Ratagan Day 2: Sgurr an t-Searraich

Sunday started brightly but had a similarly poor forecast, and our plan of climbing the Five Sisters immediately bit the dust. Low level walks were to be the order of the day for most of the club. Myself, Craig and James instead headed for a small but prominent hill at the head of Loch Duich, Sgurr an t-Searraich.

Sgurr an t-Searraich from Ratagan Youth Hostel

Sgurr an t-Searraich from Ratagan Youth Hostel

We began opposite the Kintail Lodge Hotel, quickly locating a gate in the deer fence, before clambering up a small gully into the ridge. Despite the forecast it was roasting, and the view back down the loch was stunning, giving me a good excuse to stop for photos (and to get my breath back). The lower part of this hill is composed of small knolls and gullys, and we stood atop one knoll which had stunning views down Glen Shiel. The tops were mostly clear, but we could see the snow streaming off in the wind, a sure sign that conditions were still hazardous up there.

Looking into Glen Shiel

Looking into Glen Shiel

 

 

Glen Shiel

Glen Shiel

Glen Shiel

Glen Shiel

Our next problem was a high deer fence. Access legislation suggests that landowners installing new fences give consideration to land users. Unsurprisingly there were no gates or stiles, as I’d imagine few people come up here, certainly by this route. This led to a rather long detour along the fence-line. James eventually going under, Craig and I going over. The hill then rises evenly before revealing it’s final challenge. The rock rises vertically and it will depend on how confident you are as to whether you assault it head on, on seek an easier route. We contoured round the hill, before I spotted a good line up to a distinctive window notch, which led onto the rocky summit.

Craig scrambling on the lower slopes

Craig scrambling on the lower slopes

 

Through the 'window' onto the top

Through the ‘window’ onto the top

The view from here was, as to be expected, something else. Some small hills are ideally positioned for views of bigger hills and this is one of them. Parts of the Five Sisters and the South Glen Shiel Ridge on one side, Loch Duich on the other, this hill deserves more visitors than I imagine it gets.

Loch Duich from lower down the hill

Loch Duich from lower down the hill

 

The start of the Five Sisters

The start of the Five Sisters

From here it’s fairly straightforward to get on to the start of the Five Sisters, but I could see the poor weather lurking offstage, waiting for it’s cue. We made our way down instead of up, to the steep sided Allt a’ Chruinn.

Down to the Allt a Chruinn

Down to the Allt a Chruinn

We headed down the path, which soon drops quickly towards the houses which dot the bay. As the houses became visible so did the weather, a grey curtain which swept across the loch, devouring it as it went. The break in the weather had held only just long enough, normal service was resumed for the walk back along the lochside. The walk back was brightened by spotting eider ducks and a treecreeper, the latter a bird I haven’t seen for years.

The long, wet, walk back.

The long, wet, walk back.

The next morning I cycled back to Kyle of Lochalsh, the weather almost as bad as my inward journey. If you looked at it from a baggers point of view it would be chalked up as a very disappointing weekend. 4 days away, 2 days of walking, 0 Munros. The optimistic traveller in me says otherwise. Two hills which are usually bypassed by most which turned out to be gems in their own right, and an insight into new territory for me, I’d say that a score draw would be a fair assessment. With luck, next time I’ll get the elusive away win.

Sgurr an t-Searraich: NG 950 191

 

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