Two North Glen Shiel siblings on a pleasant autumnal day. September 2016.

Date: Thursday 22nd September 2016
Distance: 13.9km
Ascent: 1300m

We’d managed to tag on a spare day of annual leave onto a Fri/Mon public holiday weekend. As always we were hoping for one of the classic September wild camp weekends we’d had in the past, but the forecast didn’t look good.

Still, a well-timed high pressure ridglet was on the cards for the Thursday so we pointed ourselves NW.

North Glen Shiel managed to be visited in mainly poor conditions 10 years ago and we’ve been working to rectify that on subsequent visits.

Decided to head up from the Cluanie to Sgurr a Fhuarail. A nice SE ridge fully exposed to any sunshine.

Summer can be nice, but it’s great to be back into the parts of the year where it’s easy to be on the hill at dawn. Something very rewarding about this.

Dawn light:

Sunrise over Loch Cluanie:

Syrupy sunshine at dawn and dusk is rather attractive, particulary when cast on golden autumnal grasses and hillsides.

Syrupy light returns:

Dawdled quite a bit, better to look around than press on.

Loch Cluanie:

Technically, it’s probably better to be on the dark side looking north to sunlit hills for photos, rather than in the sun looking south to shady ones, but we do prefer to be in any available sunshine.

South Shiel:

It’s a steep walk up the ridge to the 864m point. Can’t really describe it as a slog as it’s too much fun looking at the views.

H and the Cluanie:

The east end of the South Shiel ridge was beginning to be lit by this point.

South Shiel ridge:

We could see clouds moving closer from the west, and hill mist forming on the leeside (east) of hills. Wondering by this point how long our sun would last.

A churn of lower cloud to the SE prevented long distance views, but we could see past Creag a Mhaim to Ben Tee and neighbours.

Creag a Mhaim and Ben Tee:

Once up to the 864m point the views expanded. Some nice aspects on surrounding hills.

Aonach Mheadhoin:

864m point and the South Shiel ridge:

Sgurr an Fhuarail, Ciste Dhubh and Ceathreamhnan:

Ciste Dhubh and Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan:

A brief break to identify the hills on view and spy on distant red deer herds from above….and then onwards and upwards to Sgurr an Fhuarail. Pleasant walking on these hills, grassy terrain all the way.

The building mists became more noticeable now, getting more atmospheric.

Ascending Sgurr an Fhuarail:

Mist encroaching:

View from Sgurr an Fhuarail:

Once on Sgurr an Fhuarail the hill mists to our N and E were well positioned for a bit of a Brocken display. A nice consolation to offset the development of clouds on a nice day.

Brocken Spectre:

Can’t deny that there’s more atmosphere to a view with some mist rather than clear blue skies.

Hill fog building:

A few dramatic peeks along the glen to the Forcan.

Forcan and Saddle:

One last Brocken Spectre befor higher cloud obscured the sunlight.

Brocken Spectre:

A bit greyer now we carried on to Aonach Mheadhoin and then onwards to Sgurr a Bhealaich Dheirg. A bit quicker now that the distractions had lessened.

Back to Aonach Mheadhoin:

Ciste Dubh down Coire nan Eun:

The summit cairn of the second munro is out along a narrow ridge.

Sgurr a Bhealaich Dheirg:

The summit was attracting hill mist so we carried on NE to the end of the summit ridge and grabbed a seat out of the wind to enjoy the views and eat lunch. Sat around for an hour or so.

A nice view of the 5 Sisters of Kintail (and the Step-sisters of Munro).

West to the five:

The air was a little hazy and various hills were capped, but we identified parts of Rum, Skye and Raasay. North there was a view up to Slioch and Fisherfield.

As we sat around the day began to improve again, with the sunshine increasing over the hour.

Getting sunnier again:

West Glen Shiel:

We were planning on dropping down Meall a Charra, a nice arm to the south of Aonach Mheadhoin. We debated adding the dog-leg out and back to Saileag but decided it wouldn’t really add much to the day. Headed back at a bimble pace back to the car.

Aonach Mheadhoin:

Meall a Charra encloses Coire Tholl Bhruach on its S flank. It’s a very nice slow descending arc to head back towards the road.

Coire Tholl Bhruach:

The ridge develops quite nice views west along the glen to the Saddle.

The Saddle:

Pleasant grassy descent route.

Meall a Charra:

Just before the nose of Meall a Charra there’s a good view east along Loch Cluanie. Needs to be a bit fuller to conceal the hydro loch ugly shorelines.

Loch Cluanie:

A quick descent down grassy slopes and fording the Allt Coire Tholl Bhruach. The allt was easy to cross, obviously that might not always be the case.

From there a walk down past large round shielings to the road.

Shieling below Coire na Cadha:

I’d hoped to use the old military road to walk back to the Cluanie, but in truth it seems rather theoretical on the ground. The usual less satisfactory tarmac yomp to the Cluanie ensued. I think, over various visits, we’ve walked almost all the way from Shiel Bridge to the Ckuanie on the A87.

Lovely day. Rather nice mix of sunshine and atmosphere too. I can see us revisiting these, the Meall a Charra arm comes recommended too.

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