Ratagan June 2008


Helen  Rose             Hill Diary

I spent the late May holiday weekend at Ratagan and enjoyed two days walking in the mountains in lovely, sunny, warm but rather windy weather. Ratagan is in the Kintail area on the way to Skye travelling toward the Glenelg ferry. It is only a small settlement overlooking Loch  Duich and has only a SYHA Hostel and some Bed and Breakfasts. On previous visits, always to Munro bag, I have stayed at the Hostel and also in a caravan. The bed and breakfast was a first and very unusual in that I was offered a dram when I arrived! We travelled up from Glasgow leaving at 6pm as I had an exam at University that afternoon and did not arrive until 10pm after stopping in Fort William for fish and chips. I always associate fish and chips with hill walking as it is the only time I have them for dinner.

On Saturday, we set off for A’ Ghlas-bheinn in lovely sunny weather, just a small group of us. The parking was difficult to find and we explored various options but decided to park at Strath Croe near Dorusduain as it shortened the walk considerably on the low ground. I climbed this hill last summer so I was familiar with the route and also Beinn Fhada but on separate days. I am way too slow to attempt two big Munros in one day as we like to be back in time for dinner. There was a path the entire way to the top. We joined the main path in Glen Choinneachain which curved round and under A’Ghlas-bheinn. The path followed alongside the burn and we walked the length of the glen with A’ Ghlas-beinn to our left the entire way. It was time for a tea beak at the burn. The burn crossing was easy as the month of May was so dry in Scotland and the water level was low unlike last summer when care was needed to cross.

The mountains around us looked spectacular with rocky cliffs and I often look at mountains and wonder how to get through these fortresses but there is usually a way to reach the top without having to use technical climbing equipment. There was a very good path to the coll possibly used for deer stalking in season. The route followed a narrow defile to the bealach an sgairne. It was a busy day on the hill and we continually met people on the path. In good weather, it is not a hill to seek solitude! It was easy walking on a path from the col and we soon were having lunch on the summit in fine weather.  We descended by the same path as it is a difficult descent to the west with burns and fences to cross and a forest where the firebreaks might have been difficult to find. The easiest route on mountains may not be the shortest as the crow flies but it can save time and the frustration of finding a way through dense forests, etc

The following day we climbed Beinn Sgritheall. The drive from Ratagan to Arnisdale is one of the finest in Scotland with spectacular views over the Sound of Sleat as the road follows the coast around to Loch Hourn at Arnisdale, the start of the walk. When I previously climbed this mountain about eight years’ ago it was one of my favourites but unfortunately a very steep section of the path is now very eroded which made it a difficult ascent to the east top. It was a case of two steps forward and one step back on this section and no fear of heights. On the descent, the good decision was made to descend from the col between the first and second tops north east to Coire Min to the lochans and then contour on the boulder field around to Bealach Arnasdail to join the main path. This avoided slipping on the descent on the eroded path and although a boulder field is not great to contour on, it is preferable to sliding down a steep badly eroded path.

The weather was sunny and warm all weekend and we even had a sociable meeting up at our favourite little lunch place on the road north of Glencoe and ate basking in the sunshine. It was a weekend with good memories of gorgeous scenery in warm and sunny weather in good company. That is what hill walking is all about although the weather is always an issue and can create very different moods on the mountains.

Coming attractions; Greenland, Arran and the Mournes in Ireland.

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