Our first Munros – at last!

Sgurr nan Coireachan (956m); Sgurr Thuilm (963m)

  • Pronunciation:    Skoor nern Korrachan; Skoor Hoolum
  • Translation:         Peak of the Corrie; Peak of the Hill
  • Total distance:    24.8km
  • Total time:           8hrs 15mins
  • Total ascent:        1522m
  • Weather:              Dry, mist in glens, cold (0° on summits)
  • Start/end:            Off road parking at start of Glenfinnan [Grid Ref: NM 905 808]
  • Map:                      A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. 

Well, I guess that the Munro bagging part of the adventure started today with a round of two superb mountains hidden several miles up Glenfinnan. These mountains are linked together in a high traverse horseshoe comprising three other subsidiary peaks.

Elaine cycling under Glenfinnan viaduct

Our starting point was at a car park just off the main Fort William to Mallaig “Road to the Isles”: adjacent to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Monument. There is a single-track access road running up Glen Finnan that services a rather incongruous estate lodge. [Aside: “Glenfinnan” is the small hamlet that takes its name from the glen at whose base it sits called “Glen Finnan”.] Also several kilometres up Glen Finnan is a small bothy run by the Estate called “Corryhully”.

Given there is some sort of access road we decided to use our mountain bikes to cycle to Corryhully bothy. Cycling in mountaineering boots and with reasonably heavy rucksacks was entertaining!

Looking down Glen Finnan from the slopes of Sgurr nan Coireachan

After only ½km the road travels underneath the giant Glenfinnan viaduct as it follows the river course slowly up to the bothy.  This viaduct was an engineering marvel at the time of its construction in 1897 by Robert McAlpine (affectionately known as “Concrete Bob”). It carries the West Highland Railway Line between Fort William and Mallaig: this is reckoned to be one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world! In the summer months a stream train carries tourists along the line. However, this is no ordinary steam train but is none other that the famous Hogwort’s Express! The viaduct and much of the surrounding scenery, therefore, form much of the backdrop for Harry’s journey to and from school.

The weather at the start of our trip looked really promising. It was cold, with light mist hanging low in the glen. There wasn’t quite a proper temperature inversion in Glen Finnan, but it looked as though there could be in other glens.

Nearing the top of Sgurr nan Corrieachan

After 4.5km of pleasant cycling – stopping to watch some red stags warily grazing – we abandoned our bikes just beyond the bothy (chained to a sturdy fence post) and then continued on foot along a rough land-rover track for about 1km. At this point we branched off the track left (sign posted) to start the ascent of Sgurr nan Coireachan. The route took us up the ridgeline of Sgurr a’ Choire Riabhaich to the first top at 852m.

Two ptarmigan in winter plumage

As we ascended, the vista opened up to reveal mountain range after mountain range in all directions. Great views were possible out to the Cuillins of Skye and Rum. The Isle of Eigg, with its distinctive flat profile and single volcanic plug could also be made out on the horizon. The colours everywhere were a mix of burnt ocher yellows through browns as well as rich conifer greens. It really was quite magical (no Harry Potter pun intended!).

Looking west from Sgurr nan Coireachan summit

En route up Sgurr a Choire Riabhaich we came across a pair of Ptarmigan in winter plumage. As they rely on their fantastic camouflage we were able to get very close to them without them moving away.

Elaine and Cameron on Sgurr nan Corrieachan summit

From the first top we travelled NNE to reach the summit of our first Munro: Sgurr nan Coireachan (956m or 3,136’). From here we could see the high-elevation horseshoe extending right round for about 4km to our second Munro of the day: Sgurr Thuilm. In between lay two named tops and an unnamed peak: at 826m, 825m and 858m, respectively. It was quite a journey between the two – much longer than we had anticipated. I suspect our lack of mountain fitness was to blame.

Once we reached the summit of Sgurr Thuilm (963m or 3,159’) the weather began to close in a bit, with mist shrouding a few of the higher summits. We only stayed long enough to grab a quick photo before heading due south and picking up our descent route down the ridge of Druim Coire a’ Bheithe (SW). The descent was fairly straightforward – although the knees did feel each step. At the bottom of this ridge we then had a fairly short 1km walk down the land-rover track to get reunited with our bikes and then a great downhill journey back to the main road.

Elaine on summit of Sgurr Thuilm

All in all, a perfect start to our Munro odyssey and not another sole was seen all day … and the weather forecast for tomorrow looks good!

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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1 Response to Our first Munros – at last!

  1. Dave Palmer says:

    Hey, congratulations on getting started with this epic adventure. I’l be reading this blog regularly and keeping up with progress. Sorry I couldn’t make it to the farewell bash, a business issue, sad but being self employed ……..

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