Helen Rose Hill Diary June 2003: Slioch

Photo: Slioch. In May, I spent a week travelling around the north Scotland with a group including Ian, who had only nine Munros left to do having completed 275. Ian had two Munros in the Fisherfield to complete, which involved an overnight wild camp. Some of us opted for an easier option of climbing Slioch. Ian completed all the 8 Munros in the week and we are now looking forward to celebrating his last Munro at Ben More in Mull in October. Should be a great weekend and you will hear about it in due course.

On Slioch, we had four seasons in one day but did get the views which makes it all worthwhile. It has to be said it was not the best weather of the week but we bagged the mountain other than Stuart who claimed to have a sore knee and did a low level walk instead. We believe you Stuart! Slioch (meaning Spear in Gealic) is a magnificent mountain of ancient Torridonian sandstone on a bed of ice scoured gneiss - it dominates Loch Maree in Wester Ross. Loch Maree is the largest loch north of the Great Glen and on it's shore it has ancient Caledonian pine forests where the generations of trees go back 8,000 years. All this is surrounded by a wilderness of mountains including the Fisherfields. The name Maree is a corruption of Saint Maelrubha, who came to one of the loch's islands in the seventh century making it famous as a place of pilgrimage.

Photo: Slioch. The walk starts from the little settlement of Incheril near Kinlochewe and follows a good path alongside the Kinlochewe River which opens into Loch Maree and then crosses the Abhainn an Fhasaigh by a footbridge. We were fortunate to see the herd of wild goats that inhabit the area and noticed several kids in the herd. We stopped for a teabreak at this point under the tumbling waterfalls but the stop was brief as the midges were out in force. The Scottish midge is a curse and difficult to escape from in the summertime and a good reason to climb the mountains is to escape from them! We followed the path through Gleann Bianasdail and into the large Coire Tuill Bhain. In the Corrie, we met some walkers on the descent and they said it had been snowing on top of the mountain. We could believe this as it had been raining heavily since we had started our ascent through the glen. As has been said by a famous wag, there is no such thing as bad weather, you are just wearing the wrong clothes! We were wearing the right clothes but we had difficulty in persuading Stephen that it was not bad weather. Strangely, the cloud base was high and we could see the tops of the mountains ringing the Corrie.

Onwards and upwards and still on a good path. We reached the first top and the sun was shining but there was a cold wind. Down again a little way and then on to the true summit to touch the cairn and tick off Munro 180. We could see around to all the great wilderness and wondered if Ian was managing the two Munros at the Fisherfield. With all the rain, the walk out through the Corrie and the Glen was very boggy but gaiters are great for coping with the deep mud and our feet were reasonably dry in our boots. It had stopped raining and the walk along the lochside and the river was delightful in early evening. Despite the changeable weather, I enjoyed the day immensely and we had some good craic on the hillside.

Photo: Slioch. The next day dawned bright, sunny and warmish so we set out for a coastal walk from Redpoint heading for Craig but somehow we ended up sitting on the beautiful sandy beach at Eilean Tioram beside the Fishing Station and going for a paddle in Loch Gairloch where the water was very cold. The coastal path walk was interesting with many species of sea birds including skua spotted on the sea cliffs We never made it to Craig but who needs a long walk when there is a beach to relax on! That evening we went dancing in Gairloch to celebrate the last night of the holiday.

On the last day we visited Inverewe Gardens at Poolewe owned by the National Trust. These gardens have been built in a very hostile environment and are surrounded by rocky, rough ground on a peninsula battered by Atlantic winds and rain. A belt of trees was constructed to protect the shrubbery and the rhododendrons were in full bloom at our visit. I will be writing more about the hills we did during the week away.

Coming attractions. Skye Cuillin Ridge, a hike in Norway and Strathfarrar in two parts.

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