at the highest summit point on Sail Gharbh with incredible views across back to Spidean Cionich and all its glory. I have to say of the three mountains Spidean Coinich grabbed me more than the others, it is simply stunning and its geology is fascinating and worth looking up if you have the time. The summit trig point pillar on Sail Gharbh was quite bizarrely sheltered within the confines of a circular stone shelter, something I hadn't seen done before. So I took a self timer shot of myself on the summit of Sail Gharbh then looked across to Sail Ghom and the ridge sweeping round to it. It seemed miles away and it felt like it too! I descended Sail Gharbh and made my way to the unnamed peak which sits at the centre of the T shaped Quinag mountain massif. The view point from this central position is fantastic with all three Corbett mountains and their attaching ridges leading off in three different directions.

Sail Ghorm

From the centre point on the unnamed peak I made my way over yet two more peaks before finally reaching the long slog up to the summit of Sail Ghorm. On the way to Sail Ghorm there is an out crop of rock that you can walk out on for a great photo opportunity. Its like walking the plank over the hundreds of Assynt lochans. From the same bealach you also get great views down towards Kylesku and its majestic bridge. Sail Ghorm's great advantage is its seaward facing views which today were bathed in sunshine. After enjoying Sail Ghorm and being rather pleased with myself for doing all three Corbetts I made may way back along the ridge to eventually reach that central point again. This time rounding the central point peak to reach the bealach where the steep muddy path drops back down to Bealach a Chornaidh. I followed the path along its three and a half kilometre route back to the car park via Lochan Bealach Cornaidh. The path disappearing on several occasions, I also lost it as I was looking in awe at Glas Bheinn across the way. My feet were pretty sore by the time I got back to the car park so before crossing the road I sat on a wooden bridge and dipped my feet in a small stream. I felt so great knowing I'd bagged all three Corbetts and done a walk twice as good as I had planned. Buzzing with adrenaline I raced back to Ullapool rocking in the car to Guns N' Roses while gazing out the window at the likes of Suilven, Canisp, Cul Mor, Stac Polly and Ben More Assynt all looking incredible in the sunshine. A roasting hot bath was had when I got back to the cottage. Nicky and Myself had delicious fish from the Seaforth in Ullapool for tea then waited for the others to return with happy tales from Sandwood Bay where they had a great time in glorious weather all day. A fantastic day on a fantastic mountain massif. The Quinag is an amazing roller coaster of peaks, each of them slightly different, my favourite by far being Spidean Coinich. The next day we were heading back from Lochinver towards Loch Assynt on the A837 and looking up to the Quinag from its western approach, it is a massive seven kilometre undulating roller coaster of a ridge walk from there and I'm so glad I've done it. The day after we saw it from Kylesku where the two Corbetts of Sail Ghorm and Sail Gharbh soar above the land like to huge giants with big shoulders.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...

13 comments:

  1. That looks like a cracking day out!

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  2. That scary outcrop on Sail Ghorm is some view. What an amazing landscape to walk in. Thanks for that Jamie.

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  3. Lovely day for you hon, you always did want to go on to the next one...

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  4. Did you know that that's 3 Corbetts?

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  5. < gives young Morley 'the look' >

    Yes Mr Morley! I take it as you are being cheeky you are around that bad influence of a father of yours right now!

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  6. Nothing to do with me Jamie! He came up with that all by himself! He also predicted that you give him "the look"!

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  7. Yeah right so you just happen to be sat by a computer checking my blog post do you? Hmm!

    < gives senior Morley 'the look' >

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  8. Haha, im getting "the look" :P Yes, im being cheeky because dad completely told me to, it was all his idea ;)

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  9. Was thinking about you last week at work when some muppet starting singing that damn 'In The Jungle' song!! < the look >

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  10. Hahahaha, did you give them the the look?

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  11. YES! And a shake of the head in disgust at the same time!! Muppets!

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  12. Lol, that "muppet" is an inspiration to others in our society ;)

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  13. Anzywayz, I'm going for a bath, so see you later Jamiegator!!!!!!! :D

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