Helen Rose Hill Diary September 2003

Photo: Strathfarrar Mist. Many of the Munros in Scotland are grouped and multiples can be climbed in one day. Some of the Munro books refer to mountains which can be climbed in a long day. A long day is very subjective and will almost certainly mean long hours of daylight but will also refer to the number of hours walking. In the north of Scotland we have long daylight hours in summer and it can be after 11pm in June before it is dark. This gives plenty of walking time but the longest I have ever walked is 11 hours as I don?t want it to be an endurance test. However, there are sometimes restrictions in accessing glens and one such is Glen Strathfarrar where the gates are only open from 9am to 6pm on certain days limiting the time available to complete the round of four Munros.

Being a slow walker, it would have been unlikely I could have completed the four Munros in less than nine hours so I did the sensible thing and climbed them two at a time on two different days. This was interesting as the weather was very different both days but overall it is harder work as two full ascents and descents have to be made. It is much easier to ascend and follow the ridge over the tops before descending.

Glen Strathfarrar is located near Cannich and the nearest city is Inverness about an hour?s drive away. I have previously written on the beauty of Glen Affric but Glen Strathfarrar is also a very beautiful glen and almost as long as Glen Affric. Glen Strathfarrar always strikes me as an odd name as Strath also means Glen so effectively it is Glen Glenfarrar! The start and finish of the ridge walk are 6 kilometres apart and the use of two cars is advisable unless you want to end the day walking this distance back along the road to the car. However, you can also avoid this walk by doing only two Munros at a time and effectively completing a semi circle back to the car.

Photo: Strathfarrar. The first day was in autumn and we drove from Glasgow to Strathfarrar leaving very early in the morning. The drive through Glen Strathfarrar was in a thick mist with very poor visibility. We drove to the starting point of the furthest away Munro near Inchvuilt. Bobby remembered the parking place from a previous trip, otherwise, it would have been difficult to find in the mist. After walking uphill on a bulldozed track for a 100 metres we emerged from the mist into a bright sunny day with cloud inversion in the glen below us. We followed the track onto a stalkers path to the col and then ascended the slope to the first Munro, Sgurr Fuar-thuill. This is one of only six Munros with a hyphenated name!

From Sgurr Fuar-thuill we had views of mountain tops all around but not down into the glens as the cloud inversion continued all day. Before reaching the second Munro of Sgurr a'Choire Ghlais, we had to ascend another top so there was a fair amount of ascent and descent most of the day. On the second top we waved to Ian as he was continuing onto the other two Munros. Meanwhile, Bobby and I descended to the car bypassing the first two tops by contouring under them which saves reascent but is hard on the ankles even wearing boots with good support. Driving out of Glen Strathfarrar we collected Ian near the Power Station saving him the 6 kilometre hike back to the car. Down in Beauly we sampled the local fish suppers and heard that it had been grey and misty all day while we had been walking on the hill tops in brilliant sunhine.

My second trip to Glen Strathfarrar was this summer with Floris to climb the nearer two Munros. We set out in glorious sunny weather and parked the car near the Power Station where we had previously picked up Ian after completing the four Munros. The walk up the stalkers path beside the Altt Coire Mhuillidh was very pleasant with stunning views over to three of the Munros. It has been a dry summer so the path was not boggy and the going was easy underfoot. We eventually started the climb on a path up the grassy shoulder to the summit of Sgurr na Ruaidhe with frequent stops to sunbathe in the heat.

The walking was easy back down to the col and up a path towards the second Munro. On route, we met three other Munro baggers and as usual we marvelled about the weather being so good. Route finding could not have been easier in such clear fine weather. The summit of Carn nan Gobhar is boulder strewn so we sat on the rocks and enjoyed the views of the hills all around and down to the glens below. we decided to descend to the col and walk out the glen to rejoin the stalkers path but again there was much contouring on rough ground which makes for a harder day.

As walkers tend to do these four Munros in one day, there are no paths for leaving the mountains midway which means there is more walking on rough ground making it a harder day. On reflection I was glad that I walked the hills over two days as it saved the walk back to the car along the road and also I could walk at an easy pace in fine weather without having to concern myself about being back at the gate by 6'clock but the downside is that there were harder descents on both days. Well, it all improves fitness!

Coming attractions are the Braemar weekend (long days in the Cairngorms), the Lairig Ghru and return to the Lake District.

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