A mountain of treasure

Sgor na h-Ulaidh (994m)

  • Pronunciation:             Skor na Hoolee
  • Translation:                  Peak of the Treasure
  • Total distance:              22.2km
  • Total time:                    6hrs 15mins
  • Total ascent:                 1353m
  • Weather:                       Grey and overcast. Started out showery, which dried to leave a misty, cool day on the tops. Very windy on the summits with driving spindrift. Improved during day to leave a dry afternoon – with only a thin veil of cloud.
  • Start / end location:    Lay-by on A82 about 3.5km southeast of Glencoe village. Lay-by on roadside immediately south of “Signal Rock” marked on the OS map. [OS Map Sheet 34 – Grid Ref: NN 123 564]
  • Map:                               A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. Unfortunately the map may not display on some Internet Explorer browsers.

    View south towards Loch Etive from the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh

Travelling west through the Pass of Glencoe the “lost mountain of Glencoe”, the Munro of Sgor na h-Ulaidh, remains tucked away from view by the massive bulk of Bidean nan Bian on the south of the pass. It is not until Bidean has been passed that you can look south towards Sgor na h-Uliadh – and even then its true character remains hidden behind the ridge of Aonach  Dubh a’ Ghlinne.

Elaine climbing towards the summit of Stob na Fhuarain

The day began grey but dry as we parked up at the lay-by near the start of the track leading south along the Allt na Muidhe burn. After a few hundred metres walking along the A82 we took the private road / track heading south to the three or four houses at Gleann-leac-na-muidhe, approximately 1.6km up the glen.

Immediately before reaching the first house we crossed the bridge from the west to the east side of the burn. Shortly after this crossing a sign requested that walkers wishing access to the hills beyond the next two houses should take a detour off the road, as it effectively ran through their private gardens. The detour was via a rough path that looped passed the houses, which seemed perfectly fair and reasonable. These two houses further up the glen offered a truly spectacular view down to the gapping “mouth” of the west end of the Pass of Glencoe – particularly of the Aonach Eagach Ridge: probably the best ridge walk in Scotland outside of Skye.

Cameron at the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh

Having detoured around the houses we rejoined the track, which continued passed some farm buildings where it then turned into a walkers path. We stayed on the path, which now followed the course of the Allt na Muidhe: a lively mountain stream with numerous small waterfalls tumbling into crystal clear pools. To our left (due east) as we walked up the glen we were accompanied by the long ridge of Aonach Dubh a’ Ghlinne, which reached up to the Munro Top of Stob an Fhuarain (968m).

Elaine at the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh

A couple of kilometers passed the last farm buildings we reached a point on the path that was perpendicular to the col between Ghlinne and Fhuarain. This became our next objective, accomplished by leaving the path and taking a direct line up the hillside. The snowline began at ~300m, so reaching the col at around 800m proved to be a stiff climb, especially as the weather had turned inclement with heavy snow showers.

The snow showers ceased once we arrived at the col and we turned due south to climb up the remainder of the ridge to reach Stob an Fhuarain. Despite the brightening weather the wind was ferocious at the summit and we were forced to wear our ski goggles to protect our eyes from the wind-driven spindrift. We donned our crampons for the descent SW to the next col (860m) between Fhuarain and Sgor na h-Ulaidh.

View west from the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh

The climb up to the summit of h-Uliadh was surprising steep. Although I continued using just my poles, Elaine preferred to swap to using her ice axe, as a slip on the steep snow would have resulted in a long and “bumpy” fall. Once we reached the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh (994m or 3,261’) we were rewarded with some great views towards the Mamores (N), Glen Coe (NNE) and Loch Etive (S): in between blasts of icy spindrift! The icy spindrift created crystallized sculptures of rime frost, which grew several inches long in the direction of the prevailing wind.

The north face of Sgor na h-Ulaidh

We decided to descend from the summit by continuing in a west followed by a WSW direction towards Còrr na Beinne. We should really have crossed over Còrr na Beinne before turning north to negotiate our way down through the steep crags. However, we thought that we saw a reasonable line through the crags before we got as far as Còrr na Beinne.

Our descent line began well through deep snow, following steep little gullies and crossing boulder-strewn slopes. As we descended further the convex aspect of the slope threw up challenges unseen from above, which included negotiating our way through a complex network of terraces and small crags, the latter requiring some nifty downward scrambling assisted by ice picks firmly driven into frozen turf and heather where we could.

Looking NW towards Meall Lighiche from the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh

It turned out that our descent was pretty challenging in places and patience was required to work out the best and safest lines. Eventually, though, we reached easier ground at the base of the crag, and although the descent had been a technical challenge we both agreed that it had been rewarding.

We turned NNE and made our way back to the path that followed the Allt na Muidhe and finally retraced our earlier route leading to the track, the houses and eventually the main road.

[Sgor na h-Ulaidh can also be climbed from the Glen Etive side.]

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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One Response to A mountain of treasure

  1. David says:

    Hi Cameron
    Thanks for your email yesterday about the maps.
    I’ve installed Google Chrome (easy to do) and can view them in fabuloud detail.
    Having the map really adds to the ‘experience’ of almost being able to follow in your footsteps as you both continue your adventure.
    I’ll help Alasdair (the Dad) to get it installed. Just beware though if he gets access to maps you’ll be getting loads more questions/ comments from him!!! Like: why did you choose this route over that etc!! lol
    (Just kidding Alasdair!!)
    All the best to you both

    David

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