Northeast three of Glen Shiel – [# 192 – 194]

Carn Ghluasaid (957m);
Sgurr nan Conbhairean (1109m);
Sail Chaorainn (1002m)

  • Pronunciation:             Karn Gloorsage; Skoor nern Konnavathen; Sal Hooreen
  • Translation:                  Hill of Movement; Peak of the Keeper of the Hounds; Heel of the Rowan Tree
  • Total distance:             18.3km
  • Total time:                    5hrs 45mins
  • Total ascent:                 1254m
  • Weather:                       Bright and dry, but with the summits above 800m covered in mist. Remained misty until early afternoon when it lifted and brightened further.
  • Start / end location:   Large roadside lay-by on A87 at Lundie, 4km west of the Cluanie Dam. [OS Map Sheet 34 – Grid Ref: NH 145 104]
  • Map:                              A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

Cameron on the summit of Sail Chaorainn with Carn na Coire Mheadhoin in the background

We left our ‘van near Shiel Bridge where we’d stayed overnight and took the car eastward back through Glen Shiel to the starting point for our walk. Our route began from Lundie on the north side of Loch Cluanie, approximately midway along its shores between the Cluanie Inn to the west and the Cluanie Dam to the east. We parked at a large roadside lay-by where a fellow motorhome traveller was parked up with the blinds still closed.

Cameron standing between the two cairns on the summit of Carn Ghluasaid

From the lay-by we crossed the A87 and immediately joined the old military road (constructed by General Wade) that runs through the glen. Heading west we reached a more modern artefact by the side of the old road: a mobile phone relay station and mast. Near to the mast an excellent path (bog-free) began to snake its way northwards climbing steadily up until it eventually intersected the WSW ridge of Carn Ghluasaid. Once we were on the crest of this broad ridge we followed it, in the mist, right to the summit, where two cairns, only 50m apart, greeted us. Given our direction of ascent from the WSW, the true summit cairn, at 957m or 3,140ft, stood slightly behind the other, and was perched right on the edge of the northern cliffs.

Elaine at the misty summit cairn on Sgurr nan Conbhairean

We left Carn Ghluasaid by following the ridge formed by the edge of the hill’s northern corries where our line arced round from west to the north as we headed towards the little top marked 998m (or 999m on older OS maps). The path traversed about 15m below and to the south of this top, picking up the edge of the corries once again after the top had been passed. We descended to Glas Beallach, a col on the ridge, and then began an energetic but straightforward climb to the summit of our second Munro, Sgurr nan Conbhairean at 1109m or 3,638ft. The summit cairn appeared to be a combination of traditional cairn shaped dome of rocks with an extension out of one side that comprised two tallish and perfectly straight stone walls forming a crude shelter: almost coffin-like.

From this summit the path dropped in a northerly direction to a col that was to the west and high above Lochan Uaine. This col was at approximately 910m. We climbed steadily up from this col on an easy-angled, broad and rocky flank to reach a lovely grassy plateau, which rose slowly until we arrived at the summit of our last Munro, Sail Chaorainn, at 1002m or 3,287ft. The neighbouring top to this summit, Carn na Coire Mheadhoin, lay about 500m further on and was only 1m lower – but we didn’t have to bag that one to meet our objective.

Looking NNE towards Sail Chaorainn from the slopes of Sgurr nan Conbhairean

We turned from the summit and retraced our steps back to the col at 910m, where our ultimate route of descent forced us to regain a great deal of height by climbing back up towards the summit of our second Munro. Only when we were 35m below the summit height of 1109m was it sensible to traverse westward around the summit to intersect the hill’s SW ridge. As the mist finally began to properly clear we followed this ridge for 750m until our height dropped to just below 1000m where we turned left and began our descent of the long south ridge, passing high above Gorm Lochan in the corrie below. As we were descending the ridge we were entertained by a pair of dotterels about 50m apart calling incessantly to one another: each bird giving a pweep call that was mimicked almost instantaneously by the other, only at a slightly perceptibly different pitch. When we reached Meall Breac (and a small cairn) we then followed a path SE to reach the A87 road about 2.5km west of where we had parked our car. A quick stroll along the road saw us quickly back at the roadside lay-by.

Despite the misty weather it had remained dry and bright. The paths throughout the traverse of the three hills were excellent and covered very little muddy or boggy ground. The character of these hills were also different from their neighbours to the west of the glen, with these three offering slightly more rounded and grassy plateau-like summits interspersed with regions of scattered rocks the size of building bricks.

Altogether these were a fine trio of Munros that provided an outing to be highly recommended.

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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