A perfect day for dipping our feet – [# 209 – 210]

Sgurr Choinnich (999m); Sgurr a’ Chaorachain (1053m)

  • Pronunciation:             Skoor Chorneech; Skoor uh Hoo-a-rahen
  • Translation:                  Mossy Peak; Peak of the Rowan Berries
  • Total distance:             21.1km
  • Total time:                    5hrs 38mins
  • Total ascent:                 1297m
  • Weather:                       Beautiful bright, warm and sunny day with light breezes at the summits.
  • Start / end location:   Forest Enterprise car park 4.5km east of Achnashellach on the A890 road.  [OS Map Sheet 25 – Grid Ref: NH 047 495]
  • 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.

Lurg Mhor (L) and Bidean a' Choire Sheasgaich (pointed peak) from the summit of Sgurr Choinnich

 Today was another beautiful summer’s day – a rather rare treat for us of late as these have certainly been conspicuous by their absence over the last few months … and here we are with two in a row!

From en route to Sgurr Choinnich looking WNW to (L-R) Maol Chean-dearg, Fuar Tholl & Sgorr Ruadh, Beinn Liath Mhor, Beinn Liath Bheag

We began our route just 4.5km to the east of yesterday’s starting point at a large Forestry Enterprise car-park on the north side of the A890 road. Here, we climbed on our bikes and crossed the A890 to access the railway line level-crossing just beyond. After having to lift our bikes over the locked gate on the opposite side of the level-crossing we peddled along the track that began by running east and parallel to the A890. Just under a kilometre further on the track turned 90? to the right (south) and crossed the River Carron. On the other side the track split in two and we took the left branch that headed through the trees and into the unnamed glen containing the Allt a’ Chonais burn. We followed the course of this burn on its north side, but for 1.5km the track climbed quite high above the burn.

The two-wire bridge across the Allt a' Chonais burn - the notice reads - "You use this bridge at your own risk"

Nearing the summit of Sgurr Choinnich (R) with Sgurr a' Chaorachain in the background

The gradient was fairly relentless for us on our bikes and in the warm muggy weather we were hot and damp with perspiration. We cycled to the highest point on the track and although we could have continued on our bikes for another 2km before we needed to leave the track, we chose to walk this last section so that we didn’t face an uphill cycle on the way back. It turned out that the gradient wasn’t actually that tough and we could have cycled all the way. [We will need to access this glen twice more in the future so we will definitely continue to cycle passed where we stopped today.]

The view west from the summit of Sgurr Choinnich

Having locked our bikes and positioned them behind a large rock we continued on foot round the west nose of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean (915m – but not quite of Munro status – although is was in the past). Just before we reached Pollan Buidhe we took a walkers path from the track down to the edge of the Allt a’ Chonais burn. Here we found a rather “Indiana Jones” bridge to cross. It was a very simple two-wire construction: with each strand not much thicker than a delicatessen’s cheese-wire! The idea was also brilliantly simple: sideslip your feet along the bottom wire, whilst holding on to the wobbly top strand. It came with the cautionary signpost: “YOU USE THIS BRIDGE AT YOUR OWN RISK” – hmm, one does wonder why anyone would think such a sign would be necessary!

As it turned out, the river was fordable via some stepping-stones so Elaine regrettably didn’t have to experience this wonderfully sophisticated bridge crossing: I couldn’t really resist though!

Cameron at the summit of Sgurr a' Chaorachain with Bidean a' Choire Sheasgaich (R) and Lurg Mhor (L) in the background

Once across the burn an excellent stalkers (estate) path led SW all the way up to the Bealach Bhearnais. We left the path just prior to it reaching the crest of the bealach and on a southerly course climbed a grassy slope to reach the col at the bottom end of Sgurr Choinnich’s west ridge. We crossed the col and climbed steadily up the long, and reasonably steep ridge to a subsidiary peak to the west of the main summit. A short dip in elevation and then a final easy climb took us to the summit cairn at 999m or 3,278ft. We admired the views, especially to the southwest, where we got a close-up perspective of the two Munros to the west of Loch Monar: Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhor.

From the cairn we crossed the summit plateau in an ESE direction for 200m before we turned ENE and continued down a steeper and rockier ridge to a small col, where, continuing in the same direction, we began the straightforward climb to the summit cairn and Trig Point of Sgurr a’ Chaorachain at 1053m or 3,455ft.

Sgurr Choinnich from the summit of Sgurr Chaorachain

Our descent from the summit began via the broad, grassy and gentle north ridge. At the point where the ridge began to level-out a little [grid ref: NH 088 455] we turned off the ridge and plunged down the very steep north-western flank of the ridge to reach the easier ground just to the SE of where we crossed the Allt a’ Chonais burn earlier in the day. Thankfully, the grassy terrain was very dry, which offered some grip on our descent. Before we had quite reached this bigger burn we first followed the course of a smaller subsidiary burn that hosted several delightful little waterfalls. Just below one of these small falls we took the opportunity to dip our bare feet into the burn’s bubbling waters. The water was cold but very refreshing and we sat enjoying our surroundings for over half an hour before pulling our boots back on and making our way back to our bikes.

Above the one of the many falls on a tributary burn leading into the Allt a' Chonais

All that remained for us was to enjoy the bike ride back to the car – and we really did. We’d put in quite a bit of effort earlier in the day getting ourselves and our bikes to this high point and all that we had to do on the return leg was to stand up on our pedals and occasionally dab on the brakes to ensure that we made it safely round some of the corners. It took us only a matter of minutes to reach the railway level-crossing and then subsequently our car parked just beyond.

[Yesterday evening we were parked up for the night at a large off-road “spot” amongst some recently felled forestry in Glen Carron, and as usual after a day on the hill, I was busy on the laptop preparing the blog. Elaine then said to look out the front window as two young red deer stags were moving cautiously around the front of the ‘van’s bonnet. They were looking in and trying to catch our scent – but it was obvious that they couldn’t quite fathom out what this big white ‘van was. It was truly magical sitting quietly inside just a few feet away from these lovely animals, and one more memorable event to add to our growing list of magical moments.]

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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