Friday, 24 June 2011

Wandering the Strathfarrar hills.....

One of the places I've fancied going since we came here is Strathfarrar. It's a quite, beautiful glen with a gate that is manned by the gatekeeper in the cottage, with access in and out being restricted to certain hours.

With it being June, you can go in any time after 9am and leave until 8pm at the moment. I wasn't quite that early, but I was still parked up and ready to head up on a round of the four munros by 11.00am.

The initial walk up the path was pleasant but this turned into a boggy relentless trudge up steep slopes to the first summit of Sgurr Na Ruaidhe. The rain showers were crossing frequently and a chill wind was blowing up here...nothing like summer!

There was then a wonderful mossy descent to the low bealach between the first peak and Carn Nan Gobhar. It was a steep pull up there, although with fabulous views, with the last 200m being bouldery and slippy in the conditions. The good news was that the cloud was remaining above the summits and there were views in all directions - the Cromarty Firth, Ben Wyvis, the Fannaichs, the Mullardoch munros.

But what grabbed the attention more than anything was the very shapely next peak, Sgurr A Choire Ghlais. A beautiful cone, with an interesting looking path up to it. But first a quickish descent down to the bealach where I met my first person of the day - a very interesting man, who has a site "The Big Walks Club" and who, it turns out, is very interested in having a go at the Bob Graham. I assured him that, as a keen walker and decent runner, it was well within his grasp - especially since he was used to 12+ hour days in the hills.

After quite a long chat, I headed up the steep slopes, aware of a huge drop on the right into the coire, to emerge on the summit of the third munro. Again, the cloud was just above the top, giving some splendid views of the ridge to the next peak. The guide book had said it "narrows appreciably" but this wasn't really the case and it was in fact a splendid run along a high promenade to the final munro of the day, Sgurr Fhuar Thuill. For the first time, I was in cloud, and the rain turned to sleet then hail.

From the top of there, it was a beautiful, short grassy ridge run to pick up the stalker's path that runs down magnificently into the coire holding Loch Toll a Mhuic and then all the way down to the road. A 4 mile tarmac run then ensued on tired legs, but with breathtaking views to keep me busy, deer sitting idly by as I passed and a mind ticking over with possibilities for a long-distance route incorporating these hills.

A splendid day out in one of the best glens I've been down. I'll be back, with Kirsten next time. So much more to explore, with the rough ground around Loch Monar looking very enticing. A decent day out, around 15.5 miles and 5,200ft, all done in 5 hours including chats!

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