Gulvain (Gaor Bheinn) (987m)
- Pronunciation: Gulvain
- Translation: Great rough hill (Gaor Bheinn means literally “filthy mountain”)
- Total distance: 21.9km
- Total time: 6hrs 20mins
- Total ascent: 1304m
- Weather: Very sunny to begin with. Cold with ice on ground.
Temperature inversion. Severe wind chill on summit. Clouding over later in day.
- Start / end: Off road parking head of Loch Eil [Grid Ref: NM 961 793]
- Map: A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.
Only a few miles from Glenfinnan, towards Fort William, is another glen with the Munro, Gulvain, tucked away hidden from sight. This is another route that makes best use of a mountain bike to eat up the long walks in and out – the latter is great because it’s mainly downhill. Unlike yesterday’s cycle up Glen Finnan, today’s is much more demanding as the path was a very rough land-rover track from the start, right until we abandoned our bikes at the foot of the mountain – after around 6.5km. Actually, the cycle was great fun. There were numerous small burns (streams) to ride through, as well as a couple of more significant crossings to make. The temperature was hovering around freezing at sea level and so many of the muddy puddles had a thin film of ice that we broke through with our bikes: sometimes these turned out to be deeper than we anticipated!
Today the weather was even better than yesterday. The forecast was for sunshine until about 15:00, when gales and heavy snow (above 400m) was expected. We started off in the mist but very quickly rose above it, giving a classic temperature inversion in all the surrounding glens.
Once we had locked our bikes we immediately began the steep and relentless climb to the top of the first unnamed peak at 855m. This was an absolute grind: starting at 150m through to 855m. There was very little zigzagging and no flat sections to offer relief. It was similar in angle to climbing a pyramid – well actually lots of them. I think that our legs hadn’t fully recharged from yesterday either (excuse!)
Like yesterday, the views opened up as we climbed higher until we eventually reached the first top. If anything, in the early morning sunshine the autumn colours looked even more radiant today.
Although that sun was still shining and the sky completely blue, the wind had really picked up and we felt the cold penetrate our clothes that were damp with sweat from the sustained climb. We stopped for a quick lunch and pulled on extra layers. It wasn’t long before the cold forced us to move off to tackle the much gentler slope that takes you to the South Top (with Trig point). From here the views were magnificent. In all directions mountain rangers surrounded us as far as the eye could see. Once again we had good views to the Islands of Skye, Rum and Eigg to the West, with the peaks we did yesterday clearly visible in the foreground. To the north lay the “Rough Bounds of Knoydart” and further beyond towards Glen Shiel; to the east you could see beginnings of the Cairngorms (covered in snow); to the southeast the Nevis Range was visible with the Mamores in the background; and to the south the whole of Moidart, Sunart and Ardgour unfolded before us. Awesome!
All that remained was for us to head northeast to the summit of our third Munro, Gulvain (987m or 3,238’).
This was where the fun began as the wind had picked up to the gale forces predicted and the wind-chill was considerable. We had our hats on, our hoods up and the wind still scoured our faces. At one point I actually felt that I had “ice-cream head”. We didn’t linger too long at the top of Gulvain: just time for a few photos before retracing our steps back to the South Top. On this section we met a chap and his dog heading to the summit. We exchanged only the briefest pleasantries because it was too cold and windy to linger. Once we reached the South Top we met the second person of the day: another chap out on his own.
Our decent, back down the way we had come up, was sore on the knees (still) but much MUCH quicker than the ascent!
We found our bikes again and raced back down the glen to the car.