Crossing the Loch Quoich dam – [# 176]

Gairich (919m)

  • Pronunciation:             Garreech
  • Translation:                  Roaring (probably relating to stags’ autumn rut)
  • Total distance:             15.9km
  • Total time:                     5hrs 1mins
  • Total ascent:                 977m
  • Weather:                        Started off very misty but soon brightened into a generally sunny day with only light winds at the summit.
  • Start / end location:   At the roadside adjacent to the Loch Quoich dam. [OS Map Sheet 33 – Grid Ref: NH 068 024]
  • 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.

West along Loch Garry with Gairlich on the right

Early morning mist clearing over the Quoich Dam

Once again we journeyed along the unlisted minor road through Glen Garry until we reached the dam at the eastern end of Loch Quoich – this was the third time in as many days that we made this trip. We parked up on the verge just beyond a hydroelectric power generation building on the north side of the dam. It was very calm as we began our walk with all of the surrounding glens and peaks enveloped in a thick mist.

Mist burning off Loch Quoich to reveil Gairich in the background

We walked a couple of hundred metres back along the road to the dam where we had to climb over a gate to access the rampart. The length of the dam was probably over 400m and is one of the components in the overall Loch Quoich / Loch Garry hydropower generation scheme. As we crossed the dam we began to feel the warmth of the sun melting through the mist, which in turn rapidly began to evaporate. It was only when we could begin to see the summits of the surrounding peaks that we realised that the conditions had led to a temperature inversion where the mist had filled the glens but left the peaks exposed.

The Quoich Dam from the south side of Loch Quoich

Once across the dam we were presented with almost 3km of reasonably level but very boggy terrain until we reached the edge of the Glen Kingie conifer plantation. We didn’t enter the plantation but instead turned west and began the easy angled ascent of the Druim na Geid Salaich ridge: just bypassing to the south of Bac nam Foid (584m) as we climbed higher.  Beyond this little top the ridge broadened out into a large col that sat immediately above – and just to the south of – Coire Thollaidh. At the far end of this col a much steeper path ascended the craggy west spur of Gairich.

Looking north from Gairich across Loch Quoich to Sgurr Mhaoraich (L), Sgurr Coire nan Eiricheallach (C) and Sron a Chuillinn (R)

The path up the western spur cleverly weaved its way around many of the craggy outcrops and we soon climbed the remaining 300m of elevation to reach the summit cairn of Gairich at 919m or 3,015ft. As this peak sits in relative isolation on the south side of Loch Quoich it offered us some truly splendid views in all directions. Back across the loch the previous Munros of Sgurr Mhaoraich, Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach were standing free of any cloud, as too was the outline of the South Shiel Ridge beyond. West of us the bulk of Sgurr Mor dominated (still to be climbed from the Loch Arkaig direction) with, beyond it, the whole expanse of the Rough Bounds of Knoydary laid out. Further west still, the outline of Skye’s Cuillin Ridge could be seen. As far as the eye could see the mountaintops were all cloud-free except when we gazed south, where in the distance the towering height of Ben Nevis was lost in the mist.

Looking north passed the summit cairn on Gairich

Our descent from the summit followed our route of ascent as far as the top of the broad Druim na Geid Salaich ridge where we then dropped down in a northerly direction rather than simply following the ridge back to the edge of the conifer plantation. Our course did almost nothing to shorten the dogleg turn that would have been required once the edge of the plantation was reached via the Druim na Geid Salaich ridge: if anything the terrain was a bit tougher than if we’d stuck to the ridge. The one consolation, however, was that as we rounded a tiny hillock a loan red deer hind stood munching the undergrowth not far away, and as we were downwind of her we managed to get really close before she became aware of our presence. Even then, because she couldn’t pick up our scent, she didn’t really become too startled.

Our route dropped us into a small glen, which we crossed and then climbed out to the other side, where we then rejoined the path that we’d used earlier from the south side of the Quoich Dam. A few kilometres of boggy walking brought us back to the dam, with our cark parked at the other side.

The northern profile of Gairlich as viewed from across Loch Quoich

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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